Thursday, November 3

Wake Up

A blogger wrote this morning to protest Pundita's opinion that John Bolton should have been given the post of Secretary of State. The blogger noted in mock horror (I assume it was mock) that the appointment would have unlocked "the seventh seal on the way to apocalypse."

While waiting to learn whether I have permission to publish the blogger's entire letter and his name, I wrote a response to the above observation, which I publish here.

Readers whose views on John Bolton were shaped by the news media might wish to first study the informed opinion of 53 distinguished former ambassadors.

The endorsements were in response to the Senate review of Bolton's qualifications to be US Ambassador to the United Nations. This writing projects what John Bolton could have accomplished as Secretary of State, and why he had no chance to be offered the position.

Apocalypse has not broken out at the United Nations since Bolton arrived. Instead, the United Nations Security Council quickly delivered an unanimous vote on the Syria resolution; this, after cosmetic changes to the resolution's wording that allowed China and Russia to save face but which didn't water down the seriousness of the demands.

I'll grant this much: There would have been an apocalyptic battle at Foggy Bottom if by some miracle Bush could have put Bolton in as Secretary of State. By the time the dust would have settled, several obstructionists at State would have been reassigned to token posts. (There would have been no way to fire them or pressure them into resigning, at least not without another battle that would have taken years.)

Reassigning the obstructionists would have cleared the way for a coherent, modern US foreign policy. Also, Bolton as Secretary of State would have put the Bush doctrine at the helm of US foreign policy instead of the Chirac Multilateralism school, which State adopted during the Clinton era, and which Condoleezza Rice and Robert Zoellick have carried forward at State. *

But few Americans can imagine what John Bolton would have accomplished as Secretary of State because he was smeared by the Eurocrat wing of the Democrat Party, GOP toadies for the Chirac School mounted a limp-wristed defense of Bolton, and praise for Bolton from neoconservatives amounted to damnation.

As it was, Bolton's trip to the UN as US Ambassador was blocked for months during a critical period while Bush had to decide whether to override Congress on the matter. America and her allies lost precious time in the war because of that.

While he was at State Bolton was repeatedly blocked by State mandarins who believed it was better to follow along with the EU Three's approach to negotiating with Iran over nuclear proliferation. He was blocked as well by mandarins who wanted to carry forward State's badly conceived, outmoded policy on China.

The result: Bolton, as did his predecessors, failed to bring about progress in negotiations that by now could have disarmed the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

The American Left (and several on the Right, I seem to recall) went to lengths to portray Bolton as so bad-tempered that he was incapable of pulling together multilateral negotiations. Yet as John O'Sullivan pointed out for the National Review Online:
[Bolton] devised a practical way of halting the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups and rogue states -- 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. [...]
O'Sullivan also pointed out in the same writing that Bolton was among the James Baker proteges "...who managed the delicate diplomacy of defeating the Soviet Union and reunifying Germany without provoking a major European crisis."

John Bolton was so long in getting to the United Nations because President Bush was already overseeing a shooting war on multiple fronts and didn't want the Beltway War between DoD and State to escalate into a shooting one.

I hardly exaggerate about the shooting part, if you consider the very damaging CIA and State "leaks" about military matters that occur every time State mandarins become enraged with Bush or Rumsfeld.

The tragedy is that John Bolton's approach is just what America and the world need at this time. It is a practical approach, rather than a pragmatic or idealistic one. His approach is making good progress at the United Nations. It could have done the same at the US Department of State.

Bolton's practical orientation allowed him to grow and change with the times, while those who wield great power at State remain stuck in an era that is gone. To this day, few Americans understand that there are people serving at the US foreign office who through pragmatism believe with all their heart that the best defense of America lies in not breaking with Brussels policy.

If you should observe, "I thought defense policy is shaped by the White House, Congress and Pentagon" -- now you know I wasn't joking when I wrote that I would have advised Cindy Sheehan to protest outside the US Department of State, if she wanted redress.

The war on terror wouldn't have been necessary, if after the breakup of the Soviet Union the White House and Congress had brought US defense policy in line with the times -- and ordered State to recall that America's reason for existence was broader than making sure the Soviet Union never rose again.

I could have also told Cindy Sheehan this: the Iraq insurgency would have been over by now if John Bolton had taken the helm at State. But I never did seek her out when she came to Washington. I suppose that's because I feared I'd grab her by the shoulders and yell, "Wake up!"

Not a kind thing to do to a bereaved mother. But maybe now you can understand why John Bolton did indeed display a short temper at times while at State.

* For more on the differences between the Chirac School and the Bush doctrine, see Pundita's Two very different views of the world, which builds on points in Belmont Club's Pro and Contra essay, linked above. I have just noticed that the one-year anniversary of the essay's publication is nearing. So this is a good time to remind readers that Wretchard's Pro and Contra inspired me to create this blog.

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