Another former Bush administration official has turned into an outspoken critic, but instead of highlighting the administration’s failures in Iraq, former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has been condemning it for being insufficiently hawkish on Iran.According to the New York Times, “Mr. Bolton, long viewed by liberal critics as a villain on the Bush team, has since emerged as the administration’s most outspoken critic from the right, rebuking his former boss in interviews, in op-ed articles and now in a book.”
Bolton’s criticism has reached a point where Steve Clemons is suggesting at The Washington Note that “the anti-Bush administration rhetoric now spewing forth from Bolton is shocking a lot of avid Bush supporters and hitting higher and higher decibel levels. At what point do book parties for Bolton cross that line of disloyalty to Bush?”
Promoting his book on CNN Friday morning, Bolton told John Roberts that the issue in Pakistan “is not a choice between democracy … and martial law. … This is a choice right now between secure command and control over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenel on the one hand and chaos on the other. If we have chaos, we could have a radical Islamicist regime in charge of those weapons.”
When Roberts pointed out that Musharraf is arresting lawyers, not Islamic radicals, Bolton continued to insist that “we don’t have a very good idea of what the situation is. … Events can spiral out of control.” He also indicated his belief that all civilian governments in Pakistan have been corrupt and that only the military is reliable.
Roberts then asked Bolton about Iran’s recent claims of progress in its nuclear program. Bolton responded that “we may be past the tipping-point” and said “I’d analogize this to 1936, when Hitler marched into the Rhineland. … If Iran gets nuclear weapons, the entire situation in the Middle East changes dramatically.”
Iran insists that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. The International Atomic Energy Agency, although critical of Iran’s lack of full transparency, agrees there is no sign it is actively working on nuclear weapons and says Iran is years away from having a bomb. Observers have also pointed out that, with Israel and Pakistan already having nuclear weapons, even if Iran joined them it would not fundamentally alter the balance of power in the region.
Roberts also showed Bolton a clip of Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel saying, “Now is the time for the United States to pursue an offer of direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran.”
“That would be a bad mistake,” Bolton commented. “When you go back to the days of the Cold War … they knew you didn’t negotiate with the Soviets until you were in a position of strength. And we’re not in that position now. … I don’t think Iran is going to be chit-chatted out of its nuclear weapons.”
Bolton is extremely negative in his book about the State Department under both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, saying they gave Iran time to develop its nuclear program and “that’s why we’re at such a dangerous point today.” He describes the Bush administration’s Iran policy as “4 1/2 years of failed diplomacy” and claims he left his position at the United Nations because of it.
However, according to most accounts, Bolton stepped down from his recess appointment as UN ambassador in December 2006 because it had become clear that his nomination — formally submitted by President Bush the previous month — would never be approved by the Senate.
The following video is from CNN’s American Morning, broadcast on November 9, 2007.