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The Condi-Bolton Gap: America's Stance on UN Human Rights Commission

By comparison to nearly any other serious candidate for Bolton's job, America most likely would have secured a deal it could have supported.
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Finally, people are beginning to see that there is a serious gap between Condi Rice and John Bolton.

Anne-Marie Slaughter sums up the state of affairs regarding America's stance towards the new Human Rights Council beautifully.

Slaughter, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, outlines that although America voted "no" on the Council,

word from the U.N. has it that Secretary Rice pushed hard to soften Bolton's stated opposition to the Council. . .

Far more important, though, was the announcement later in the day that the U.S. would in fact help to fund the Council and would pledge support for making it "as strong and effective as it can be."

According to the Washington Post, debate has also started within the government over whether the U.S. will stand for membership.

These are very welcome words. As Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth said yesterday: "The new council should be a great improvement over the old Commission on Human Rights, but today's vote is only the beginning." The job now is to get ourselves elected and work to get other countries who are serious about human rights elected while blocking, in Roth's words, "governments that systematically repress their people."

The Boston Globe editorial gets it right: the new Council's effectiveness will depend not only on its members but on "the rules and procedures they adopt for their work."

John Bolton -- through the entire debate about the UN Human Rights Council -- had provided little of the "qualified opposition" stance that most State Department apparatchiks around Condoleezza Rice had communicated. Bolton's opposition was strong, unqualified, and total.

The fact that the administration is now communicating a "softened stance" both on financial support of the Human Rights Council, potential American membership on the Council, and is committed to trying and make the new Council "as strong and effective as it can be" is welcome news -- and is a sign that John Bolton's theatrics are being countered by Foggy Bottom.

Just for the record, here is what "stunning isolation" looks like:

Vote on Human Rights Council The draft resolution to establish the Human Rights Council (document A/60/L.48) was adopted by a recorded vote of 170 in favour to 4 against, with 3 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Federated States of Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against: Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States.

Abstain: Belarus, Iran, Venezuela.

Absent: Central African Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Georgia, Kiribati, Liberia, Nauru.

Now just step back for a moment and consider something.

Opposing the Human Rights Council in its present form was not America's objective. What was our objective was to pursue a diplomatic track that achieved the kind of UN Human Rights Council that America could robustly support.

Why did that effort fail? Was it just that Jan Eliasson, President of the UN General Assembly, failed to work with America or put together a flawed proposal?

Or did John Bolton, our Ambassador, do a miserable job in achieving positive results?

Would Jack Danforth have done better than Bolton? Yes.

Would John Negroponte have done better? Despite many who will no doubt howl about this, the answer is "yes".

Would Paula Dobriansky -- now Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs -- have done better if she had been made our Ambassador to the UN? The answer is most certainly, yes.

By comparison to nearly any other serious candidate for Bolton's job, America most likely would have secured a deal it could have supported.

We achieved little in this stand-off orchestrated by John Bolton other than that rabid, anti-UN right-wingers will be able to say in the fall that the UN set up a flawed Human Rights Council over American objections.

It will be in the campaign literature -- just wait. And John Bolton will get well-deserved credit for that.

Steven Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note, and is both a frequent contributor to Huffington Post and editor of Bolton Watch.

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