Wednesday, April 27, 2005

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow

The appointment of John Bolton to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations will, contrary to the opinion of many of his ardent defenders, do nothing to prevent the ongoing genocide in Sudan. This is the obvious conclusion to be drawn from his evasive answers to Senator Russ Feingold's questions concerning the genocide that took place in Rwanda. Several bloggers have made the argument, starting from the case laid out by Fred Kaplan in Slate, most forcefully and convincingly by Laura Rozen:

Look, the cause of stopping a genocide or massive humanitarian suffering goes beyond partisan politics. It is something that Americans on the right and left overwhelmingly agree on. It is also something that the US can't do alone. The US ambassador to the UN plays perhaps the most crucial role at the UN in exercising leadership to mobilize support both in Washington, New York, and foreign capitols in overcoming the tremendous obstacles logistical and political to save human life. Darfur presents that kind of challenge today, and Chinese opposition on the Security Council to a more robust intervention is not something Clinton didn't face regarding the Kosovo intervention six years ago. John Bolton has no interest in playing that role of exercising leadership at the UN to save lives. He wants to use it to bash the UN. For people who care about this mission, it should automatically disqualify him. Either it's more important to stop genocide, or it's more important to kick the UN, not both.

I cannot say that I am pleased with the politics of the Bolton nomination. Senator Feingold, in his public statement in opposition to Bolton, made no mention of the Rwandan genocide. If Senator Feingold, an expert on African affairs with presidential aspirations, cannot see it in his interests to publicly make the case that the United Nations must have as its mission the prevention of genocide and other grave crimes against humanity, and that our national interests lie in ensuring that the UN can and will meet this challenge, then one is led to conlcude that as far as our Senators are concerned there is no difference between genocide and halitosis. Both are excrable, but neither can be expected to be met with purposeful, effective action, much less an overarching agenda. The probablity of the Senate truly and actually doing something to prevent genocide is equivalent to the probability of Listerine being shared across the aisle. One can be certain that if a Senator rises to speak out against Bolton on the grounds of his alleged halitosis--and that looks rather likely in the current political climate--that same Senator will not be applying those same high standards of personal hygiene and grooming when the shoe is on the other foot.

For citizens of good conscience this is worse than a conundrum; it just plain sucks. The nearly total disconnect between how a Senator ought to vote and the reasons given for voting in a particular way render such a vote meaningless as a guide to future action (pettiness, gridlock and empty rhetoric notwithstanding). Nevertheless, we are left with a duty to hold our elected officials accountable. Fido the Yak urges you to contact your Senators and let them know how you feel about genocide and crimes against humanity, and what you think is the proper role for the United States to take regarding such matters.

Update: Tacitus cuts straight to the heart of the issue in his post on the Bolton nomination, Wesphalian Man. He treats Bolton more charitably than the sources cited above have, finding evidence of Bolton being both for and against humanitarian intervention; however, he is left with the same sort of doubts:

Where, then, does John Bolton stand? Does he pass the "Rwanda test" of being willing, in retrospect, to intervene there? Does he pass a Darfur test? Does he support the Iraq war rationale which justifies intervention based in part on Ba'athist atrocities? Does he support the Afghan war rational which justifies intervention based in part on Taliban atrocities? There's a lot good about Bolton -- among other things, you'll find few more solid on Taiwan -- but there's enough on this count for concern, and it is something that demands clarifying.

posted by Fido the Yak at 9:53 PM.


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