The Foreign Service Journal, September 2006

mat as an unwilling one. After all, he represents an administra- tion that puts extraordinary store in the telling of what it deems to be blunt truths — “Old Europe” vs. “New Europe,” “Either you’re with us, or you’re with the terror- ists.” This Manichean approach reorganizes the great amor- phous mass of reality into two categories — desirable and undesirable — and lets the world see who stands where. This is not a formula of which, say, Bismarck or Talleyrand would have approved, of course. The goal of diplomacy is not the revealing of truth but the blurring of differ- ences in order to advance national interests even in adverse settings. But the Bush administration, at some deep ideological-temperamental level, is opposed to diplomacy — or at least very important elements of it are. True, during her confirmation hearing Condoleezza Rice announced, “This is the time for diplomacy,” and she has sought to stitch up the tattered fabric of alliances. But the U.N. may have been one piece of the fabric she felt she had to yield to the absolutists. John Bolton stands out even among the Bush admin- istration’s Roundheads. In the run-up to arms-control talks with North Korea, Bolton, then our chief negotia- tor, described the country’s president as a “tyrannical dictator” who managed an “evil regime.” The North Koreans returned the favor by describing Bolton as “human scum,” forcing the State Department to remove him from the talks. Bolton had never minced words about the U.N. in years past, and once he arrived he kept up the hail of invective. In the fall of 2005, as the reform debate resumed, the trigger-happy diplomat described the U.N. as “a target-rich environment,” and warned that if the place didn’t shape up, “we’ll turn to some other mechanism to solve international prob- lems.” At a time when the advocates of reform needed to mollify Third World countries who resented what they viewed as American and Western domination of the U.N., Bolton appeared to be trying to get their goat — which, of course, he succeeded in doing. By the spring of 2006, even moderate figures like Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa’s ambassador to the United Nations, were denouncing man- agement reform as a plot to marginalize the G-77. Indeed, Bolton has managed to alienate some of Washington’s best friends at the U.N. Throughout 2005, Mark Malloch Brown, Annan’s chief of staff and closest adviser, earned the enmi- ty of many diplomats and U.N. staffers by defending the Ameri- can position on a wide range of issues, and accepting much of the harsh criticism provoked by the “Oil for Food” scandal. But this past June, Malloch Brown, now the U.N. deputy sec- retary-general, finally blew his stack, delivering a speech accusing Washington of sabotaging the U.N. by practic- ing a “stealth diplomacy” in which it regularly made use of the institution’s political, peacekeeping and humanitar- ian capacities while allowing it to be characterized pub- licly as a den of corruption and fecklessness. (See p. 56 for the text of that address.) Bolton responded in characteristic fashion, declaring that Malloch Brown had insulted the American people, and threatening to abet the efforts of congressional Republicans to cut U.N. funding. And so U.S.-U.N. relations took another turn in their long downward spi- ral. It is worth recalling that in the months after Kofi Annan published “In Larger Freedom,” various Bush administration figures had told U.N. officials that they were pleased (if surprised) by the document. They indicated that they were prepared to push hard for a forceful human rights body, an unambiguous condem- nation of terrorism, and the kind of deep management reform that would turn the U.N. into a more or less modern organization. Instead, it seems unlikely that any of those vital reforms will occur in the near future. Perhaps Talleyrand himself would have done no bet- ter, but most of the central players in the drama believe the U.S. could have achieved a good deal more than it did. We cannot, of course, fathom John Bolton’s motives, but apparently he is keeping score by an entirely different metric. History, though, is likely to judge him as a bad diplomat at a time when diplomacy really mattered. F O C U S 28 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 6 It was only thanks to the kind of adroit, difference- splitting diplomacy to which Bolton seemed allergic that the reform package was rescued from his all-or-nothing position.