March 10, 2005


Get this: American fox meets UN chickens: Bush’s appointment of an arch unilateralist to be his Ambassador to the United Nations is a stroke of genius (Gerard Baker, 3/11/05, Times of London)

The State Department, which has hosted Mr Bolton these past four years as a body hosts a deadly virus, vigorously opposed his promotion. But it did its best to put on a brave face. Explaining to the world why the US had put one of the most avaricious of foxes in charge of the chicken coop, its spin was magnificent: at a time when opinion in the US is increasingly unfavourable to the UN, it said, there was no better way to bring Americans round to its great value than by putting its chief critic in charge. If an iconoclast like Mr Bolton can be persuaded that the UN can work, then the American people will surely view the institution in a much more favourable light.

Here’s a rough translation: yes, the fox has been put in charge of the chicken coop. But this is excellent news for the chickens. The fox community has been extremely unhappy with the way the chickens have been behaving for quite some time and have started looking rather hungrily in their direction. But if we let a fox in, then all foxes will come to understand that chickens can have a viable future as partners in the fox’s long-term development. And we look forward to the day when fox and chicken will coexist peacefully.

My bet: a blur of chicken feathers and one very satisfied member of the fox community.

Defending Bolton (Anne Applebaum, March 9, 2005, Washington Post)

Unlike, say, the U.S. civil service, or the Japanese bureaucracy, the U.N. bureaucracy is not beholden to a democratic government or even a sovereign government. There is no electorate that can toss the Libyans out of the human rights commissioner's chair, no judicial system that can try corrupt officials. As I understand Bolton's critique of the United Nations and other international institutions (when he isn't being Rumsfeldesque in his turn of phrase) it is precisely this that concerns him: Indeed, he has spoken and written for many years on the threats to America's sovereignty -- and everyone else's sovereignty -- from international institutions that owe nobody any allegiance, are subject to no independent review and have no democratic legitimacy of their own.

The trouble with many U.N. defenders is that they refuse to see this fundamental problem, and demand a constantly expanding role for the United Nations without explaining how its lack of democratic accountability is to be addressed. The trouble with many U.N. detractors, in Congress and elsewhere, is that they see the corruption and nothing else. But there is a role for U.N. institutions -- in Afghanistan, or in international health -- as long as that role is limited in time and cost. And there is a desperate need for U.N. reform. In defense of John Bolton: He may, if he can get confirmed, be one of the few U.N. ambassadors who has thought a good deal about how to set such limits and make such reforms. And if he isn't invited to a few cocktail parties along the way, at least he won't mind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2005 7:42 PM

As this story stays in the news, I am afraid that the Democrats might wake up and realize the trap Bush has laid for them. From the Financial Times:

When asked whether the argument over Mr Bolton threatens to make the Democrats appear aligned with the French and Germans, the official responded: Worse. They look like Canadians.

Posted by: Dan at March 10, 2005 9:03 PM

I'm afraid Mr. Baker is getting my hopes up to unrealistic levels. Can I have that chicken broiled?

Posted by: pj at March 10, 2005 10:14 PM

Personally, I think that we're the wolves, but I'm happy so long as they understand that they're the chickens.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 10, 2005 11:10 PM

The commentariat makes things so easy. I wouldn't know what to think about Bolton's appointment without them, but with their hysterical fit of the vapors, I know it was a good move.
Yes, I know one should really think for oneself, but it's so easy to just put a negative sign in front of the commentariat's opinions and adopt the resultant position.

Posted by: Tom at March 11, 2005 9:19 AM

The rap on Bolton seems to be that he, the president who appointed him, and the nation for whom they work is unwilling to slip into the warm bath of anit-nationalism and painlessly slit its wrists.

Posted by: Luciferous at March 11, 2005 1:03 PM