US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton isn't known for being diplomatic.
Last week, when the UN Human Rights Council declined to criticize the Sudanese government's complicity in Darfur atrocities, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a carefully worded critical statement. Mr. Bolton issued a thunderbolt.
The action was "another example of the poor performance of the Human Rights Council, another reason why those who advocated going ahead with this council will have a heavy burden to bear," said Bolton.
Whether these words were deserved or not, they were reflective of a style which in the end undid his UN posting. With his path to Senate confirmation appearing blocked, Bolton announced Monday that he will step down when his temporary appointment expires within weeks.
President Bush said he accepted Bolton's decision with deep regret. "He served his country with extraordinary dedication and skill, assembling coalitions that addressed some of the most consequential issues facing the international community," Mr. Bush said in a statement.
Critics claimed that Bolton's brusqueness made him counterproductive. At the UN, he alienated US allies, both real and potential, according to his critics. Many Senate Democrats – and a few Republicans – charged that his hard-line ideology and penchant for confrontation was at odds with the UN's multilateral nature.
Bolton's defenders insist that he has done well at the UN headquarters in New York, pushing through tough Security Council resolutions on North Korea's nuclear activities, building consensus among allies on the need for Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium, and pressing for peace in Darfur.
"US participation at the United Nations is not about winning popularity contests or engaging in feel-good, back-slapping exercises. It is about steadfast leadership and the advancement of clear principles and ideals," writes Heritage Foundation foreign policy expert Nile Gardiner in an examination of Bolton's record.
As recently as November the administration appeared intent on fighting to keep Bolton in his current position.
The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joe Biden (D) of Delaware recently said he saw "no point" in bringing Bolton's nomination before the panel, given the opposition in the chamber to confirming him in the post.
Administration officials were searching for ways to possibly circumvent the Senate, perhaps by giving him a title other than ambassador or by again giving him a temporary, recess appointment.
In the end, Bolton may have decided to simply take himself out of the running.
His letter of resignation to Bush, dated Dec. 1, was brief and to the point. "I have concluded that my service in your [administration] should end when the current recess appointment expires," Bolton wrote.