John Bolton is duly performing the function he was appointed for by George W. Bush—to torpedo the United Nations.
The United Nations is certainly in need of reform. Take the U.N. Human Rights Commission. For years, it has been tainted by having countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, serial human-rights violators, as its members. Most notoriously, it has had Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya chair the body. This is indeed a problem. Professor Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco points out that the bad picks have largely been a result of the complicated way in which the selection process is set up.
However much that may explain the sometimes dubious membership of the organization, it doesn’t justify it, and the United States has been right to ask Kofi Annan and the General Assembly to reform the institution. The United Nations tried to comply with the U.S. request by drawing up reform proposals. The blueprint calls for direct election of member countries (instead of the method now used), scrutinization of members’ human rights records, and suspension of countries if they are constant violators.
It was at this point that Bolton revealed his hand. He said that the U.N. was not doing enough, and that the United States would vote against the restructuring. Even human rights organizations are doubting his motives.
"It's an open question whether Bolton's throwing all the cards up in the air is meant to improve the council or to prove that the U.N. can't reform itself and therefore should be abandoned," says Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
Bolton’s naysaying will have the opposite effect of reform.
“Should the U.S. force the proposal to a vote, it is likely to encourage abusive governments to weaken the council with their own amendments, or to compel the General Assembly president to withdraw the reform proposal altogether,” says Human Rights Watch.
Amnesty International has also joined in the criticism of the U.S. stance.
"The U.S. administration should not jeopardize the best chance in decades to establish a more effective UN human rights body, " says Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan. "This historic opportunity must not be squandered, otherwise victims of human rights around the world will continue to suffer."
But such criticism is not stopping Bolton. He is even in favor of extending the current, tainted human rights commission’s shelf life, instead of meeting the deadline for forming a restructured organization.
“It might be worthwhile having the [existing] commission meet again to remind everybody it is so bad that we can get on the track of real reform,” he says.
Makes you wonder if reform or a train wreck is his real goal.