2005/05/29

John Bolton's difficulties

First off, as a military veteran, I'm absolutely infuriated by the news of Bolton being insubordinate. He blew off both his boss Colin Powell and his later boss Condoleezza Rice.

Two officials described a memo that had been prepared for Powell at the end of October 2003, before a critical international meeting on Iran, informing him that the United States was losing support for efforts to have the U.N. Security Council investigate Iran's nuclear program.

Bolton allegedly argued it would be premature to throw in the towel. "When Armitage's staff asked for information about what other countries were thinking, Bolton said that information couldn't be collected," according to one official with firsthand knowledge of the exchange.
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Bolton's time at the State Department under Rice has been brief. But authoritative officials said Bolton let her go on her first European trip without knowing about growing opposition there to Bolton's campaign to oust the head of the U.N. nuclear agency.

Bolton has been trying to replace Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is perceived by some within the Bush administration as too soft on Iran.

"[Rice] went off without knowing the details of what everybody else was saying about how they were not going to join the campaign," a senior official said.

As I said, for me, this is called insubordination and it's quite enough to tell me that this guy has no business being anywhere in the government. Further problems from The Japan Times:

During this internationally televised event, Bush expressed his commitment to a diplomatic solution to the North Korea nuclear crisis, citing in particular the need for consensus among the other five participants in order to bring Pyongyang to the table. But he could not resist throwing in a gratuitous personal attack against North Korea's leader, calling him "a dangerous person . . . who starves his people" and "a tyrant."

All told, he mentioned the reclusive North Korean leader by name 12 times. While this falls far short of Bolton's record -- he once castigated the "Dear Leader" by name more than 40 times in a speech that many South Koreans still cite as a principle cause for the breakdown in the dialogue process -- it was sufficient for North Korea to call Bush a "hooligan bereft of any personality . . . and a Philistine whom we can never deal with."

Bush no doubt believes all the nasty things he says about Kim Jong Il (and they have the added benefit of being true). But to repeatedly say them publicly does not help the diplomatic process, especially at a time when his chief negotiator, newly appointed Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, was visiting China, Japan and the Republic of Korea to build the consensus that the president himself acknowledged was critical for his diplomatic approach to succeed.

The primary concern here is not what North Korea thinks. At the end of the day, it has more to gain from cooperating than from not cooperating and will likely allow itself to be bribed back to the negotiating table. The real concern is the impact that Bush's statements are having on other six-party participants: China, Japan, Russia and, most importantly, South Korea.

As the president has repeatedly stressed, the other members need to stick together and speak with one voice in pressuring Pyongyang to come back to the table. For this to happen, they have to believe that Washington is seriously committed to achieving a negotiated solution.

I have spent the last week traveling through five South Korean cities, speaking to college students and professors, security specialists, and nongovernmental organization representatives. I have met few people who believe that the Bush administration is serious when it says it is prepared to cut a deal with the current leadership in Pyongyang. I was not surprised.

The Bush Adminisration is taking the tack of saying something to the effect of: "You need a tough guy like Bolton to accomplish anything." But clearly, Bolton has not bothered to inform Bush that diplomacy requires some sort of tact, some degree of discretion, it's NOT just a matter of being honest and straightforward and saying whatever comes to mind. Obviously, Bolton can't brief Bush properly on these subjects if he himself is convinced that tact and discretion are not needed.
To illustrate further, please keep in mind that the following passage from NRO comes from a conservative, Republican-friendly website:

Bolton's crime was pointing out the obvious. Two weeks ago in a speech entitled "A Dictatorship at the Crossroads," he offended Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il by stating that the dictator "has not had to endure the consequences of his failed policies. While he lives like royalty in Pyongyang, he keeps hundreds of thousands of his people locked in prison camps with millions more mired in abject poverty, scrounging the ground for food. For many in North Korea, life is a hellish nightmare. As reported by the State Department Report on Human Rights, we believe that some 400,000 persons died in prison since 1972 and that starvation and executions were common. Entire families, including children, were imprisoned when only one member of the family was accused of a crime."

The writer reports that North Koreans were quite upset by these remarks, calling Bolton:

"human scum," "devoid of reason," "an ugly fellow who cannot be regarded as a human being," and a "bloodthirsty fiendish bloodsucker"

The fact that Bolton's observations were all entirely accurate is beside the point. How anyone can represent Bolton as a diplomat and a problem-solver is beyond me. The writer reports that negotiations did not completely collapse because North Korea saw the talks as too valuable to toss away merely because the diplomat in charge was an idiot. That hardly justifies such self-indulgent, degrading, immature name-calling. What have been the consequences of such juvenile antics? Japan Times again:

At a recent Pacific Forum conference on U.S.-ROK relations, I asked how many, in a group of about 40 American, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese regional specialists, believed that the Bush administration was actually pursuing regime change and would not negotiate with Kim under any circumstances. More than 90 percent raised their hands, despite the fact it is the stated position of the Bush administration, as reiterated by Bush, Rice and even Bolton, that it does not seek regime change in North Korea.

There is no possible way on Earth that talks with North Korea can succeed if 90% of the participants think the US has a hidden agenda to conquer North Korea and is simply being dishonest when it says otherwise. For this next passage, keep in mind that Bolton was the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security for four years previous to this.

NEW YORK/UNITED NATIONS - A United Nations review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is ending in failure today, according to a Japanese delegate who said there is no agreement on new steps toward disarmament or measures to block nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.
``We lost an opportunity to send out important messages on issues such as North Korea, Iran and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,'' Japanese envoy Mine Yoshiki told reporters at the UN. ``Some countries put the emphasis on nonproliferation, some on disarmament, and we could not get any agreement.''

None of the three committees created to deal with the issues of disarmament, proliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and terms of withdrawal from the treaty presented a substantive report.
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The U.S. called for amendments to the treaty to block the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea, or a determination to refer those issues to the UN Security Council. Delegations led by Egypt and Iran demanded assurances of the nuclear powers that they wouldn't attack non-nuclear nations, and that they would ratify the proposed test ban treaty.

Neither side compromised and the delegates didn't adopt an agenda until May 11 or refer key issues to committees until May 19, leaving too little time for agreements.
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Diplomats put much of the blame on the U.S., saying the Republican Bush administration wasn't willing to reaffirm disarmament commitments made at previous conferences...

Bolton isn't mentioned in this article by name, but it's clear that Bolton deserves a hefty portion of the blame.for the project being a complete failure.
For anyone to vote for this guy to have any position even remotely connected with diplomacy would demonstrate that the person has no interest in the US achieving anything in that field.

UPDATE 1Jun05: Salon.com (Free Day-Pass or subscription required) confirms that Bolton had everything to do with the failed nuclear treaty talks.

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