John Bolton's mantra. (Reuters/Jeff Zelevansky)
That being so, the question to ask of the Republican candidate—given Bolton's Op-Ed in the Washington Times on Monday—does he believe, as his adviser wrote, that the failure of the latest diplomatic negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program is a good thing?
Bolton didn't say upfront in his Op-Ed that Iran should be bombed (and soon) by Israel or the United States. But every paragraph oozes with that unstated option. No surprise. As Media Matters has noted, Bomb-Iran is Bolton's default setting. Here he is in January this year:
So I think this is going to a very, very difficult year, and I think, quite honestly, half-measures like assassinations or sanctions are only going to produce the crisis more quickly. The better way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is to attack its nuclear weapons program directly and break their control over the nuclear fuel cycle.Here he is in July 2008:
Thus, instead of debating how much longer to continue five years of failed diplomacy, we should be intensively considering what cooperation the U.S. will extend to Israel before, during and after a strike on Iran. We will be blamed for the strike anyway, and certainly feel whatever negative consequences result, so there is compelling logic to make it as successful as possible. At a minimum, we should place no obstacles in Israel's path, and facilitate its efforts where we can.In response to his latest Op-Ed, former Defense Department official Michèle Flournoy said in a statement:
Bolton has made it clear that he’s rooting for American diplomacy to fail and has repeatedly called for a rush to war with Iran. Gov. Romney needs to be clear with the American people: Does he believe there’s still time for diplomacy to work? Or is he ready to take us to war, like his advisor John Bolton is advocating? … If Gov. Romney shares his advisor John Bolton’s views that it is time for the US to go to war with Iran, the American people deserve to know.Indeed.
For those unfamiliar with Romney's method of operation, his stance in this matter would seem clear. But, as proved time and time again, you can never be certain with Mitt. In March, in a Washington Post Op-Ed in which Romney called Obama America's "most feckless president since Carter," he offered nothing more than slightly tougher macho threats. It was nothing that President Obama hasn't already said or done: Ever stronger sanctions, heavier naval presence nearby, military option on the table as a last resort.
For Bolton, it doesn't matter who bombs Iran as long as someone does, sooner rather than later. So failed diplomacy—his stock in trade—is in his interest. Romney's hope, on the other hand, is that President Obama neither comes to an agreement with Iran nor bombs it between now and election day. That gives him two campaign points to hammer on until them. Afterward, what he would actually do is no clearer than what he would do on a multitude of other issues. But, as previously noted, if Romney were to put Bolton in a high post, the answer is fairly obvious.