Steve Clemons of The Washington Note
has an outstanding UPI column
re: Bolton. It deserves to be distributed widely.
The battle over John Bolton, President Bush's pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is not a competition between Senate Democrats and Republicans. It's actually a brewing civil war inside the Republican foreign-policy establishment. None of the dramatic events of the four public hearings to date on Bolton's nomination would have been possible without the active complicity of a large swath of the GOP establishment.
Nine senior U.S. government officials -- some, like Carl Ford, known to be heavyweight Republican politicos and lobbyists -- all nominated by a Republican President and confirmed by a Republican Congress collectively made the argument that John Bolton's record of service and behavior make him "unfit" for the U.N. post. And behind the scenes -- lurking unofficially but offering cryptic signs of their own discomfort with Bolton -- have been former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, and even Brent Scowcroft.
It provides an excellent summary of the scene to date.
At the Washington Note, however, Clemons also points out this Newsweek article by Michael Hirsh and Eve Conant outlining yet another foreign policy fiasco of Bolton's own making -- this one, quite current. The United States has largely ceded the conference agenda for the current Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review because Bolton refused to prepare the planned Bush Administration position:
But if the NPT needed so much fixing under U.S. leadership, why was the United States so shockingly unprepared when the treaty came up for its five-year review at a major conference in New York this month, in the view of many delegates? And why has the United States been losing control of the conference's agenda this week to Iran and other countries -- a potentially serious setback to U.S. efforts to isolate Tehran?
Part of the answer, several sources close to the negotiations tell NEWSWEEK, lies with Bolton, the undersecretary of State for arms control. Since last fall Bolton, Bush's embattled nominee to be America's ambassador to the United Nations, has aggressively lobbied for a senior job in the second Bush administration. During that time, Bolton did almost no diplomatic groundwork for the NPT conference, these officials say.
"John was absent without leave" when it came to implementing the agenda that the president laid out in his February 2004 speech, a former senior Bush official declares flatly. Another former government official with experience in nonproliferation agrees. "Everyone knew the conference was coming and that it would be contentious. But Bolton stopped all diplomacy on this six months ago," this official said. "The White House and the National Security Council started worrying, wondering what was going on. So a few months ago the NSC had to step in and get things going themselves. The NPT regime is full of holes--it's very hard for the U.S. to meet our objectives--it takes diplomacy."
Clemons now reports it wasn't merely that Bolton was too preoccupied to prepare for the conference: he actively prevented other U.S. officials from doing groundwork of their own. According to Clemons' source: "Starting two years ago, other senior officials wanted to go around to various countries to work out common positions to take on revisions at the NPT conference, but Bolton wouldn't let them go."
Actively preventing U.S. officials from coordinating nonproliferation strategies with U.S. allies for two years, until finally the NSC had to intervene?
In the best case scenario: This Guy is Dangerously Incompetent.
And given the facts as we know them, yeah -- that's pretty much the best-case scenario. We're left to wonder what the other possible explanations might be.