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Ambassador Bolton's First Days at U.N.


The controversial new US ambassador to the United Nations has been keeping a low profile in New York. John Bolton has presented his credentials, made diplomatic courtesy calls and passed gaggles of reporters without comment. He has a lot to do before the UN Summit in mid-September when the General Assembly takes up a wide-ranging package of reforms. NPR's Corey Flintoff examines how effective the once ferocious critic of the UN will be as an ambassador there.


What makes an effective ambassador depends on what you think the United States should accomplish at the UN. Many nations have called for adding more permanent members to the Security Council, but many analysts think that contentious issue could consume a lot of time without resulting in much accomplishment. Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute says one key issue that John Bolton can influence is management reform.

Ms. DANIELLE PLETKA (American Enterprise Institute): And what I hope to see is that John is able to promote a reform agenda that separates out the question of UN Security Council expansion from the question of overall institutional reform. I think that if he can successfully push that agenda for the president, then he will be, at least at the outset, a success in his job.

FLINTOFF: But James Paul, director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum, says the UN's management isn't as bad as it's made out to be. He notes that the deputy UN secretary for management has been recommended by the US government for many years. Paul says the real issue is funding.

Mr. JAMES PAUL (Director, Global Policy Forum): The best thing the US could do would be to lift its ban on an increased budget of the UN. The UN's most serious problem is the very, very small size of its budget and the very small size of the resources available. And it's been the United States pretty much against most of the rest of the world on this issue. There's a lot of support for increased financing of the UN, and if Washington were to change its policy here, the whole situation would change very dramatically. I really don't see the Bush administration going in that direction.

FLINTOFF: John Hirsch of the International Peace Academy says the key measure of Bolton's effectiveness will be whether he can show that the US is committed to multilateral action in the world body.

Mr. JOHN HIRSCH (International Peace Academy): And, of course, assuring member states that the United States takes their concerns seriously, that we regard ourselves as--United States regards itself as committed to multilateral solutions to as many issues as possible and really does want to work collaboratively with other countries.

FLINTOFF: Donald McHenry, ambassador to the UN during the Carter administration, says Bolton's effectiveness will largely depend on his attitude.

Mr. DONALD McHENRY (Former UN Ambassador): If you go with a chip on your shoulder or with an established view of we against them, you're also not likely to succeed.

FLINTOFF: In his two days as US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton has been a model of decorum.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Washington.

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.