Monday, January 15, 2007

Republican Politics American Style

Republican Politics American Style
Published January 11th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

As we just marked the end of 2006 and the beginning of the new year 2007, I would first like to comment on the year end departures of John Bolton as the US Ambassador to the United Nations (as I predicted several weeks ago in the wake of the US mid-term elections) and Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the United Nations. I also hope to offer readers some insights regarding what I believe the new US strategies will be in Iraq for the coming year while my country prepares for the 2008 Presidential elections.

John Bolton has been devoted to issues surrounding the United Nations (UN) and US participation in the UN throughout his career, (whether he was inside or outside of the US government at the time). A staunch critic of the UN as an institution of global governance and of its bureaucracy, Bolton at various times argued for US withdrawal from the UN and or withholding of US dues payments, on the one hand, but on the other also advised the Taiwanese government on how to become a member once more. He would preach the neo-conservative foreign policy ideals regarding greater democracy as the political solution for all nations, while seeking to thwart attempts to make the UN a more democratic institution, by working with China to prevent Japan, Germany and India from obtaining permanent seats on the UN Security Council.

Bolton was, however, a loyal operative for the neo-conservative foreign policy minions of the Bush administration and, as such, was doing exactly what the Bush administration wanted him to do. Kofi Annan said as much in his comments regarding Bolton’s resignation: “I think Ambassador Bolton did the job he was expected to do.”

While John Bolton was never very diplomatic in his approach to US foreign policy and UN issues, he should not be blamed entirely for the many failures of US foreign policy he presided over. Chief among these was his failure as the “head honcho” in charge of arms control at the State Department before becoming Ambassador to the UN. In this role, he torpedoed US Congressional efforts to improve and tighten the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Had these measures passed, countries would not have been able to drop out of the treaty, (like North Korea subsequently did) and voluntary inspections of nuclear facilities would have become compulsory for countries like Iran. As UN Ambassador, he also wrecked havoc on Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s attempts to reform the management of the “bloated” UN bureaucracy.

Well, so much for John Bolton’s legacy as UN Ambassador and for his part in helping to make the world a safer place. He will not be missed.

As for Kofi Annan, here was an example of a good, well intentioned man, totally overwhelmed by the fractious international politics of a post-“Cold War” world: an indecisive man whose power and influence never matched with his admirable but lofty goals for the UN.

Trying to reach a consensus among 192 nations to make the UN an actor instead of just a bystander on humanitarian issues involving conflicts in Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo and Darfur, is a virtually impossible job for any one person. It is made that much more difficult when Security Council powers like the US, China and Russia choose to follow the “multi-lateral” course advocated by Kofi Annan and the UN as a global institution, only when it is seen as politically convenient for them to do so. Annan’s position as a moral force and conscience for his 192 “bosses” was also compromised by the Oil-for-Food programme scandal involving his son and numerous allegations of graft and sexual harassment involving some of his senior UN officials.

But while he failed to stop unilateral action by the US in Iraq and Israel in Lebanon and humanitarian atrocities in Darfur, Kofi Annan did what he could to prevent these actions and to raise awareness on issues such as “global warming”, and the plight of citizens in poorer countries with respect to sustainable development, food, clean water and healthcare (particularly the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS). I hope that his successor, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, will learn from his mistakes and be more successful in terms of discouraging unilateral actions by individual states, while continuing to pursue some type of global consensus on humanitarian and environmental issues. The world is a better place because of Kofi Annan and will miss his voice much more than it will miss the voice of John Bolton.

Moving on to Iraq, I believe that the US will soon begin adding as many as 30,000 troops to the combat forces in this conflict, in an effort to stabilize the situation there and prevent further escalation in sectarian violence between the Shi’ite and Sunni factions.

The Iraq Study Group’s December report did not recommend such action nor did it preclude it as a possible step towards the eventual phased withdrawal of US troops from this region. Republican Presidential candidate, Senator John McCain,-among others- has repeatedly called for such action as a necessary step towards US withdrawal, in order to allow more time for US forces to train Iraqi armed forces and then turn over Iraq’s national security to them. I am not wild about this idea, but don’t see where the US has any other options given the recent escalation in sectarian violence and the failure, thus far, of Iraqi security forces to prevent or stop it. Other options such as partitioning Iraq or forcing its ill prepared security forces to take over security responsibilities sooner than they are realistically capable of doing so, strike me as being just a quick way out for the US.
Our administration has made an unholy mess in Iraq. We owe it to the people of Iraq to do what we can to clean up this mess before returning control of the country to its citizens and their elected representatives when we depart.

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