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Bolton's blunders

THE OLD Washington adage, personnel is policy, underlies the vehement and valid objections that have been lodged against the nomination of John Bolton -- an overt disparager of international treaties and organizations -- to become the next US ambassador to the United Nations.

Bolton's nomination deserves to be rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee not merely because he has been obsessed with a xenophobic notion that US sovereignty is in mortal danger of being lost to international organizations but because Bolton has taken stances that harm national security.

As undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, Bolton repeatedly thwarted efforts to strike a bargain with North Korea that would have given that repulsive regime US security guarantees and economic benefits in exchange for a verifiable agreement from Pyongyang to freeze and then dismantle both its nuclear and missile programs.

Thanks in large part to Bolton's obtuse zealotry on this issue, former secretary of state Colin Powell was held back from entering into the sort of give-and-take negotiations that alone could have clarified whether the North Koreans were prepared, for the right price, to cede whatever nuclear weapons, processed plutonium, and delivery systems it might now possess.

North Korea has acquired these ultimate terror tools in the past eight years while Bolton was calling its ruler, Kim Jong Il, nasty names and marshaling allies such as Vice President Dick Cheney to prevail on President Bush to prevent genuine negotiations with Pyongyang's envoys at six-party talks in Beijing.

Pyongyang is the place where Osama bin Laden would be most likely to obtain a nuclear weapon. If Bolton's role in making such a nightmare possible were the only reason to oppose his confirmation, it would be enough to disqualify him for a position where his unilateralist fixations could do yet more harm. But as noted in a recent letter from 67 former US diplomats and officals of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency who oppose Bolton's nomination, he also worked against US ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a limit on the sale of small arms, US participation in the Ottawa Landmine Treaty, and a verification system for the Biological Weapons Convention. The letter also laments that he ''led the successful campaign for US withdrawal from the treaty limiting missile defenses" -- the ABM Treaty -- thereby eliminating ''the sole treaty barrier to the weaponization of space."

Nobody who has acted so fervently and consistently against the national interest should represent this country at the United Nations.

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