This interesting article, which goes right to the heart of the Lincoln Chafee-launched question about whether John Bolton was helping or sabotaging U.S. foreign policy towards North Korea, is reprinted in full with permission from The Economist:
John Bolton’s Embarrassing Confirmation Hearings
Apr 14th 2005 ~ WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition
The confirmation hearings for George Bush’s proposed ambassador to the United Nations have embarrassed the administration.
The appointment of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state made the Bush administration’s foreign-policy team less fractious and more polishedÃ¢â‚¬â€right? Wrong. At least, that is the conclusion suggested by the Senate confirmation hearings this week for John Bolton, George Bush’s nominee to become ambassador to the United Nations.
Mr Bolton is a conservative’s conservative, who once said it wouldn’t make any difference if ten storeys were lopped off the UN’s skyscraper headquarters in New York. His confirmation was always likely to be fiery. But it surpassed even these expectations and will make it harder to claim that the diplomats really are in charge of the embassy now.
At the hearings, Lincoln Chafee, a liberal Republican senator from Rhode Island, asked Mr Bolton about a speech he had given in South Korea on July 31st 2003. In it he called Kim Jong Il a “tyrannical dictator” who had turned his country into a “hellish nightmare”. Mr Bolton said the speech had been cleared by the State Department (where he was under-secretary for arms control) and represented administration policy. But the speech’s timing was awkward, to say the least. It came just before the first meeting in six-party talks designed to deal with North Korea’s announced nuclear-weapons programme.
Incensed, the North Koreans demanded to see Jack Pritchard, the State Department official responsible for the talks. In public, they called Mr Bolton “human scum”. In private, they were not flattering either. They threatened to walk away from the talks. Mr Pritchard told them that only the president and the secretary of state spoke for America (something that the then secretary of state Colin Powell had already told the North Koreans), that American policy had not changed, and neither had the date or place of the talks. Mollified, the North Koreans agreed to show up.
According to State Department officials, Mr Bolton (like the North Koreans) then went ballistic, apparently because Mr Pritchard had not defended his remarks to the Koreans. In the hearings, Mr Bolton accused Mr Pritchard of being out of step with government policy and suggested he had resigned because of that. In fact, Mr Pritchard had offered his resignation months before. He points out that the six-party talks were government policy, that he helped save them and that it was Mr Bolton who was “out of step” in his entire career at State. “He marches to a different drum,” said Mr Pritchard, “and the drum is out of tune.”
For critics of Mr Bolton, like Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, this episode confirms that Mr Bolton is a law unto himself. Even Mr Bolton’s friends wouldn’t deny that he is a man of strong opinions. But he has also generally been seen as rather a clubbable sort, able to get on with people with whom he disagrees. A more unexpected attack on him this week had to do with his management style.
Cuba, Weapons and Manners
In 2002, Mr Bolton wanted to deliver a speech accusing Cuba of running a biological-weapons programme. The State Department’s chief bio-weapons analyst, Christian Westermann, challenged the assertion. The question is what happened then. Did Mr Bolton try to punish Mr Westermann?
On the first day of the hearings, Mr Bolton denied it, saying: “I in no sense sought to have any discipline imposed on him.” And, indeed, Mr Westermann kept his job. The next day, Carl Ford, the former head of the State Department’s intelligence bureau (and Mr Westermann’s then boss) testified. He called Mr Bolton “a bully” and “a serial abuser”. He accused him of intimidating someone “five or six levels down in the bureaucracy”. “I have never seen anyone quite like Mr Bolton. He abuses his authority with little people.” It is hard to see how both accounts can be true.
This matters for more than Mr Bolton’s man-management skills. As ambassador, Mr Bolton may have to brief the United Nations on American intelligence. This job will not be made easier by a reputation for denigrating intelligence officers who disagree with him.
Perhaps the strongest argument for Mr Bolton’s nomination is that his oft-repeated criticism of the UN makes him well suited to encourage the reforms launched by the secretary-general, Kofi Annan. But the hearing threw up some doubts here, too. In the past, Mr Bolton has opposed sending UN peacekeepers to conflicts that are not threats to international security. He has testified against UN involvement in Congo and criticised the notion that there is any “right of humanitarian intervention” to stop ethnic cleansing or genocide. Asked by Russ Feingold, a Democratic senator, whether, with hindsight, he would have worked to stop genocide in Rwanda had he been UN ambassador, Mr Bolton replied: “We don’t know logistically whether it would have been possible to do anything different” — an answer which Mr Feingold thought “amazingly passive”.
It is still unclear whether Mr Bolton’s nomination as UN ambassador was an imaginative, if risky, choice by the administration, or the product of an uneasy compromise between Ms Rice, who did not want him at State, and Dick Cheney, who insisted Mr Bolton have a high-level post. Ms Rice has been diligently lobbying for his confirmation. But it can hardly be a sign of confidence in him or amity in the administration that she has appointed her own adviser on UN reform, rather than relying on Mr Bolton.
Needless to say perhaps, but this article is dead-on target, and every U.S. Senator and support staff working on foreign policy should read this before casting any votes on Bolton.
— Steve Clemons