Monday, July 28, 2008

John Bolton Thinks Things Are Going Super

Let's say for most of your adult life, you believed in an idea. Let's call it Idea A. For nearly two decades, you extolled Idea A to nearly everybody you came across. Finally, when your hair was gray, one of your friends came to power and you soon found yourself in a position of power. After so many years of just talking about Idea A, you were finally able to enact it. And when you did, it was an out and out disaster. Everything about it went wrong, every outcome Idea A predicted went awry.

So after another man gave a speech saying that he believed Idea B was the right path, what would you do? Would you quietly think Idea B isn't well-founded? Would you realize your Idea A was wrong and Idea B did have some merit? Or would you loudly denounce Idea B n a public forum and continue to espouse Idea A before the flames on it were even out and you could sift through the ashes?

Well, John Bolton scribbled an editorial for Saturday's Los Angeles Times in which he called Obama's recent speech in Germany radical and naive.

Now, I might argue that invading another nation on the flimsiest of evidence is radical. I might argue that still believing in the domino theory and thinking that it applies to the Middle East is naive. Or that we would be welcomed as liberators is naive. Or that thinking other countries will do what the United States tells them to do just because we said so is naive. But that's just me, a rational person, speaking.

It would be one thing if this was 1997 and Bolton was talking about a Bill Clinton speech about Bosnia. But in 2008, every pet neoconservative theorem and hypothesis - foreign and domestic - has been implented, tested and failed miserably. The only way Bolton's most cherished ideas could've failed more spectacularly is if his pet theory was that he could jump Snake River Canyon on a rocketbike. And yet the Times wants to know what he thinks about things. Interesting.

Differing opinions are fine, of course, and the Times is probably just trying to temper charges of Obama love. But to run a column from a man whose principles and thoughts are completely irrelevant and obsolete to how the world works is real fun. While we're at it, let's find out what the inventor of the 8-track thinks about his audio format versus mp3.

Bolton school where might makes right and other countries should simply heed all U.S. demands, at best, worked for one month in 2003. At worst, it never worked and never will work. At very, very worst, that idea ends up with our strongest ally issuing a proclamation in their House of Commons that our government's word is not to be trusted. Like we're Zimbabwe.

But by all means, Mr. former Ambassador, please continue de-illuminating us!

But there are larger implications to Obama's rediscovery of the "one world" concept, first announced in the U.S. by Wendell Willkie, the failed Republican 1940 presidential nominee, and subsequently buried by the Cold War's realities.

In American history, only two people have ever espoused working with allies. Wendell Willkie and Barack Obama. They both have silly names. No wonder they both loved Europe so much! But more importantly, we get our first Cold War reference only one-quarter of our way into this enlightening piece. The Cold War is over but Bolton, Cheney and their ilk have never stopped living it, never stopped reacting to it and their Cold War-influenced policies are why we're so screwed up on the world stage today.

The successes Obama refers to in his speech -- the defeat of Nazism, the Berlin airlift and the collapse of communism -- were all gained by strong alliances defeating determined opponents of freedom, not by "one-worldism."

Bolton has taken Obama's belief that the world can and should stand as one against great problems and dangers, declared it "one-worldism" and decided that it has nothing to do with strong alliances. One world working together on an issue is not an alliance. Alliances and the world standing as one are somehow completely opposing concepts. Even if the world is standing as one in an alliance against the Nazis. If you are lost by that line of thinking, sorry, you're just not John Bolton.

On top of that, our strongest alliance in defeating both Nazism and the Berlin Airlift and the Soviets was Great Britain. A country which, again, just issued a proclamation saying they don't trust the word of our government, thanks to the influence of people like John Bolton on our policies. It all comes full circle, right before that circle rolls into a dark pit of despair.

Although the senator was trying to distinguish himself from perceptions of Bush administration policy within the Atlantic Alliance, he was in fact sketching out a post-alliance policy, perhaps one that would unfold in global organizations such as the United Nations.

There is nothing John Bolton fears and loathes more than the United Nations. Not even a 5-foot long tarantula. His brief tenure there, granted by recess appointment so Congress shouldn't shoot it down, was the most harrowing time of his life. He almost died of an anxiety attack one day after talking to a man who didn't know English for four seconds. One time at lunch, an aide brought him a pizza with two toppings on it and they had to break out the heart paddles to shock Bolton back to consciousness.

