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Blunt but Effective

By Lawrence S. Eagleburger
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page B07

President Bush's nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has generated a bad case of dyspepsia among a number of senators, who keep putting off a confirmation vote. That hesitation is now portrayed as a consequence of Bolton's purported "mistreatment" of several State Department intelligence analysts. But this is a smoke screen. The real reasons Bolton's opponents want to derail his nomination are his oft-repeated criticism of the United Nations and other international organizations, his rejection of the arguments of those who ignore or excuse the inexcusable (i.e., the election of Sudan to the U.N. Human Rights Commission) and his willingness to express himself with the bark off.

As to the charge that Bolton has been tough on subordinates, I can say only that in more than a decade of association with him in the State Department I never saw or heard anything to support such a charge. Nor do I see anything wrong with challenging intelligence analysts on their findings. They can, as recent history demonstrates, make mistakes. And they must be prepared to defend their findings under intense questioning. If John pushed too hard or dressed down subordinates, he deserves criticism, but it hardly merits a vote against confirmation when balanced against his many accomplishments.

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On Dec. 16, 1991, I spoke to the U.N. General Assembly on behalf of the United States, calling on the member states to repeal the odious Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism. As I said then, the resolution "labeled as racist the national aspirations of the one people more victimized by racism than any other." That we were successful in obtaining repeal was largely due to John Bolton, who was then assistant secretary of state for international organizations. His moral outrage was clearly evident as he brilliantly led and managed the successful U.S. campaign to obtain sufficient votes for repeal. The final vote, 111 to 25, speaks volumes for the success of his "direct" style.

Bolton's impressive skills were also demonstrated at the time of the Persian Gulf War, when he steered a critical series of resolutions supporting our liberation of Kuwait through the U.N. Security Council. During this period we negotiated some 15 resolutions up to and through the removal of Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait. Adoption of the key Security Council document, Resolution 678, was not a foregone conclusion and faced the possibility of a Chinese veto until the final vote. While our diplomacy to obtain this and other council votes was conducted on a global scale, Bolton was deeply engaged in managing this worldwide effort.

These are but two examples of why I believe Bolton possesses the substantial qualifications necessary to be our ambassador to the United Nations. By now it should be obvious to all that the halcyon days when our advice was sought and our leadership welcomed because the security of others depended on the protection we gave are no more. I recognize that John's willingness to speak bluntly has raised questions. Perhaps there was a time when those concerns had merit -- but not now. Given what we all know about the current state of the United Nations, it's time we were represented by someone with the guts to demand reform and to see that whatever changes result are more than window dressing.

It is clear that the future of the United Nations and the U.S. role within that organization are uncertain. Who better to demonstrate to the member states that the United States is serious about reform? Who better to speak for all Americans who are dedicated to a healthy United Nations that will fulfill the dreams of its founders?

The writer, a veteran of 27 years in the Foreign Service, was secretary of state in 1992-93.


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