CNN reports that Bush will next nominate Iraqi ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to the post of American ambassador to the United Nations.
I'm conflicted. Khalilzad is a very strong diplomat. Indeed, he is one of the few people in this administration who still seemed to have a shot at ending the Iraq war in a manner that did not include a bloodbath or tyrannical anti-American regime. I've heard more than one (liberal) commentator express the view that Khalilzad is the last, best hope for American interests in Iraq (and many more who lament the fact that even Khalilzad, talented as he is, probably cannot do anything to save us from the mess we've created there). When my colleagues at the Carleton Progressive issued a (to my ears) knee-jerk hit piece against him, I made special care to defend him in my next column. In addition, as a Afghan-born Sunni Muslim, his symbolic value to America cannot be underestimated. In sum, he is an excellent public servant, a rare example of competence in the administration, and someone this government needs to utilize more effectively at the highest levels.
That being said, I can't help but think that he will not be able to be effective in the UN. As much as the American people have turned against the Iraq war, it pales in comparison to the level of disgust held by the denizens of Turtle Bay. I would not be surprised if Khalilzad is discounted simply by virtue of association. Not only does he deserve better than that, but America can ill afford someone who presents such an easy target for hostile interests at the global body. Rightly or wrongly, promoting our Iraq Ambassador will provide a field day towards those nations who wish to solidify the nascent anti-American bloc in the UN.
Some other reactions:
Michael Roston: "a heck of a lot better than 'losing ten floors.'"
Wizbang points to another interesting development: Khalilzad may be selected by the new UN secretary-general to be Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, a very important position. This would be a massive coup for the US.
AmericaBlog thinks the Religious Right will torpedo his nomination (which would make him the highest ranking Muslim in American government history). I'm very skeptical--Khalilzad has a lot of conservative street cred.