The United States has had a long history of hawkishness in its foreign policy, but for the most part American hawks have been judicious ones who carefully weighed costs and opportunities. But then there is also a cast of characters in our history that can’t see the gray area between bombing and appeasement.
Famed Air Force General Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay was one of these people who if left to his own devices would have triggered several nuclear exchanges.
Former US Ambassador to the UN and now chief critic of Bush administration foreign policy John Bolton is another of these sorts who seems obsessively driven with dragging America into war with North Korea and Iran.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, John Bolton savages President Bush’s diplomats and their work:
. . .Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill recently made a pilgrimage to Pyongyang where he said he was “buoyed by the sense that we are going to be able to achieve our full objectives.” Undoubtedly, North Korea was buoyed by the visit, which marked yet another administration retreat — this one from the position that such a trip was impossible before performance by the North.
This Pyongyang visit symbolizes the full return of Clinton-era, bilateral negotiations with North Korea, and their predominance over the Six-Party Talks.The Bush administration has effectively ended where North Korea policy is concerned, replaced for the next 18 months by a caretaker government of bureaucrats, technocrats and academics.
So complete was the transformation that putative Shadow Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke facilitated a number of Mr. Hill’s bilateral contacts with Pyongyang. Kim Jong Il will now, in all likelihood, further his slow roll, waiting for America’s 2008 elections, when the Clinton era may return de jure as well as de facto.
This is not a comment on partisan disagreements, but an important signpost that Bush’s clear determination in 2001 to follow a different course has disappeared, replaced with the same flawed conceptual framework that failed so badly in the 1990s. New failures lie ahead.
Applauding Japan’s right wing Prime Minister who is best known for engaging in a bizarre denial of Japan’s role in lining up “comfort women” to “service” its soldiers in World War II, Bolton writes:
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave voice to what a Bush administration would have done if it were still in power, saying, “We need to seek a harsh response from the international community.”
Japan has legitimate national security concerns about the almost predictable cycles of bad behavior by North Korea, but for Bolton to so seriously malign the “President he served” to paraphrase White House Spokesman Tony Snow shows what Bolton always was more interested in war in the case of North Korea and Iran than achieving results in the interests of the US and other parties.
Bolton has about zero sense of the harm that he and other Cheneyites have done to America’s ability to secure our national security objectives. I wonder if the thought had ever occurred to him that when American power was benchmarked at higher levels than is the case today — the U.S. botched arrangements that would have precluded North Korea’s reprocessing program and walked away from a US-Iran normalization opportunity that we would have had great leverage in sculpting and enforcing.
Today, America is perceived to be in a weaker position — and now in that weaker position — the Bush crowd seems to be more open to serious, thoughtful, interest-driven dealmaking. Just think about what could have been accomplished if this same disposition had been in place when Bush and America were higher in the saddle.
Bolton, Cheney, and their fellow travelers harmed this nation and its global position and should be paying a higher price for the mistakes they have made than they are.
— Steve Clemons