Friday, August 04, 2006

John Bolton Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing

July 27, 2006 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM

Speakers: John Bolton, US Ambassador to the UN

Support for John Bolton at his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing was largely divided along party lines. Republicans, for the most part, praised Bolton’s work as the US Ambassador to the UN. Republicans highlighted Bolton’s ability to keep UN reform on the agenda, despite the G77’s hesitations. Also, Republicans claimed that Bolton has dealt with Iran and North Korea effectively in recent weeks. Senator Voinovich, who expressed concern with Bolton’s nomination last year, said that Bolton’s work this year has addressed Voinovich’s concerns, and Voinovich will support Bolton’s nomination this year.
However, not all Republicans praised Bolton’s work. Lincoln Chafee pressed Bolton on his Middle Eastern policy by asking about the root cause of terrorism. Bolton responded that there is no basis for peace in the Middle East right now, and the current situation in Lebanon should be seen as an opportunity to create sustainable peace. Chafee proceeded to press the point and Bolton continued to skirt the question until finally Bolton suggested that the problem in the Middle East is the refusal of some nations to recognize Israel as a sovereign state. Then, Chafee asked if part of the problem is the lack of a contiguous Palestinian state. Bolton said that the Palestinian question should be included in discussions about peace in Lebanon and the broader Middle East to increase long-term stability. Chafee finished his questioning by suggesting that the administration is not putting the effort behind its rhetoric in the Middle East.
Democrats, on the other hand, mainly attacked Bolton on his ineffectiveness. Failure to achieve UN reform, inability to include Chapter 7 sanctions in a resolution regarding North Korean missile launches, and inability to achieve Security Council consensus on Iran nuclear ambitions were highlighted. Bolton responded by claiming that many of these “failures” were in fact successes. For example, the North Korea resolution did not include Chapter 7 language, but the resolution includes binding language, according to Bolton. Democrats disagreed, but Bolton firmly defended his position, claiming that the United States achieved the binding resolution it desired, despite the lack of Chapter 7 language.
Democrats also addressed Bolton’s position on US contributions to the UN. Senator Obama asked Ambassador Bolton about his support for voluntary contributions. Bolton has claimed that voluntarily financed programs like UNICEF are very effective and allow the US to have a more positive influence on the UN. Yet, despite UNICEF’s effectiveness, the US has cut its budget request. Furthermore, this year’s budget has more cuts for UNICEF and UNDP. How, Obama asked, can voluntarily financed programs be effective if the most successful programs are consistently being cut? Bolton responded by saying that the US is expanding other voluntary programs including UN Democracy funding and UNAIDS. Also, Congress is responsible for allocating money for UN programs, not the Administration.
Next, many Democratic senators were concerned about Bolton’s personal diplomacy. Democrats cited recent reports from anonymous ambassadors that the international community cannot work with Ambassador Bolton, and that Bolton is alienating his allies. Bolton said that other ambassadors spoke to him after the article was published to express their outrage with the report. Furthermore, Bolton said that America should not trust the sincerity of these anonymous sources. Democrats also questioned Bolton’s recent decision to forgo a meeting with other Security Council members in Darfur to address the atrocities happening in the region. Bolton said he had a personal commitment in the UK that he could not miss.
While the Foreign Relations Committee was split along party lines, Bolton’s nomination is not yet certain. Senator Chafee was clearly displeased with Ambassador Bolton, and he could theoretically cast the tying vote against Bolton’s confirmation. Democrats focused mainly on Bolton’s ineffectiveness, though his personal diplomatic style was certainly still an issue. Republicans commended his recent successes and highlighted his efforts to represent the Administration accurately and effectively, while calling on the Senate to confirm Bolton for continuity’s sake.

by Adam Perry

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