First, does anyone suppose John Bolton would have been nominated if things weren’t going at least reasonably well in Iraq? Or abyssimally within the U.N.?
Granted, as Kipling told us, triumph and disaster are two impostors, and the crowing that it’s all over (or a even new 1989) may be a bit premature, even if we hope earnestly that they aren’t. I never considered Iraq a case of guerrilla war, which most military people will define as a resistance movement that hides and shelters among broad-based popular support. If it was that anywhere, it was in the Sunni Triangle, but only until we shrewdly pulled back and let the “insurgents” control part of it for a few months. By November, they’d beheaded their own popular support even in their own base. And by January, the idea that the Michael Moore’s minutemen were carrying out anything more than a politically-motivated crime wave with no political goals was refuted by the empirical evidence of votes.
Today, we also hear the most encouraging news yet about the state of the Taliban’s disintegration. Whatever is left of it, Mullah Omar appears not to control. It must be disspiriting to see the value of his head fall so low. We’ll be more certain in about six weeks, after the fighting season has started.
Yep, plenty can still go wrong. But success seems to have many fathers of late, just as a few of its true fathers seemed ready to deny paternity for the colicky wriggler last May. We have learned that many people across the political spectrum are made of wobbly stuff. No one will ever say that about John Bolton.
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Plenty of other alarming things are being said about Bolton, particularly here in the New York Times. For all its shrill hyperbole, the piece is still informative. Of course, if you’re reading this blog, odds are you’ve read the Times enough to spot the familiar tricks, such as the old standard of vicarious editorializing-by-quotation:
“Mr. Bolton is seen as among the most hawkish of President Bush’s advisers, and as among those who are most sympathetic toward unilateral action, and perhaps least sympathetic toward a multilateral approach to things,” said Robert Hathaway, director of Asia studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington.
Yeah. You say that like it’s a bad thing. More on Bolton and that tired old “unilateralism” horse later.
“Certainly, many people around the world will see this nomination as raising questions about the president’s sincerity in wanting to work in a cooperative fashion, a multilateral fashion,” he said. Mr. Hathaway predicted the nomination would be seen as “disquieting” and curious.”
You can’t get a lot more condescending than that. You can almost see the brows furrow in Paris and Brussels.
After a period in which the Bush administration has emphasized a desire for international cooperation, underscored by the president’s trip to Europe, the nomination of Mr. Bolton appeared to show that hard-liners on foreign policy still carry clout in a clearly divided administration.
I’d grant that it’s a victory for those the Times calls hard-liners, but “divided?” With the exit of Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, and a whole rick of dead wood at the CIA, I’m not sure who stands in opposition to the Bolton faction. We’ve all seen Bush’s Braveheart speech, and nothing I’ve read suggests that Bolton was ever at odds with Condi Rice, who’s far to the right of Powell and Armitage. And as the Times points out, “Mr. Bolton has been championed in the past by Vice President Dick Cheney.” Seems to me that gives Bolton the full trifecta. Mathematically speaking, divided by one is more like it. Now brace yourself for a parade of horribles that should send you scurrying for your beaujolais:
Mr. Bolton is widely quoted as having said at a panel discussion in 1994 that “if the U.N. secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
Granted, that one wouldn’t pass in the post-9/11 world, but of course, Bolton wasn’t suggesting bombing or destruction or loss of life; he was merely pointing out the belief–since confirmed a dozen times over–that the United Nations doesn’t really do anything competently above the level of delivering modest amounts of emergency relief and innoculating kids. Those are good things, of course, but when it comes to making peace or foreign policy or stopping man-made disasters (Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Darfur, Somalia, North Korea) the U.N. is worse than useless. Not only does the U.N. generally fail to offer so much as empty words to console the corpses, it tends to interfere with saving the living. Those who believe in expanding the power, prestige, and influence of the U.N. should not be satisfied with this and ought to recognize that doing something about it begins with listening to the uneasy truths that Bolton is telling them, if they’ll listen. And of course, Bolton was not in government in 1994. If Jack Pritchard can open his mouth as a private citizen, then Bolton should have the same rights.
And in 1998 he dismissed a vote at the United Nations as irrelevant, saying, “this will simply provide further evidence to many why nothing more should be paid to the U.N. system.” Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, who served as the United Nations Ambassador under President Ronald Reagan, said in 2003 that Mr. Bolton “loves to tussle,” adding, “He may do diplomatic jobs for the U.S. government, but John is not a diplomat.”
