Set things right by confirming Bolton

July 31, 2006|By PETER BROOKES

You don't often get an opportunity to right a wrong. But the Senate will get a chance to do just that when it gives the nomination of John R. Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations a second look in the coming weeks.

Last year, after an overheated debate, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee refused to give Mr. Bolton its blessing, ultimately throwing a wet blanket on the U.N. nominee's chances of getting a vote by the full Senate.

President Bush, needing an ambassador - and strong leadership - at the U.N., gave Mr. Bolton a recess appointment last summer. Mr. Bolton must step down when the Senate recesses in the fall unless it votes to confirm him.

Since last summer, even in a state of limbo, Mr. Bolton has done a first-rate job at the U.N. So much so that one of his most damning - and surprising - detractors has changed his tune.

During Mr. Bolton's hearings last year, Sen. George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, voiced strong opposition to the White House's nominee, claiming that Mr. Bolton wasn't the right person to represent America at the world body.

But recently, in a shocking Washington Post op-ed, Mr. Voinovich wrote that he was impressed by Mr. Bolton's work at the U.N., especially on reform, and in dealing with North Korea and Iran.

He added that if Mr. Bush renominates Mr. Bolton - and he has done so - Mr. Voinovich would vote to confirm him, warning colleagues that failing to show unity would weaken America's international position at a critical time.

Mr. Voinovich is on the mark this time. With the Middle East aflame, North Korea launching missiles, Iran pursuing nukes, and the continuing challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to speak with one strong voice at the U.N.

Mr. Bolton is exactly the type of hard-nosed, no-nonsense diplomat that Washington needs in New York right now, fighting for U.S. interests in the often indecisive U.N. Security Council.

In recent months, Mr. Bolton has worked tirelessly to get the U.N. to do something about the festering Iranian and North Korean problems, despite the shameful foot-dragging of the Russians and Chinese.

Thanks to his roll-up-your-shirt-sleeves efforts, the Security Council finally issued a formal statement calling on Iran to end uranium enrichment, a critical process in producing nuclear weapons.

On North Korea, Bolton got the Security Council to impose targeted sanctions on Pyongyang, banning the transfer of nuclear or missile parts or technology, after North Korea test-fired seven missiles earlier this month.

This resolution is the strongest condemnation the Security Council has issued against North Korea in more than 10 years. It received unanimous support, even from China and Russia - no small feat these days.

Protecting America's $2 billion annual U.N. contribution, Mr. Bolton is making headway in reforming the world body, including commitments by the General Assembly to improve oversight and personnel management.

In less than a year, he has become our hard-charging advocate at the U.N., advancing and protecting American interests at a time when we're facing extraordinary international challenges.

With the progress we've made under Mr. Bolton's leadership in New York, it would be foolish to swap ambassadors now. The Senate can make up for its mistake by confirming Bolton ASAP.

Peter Brookes is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation and the author of "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States." His e-mail is peterbrookes@heritage.org.

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