Robert Wright on McVeigh, Bolton and America’s Terror Problem


My colleague and friend Robert Wright has an outstanding op-ed in the New York Times today that should remind everyone that the real reason for opposing John Bolton is that he has Neanderthal policy positions when it comes to dealing with the country’s largest national security problems.
Noting that the 10th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing came and went about a week ago with only scant attention paid, Wright shares:

But letting the memory of Mr. McVeigh fade has its own dangers. In a crucially instructive sense he and Mr. bin Laden represent the same threat. Though their ideologies differ (I’m guessing they wouldn’t have hit it off), both were empowered by a force that will empower tomorrow’s terrorists even more.
Unfortunately, it’s a force that the Bush administration has a deep aversion to confronting. And there’s no better illustration of this aversion than one of the many people who got more press last week than Timothy McVeigh: John R. Bolton, Mr. Bush’s choice for ambassador to the United Nations.

I suggest that you read the entire article, but I must post this next longish clip which really does get at the nugget of the problem on John Bolton:

UNLESS I’ve overlooked an option, there is ultimately no alternative to international arms control. It will have to be arms control of a creatively astringent, even visionary, sort. And achieving it will be a long haul — incremental, halting progress, over many years, through a series of flawed but improving agreements that are at first less than global in scope.
But for now the details don’t matter, because the Bush administration opposes the basic idea.
Why? Because John Bolton is not just the undersecretary for arms control, but the guiding spirit, so far, of the administration’s arms control philosophy.
To get other nations to endure intrusive monitoring, America would have to submit to such monitoring. People of Mr. Bolton’s ideological persuasion insist that this amounts to a sacrifice of American sovereignty. And they’re right; it’s just a less objectionable sacrifice of sovereignty than letting terrorists blow up your cities.
Weeks before 9/11, the Bush administration antagonized much of the civilized world by rejecting an arduously negotiated protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention. The protocol would have put teeth in the treaty, making member nations, which forswear the possession of bioweapons, open their soil to inspectors.
Would 9/11 and the ensuing anthrax attacks soften the administration’s opposition? Or — since the protocol was no doubt imperfect — might the administration at least suggest an alternative international inspections regime?
Two months after 9/11, Mr. Bolton told a gathering of member states that the answers were no and no. (Who needs inspections? Mr. Bolton told the assemblage that the existence of Iraq’s bioweapons program was “beyond dispute.”)
Mr. Bolton’s signature arms-control achievement is the “proliferation security initiative,” which encourages the interdiction of ships suspected of carrying illicit munitions. Mr. Bolton says there have been interdictions under the pact.
What he doesn’t say is that they could have happened without the pact, because it grants no new powers of interdiction. Any such powers would have to apply not just to foreign merchant ships but to ships sailing under an American flag — which, of course, would be an unacceptable erosion of American sovereignty.

John Bolton is a “Fortress America” kind of guy. He just does not belong in the United Nations, which is a place antithetical to everything John Bolton believes.
— Steve Clemons