Perplexing Behavior

Categories: Letters From Leadership
By Jamie Levin

Last week I attended a Conference of Presidents meeting with Amb. John Bolton. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Amb. Bolton below is the biography furnished by the Conference of Presidents.

?Amb. John Bolton was appointed by President George W. Bush as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations on August 1, 2005. Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Bolton served as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from May 2001-May 2005.

“He has had a long and distinguished public service career including Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs at the Department of State, Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, and Assistant Administrator for Program and Policy Coordination at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“Amb. Bolton is friend of Israel and has had a long relationship with the Conference of Presidents. He was an architect of the 1991 campaign to repeal the UN General Assembly ?Zionism=Racism? resolution.”

Amb. Bolton began by talking about the Volker Commission that is charged with investigating the allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the UN Oil for Food Program. Bolton noted that the charges the Commission is exploring are the same that pervade the General Secretariat. He explained that this Commission underscores the changes that need to be made in the Secretariat in order to eliminate the pervasive ‘culture of mismanagement and corruption’ within the UN.

I think that this is a fair statement. At the same time the following cliché comes to mind: don?t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Multilateralism shouldn?t be sacrificed to fix the UN.

Bolton noted that the ‘perplexing behavior of US treaty allies’ could be explained by the kick-backs and corruption that characterized the Oil for Food Program.
What is the ?perplexing? behavior of US treaty allies you ask? Simple: they didn?t support the war in Iraq. To quote Donald Rumsfeld, ?Germany has been a problem and France has been a problem . . . But you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe, they’re not with France and Germany… they’re with the US . . . You?re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t,” he said. “I think that’s old Europe.”
Bolton wasn?t challenged over this euphemistic libel. Can ‘Old Europe’s’ reluctance to support the war on Iraq really be explained by lucrative contracts and kick-backs to the diplomatic core?

I think that this assertion is particularly difficult to substantiate. I have heard of no evidence to support the claim that Germany and France, for example, opposed the war in Iraq because of graft and corruption.

If memory serves, the United States failed to present a compelling argument to the international community that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction.

To be sure, Iraq, under Saddam Hussein?s regime, was a terrible menace both domestically and internationally.

But unilateral pre-emptive wars are a two way street. If wars aren?t initiated by multilateral consensus we risk provoking an arms race and pre-emptive strikes on our soil by so-called rogue nations.

If countries fear that they might be attacked without provocation and without forewarning (which is the inevitable result of a multilateral consensus) they will be likely to strike first (or at the very least develop the capability to strike first).

It is no coincidence that North Korea and Iran have accelerated their nuclear programs and have increased their aggressive posturing. Destabilization is the net result of unilateral action (however just it may be).

There is a great deal of optimism surrounding the prospects of United Nations reform (especially for Zionists who are tired of the Anti-Israel behavior that has prevailed in any number of UN sponsor organizations; see ?UN Reform? by Norman Gelman in the archives of this section). But one needs look no further than the mess in Iraq to know that optimism should be tempered by the knowledge that an emasculated international system is likely to usher in an era of increased insecurity.

About Jamie Levin

Jamie Levin was Executive Director of Ameinu and is now pursuing an advanced degree in Canada. Jamie has long been an activist for progressive Israel, serving as the elected National Director of Habonim Dror North America in 2001-02. Jamie completed an MS in Political Economy from the London School of Economics in 2004, specializing in the economic aspects of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
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