While former Ambassador John Bolton aided and abetted neo-con inspired foreign policy efforts while serving in the administration, as Steve Clemons has pointed out in the past Bolton is mistakenly lumped into the tribe of neo-conservatives. Clemons has described him as a Helmsian pugnacious nationalist, apart from Elliott Abrams and others, and Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times has recently come to the same conclusion:
The first thing that struck me is that it is a mistake to call Bolton a neo-con. He is an American nationalist, who is interested in power – and has none of the neo-con interest in namby-pamby concepts like human rights and democratisation. His take on Iraq is that America had accomplished its mission, the moment Saddam Hussein was killed. All attempts at “nation-building” were futile and counter-productive. Bolton is not in favour of a rapid American withdrawal from Iraq. But his reasons are purely strategic. He wants to block the rising power of Iran. And he is pretty openly in favour of bombing Iranian nuclear facilities.
By contrast, Bolton is opposed to humanitarian intervention in Darfur – let alone, Zimbabwe. The reason is simple. There is no American national interest at stake.
While it is at least conceivable that neo-cons might be brought around to constructive foreign policy engagements through a re-appropriation and re-deployment of their own rhetoric on democratization and ostensible support for human rights (though they have thus far disavowed the consequences that can accompony such moral campaigns), it is evident from Clemons’s and Rachman’s assessments that Bolton cares little for such moral crusades that depart from his narrow notion of US interests.
A more nuanced understanding of Bolton would have been useful back in early 2006 when Bolton was tasked with negotiating the Human Rights Council and then opposed it with the backing of some surprising allies (see here, here, and here). While the Human Rights Council may have fallen short of our expectations, because of the conflation of Bolton with neo-con conceits of human rights, only a few were able to discern that the fault lay in Bolton’s disingenuous negotiations and his attempt to effectively undermine a deal in the first place.