Bolton Leaves The United Nations: Hated By Some, Admired By Others
By Andreas von Warburg
UNITED NATIONS – Ambassador John Bolton is one of President Bush’s most fiercely opposed appointments. Despised by many
when he took office at the United Nations in 2005; praised somewhat like a star now that he’s resigning… so much so that
several of his fellow ambassadors have almost given him a vote of confidence.
“I enjoy working with him,” Ambassador Wang Guangya, China’s Permanent Representative at the UN, told reporters after
Bolton resigned. “I think he was serious about the American objective of reforming the United Nations, and he pushed
hard. But, of course, sometimes in order to achieve that objective, you have to work together with others.”
Bolton and Guangya are not exactly friends. The two clashed on many issues at the Security Council – namely the nuclear
debate around Iran and North Korea, and issues related to the respect of human rights – and often scorned each other in
front of the cameras. “I regret that he's resigning, he works very hard and has his own style,” Wang said.
Bolton’s shot-clock abrasive style earned him true admiration from Security Council allies, who credited him with
helping pass hard-line resolutions on the North Korea and Iran’s question, as well as the Lebanon crisis.
“I would say we have always respected each other and we were able to work together, especially on 1701 [Lebanon],”
Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière, France's Permanent Representative to the UN, said about Bolton. And comments from
his Japanese counterpart have also been laudatory: “John Bolton was spearheading on a number of important issues. And as
far as Japan was personally concerned, the North Korean missile launch in July and nuclear test in October, he really
spearheaded this effort to get a Security Council resolution adopted, in a very speedy and efficient manner.”
Bolton’s “bare-knuckled diplomacy” – as the Washington Post calls it – was as undiplomatic as it could be, but helped
the Security Council speed up the process and increase transparency. However, his style and brutality contributed to
distance the US Administration from the UN leadership, from Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Deputy
Secretary-General in particular. Asked by reporters to comment on Bolton’s departure, Mark Malloch Brown, Annan’s
right-hand-man and one of Bolton’s fiercest critics, strongly declined any comment.
“I think Ambassador Bolton did the job he was expected to do,” Annan said more diplomatically, whose second term expires
December 31, the same day the US Ambassador will leave his post. “As a representative of the U.S. government, he pressed
ahead with the instructions that he had and tried to work as effectively as he could with the other ambassadors.”
Bush reportedly asked White House lawyers to study all possible alternatives to keep John “the hawk” Bolton in office.
However, since Bolton was a recess appointee, made without the support of the Senate, Bush could have renewed the
ambassador’s mandate only by asking Bolton to renounce a salary. To overcome this obstacle, the Administration
considered naming Bolton “something different” and pay him “on the side in a private capacity,” as Fox News reported
Now that Bolton’s resignations have been accepted by the President, many are speculating on his successor. One of the
most recurring names is that of US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan native who also served as top US
diplomat in Kabul. But other contenders seem very interested in the position: Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman
who lost the elections last November and publicly supported by Democrats for replacing Bolton, and Paula Dobriansky,
undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs.
Whoever will replace Ambassador Bolton, filling his shoes won’t be easy. Bolton is loved by the press and is a natural
in dealing with the Security Council.
Bolton's successor will have to be as resolute as he was, without being abrasive. The hardest task would be to close the
gap with the UN Administration and poor countries, while keeping close friends with the other four Security Council
veto-barer permanent members. And the new Ambassador should keep in mind that the General Assembly is not a secondary UN
body, but an important piece of the puzzle just like the Security Council.