Putative GOP frontrunner Newt Gingrich made waves today by announcing that he would appoint John Bolton -- the bete noire of internationalists -- as his secretary of state. That announcement got all the expected reactions. Over the years, Bolton has become movement conservatives go-to man on foreign policy. He's cultivated an image of a man willing to break the diplomatic china to defend U.S. interests. His memoir, Surrender is not an Option, mostly covers his stint as U.N. ambassador between August 2005 and late 2006 and it's written to bolster that image. He includes plenty of jibes at feckless Europeans and blinkered U.N. bureaucrats. But what was Bolton's actual record in his most consequential government post? For a variety of reasons, it was not nearly as radical as one might expect.
Consider the record of the Security Council -- the U.N.'s most powerful body -- during Bolton's time as ambassador. By my count, the Council passed more than 100 resolutions during Bolton's 16 months at the helm in New York. In the first 16 months of the Obama administration, by contrast, the Council passed only 60 resolutions.
Nor was Bolton profligate with the U.S. veto. He never used the veto in 2005 and did so only twice in 2006, both on resolutions critical of Israel, which the United States has vetoed regularly for years (the Obama adminstration has continued the practice). On Bolton's watch, a very large -- and quite expensive -- U.N. peacekeeping operation got started in Sudan. He engaged diplomatically with the Chinese and Russians on tough resolutions concerning Iran and North Korea, yielding where necessary.
None of this is to say that Bolton somehow became an organization man during his time in New York. Like all ambassadors, he followed instructions from Washington, and the instructions during the second Bush term were often aimed at repairing some of the rifts created during the first. Just before Bolton arrived in New York, for example, the U.S. acquiesced to an International Criminal Court investigation in Sudan, effectively legitimizing a court the United States -- and Bolton in particular -- had fought tooth and nail during the first Bush administration.
In short, Bolton was far more pragamatic and incrementalist at the U.N. than his detractors -- and Bolton himself -- suggest.
U.N. defends Ban Ki-moon against charges of weakness on human rights.
Palestinian negotiator warns that U.S. will lose all credibility if it vetoes Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements.
The International Monetary Fund wants Europe to beef up its rescue fund.
The International Criminal Court has a new suspect in custody.
With UNICEF's help, it's back to school in the Swat Valley. But for how long?
Out from under sanctions, Uzbekistan's president meets EU leaders.
Germany's deputy foreign minister will chair G-20 working group on reforming international foreign exchange.
United Arab Emirates nuclear program gets a clean bill of health from the IAEA.
International Monetary Fund board approves funds for Georgia, warns about need for foreign investment.
U.N. peacekeepers ambushed in Cote d'Ivoire.
Russia says Iran's nuclear facilities invite is interesting -- but can't replace IAEA inspections.
China would like to "participate actively" in any new euro stabilization activity, signals willingness to buy Spanish bonds.
Will the United States veto Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements?
Hillary Clinton warns that attempts to derail U.N.-backed Lebanon tribunal will fail.
World Bank expects global GDP growth to slow slightly in 2011.
Jimmy Carter says Southern Sudan might not sign on to the International Criminal Court, so as to keep dialogue open with Bashir.
A few months ago, I complained about how long it was taking for the United Nations to appoint the panel of experts tasked with monitoring U.N. sanctions against Iran. In June 2010, the Security Council authorized the expert group, modeled on similar mechanisms used for other U.N. sanctions regimes. Sometimes, these experts add little value and become just another layer of multilateral bureaucracy. But in several cases, they have sharpened U.N. sanctions by investigating possible breaches, nudging states toward compliance with reporting requirements, and suggesting smart ways of improving implementation. The North Korea panel of experts seems to have been particularly helpful.
It took almost a full six months, but the Iran experts have finally been named and are beginning their work. It's not yet clear how they'll focus their efforts, but let's at least hope they're determined to make up for lost time.
Update: The information I have is that the expert group had meetings last month in Vienna (with the IAEA), Brussels, London, and Paris. Apparently, the experts are now in Japan for consultations. The group has an interim report due to the Security Council in early February but may also be on the road investigating recent sanctions violations, including a recent major arms interdiction in Nigeria.
Hamdija Custovic of the Congress of North American Bosniaks is livid that I suggested Bosnia is not a worthy U.N. Security Council member:
It was therefore to our shock and dismay that a reputable magazine such as Foreign Policy would publish David Bosco’s patronizing comments which criticize the decision to elect Bosnia to the presidency over the Security Council citing that Bosnia’s membership on the council is largely "symbolic" and that "the General Assembly needs to stop carping about Council reform and start consistently electing states that can contribute to peace and security, not those barely able to govern themselves."
