George Bush's nomination
of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has provoked a storm
setting off cries of "loose cannon!" and
from the more internationalist of the American interventionists. Currently undersecretary
of state for arms control and international security affairs, Bolton is a figure
whose study provides a telling illustration of the current debate within the
foreign policy establishments in the U.S. and the EU. Should the U.S. government,
for example, kill people in foreign lands as it alone sees fit, or only when
approved by the French and the Russians on the UN Security Council?
Although he is such
he is often mistaken for a neoconservative, Bolton positions himself rhetorically
somewhere closer to libertarians and antiwar conservatives regarding the application
of international law to the United States. Tom Barry, co-founder and policy
director of the International Relations Center (IRC), no
fan of Bolton's, and my radio show guest on March 19 [stream]
has written of Bolton on IRC's RightWeb:
"From the early days of the first Bush administration, Bolton mounted a
campaign to halt all international constraints on U.S. power and prerogative,
fiercely opposing existing and proposed international treaties restricting landmines,
child soldiers, biological weapons, nuclear weapons testing, small-arms trade,
and missile defense.
"In a 1994 speech at the liberal World Federalist Association, Bolton declared
that 'there is no such thing as the United Nations.' To underscore his point,
Bolton said. 'If the UN secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't
make a bit of difference.'"
What's so wrong with that? The question is not whether one approves of child
soldiers, germ weapons, or landmines, but whether "international law," which
clearly implies international force, is the best way to accomplish the goal
of stopping their use. Do we really need foreigners to tell us not to use child
soldiers, germ weapons, or landmines? Aren't we smart enough to recognize SDI
as a ridiculous
of money ourselves?
It is true that the UN would probably sanction any just defense of America,
but their approval does not "bestow"
legitimacy, it could only be a recognition of it. The idea that the U.S.
may not act without the approval of "the international community" is quite dangerous
to our independence.
As Bolton correctly notes in an
article in the January/February 1999 issue of Foreign Affairs:
"If the American citadel can be breached, advocates of binding international
law will be well on the way toward the ultimate elimination of Treaty of Westphalia-style
nation-states. It is thus important to understand the root of American intransigence:
namely, the fact that the United States and its Constitution would have to change
fundamentally and irrevocably before binding international law becomes possible.
This constitutional issue is not merely a narrow, technical point of law, certainly
not for the United States."
As Ludwig von Mises Institute scholar
[.pdf] Joseph Stromberg put
it: "The problem is this: can the president and Senate in effect repeal
or overturn fundamental provisions of the Constitution by colluding with foreign
The reason people are having such a hard time hearing this truth from John
Bolton is because he is an eager operative of one of the most
and murderous regimes on Earth.
Right now, the U.S. government is picking a fight with Iran based on their
to live up to their obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty. The Iranians
are put in the position of kneeling before the International Atomic Energy Agency
in order to attempt to put off war with the U.S., a war that could never be
waged without the requisite accusations that Iran is violating their international
agreements. Who cares if Iran did have the bomb? That would just be all the
more reason for us to avoid conflict with them in the first place – a lesson
North Korea has apparently taken
to former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, the Bush administration is
preparing to use the same script against Iran that they used, for "bureaucratic
reasons," against Iraq. Namely: accuse
them of developing WMD, demand
the IAEA refer them to the Security Council for Sanctions, complain when Russia
and China veto, say something about "I'm
going to do whatever it takes to defend America," then attack.
The nomination of Bolton to the UN would seem to fit right into that plan. If
anyone can accuse the UN of not doing enough, it's him.
It would be a mistake to think that principles of independence must be intertwined
with the type of hypocrisy toward the subject of international law possessed
by the Bush administration, which always
cites the enforcement of "international law" as the excuse for their violence.
Take Dr. Ron Paul, for example. He's a libertarian Republican representing
Texas District 14 in the U.S. House of Representatives who each session files
Restoration Act," which would get the United States out of the United Nations
and end the practice of suborning American law and policy to international consensus.
Dr. Paul is
critic of the warfare
state in the U.S. House by
far. Before the invasion of Iraq, he filed a declaration
of war just to vote against it, and to call out the War Party cowards among
his colleagues who would support aggression against a country that had never
attacked us, but would pass their authority and responsibility to choose to
do so over to George W. Bush.
Paul is no isolationist.
He supports open relations with the world; he just doesn't support the arrogant
and costly idea of America as world
savior, or the UN as a body that helps to keep us out of foreign conflict.
The anti-UN positions of Bolton, Reagan-era neocon UN ambassador Jeane
Kirkpatrick, and Richard
Perle, are being used to co-opt
this traditional conservative sentiment against foreign intervention in U.S.
policy and turn it into anger at the UN for standing in the way of our wars.
How dare they? Don't they know we're fighting to
enforce their decrees?
It is interesting to see American politicians worried
at the thought of ever being held responsible for their crimes by the international
system they created, such as the International
Criminal Court. Though it may seem like justice to see someone like Kissinger
thrown in the dock, when our politicians are criminals, we
are the ones who should prosecute them. If foreigners can grab Bush and
Cheney, they can grab us, and to turn them over to a court that can't
even define the crimes over which they supposedly have jurisdiction would
hardly measure up to our
rules of due process or our concepts of national sovereignty.
Try to see a bright side to the appointment, which still awaits Senate confirmation,
of John Bolton to the UN ambassador spot: he may continue to help undermine
the multilateralist Wilsonian
ideology that is so often used to justify American Empire. And since he's
such an outspoken proponent of violent solutions to problems that really don't
concern us, perhaps he can help to discredit the more nationalistic brand
of empire in the minds of more Americans as well.
Secretary General Kofi Annan is proposing
changes to the UN Security Council. Let's abolish it. John Bolton would
be out of a job, and our excuses for meddling in country after country would
disappear. Let the U.S. be unilaterally