Second, Obama used the Berlin Wall metaphor to describe his foreign policy priorities as president: "The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."This is a confused, nearly incoherent compilation...

If Bolton thinks that metaphor is incoherent, I'm surprised he can find his way to work every day in only one try. All those incoherent street signs with different messages on them everywhere! Here's a metaphor Bolton has no trouble cohering: "U.S. good, everything else bad." THAT he gets! So does Frankenstein's monster. Also, Bolton LIKES walls. He wants to build a wall around the entire perimeter of the United States. And that is not a metaphor. He wants a literal brick wall, 76 feet high.

But beyond the incoherence, there is a deeper problem, namely that "walls" exist not simply because of a lack of understanding about who is on the other side but because there are true differences in values and interests that lead to human conflict.

Yes, and sometimes the people on one side of that wall absolutely refute to budge from their position even one millimeter. Sometimes people on one side of that wall even refuse to discuss what they're willing to negotiate. Sometimes those people are named John Bolton. Although even Bolton's demi-god, Ronald Reagan met with the Soviets. I guess he was soft after all.

Intentional or not, we're more or less following Bolton's cherished unilaterism in Iraq. Our current alliance there is basically the Army and Marines because every other country has bailed. One other alliance we actually tried, Pakistan, was and is an out and disaster. An article in Sunday's Los Angeles Times discussed this and how the "war on terror" in Pakistan is no longer making progress. Partially because Pakistan barely has a government and partially because they don't care what we tell them to do, no matter how much money we give them for planes and missiles. That's an effect of the Pakistani general populace having split feelings about the U.S. and al Qaeda. In Pakistan, we poll even with terrorists. Nice world image we've cultivated there. Experts feel that when Bush leaves office, Pakistan will be like Afghanistan was when he entered office. The net effect of seven years of Bolton and Bush's beloved tough guy, unilateral, do what we say policies with be that Osama bin Laden had to move 50 miles west. I know people that commute 50 miles to work.

If we didn't waste the universal goodwill we had after 9/11/01, the one world feel good vibe if you will, maybe a multilateral force could've stayed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the frontier region and we'd have bin Laden by now. Or, at the very least, the tiniest inkling where he might be hiding. But we had to do it Bolton's way. Now it's us against the world and the world is winning.

What's more, our unilateral approach to Iran has made Iran stronger and more influential in the region. Bolton's approach has had the exact opposite effect and this White House intended. Tough to do. Bolton, ever the tough guy, criticizes Obama for saying he'd meet with Iran. Not meet Iran's demands, meet with Iran. Clearly, Bolton feels his policies on Iran have been a runaway success and they should be continued. Clearly, Bolton has no idea what he's talking about. He apparently can't tell the difference between demands and negotiations. He wants Iran to cease their nuclear program, then says the U.S. can't meet with them until they do. That's the entire point of the meeting! If they cease the program, we don't need negotations! "Mr. Bolton, we like your resume and we'd think you might be a good fit for company comptroller. Would you be available Tuesday at one for an interview?" "Oh no. No, no, no. I'm not coming in for an interview until you give me the job!"

Here's a man whose sole guiding principal in life is completely wrong. Quickly becoming totally irrelevant on the world stage. A man who might be all too happy to let the missiles start flying since we have the biggest and best missiles and then the United States will control the smoky, rocky, ashen husk of what used to be Earth. A man who, come January 2009, will never have even an ounce of influence on U.S. policy again. And the Los Angeles Times wants to know what he thinks about Obama's speech.

I'm looking forward to relegating Bolton and his ilk back to the foundations, think tanks, small publishing houses and op-ed pages, away from government levers where they can actually institute their myopic and idiotic policies, much to the suffering of other people.

I'm also looking forward to next Saturday's Times editorial from GM CEO Rick Wagoner discussing how they're building a bigger and heavier Hummer because Americans want a car that gets four miles per gallon. It will share a page with an opinion piece from Angelo Mozilo opining that the alternative mortgage market is a strong investment, just above a piece from Robert McNamara arguing that we can still win in Vietnam if we just bear down and try.

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