Mr. Bosco spent a couple of years in postwar Bosnia and should therefore understand that the best way to rebuild is through the process of inclusion not exclusion. Also, his comments are disturbing because they are elitist and arrogant. It has long been the criticism of the Security Council that it does not adequately represent the smaller countries which have a lot to offer in terms of unbiased diplomacy and leadership that is often not the case with the big powers. Bosnia and Herzegovina is fully able to govern itself but it is still vulnerable, and needs more, not less, international support to ensure that it remains on the path of peace and stability. After all, Bosnia and Herzegovina can draw from its horrible experience of war and genocide to lead the world in seeking peace and stability. The most pressing issue at the UN Security Council is that of the Ivory Coast and the threat of violence following the presidential elections. It is imperative that we have leaders who understand the implications of genocide and can do what it takes to avoid such atrocities.
I consider myself a friend of Bosnia and argued often for more assertive outside intervention during the war and for effective implementation of the Dayton peace agreement in the conflict's aftermath. I agree that the international community -- and particularly the European Union -- needs to devote more attention to the country's very fragile return to normalcy. But I don't see why any of this implies that Bosnia should have a Council seat. Yes, small states should always have a voice on the Council, but there are plenty of small states better able to contribute to Council diplomacy than Bosnia, whose government struggles to speak with one voice (and whose members sometimes have trouble speaking to each other. Update: for a recent report on Bosnia's current political problems, see here).
The argument that Bosnia's history lends it valuable perspective that it can share with the rest of the Council is an attractive one. But I remember another country making that argument: When Rwanda joined the Council in January 1994 it also claimed that its recent history of conflict made it a particularly valuable member. After all, who better to think about peacekeeping than a country hosting a mission? Instead, Rwanda's presence complicated Council diplomacy when the genocide erupted in April of that year.
International Monetary Fund and United States criticize Pakistani climbdown on fuel prices.
Pakistan must be thrilled: India to chair Security Council committee on counter-terrorism.
Indonesia wants ASEAN to spotlight human rights.
Report: The next Arab League summit will be in Baghdad.
Serbia's arms industry has recovered nicely from NATO's 1999 bombing.
Do Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund have an unhealthy relationship?
U.N. peacekeeping chief wants more troops for Cote d'Ivoire; Security Council sounds positive.
Bad Euro news: Euro-zone retail sales drop unexpectedly.
A full plate: World Bank president wants the G-20 to help stabilize food prices.
Kidnapped U.N. employee in Darfur is released.
Indonesia is hosting an ASEAN ministerial retreat next week.
A report on the jostling and secret negotiations over the international tribunal for Lebanon.
Organization of American States report on Haiti elections expected soon.
This month Bosnia took over the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council from the United States. Now I like the symbolism of postwar Bosnia on the Council as much as the next person, but is this any way to run the world's leading peace and security body? At some point, the General Assembly needs to stop carping about Council reform and start consistently electing states that can contribute to peace and security, not those barely able to govern themselves.
A source close to the special U.N. tribunal (STL) investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri has reportedly said that the investigation phase has ended, and some observers expect indictments soon (h/t UN Dispatch).
Lebanese observers say they are worried that Hezbollah will lash out after the indictments with actions that would erase several years of relative political stability. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, however, downplayed the pending crisis.
The STL source stressed that the "only thing that is certain is that the general prosecutor has finished the investigative phase that has lasted nearly six years."
This BBC report depicts a society on the edge, and it's at least possible that the announcement of an indictment could trigger violence. Iranian government officials, meanwhile, are preemptively attacking the tribunal's legitimacy, describing it as an attempt to weaken the Lebanese resistance movement.
The peace and security implications of the tribunal's next steps are potentially huge, which begs the question of whether the Security Council will get formal advance notice of pending indictments. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court gives the Security Council the right to delay proceedings for up to twelve months, but my quick read of the Lebanon tribunal's statute didn't reveal any similar mechanism.
The International Criminal Court calls to account six Kenyans, including senior ministers, for 2007-2008 election violence.
The U.N. Security Council tied up some loose ends on Iraq yesterday.
The World Bank announces new funding pledges for the International Development Association.
After long battles, the European Parliament agrees to an EU budget.
