One of the problems with demonizing W and his band of BushRovers is that those they themselves demonize start to look angelic. Bolton, for example, has a personal mission to get rid of Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the IAEA, the atomic energy agency within the UN. (See his IAEA bio, which features a 6M downloadable picture of himself.) ArmsControlWonk noted in late 2004 that Bolton, representing the BushRovers, had mentioned the problem directly to ElBaradei:
The Nelson Report claims that Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton has informed IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei that “the US will not support his candidacy for a third term, even though both of his predecessors served four terms (12 years) each”.
Reuters, however, is reporting that despite having urged ElBaradei to step down, “the Bush administration may be unwilling to undertake an all-out political battle to oust him, U.S. officials and diplomats say.” Powell previously suggested a third term for any international official was “problematic” in principle, but declined to be specific about ElBaradei. Instead, Powell claimed the US would make our judgment on specific cases..
The Nelson Report also mentions tension between Bolton and ElBaradei following revelations from the IAEA and Iraqi Interim Government that 350-tons of high explosives were looted from a previously secure site in the early days of the US occupation in 2003. This material is believed to be the primary source of the lethal car bomb attacks. The failure to secure the explosives will likely prove a major embarrassment for the Bush Administration.
ElBaradei is not a babe in the woods. With almost perfect timing, he very neatly revealed the theft of highex from the unguarded bunkers, just before the election---Kerry made very good use of that fiasco. For me, it's hard to escape the suspicion that they're all players.
I also know that the UN is a huge bureaucracy, and very likely as corrupt in its own humble way as W's BushRover administration. Does this mean that I should feel really secure with ElBaradei on the case? In a larger sense, do I really believe that the UN is an effective vehicle for multilateral peacemaking? Do they wear halos just because John Bolton thinks they are devils?
I can understand the appeal of the unilateralist message W and his gang are hammering. On the left, we have to recognize why this critique has resonance. I am not asserting for a minute that W and the BushRovers are consistent with their own philosophy, if you can call it that. But during the Iraq debate at the UN, whatever your position on US policy and options, how could anyone take the self-righteous posturing of the French, Russian and even German delegations seriously? They supplied Saddam just as thoroughly as the US did, and I couldn't escape the strong suspicion that they were more concerned with losing that high-margin custom than anything else.
So I'll agree with some of the overt argument. The UN is corrupt and clogged up with its own weary process. Our "allies" are just as avaricious as us and certainly no more morally estimable. There is a hardcore terrorist network in the world that aims to repeat disruption on at least the scale of 9/11.
How should our government respond to these challenges from a policy perspective?
I seems to me that the BushRover's fear is that if they start the discussion, they will eliminate their options and support for unilateral action. But when everyone knows you will do what you like anyway (and that, in addition, there is no effective domestic control on your actions) why is it more pragmatic to be an in-your-face hard-on like Bolton? They're intent on the injury, why the need to also add the insult?
A religious assurance of rectitude leads to a simple, reflexive implementation. We know that W gets right with God and then he's set---no further doubt is necessary. I don't know what Bolton's spiritual life is about, but it is easy to see that there are people, institutions and countries that he doesn't like, and he isn't shy about letting them and everyone else know about it. As a private person, I suppose this is a consistent kind of behavior.
But Bolton is more than a private citizen. He is an international diplomat, and he and his boss and his boss's boss have the responsibility of protecting the welfare of the rest of the private citizens. Here we have the difference between epistemology and appearance that is so difficult for the BushRovers to exploit. Whatever they think about multilateral players' true motives, to give up the leverage of appearance is pure self-indulgence.
There are a number of directions to go with this question that I will explore in further posts. One is to ask what it tells us about BushRover-World that this unilateralist extremism is necessary to them. Another is to ask what we need to recognize as resonant and realistic in their analysis. Finally there are an important set of questions for the left. How do we avoid the fruitless converse of W's Manichean exposition? How do we recognize genuine insights and the valuably focused purpose of the current administration (necessary in a dangerous world---nothing new about that state of affairs) while building a public understanding that the implementation are wrongly or even fraudulently conceived? How do we speak like a Truman (plainly) about something other than fear itself?