Bolton sees Bush administration's Iran diplomacy as appeasement
Another former Bush administration official has turned into an outspoken critic, but instead of highlighting the administration's failures in Iraq, former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has been condemning it for being insufficiently hawkish on Iran.
According to the New York Times, "Mr. Bolton, long viewed by liberal critics as a villain on the Bush team, has since emerged as the administrationís most outspoken critic from the right, rebuking his former boss in interviews, in op-ed articles and now in a book."
Bolton's criticism has reached a point where Steve Clemons is suggesting at The Washington Note that "the anti-Bush administration rhetoric now spewing forth from Bolton is shocking a lot of avid Bush supporters and hitting higher and higher decibel levels. At what point do book parties for Bolton cross that line of disloyalty to Bush?"
Promoting his book on CNN Friday morning, Bolton told John Roberts that the issue in Pakistan "is not a choice between democracy ... and martial law. ... This is a choice right now between secure command and control over Pakistan's nuclear weapons arsenel on the one hand and chaos on the other. If we have chaos, we could have a radical Islamicist regime in charge of those weapons."
When Roberts pointed out that Musharraf is arresting lawyers, not Islamic radicals, Bolton continued to insist that "we don't have a very good idea of what the situation is. ... Events can spiral out of control." He also indicated his belief that all civilian governments in Pakistan have been corrupt and that only the military is reliable.
Roberts then asked Bolton about Iran's recent claims of progress in its nuclear program. Bolton responded that "we may be past the tipping-point" and said "I'd analogize this to 1936, when Hitler marched into the Rhineland. ... If Iran gets nuclear weapons, the entire situation in the Middle East changes dramatically."
Iran insists that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. The International Atomic Energy Agency, although critical of Iran's lack of full transparency, agrees there is no sign it is actively working on nuclear weapons and says Iran is years away from having a bomb. Observers have also pointed out that, with Israel and Pakistan already having nuclear weapons, even if Iran joined them it would not fundamentally alter the balance of power in the region.
Roberts also showed Bolton a clip of Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel saying, "Now is the time for the United States to pursue an offer of direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran."
"That would be a bad mistake," Bolton commented. "When you go back to the days of the Cold War ... they knew you didn't negotiate with the Soviets until you were in a position of strength. And we're not in that position now. ... I don't think Iran is going to be chit-chatted out of its nuclear weapons."
Bolton is extremely negative in his book about the State Department under both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, saying they gave Iran time to develop its nuclear program and "that's why we're at such a dangerous point today." He describes the Bush administration's Iran policy as "4 1/2 years of failed diplomacy" and claims he left his position at the United Nations because of it.
However, according to most accounts, Bolton stepped down from his recess appointment as UN ambassador in December 2006 because it had become clear that his nomination -- formally submitted by President Bush the previous month -- would never be approved by the Senate.
The following video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast on November 9, 2007.
RUSH TRANSCRIPT (via closed captions)
ROBERTS: We have been watching the volatile situation unfolding in pakistan this morning. My next guest has some powerful and controversial ideas about the ways the u.s. Diplomacy needs to change overseas. Former u.s. Ambassador to the united nations john bolton's got a new book out called "surrender is not an option," and he joins me now. Ambassador bolton, good to see you.
BOLTON: nice to be here.
ROBERTS: great read for me, because you know, all those years of following you around the world with the u.s. Press corps filled in a lot of blanks. A peek behind the curtain, fascinating stuff. So pakistan, what do you see as the eventual outcome of this and what can the u.s. Do to influence events there?
BOLTON: it is obviously distressing. It's important people understand, this is not a choice between democracy and benazir bhutto on one side and martial law and pervez musharraf on the other. This is a choice right now between security command and control over pakistan's nuclear weapons arsenal on the one hand and chaos on the other. If we have chaos, we could have a radical islamic regime in charge of those weapons.
ROBERTS: the people musharraf are arresting are not radicals, they're attorneys, judges.
BOLTON: I think the problem is we don't have a good idea of what the situation is. I think unfortunately, we've contributed to it. And this is one of those things where events can spiral out of control. And if they do that and those nuclear weapons fall into the hands of tirsts, we're all in much worst shape.
ROBERTS: is benazir bhutto the savior of pakistan that they would like to portray her as? she was kicked out of office twice for corruption.
BOLTON: just because she's a harvard graduate doesn't mean she's the savior for pakistan. Her administration, sadly, was no better than most other civilian administrations in pakistan. That's why they call the military the steel skeleton there. We may not like it, but it's a fact of life in that country.
ROBERTS: your book goes into a lot of detail about trying to get iran to give up its nuclear program, and of course that, reached a new milestone this week when ahmadinejad said they had 3,000 of these centrifuges now capable of turning fluoride into highly enriched uranium. Are we at a tipping point in this standoff and are you concerned that israel may try to take preemptive action?
BOLTON: I think we may be past a tipping point. I think iran clearly now has the scientific and technical mastery it needs to get to nuclear weapons. I'd analogyize this to hitler. If britain and france had done some about the violation of the versailles treaty, we may have prevented world war i. If iran gets nuclear weapons, the entire situation in the middle east changes radically.
ROBERTS: and hitler with was appeased in his early march and you accuse the government of trying to appease iran, throwing too many carrots. And you talk about getting to a restaurant and condoleezza rice ordered carrot soup. And kerik is very critical of the way white house is dealing with iran. Take a look at what he said. I want to ask you about it.
BOLTON: now is the time for the united states to actively pursue an offer of direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with iran. We cannot afford to refuse to consider the strategic choice any longer.
ROBERTS: direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with iron. An -- iran. Your opinion?
BOLTON: I think that would be a bad mistake. Look, when you go back to the cold war and we had leaders leak dean acheson, they knew you didn't associate with the soevts until you were in a position of strength and we're not in that position now. On the nuclear issue, I don't think iran is going to be chitchatted out of nuclear weapons. They've been pursuing it, 20-year-long strategic decision to acquire this capability. They're very close to it. We've missed a lot of opportunities, precisely by engaging in diplomacy via the european union.
ROBERTS: you don't seem to have in this book any great admiration for the way either colin powell or condoleezza rice handled the situation in dealing with iran. Did they blow it?
BOLTON: well, I think by deferring to the europeans in what actually became an obsession with the technique of diplomacy, as if that's a policy objective rather than an instrument of foreign policy, we gave the iranians something they couldn't buy, and that was time, time to get the necessary science and technology to get the nuclear weapons. That's why we're at such a dangerous point today.
ROBERTS: the book is called "surrender is not an option," a really interesting memoir from john bolton, former u.s. Ambassador to the united nations, also the undersecretary of state for arms control and proliferation. Thanks for being with us.
BOLTON: glad to be here.
ROBERTS: always good to see you.