Monday, October 29, 2007

Bolton and Young

Former U.N. Ambassadors Andrew Young and John Bolton were on campus last week (on United Nations Day) for a U.N. Symposium. They were the featured speakers Wednesday night and were followed Thursday by a panel of former ambassadors mostly to African countries, as well as David Wilkins, a South Carolinian currently the Ambassador to Canada. Friday there were several panels made up of U.N. Scholars. It was Young and Bolton that drew the big crowd at the ticketed event. Bolton lead off, his methodical and admittedly interesting talk belying his zany, quizzical appearance, accentuated by his shaggy mane of a hairdo and his walrus-like mustache. His theme was the perpetual political gridlock that pervades the U.N., keeping it from acting. Also, he emphasized the inequity in payment for the U.N., with a handful of countries joining the U.S. in nearly singlehandedly supporting it, with most of the other countries essentially on the dole--but with an equal vote. He wound up proposing that countries contribute to the U.N. voluntarily. Bolton served only a year and was never confirmed by Congress.

Young, in contrast, told stories about how despite the politically difficult atmosphere (during the Carter administration), he managed to accomplish some things by working informally around the system. He told a great story of how at a boring reception a Chinese diplomat asked Young's wife where he could get good "Georgia food." She said, "At our apartment." So they invited the entire delegation over in a couple weeks. Meanwhile, Mrs. Young had her mother drive up to New York, bringing a bunch of food and cooking the rest in the Waldorf Astoria kitchen. The party was a great success, right down to the mint juleps provided by the Waldorf. This helped smoothed the way with the Chinese. Young's account was one of people-to-people contacts, whereas Bolton's was the report of a disaffected ideologue.

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