Venezuela's opposition appeals to the Organization of American States.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has an important opening.
Reading diplomatic body language in Cancun.
After prolonged negotiations, U.N. Security Council issues statement on Ivory Coast elections.
EU criticizes (bizarre) Czech Republic refugee screening procedures.
A Russian foreign ministry official explains why his country could join NATO.
ICC prosecutors move against Sudan rebels.
Sarkozy charms India, not least by offering more backing for its Security Council bid.
IMF chief Strauss-Kahn criticizes the EU's "case-by-case" response to the financial crisis.
On Sudan, Human Rights Watch pleads with the Security Council not to forget the ICC.
In the 1950s and 1960s, China talked about an alternative to the U.N.; now, it's promoting an alternative Nobel Peace Prize.
El Tigre: Meet the African Union's new peacekeeping chief.
"Issues are resolved": EU backs Russia's WTO entry.
The BBC has a story up on the cholera outbreak in Haiti, and the link with U.N. peacekeepers.
U.N. peacekeepers were the most likely source of the cholera epidemic sweeping Haiti, according to a leaked report by a French disease expert.
Epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux conducted research in Haiti on behalf of the French and Haitian governments.
Sources who have seen his report say it found strong evidence that the cholera outbreak was caused by contamination of a river by U.N. troops from Nepal.
The U.N. said it had neither accepted nor dismissed the findings.
I believe the U.N. butchered its response here and is going to pay a price. Instead of loftily pretending the link didn't matter, it should have been all over the issue from the very beginning. Now, the organization will get blamed both for the cholera and for not being particularly interested in whether its peacekeepers caused it.
German finance minister argues that "limited sovereignty" is the wave of the future.
The P5 +1 are talking with Iran today.
The African Union's Mbeki struggles to mediate election dispute in Ivory Coast.
U.N. peacekeepers won't be safe if there is strife in Lebanon, warns prominent politician.
With cash from Warren Buffett, International Atomic Energy Agency approves plans for nuclear fuel bank.
At the New Yorker's blog, China-based Evan Osnos wonders -- quite reasonably -- whether the Security Council will deign to comment on the recent nuclear revelations and violence on the Korean peninsula.
IMF's Lipsky insists that fears of a Euro collapse are "wildly exaggerated."
P5+1 set to meet Iranian representatives in Geneva next week.
Who should control an international climate fund? Not the World Bank or IMF, say many developing countries.
Interpol issues 'red notice' for Julian Assange.
Security Council willing to increase African Union troop level in Somalia; plus, United States takes over presidency of the U.N. Security Council today.
Will the Shanghai Cooperation Organization launch its own development bank?
Uruguay's Senate ratifies UNASUR treaty.
East Timor wants to join ASEAN next year, while Indonesia is chairing the group.
In today's Washington Post, Ben Affleck calls for continued engagement with eastern Congo. His list of very sensible policy recommendations includes keeping a high-level administration envoy and monitoring compliance with recent legislation designed to track conflict minerals.
There's one striking omission. He has nothing to say about the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo other than a vague reference to the role of the international community in providing an appropriate environment for elections. It's a striking oversight, given that Congo still hosts one of the world's largest (and most expensive) missions and that the force has reoriented itself to deal with violence in the east. Yes, Congo's government has called for the peacekeepers to leave sooner rather than later. And, yes, the current force has often failed to protect the civilian population. But is there really nothing to say about the role peacekeepers should play?
If U.N. peacekeeping has lost Hollywood, that's not a good sign.
U.N. cites "numerous incidents" during Haiti elections; no public report yet from OAS and EU election monitors.
Top U.N. envoy reports on his talks with Myanmar's military government.
U.N. marks International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Sudan announces boycott of European Union-African Union summit, citing Europe's "colonial mentality."
Will the next head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe be Turkish?
World Bank official wants to boost African power.
Many Haitians blame a Nepalese contingent for the disease. On November 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control affirmed that the strain of cholera in Haiti matches a strain found in south-east Asia, which only seemed to confirm suspicions that the U.N. was to blame. The UN has not investigated that specific claim, and neither are they likely to do so. If there were a definitive link between U.N. peacekeepers and cholera, it would be politically difficult for the Haitian government to maintain its support for U.N. peacekeepers, which the Haitian government relies on to provide some security and also to train a police force that was decimated by the earthquake.
