Monday, April 9, 2018

In John Bolton, Trump Finds a Fellow Political Blowtorch. Will Foreign Policy Burn?

Peter Baker, New York Times; original article contains links and images.

image (not from article) from
In the world of carrot-and-stick diplomacy, Mr. Bolton is a stick man. “I don’t do carrots,” he has said. Opponents call him a warmonger who never met a problem that did not have a military solution, and he remains a strong supporter of the invasion of Iraq and has made the case for strikes against North Korea and Iran to stop their nuclear programs.

Mr. Bolton insists that he does not relish military action. While he declined to be interviewed for this story, his longtime senior adviser, Sarah Tinsley, quoted him as saying recently that he believes diplomacy works the vast majority of the time.

My belief is diplomatic crises, 99/and 44 100ths percent of them can be resolved with public diplomacy [JB emphasis],” Mr. Bolton said, a reference to an old soap commercial [JB: see]. “That’s my view. To those who say I’m going to start a war, that’s what I think.” ...

Mr. Bolton had little interest in fighting in Vietnam, and joined the National Guard to avoid it. “I made the cold calculation that I wasn’t going to waste time on a futile struggle,” he wrote in his memoir, “Surrender Is Not An Option.”

Instead, he interned for Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, then practiced law at the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling. He met Mr. Baker during the 1978 off-year elections, then contacted him for a job after Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election.

Mr. Bolton was named assistant administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, where M. Peter McPherson, who led the agency, remembers him as “very good at getting the bureaucracy to work, pulling together the policies without huge conflict.” ...

When the elder George Bush was elected, Mr. Baker named Mr. Bolton assistant secretary of state for international organizations. Mr. Bolton successfully pressed the United Nations to repeal a resolution equating Zionism with racism, making him a hero to Israel supporters. ...

Mr. Cheney, ... the vice president-elect, pressed Mr. Powell to hire Mr. Bolton, who became assistant secretary for nonproliferation and arms control.

‘Sledgehammer Diplomacy’

To many, Mr. Bolton was Mr. Cheney’s agent at the State Department.

Mr. Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, found Mr. Bolton’s militarism troubling. At one point, Mr. Wilkerson said he warned Mr. Bolton that war with North Korea could result in 100,000 casualties within 30 days, many of them American.

“I don’t do war,” he recalled Mr. Bolton replying. “That’s what you guys do.”

“Oh, you just advocate war?” Mr. Wilkerson said he responded.

“Damn straight,” Mr. Bolton said by this account.

(A person familiar with Mr. Bolton’s thinking said he does not recall the exchange.) ...

Mr. Bush gave Mr. Bolton a recess appointment, sending him to the United Nations, where he jousted with diplomats and functionaries to overhaul the organization and block moves he thought undermined American sovereignty. Inside the administration, he resisted negotiations with North Korea, deeming it appeasement. When North Korea denounced him as “human scum” or Venezuela called him “the most sinister figure in the U.N.,” he took it as a badge of honor.

“He was a practitioner, sometimes along with others, of sledgehammer diplomacy, a take-it-or-leave-it approach to diplomacy,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who as under secretary sparred regularly with Mr. Bolton. Mr. Burns argued for compromise and patient work with allies. “You can’t just default to leverage, pressure and force.”

When his recess appointment expired after 17 months, the Senate was still disinclined to confirm Mr. Bolton, who was privately upset that Mr. Bush did not push more. He left his post and became an outspoken critic of the president who appointed him, lamenting what he saw as the drift from Mr. Cheney’s assertiveness to Ms. Rice’s accommodation, especially on North Korea. ...

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