Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bolton's Attack On Obama Also Hits Condoleezza Rice

John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., who was so controversial that George W. Bush had to appoint him during a Senate recess, attacks Barack Obama in today's Los Angeles Times.

If it wasn't for John F. Kennedy's meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna 1961, Soviet Union might not have put his missiles in Cuba the year after, Mr. Bolton writes, "thus precipitating one of the Cold War's most dangerous crises."

He also attacks Obama for having suggested that "Iran, Cuba, Venezuela" are "tiny compared to the Soviet Union" and "don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us." Mr. Bolton can't deny that Obama basically stated a fact, but goes on to "dissect" his comment with the mind of a Cold Warrior.

Don't forget that the "Soviet Union's threat to the West was more than about nukes, he writes. "Subversion, guerrilla warfare, sabotage and propaganda were several of the means by which this struggle was waged, and the stakes were high, even, or perhaps especially, in 'tiny' countries."

After citing Cuba's support for guerillas in El Salvador and Nicaragua and "vigorous Moscow-directed communist parties" in Western Europe who "challenged the democracies on their home turfs" he turns to Italy as if it was still the 1950's:

"Had Italy, for example, gone communist during the 1950s or 1960s, it would have been an inconvenient defeat for the United States but a catastrophe for the people of Italy. An 'asymmetric' threat to the U.S. often is an existential threat to its friends, which was something we never forgot during the Cold War. Obama plainly seems to have entirely missed this crucial point."

The point being that the world is black and white, and anyone suggesting that it has shades is a suspect to Mr. Bolton, who in 1970 decided that the Vietnam War was already a lost cause, something he didn't want to "waste his time on". Black and white can be convenient. It makes it easier to turn away from the nitty-gritty while still feeling good about yourself. Hence Mr. Bolton did what George W. Bush did, that is, he joined the National Guard.

John Bolton is obviously carrying water for John McCain, but he is also selling his new book Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad.

The book was reviewed in the March 6 issue of the New York Review of Books by Brian Urquhart, the former Undersecretary-General of the United Nations. He points out that John Bolton's book reflects "how unhappy he was with the Bush administration's changing approach" as it moderated its most extreme and ideological positions from its first term.

One of the things new things that made Bolton bolt was, according to Urquhart, "the idea that it was important to talk, at least in a limited way, to those perceived as enemies or potential enemies and to make some effort to understand their concerns and their interests began, if intermittently, to gain ground." (Bold talics added by me, H.S.)

Hence, his attack on Obama is also a critique of the Bush's second term, and of Condoleezza Rice's attempt "to take some steps to revive US diplomacy."

The trouble with Bolton, which he shares with Bush is that he sees only what he wants to see. Like senor Don Quixote he is allways ready to mount his Rocinante to take on evil monsters and save his Dulcinea. His heart is good, but his perception of reality is a little bit off, to say the least, making anything else than saber rattling a "naive and dangerous" sign of weakness. Or, as Urquhart summarizes it:

"Bolton and his small band of co-ideologues apparently see themselves as fighting virtually alone against the forces of evil, compromise, and weakness. As far as foreign affairs are concerned, their beliefs seem to be roughly as follows:

  • United States interests alone are to be considered as paramount; the United Nations is only relevant insofar as it serves those interests.
  • Foreigners, even some supposed allies, cannot be trusted, and the hostile ones (North Korea, Iran, the enemies of Israel, and others) will always cheat, will never abide by an agreement, and only understand pressure and force.
  • With such people there should be only sticks and hard words, no carrots, no rewards for good behavior, and no prolonged negotiations. Force always remains an option.
  • The High Minded, Liberals, multilateralists, and most Democrats are, in their own way, almost as destructive as hostile foreigners.
Such views could be regarded merely as colorful and anachronistic eccentricities if they were not voiced by someone who has held important public positions and who is therefore still regarded by many people as an expert. From such a source, they contribute seriously to weakening, not strengthening, the position of the United States in the world. For all John Bolton's undeniable ability and strength of mind, his views and his style are a luxury the United States can no longer afford."

Hans Sandberg

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