Monday, March 07, 2005

John Bolton for the UN

John Bolton is to be the president's nomination for the UN ambassadorship.

I can understand the Bush administration harbouring a desire to employ Bolton in one capacity or another, but it seems to me that this is a peculiar appointment. Bolton was reknowned for being one of the least clubbable members of President Bush's first term administration and... well do we need any more reasons why this is an odd appointment?

When General de Gaulle and his Free French were based in London, the general would frequently get into stormy, glass-shattering rows with British officials, not least of all Winston Churchill himself. There were numerous reasons for this, including divergent aims between Britain and France and, more importantly, the differing means by which each wished to pursue such shared aims as existed. De Gaulle's frustration was unattractive and often unreasonable but in many ways understandable. The rifts between the British and the French were made unnecessarily rancid, however, by the general's personality - which was so blunt and combative as to cross the line between assertiveness and needless, rude antagonism. The situation became so rancorous that even de Gaulle's aides, many of whom were as frustrated as de Gaulle but could also understand the British position, became embarassed and annoyed at their chief's antics. After one particularly stormy meeting at 10 Downing Street, one of de Gaulle's leading advisers took him aside and rather pointedly noted that, "If the interests of France require us to disagree with the British, then we must assuredly disagree. But we may find things easier if every so often we did so with a smile".

It was good advice and paid dividends (though de Gaulle was hardly consistent in following it). It seems to me that it is advice that John Bolton's record seems to indicate he is almost pathologically incapable of following.


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