The Foreign Service Journal, September 2006

and Kirkpatrick. These ambassadors served at times when the U.N. itself had become an ideological cockpit: Moynihan faced down the obsessive hostility to Israel that led to the notorious “Zionism equals racism” resolu- tion, while Kirkpatrick lambasted the contempt for capi- talism and Western freedoms that was pervasive there during the 1980s. By the time George W. Bush became president in 2001, the West had largely won the ideological battle in the U.N., as it had in the world. Most states professed faith in capitalism and democracy, even if they didn’t practice them. Bush shared none of his father’s zest for international affairs, but he was essentially indifferent, rather than hostile, to the U.N. He did not bother to appoint an ambassador at all until the shock of 9/11, but then he immediately forwarded the name of John Negroponte, a highly regarded career diplomat. When Negroponte left in 2004 to become our first ambassador to post-Saddam Iraq (he now serves as director of central intelligence), another well-regarded figure, former Senator John Danforth, R-Mo., followed him, serving until January 2005. Then, in a decision that would have seemed unac- countable in any previous administration, Bush nominated as Danforth’s successor a fierce dogmatist, John Bolton. No one could doubt that Bolton’s nomination meant “we’re not with you.” But on what? After all, the U.N. had certainly not moved “left” in any discernible sense. The secretary-general, Kofi Annan, was sympathetic to U.S. interests; in fact, his calls for institutional reform largely accounted for the Clinton administration’s support in 1996 after it blocked the reap- pointment of his predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, a regular and unbuttoned critic of America’s role at the U.N. In addition, the institution had rallied behind the United States in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. So it wasn’t the U.N. that moved, but Washington. The Bush administration was inclined to view interna- tional agreements and international organizations — at least those it couldn’t dominate — as encumbrances. Soon after taking office, the White House not only repu- diated the International Criminal Court but demanded that signatories who were U.S. aid recipients sign bilater- al agreements exempting American citizens from its terms. In September 2002, the administration released a new National Security Strategy which stated forthrightly that in the face of a terrorist threat, the U.S. “will not hes- itate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self- defense by acting pre-emptively.” The Bush administration, in short, seemed uncom- fortable with the very premise, first made explicit by President Truman, that the U.S. would ultimately enhance its authority, and its security, by accepting the strictures that come with membership in a global body. When the administration decided in 2002 to confront Saddam Hussein, Vice President Dick Cheney urged President Bush to bypass the U.N. rather than permit the organization to trammel the U.S. in process and debate. Cheney lost that argument, but ultimately was vindicat- ed, at least in the inner councils of the White House, when the Security Council refused to vote for a resolu- tion authorizing hostilities. The burst of euphoria that followed the coalition’s swift military victory, no matter how transitory, bolstered the hawks’ view that the coun- cil’s fabled “legitimacy” was an over-rated good. Just Say No There was no more ardent exponent of the rejection- ist view than John Bolton. In articles and speeches throughout the 1990s, he had argued that the U.N., and international law generally, were tools that had turned on their master. He described treaties as “political obliga- tions” rather than legal ones, in no way binding on their signatories. In 1999, when the U.S. fell so far behind in its dues payments to the U.N. that it was in danger of los- ing its vote, he said, “Many Republicans in Congress, and perhaps a majority, not only do not care about losing the General Assembly vote but actually see it as a ‘make-my- day’ outcome.” Ideally, he said, “nothing should be paid to the U.N. system.” In a 1998 interview (with me), he sneered that the Clinton administration acted “as if it sees the U.N. as having a life or existence outside of what the U.S. wants it to do.” During the Bush administration’s first term, Bolton served as under secretary of State for arms control, where he won respect for his grasp of highly technical issues and his exacting, not to say remorseless, negotiating style. He specialized in extricating Washington from obligations it had no wish to honor, withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and terminating negotiations on the Bioweapons Protocol, a small arms pact and the International Criminal Court. When Bolton signed the document formally repudiating the Clinton administra- tion’s acceptance of the court, he called it “the happiest F O C U S S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 6 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 23