Michael Rubin offers a bizarre entry at National Review Online today:
An apology owed to John Bolton [Michael Rubin]
The most recent Iran NIE confirms that Iran was actively pursuing a nuclear weapon back in 2003. Forgotten in much of the recent press coverage is that this proves John Bolton, at the time was undersecretary of state for Arms Control, correct. Many of the people under and around him, perhaps fearing that his analysis might get in the way of their initiatives, attacked him and leaked anonymously in the press to undermine him. And yet, now we know that Bolton was right. It seems that a number of journalists, diplomats, and Senate staffers owe Mr. Bolton an acknowledgment, if not an apology.
As one of the lead critics of John Bolton’s brand of pugnacious nationalism, I find this appeal by Michael Rubin to be strangely deficient on Bolton’s record.
First of all, I for one never challenged Bolton’s view that Iran had been on a covert weapons track. In fact, my blog regularly has commented that I believe that Iran has wanted nuclear weapons (or something close — like a full fuel cycle capacity that mimicks what Japan has) and that it probably had a program of some kind. My colleague Jeffrey Lewis of ArmsControlWonk.com has also suggested the same.
So if Bolton needs acknowledgement for asserting something that I did, Valerie Plame did, Jim Risen did, and Russian, and Chinese, and French, and German, and Israeli intelligence analysts did — by all means.
But Bolton and Co.’s proclivity to assume the worst case analysis always and to stove-pipe intelligence and to try to take to market “raw intelligence” produced significant misreadings on other fronts — particularly Iran’s alternative course. But he also got wrong Iraq’s WMD activities, Cuba’s WMD activities, North Korea’s direction and intentions, and other issues.
Bolton’s brinksmanship on Cuba was embarrassing for all concerned.
So, by all means — if Bolton needs or wants an apology for being criticized for having gotten something right on Iran as reported in the recent National Intelligence Estimate, where are Bolton’s apologies to the rest of the national security community for his errors — and for his commentary of late that it is “politics” driving the latest Iran NIE, not intelligence?
— Steve Clemons