I’ll be watching closely on Thursday morning as Zalmay Khalilzad runs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gauntlet.
Acting Perm. Rep. Alex Wolff has been doing, by all accounts, a fantastic job at the U.S. Mission in New York on multiple fronts: winning support of other countries, working with the Secretariat, and controlling the John Bolton appointees within his ranks. It’s not easy work.
But with all due respect to Alex Wolff, we need a confirmed Ambassador that all countries know has the ear of the President and the confidence of the Senate. I’m sure Wolff knows that as well as I do.
Khalilzad is known as a world class schmoozer, a real diplomat’s diplomat, but that doesn’t give us an idea of what kind of Ambassador he’ll be. Much will depend on how he’s been prepped, and the confirmation hearings will give us a sense of what’s to come from a Khalilzad-run Mission.
It will also give us a sense of how the Bolton battle has affected the political landscape on U.S.-U.N. relations. Two years ago, hard-line unilateralists were foaming at the mouth for an opportunity to slam the U.N., while proponents of a strong U.S.-U.N. relationship were reluctantly prepared to make their case. I think the tables have turned. When we see which senators show up to question Khalilzad and the tone each senator strikes, we’ll have a better idea.
Here’s what I’d ask the Ambassador-designate – and what I’d like to hear from senators who want a strong and effective U.N.:
1. Do you believe the U.S. should pay its contributions on time and in full? What are some of the consequences of making late or incomplete payments?
2. The Government Accountability Office and the RAND Corporation, in independent studies, show that U.N. peacekeeping missions are more efficient and far more effective than any other peacekeeping force in the world, saving the U.S. a great deal in money, lives, and international standing. The U.S. currently imposes a cap on our contributions to U.N. peacekeeping. Do you believe this cap will affect your ability to support peacekeeping missions in the Security Council?
3. Former Ambassador John Bolton has been actively agitating for a change in the way the U.N. regular budget is funded. Thje consequences of moving towards the kind of cut ‘n gut funding he proposes – paying what we feel like paying – will force the U.N. to cater to the needs of countries that can pay more. That would not only undermine the spirit of the Charter, it would virtually assure that important global problems will stay off the U.N.’s radar screen, and that member states whose needs go unaddressed would be uncooperative on key issues for the United States. Plus, the U.N. would lack a consistent funding stream and would be unable to build long-term budgets. Former Ambassador Bolton set up a “study group” in the State Department to consider these types of funding shifts. Is this group still active? If so, do you plan to keep it active? What is your view of this plan?
4. Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon recently began a policy of “opening the 38th floor” to applicants throughout the U.N. system. He also discontinued the so-called “reversion policy” that allows high-level appointees to return to their old jobs once their appointments expire. Do you believe these are meaningful reforms? How would you characterize the progress of U.N. reform over the past few years? What are your priorities for U.N. reform?
5. Regrettably, the Bush administration recently indicated that the U.S. will not run for a seat on the Human Rights Council. There is still much that the U.S. can do to make the Council work. As you know, the performance of the Council in its first year has been very disappointing. A number of countries with poor human rights records and General Assembly voting records are running for seats on the Council. Will the U.S. be active in Human Rights Council elections as a non-candidate, campaigning for countries that will work constructively to support human rights? How will the U.S. engage in these elections? Would the presence of a high-level envoy to the Human Rights Council in Geneva strengthen our ability to influence the Council?
Just a few thoughts. Looking forward to yours.
— Scott Paul