His broad point is doubtless correct -- the fundamental issue is not how the strain of cholera arrived but the conditions that allowed its spread and prevent effective treatment. But Mark seems to endorse not investigating a public health issue in order to maintain the political viability of the peacekeeping mission, and it's hard to imagine that's the best solution.
Update: Mark comments: "I'm not endorsing that the UN decline to investigate how it spread. Rather, my intention in the graf that you cite is simply to describe some of the political realities surrounding a formal investigation of the link."
With EU's Ashton in the lead, P5+1 may have agreed on a date for talks with Iran.
Full speed ahead on WTO, says Medvedev.
Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti blamed for spreading cholera, attacked by crowd.
Argentina will negotiate oustanding debt with the Paris Club -- and without the despised International Monetary Fund at the table.
Barbara Crossette worries that the hybrid U.N.-Cambodia tribunal is faltering.
The World Bank struggles to save Asian tigers (real ones).
Bomb in the basement: WWII-era explosive found at construction site for new NATO HQ.
After G-20 extravaganza in Seoul, Japan offers low-key APEC summit.
NATO parliamentarians convene in Warsaw, strive to appear non-threatening to Moscow.
Turkey's still wrestling with NATO missile shield decision.
At United Nations, U.S. opposes resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.
Obama's new envoy to ASEAN is very experienced -- in raising money and securities litigation.
African Union and United Nations team up on Sudan negotiations.
EU investigators bust organ-trafficking ring in Kosovo.
An argument that the G-20 has already failed on bank reform.
German foreign minister still wants NATO nukes out of Germany.
Does the U.N.'s nuclear agency need more cash?
APEC ministers vow to complete Doha by the end of next year.
The case that won't die: WTO hears appeal on Airbus-Boeing subsidies dispute.
The European Union is getting the cold shoulder from Asia.
World Bank president expands on the role for gold.
Don't forget Bosnia: A warning that the Balkans could disrupt EU and NATO festivities this month.
Forward or backward? ASEAN welcomes Myanmar's elections as a "significant step."
Gutsy: Spanish warship on EU mission attacked by Somali pirates.
European auto industry emitting less CO2, says the EU.
Portugal struggles to keep the "IMF scenario" at bay.
Russia ready to open transit routes for Afghanistan-bound NATO vehicles.
With NATO summit around the corner, a pessimistic look at European military spending.
Are Germany and the United States drifting apart as the G-20 approaches?
Just a day after President Barack Obama thrilled India by backing its Security Council candidacy, British foreign minister William Hague plumped for Brazil -- during a speech on reinvigorating British relations with Latin America. Will Moscow and Beijing get into the game?
That's nice: China "understands" India's desire to join the Security Council.
The IAEA chief briefs the U.N. General Assembly on the agency's work.
The World Bank reports on remittance patterns: top sender is United States and leading receiver is India.
The U.N. investigates sexual violence against Angolans deported to Congo.
Reset and replace: NATO has a new public face in Moscow.
OECD reports that ASEAN GDP has rebounded from downturn PDQ.
"Comfort and mutual confidence": Should the G-20 try to emulate ASEAN atmospherics?
Matt Yglesias thinks Obama's smart to endorse India's candidacy, and he's chock full of other ideas (some good, some not so good) on restructuring the Council:
India and Japan should have permanent Security Council seats. Brazil
too. We should work something out with Africa. The EU should have some
kind of consolidate seat instead of separate ones for France and the UK.
There shouldn’t be unilateral vetos of UNSC resolutions [snip] Will it happen? Not in the short-term, that’s for sure. But let China and France be the spoilers here.
The great thing for the other permanent members is that nobody has to be the spoiler here; the General Assembly's disunity is the spoiler. Until a consensus plan emerges, the big five can stand by and piously wait.
Both Yglesias and scholar Erik Voeten (who's done some fantastic work on the Council) argue that the alternative to reform may be a slow slide into irrelevance. Voeten suggests that the G-20 could emerge as a de facto competitor.
U.N. institutions typically reform much more rapidly when they are
challenged from the outside. There is some evidence that the G-20 is
increasingly becoming a place where security issues are discussed. The
G-20 does not vote on resolutions with legally binding effects but it
may increasingly become the place where the actual bargaining is done.