As I said. And you can’t really call it criticism when it’s coming from Jeanne Kirpatrick. I’d agree with her that not only is Bolton no diplomat, that might not be what’s called for when dealing with people whose language consists of “human scum,” “sea of fire,” “Great Satan,” and “bloodsucker.” Those people are only looking for conciliation in the way that wolves scrutinize deer for limping and shortness of breath. Countries like North Korea and Iran don’t respond positively to diplomacy as they know it in Brussels. They respond to what they deal in themselves: fear. Consider for a moment that Bolton’s dangerous outbursts are more studied that they appear to the Times.
Of course, Bolton probably isn’t the hissing bomb they claim him to be if he’s managed to successfully negotiate such important matters as an arms reduction treaty with Russia and Libya’s disarmament. Yes, I promised you proof of John Bolton’s success at multilateralism. Here’s John O’Sullivan from the National Review:
He devised a practical way of halting the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups and rogue states — namely, the Proliferation Security Initiative — that the international community has now signed onto. The PSI advanced U.S. interests by recruiting those allies who could offer America real help to prevent its enemies obtaining weapons of mass destruction. That was pragmatic multilateralism of a high order.
The Times’s parade continues:
His hard line, and blunt talk, on nuclear negotiations with North Korea – he
has staunchly opposed concessions to Pyongyang unless it first rolls back its
nuclear program – has roiled the Bush administration’s already-difficult
dealings with the government there. In July 2003, as delicate six-party
talks including North Korean were about to start, Mr. called Kim Jong Il, the
North Korean leader, a “tyrannical dictator” of a country where “life is a
Come here and smell this. No, really–just stop long enough to consider how many supposedly intelligent folks at various editorial boards and think tanks take crap like this seriously when it’s hard to believe that the North Korean leadership itself does. This is landfill for the consumption of the masses in Wonsan (and at Yonsei University, of course; mustn’t forget the true believers).
North Korea responded furiously, saying that “such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks” and that Pyongyang no longer considered Mr. Bolton to represent the administration. The State Department removed him from its delegation.
So what part of that is not true? I see where you’re going here, which is that telling the truth is a bad thing in diplomacy. I differ.
Let’s review the benefits of happy talk with North Korea. Jimmy Carter and Bill Richardson talked happy and we got the Agreed Framework, followed by instantaneous North Korean cheating thereon. Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton offered happy talk, and we got more cheating. Bush eventually chose to recognize the fact of the cheating, which meant that the talk got less pleasant and the minor annoyance of the U.N.-IAEA inspectors was summarily removed. But then for a very long time, to conspicuously include the SOTU and the inauguration speech, Bush held his tongue. And look what that got us.
Frankly, the only parties affected one way or another by what Bolton says are those parties eager to pretent that it actually matters. That would be the South Koreans, whose state of delusion is so far advanced that like a gangrenous limb, it may simply require amputation from the larger body. Democracy means at lot of things, including the freedom to have your capital become Kim Il Sung City.
As for Bolton being taken off the delegation, the State Department officially denied it, but if neither the Times nor National Review is buying it, that satisfies me . . . that the State Department suffers from testicular atrophy.
Mr. Hathaway of the Wilson Center said other parties to the Korean
nuclear talks had at least privately challenged Mr. Bolton’s confrontational
approach. But he also noted that the United Nations, for now, “is not where the
action is on the North Korea question.”
As I’ve said before, Bolton’s appointment was a statement. What it probably means is that Bolton will be locked and loaded to challenge North Korea’s proliferation and human rights records at the U.N., and very likely at the Security Council. I suspect that if you want to know “where the action is,” the bouncing ball you should be following has “Bolton” written all over it.
Mr. Bolton also raised concerns when he was quoted by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in early 2003 as saying that the United States, after defeating Iraq, would “deal with” Iran, Syria and North Korea. And in June of that year he told the BBC that in the case of Iran, “all options are on the table.”
Like this one, for example. The horror! (it sounds cooler if you whisper it twice in hushed, Kurtzian madness)
In a 2002 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Bolton was asked about what seemed to be mixed signals from the Bush administration on North Korea. He grabbed a book from a shelf and laid it on the table. Its title: “The End of North Korea.” “That,” he told the interviewer, “is our policy.”
First, thanks for finding me that quote. And as you’ve probably guessed, those are my sentiments exactly. Now, it’s hard to know whether Bolton was trying to scare North Korea back to the bargaining table, hawk-engagement style, or whether he meant it. If I were the North Korean generals, I’d wager the latter, but since I’m not, count me skeptical.
I will close with a question for those of you who see this as a sign of the Apolcalypse–just what would be so damned bad about calling for democracy and human rights in North Korea just the way we’ve called for these things in Saudi Arabia or Lebanon? Would the harm of a “chaotic” change of regime really be worse than Zarkawi with a dirty bomb or another two million dead North Koreans? The main criticism of Bolton appears to be that he’s the guy who just stand up and say that.