In memoriam: John R. Bolton

The quintessential ugly American falls on his sword.

Published December 4, 2006 4:56PM (EST)

For those who believe in a future in which the term "globalization" means the world's nations working together to solve the world's problems, John Bolton's decision to resign from the United Nations today is a cause for celebration.

In his acceptance of the nomination, President Bush declared that Bolton "cares about the institution" of the U.N. But let us recall:

  • "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world and that is the United States when it suits our interest and we can get others to go along."

  • "It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so -- because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States. We ought to be concerned about this so-called right of humanitarian intervention."

  • "The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."

  • "If I were redoing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world ... the United States."

It's also worth going back and reading the report authored by Democratic senators on the nomination of Bolton to the U.N. And consider: There are countless other similar expressions of the (formerly) minority party that seemed to make a whole lot of sense at the time but meant nothing in the realpolitik terms of power. But the equation has shifted.

U.N. diplomats should be high-fiving each other all day today. A week that starts with a Monday morning capitulation by John Bolton is a week in which great things are possible.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Globalization How The World Works United Nations