It's a paradox


According to James Taranto:

Bolton's view——with which this column agrees——seems to be that the U.N. is useful and worthy of respect only insofar as it responds to American leadership and serves American interests. The Democrats' view, by contrast, seems to be that the U.S. has an obligation to follow the U.N., whether it acts in America's interests or not. That's why, for example, John Kerry*, who voted in 2002 to authorize U.S. military force in Iraq, changed his mind the next year when the U.N. Security Council balked at passing a resolution expressly permitting such action.

Only that's not quite right. The classic example of the U.S. leading the U.N. was the first Gulf War. In November 1990 the Security Council passed Resolution 678, which authorized member states "to use all necessary means," including military force, to liberate Kuwait, then under occupation by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The resolution also "request[ed] all States to provide appropriate support" to that end.
In January 1991 Congress obliged. The House voted 250—183, with 179 Democrats voting "no," to authorize U.S. military force. The Senate vote was 52—47, with 45 Democrats voting "no." Only 86 House Democrats and 10 Senate Democrats voted in favor.
Among the negative votes were all five current Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who were then in Congress: Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Paul Sarbanes and then—Rep. Barbara Boxer. All told, 25 of the 28 current Senate Democrats who were in Congress in 1991 voted against the Gulf War. (The three who voted for it, in case you're wondering, were Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Tom Carper of Delaware and Harry Reid of Nevada.)
So the U.N. gave the thumbs—up for military force and asked for help, and most Democrats balked. Only a handful of lawmakers, including Sen. Jim Jeffords, ex—Sen. Bob Graham, Reps. John Dingell and Jim Leach and a few other House members (along with Al Gore), took what might be considered the consistent pro—U.N. position, supporting the liberation of Kuwait but not Iraq. Most Dems who now pose as champions of the U.N. showed their disdain for the world body by voting to refuse its request for help in 1991.
It seems fair to conclude, then, that most liberal Democrats, like Bolton, are pro—U.N. only when it suits their purposes——and that their purposes are the opposite of Bolton's. That is, for the Democratic left, the U.N. is useful and worthy of respect only insofar as it acts as an obstacle to American leadership and an opponent of American interests.
Clarice Feldman   4 21 05