Wow. Senator Hagel just asked several questions of John Bolton who failed to really answer any of them without a lot of obfuscating bureaucratese from the nominee.
First, after stating his unequical support of the United Nations and his belief that the existence of the U.N. had dramatically enhanced American interests and global security, Hagel asked Bolton of his general views of the U.N. Senator Hagel then asked about Bolton’s views of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Director General ElBaradei. He then asked if the U.N. arms inspectors had it right regarding Iraqi WMDs and we had it wrong, what should we learn from that?
In short, Bolton responded by saying that the potential of what the United Nations could be is undermined by its member states. He responded that he was very supportive of the International Atomic Energy Agency and his opposition to Director General ElBaradei’s third term was based on the Bush administration’s belief that no U.N. officials should serve more than two terms. He also responded that lessons from post-war intelligence reviews, such as the Silberman-Robb report show that we had serious problems in reinforcing bad assumptions in our intelligence estimates. Bolton stated that with regard to Iraq, many would start with reasonable hypotheses about what Saddam was doing; that these hypotheses hardened into assumptions and then presumptions — not substantiated by hard facts and not corroborated in more recent years by hard intelligence. Bolton agreed that this type of problem was real and needed urgent correction.
What is fascinating is that he provided no grand vision for what the United Nations might be, at least none that I thought went beyond politically-correct and mediocre commentary.
On ElBaradei, press reports abound about the vigor with which Bolton fought his nomination to a third term, including his personal review of secret intelligence intercepts of ElBaradei conversations. If this was just normal opposition because of term limits, then Bolton has taken his mission to a level that no one in his role ever has.
And lastly, Bolton promulgated the Niger-Uranium story in State despite intelligence analysts’ rejection of that material. He was the chief “stove-piper” of intelligence among all stove-pipers; at least he was neck-and-neck with the Department of Defense’s Douglas Feith.
Hagel knows that Bolton was a major part of America’s “Iraq WMD intelligence problem” and went on a crusade against the institution in the United Nations that got it right. That was what was behind Hagel’s comments. He knows it.
I ran into Senator Hagel yesterday (Sunday) at Urban Outfitters in Georgetown. He was there with his son, looking to get his son something fun. I said hello — and I successfully resisted a strong urge to raise John Bolton with Senator Hagel.
I’m glad that the Senator, without assistance, is asking all of the right questions. He can’t be happy with the answers he received in response.
Hopefully, he is reconsidering his stated support for the Bolton nomination.
— Steve Clemons