If this practice evolves, then the pressures for reform could evolve
I'm not so sure. I don't see much sign that the G-20 is ready to tackle security issues or that it will become a convenient place for brokering security deals in the near future. Nor am I convinced that the Council's ananchronistic structure poses an immediate danger to the institution. Reform has been stalled for years now, and it's hard to argue that the Council's place in international politics is slipping. The last years of the Bush administration were actually some of the busiest in recent Council history. The amount of attention Obama's India announcement has received -- and the emphasis that even major countries place on securing a Council seat -- suggest that its status is fairly secure.
President Obama sent hearts soaring in India today when he endorsed, before a special session of India's parliament, the country's bid for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council.
Indeed, the just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate. That is why I can say today, in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.
"It was a powerful endorsement. It is very welcome. Very eloquently put," said the head of India's BJP party. The Indian government had clearly been hoping that Obama would take the step, and a number of prominent voices pushed the White House in that direction. John McCain called for it on the eve of Obama's visit. For its part, Pakistan opposed the move, warning that a permanent seat for India would complicate regional security.
The endorsement was a notable move for an administration that has been all but mute on the question of Security Council reform. Given the efforts Washington has expended on pushing the G-20 and revamping governance at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, administration officials have been surprisingly quiet on Council reform, confining themselves to boilerplate about the need for an effective and legitimate Council. There's been no sign that Washington is actively pushing negotiations in New York. And in the wake of the unwelcome Iran diplomacy by Brazil and Turkey last year, the administration may be cooler to the idea of new permanent Council members than it had been initially. The Obama team will be carefully watching the Council's performance in 2011, when it will include many leading candidates as nonpermanent members, including India, Germany, Brazil, and South Africa.
In discussing the India announcement, administration officials acknowledged the obvious: permanent membership for India (or anyone else) remains a long way off. "This is bound to be a very complicated and difficult process, given the range of issues that have to be discussed and it's bound to take a significant amount of time," said undersecretary of State William Burns. In the 1990s, the United States endorsed the candidacies of Germany and Japan, a move that did little to propel their candidacies. Before Obama's departure for India, Strobe Talbot warned correctly that "even if assurances are made that a permanent seat were available for India, it is a bit like a check that runs some risk of bouncing, or of not being cashable for some time to come."
Even if it were genuinely inclined to do so, the United States does not alone have the power to cash India's Council check. Security Council reform requires a U.N. Charter amendment, which in turn requires two-thirds backing by the U.N. General Assembly (as well as the support of all current permanent members). The obstacle for India, and all other leading candidates for permanent seats, is that the Assembly is dominated by small and mid-size countries skeptical of adding new permanent seats, at least without a major increase in rotating seats. Accordingly, Council reform has been stuck for almost two decades, with the Assembly unable to reach consensus on a plan. The four leading candidates -- India, Germany, Japan, and Brazil -- all have influential opponents (Pakistan, Italy, China, and Argentina, respectively) who are keen to muck up the works.
For all the goodwill the announcement has won Obama in India, it won't change that underlying reality. And, at the moment, Washington is not interested in expending the diplomatic capital that would be required to help turn India's Council dream into a reality.
Update: A reader writes, "Getting a permanent seat at the UNSC is a long term goal for India. We are pragmatic. We know we are not going to get it tomorrow. But, we have to start somewhere. An endorsement, even an empty one, from the world's most powerful man is welcome."
Applause line: Obama endorses India's candidacy for a permanent Security Council seat, details to be worked out later.
"Less like rebalancing than a dogfight": Robert Samuelson is gloomy on the eve of the G-20.
IMF and Kuwait team up to create training center for Arab League government officials.
NATO chief says British defence cuts are a "matter for concern."
Via Twitter, Gordon Brown urges democracy in Burma and asks readers to sign letter to Ban Ki-moon.
Organization of American States chief does flyover of territory disputed by Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Will APEC become the forum for negotiating a Pacific free-trade agreement?
Interpol plans for a new crime-fighting headquarters in Singapore.
Somewhere in India, a street may have just been named for John McCain. In a speech delivered today, just as President Barack Obama begins his trip to the country, McCain strongly endorsed India's bid for a permanent Security Council seat.
[I]ndia must be represented in the foundational institutions of the global order. The United States should push for India’s inclusion in the International Energy Agency, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and those parts of the global non-proliferation regime from which India is still excluded. Most of all, the United States should fully back India’s pursuit of permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council. If we want India to join us in sharing the responsibilities for international peace and security, then the world’s largest democracy needs to have a seat at the high table of international politics.Pakistan, meanwhile, is busy telling Washington that such a move would endanger regional stability.
David Bosco reports on the new world order for The Multilateralist.