Monday, December 04, 2006

ROI Toys

Christmas is coming a little early in Washington D.C. We are seeing the recent election-day investment in Democratic leadership paying dividends already. Today, John Bolton announced his resignation from the post of UN Ambassador when his recess appointment term expires in early January.

This is good news not just for America, but for the entire world. I don't want to dredge up my entire list of complaints about Bolton, but some of them are contained in this post from last year for those looking for a review. The short version is: at a time when America needs to be mending fences with our allies and potential situational partners, putting a man like Bolton in such a visible position is about the least productive way to go about it. Which says nothing about the other worthy initiatives scuttled by Bolton's unrealistic hegemonic outlook.

It's not, contrary to the popular spin, that Bolton has an unseemly temperament, or an unduly gruff style. Many before and after Bolton in such positions have similar personality quirks. It's far more substantive than this (though expecting a diplomat to act...diplomatically is not unreasonable either).

Bolton has been consistently ineffective in terms of achieving desired objectives, and most parties (including his cohorts in the Bush administration) prefer to circumvent his involvement rather than invite him to the table. From forging beneficial arrangements with Libya, to advancing the non-proliferation regime, it has proven easier to get things done without him around. Stygius said it well last June:

If the most positive contribution John Bolton has made to solving global proliferation problems has been by his absence, why are we still being subjected to the argument that his "tough" and "abrasive" style gets results, when instead his permanent absence from government service may in the end be Bolton's greatest contribution to US national security?[...]

To date, Condoleezza Rice's most significant Iran policy innovation has been Bolton's exclusion from State discussions. And does anyone think he continues to play a substantive role in North Korea discussions? Since Bolton is Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, one can understand why this sort of thing decapitates the stock pro-Bolton argument that his "toughness" makes him more "effective" and that he gets results. This is a sham.

Despite Bolton's track record, though, had it not been for Democratic victory in November*, Bolton would likely continue doing a heckuva job for President stay-the-course. Viva Pelosi!

(*It should be noted that it wasn't just the Democratic victory that cemented the end of the Bolton era, it was also the principled stand of Lincoln Chafee and some other sensible Republicans that prevented Bush from jamming through Bolton during one of the lame duck sessions)

[UPDATE: Bad to worse? Over at The Corner, they're talking Rick Santorum to replace John Bolton. Actually, I don't think Santorum would necessarily be worse (possibly?) - it is a low bar set by Bolton after all - but why not shoot for an option that would be clearly better? I'm not expecting someone that shares my views, but there is so much room in between that and Bolton or Santorum that I dare to dream.]

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