Why isn’t John Bolton running for President? In contrast to a line-up of Republican candidates that seems, at least from a transatlantic perspective, somewhat lackluster, the former ambassador to the U.N. looks and sounds like a real leader. As he is not yet running for office, why doesn’t one of the candidates—Rudy Giuliani, for instance—consider him seriously as a running mate? Bolton looks like Teddy Roosevelt and talks like Ronald Reagan. What more do you want?
On Wednesday, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Bolton gave us a series of robust reminders of why his tenure at the U.N. was so controversial. He has no difficulty comparing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler in public, as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney reportedly do in private, and he thinks the present situation with Iran is analogous to that of 1936, when the appeasers in Europe and isolationists in America carried the day: “I think you’re at a Hitler marching into the Rhineland point. If you don’t stop it then, the future is in his hands, not in your hands, just as the future decisions on their nuclear program would be in Iran’s hands, not ours.”
• “The aim of poetry,” H.L. Mencken once claimed, “is to give a high and voluptuous plausibility to what is palpably not true.” It would be hard to come up with a less apt explanation of Shakespeare’s eternal appeal. We read him for many reasons, but surely the most basic one is that he tells us—beautifully—what we know is so, in the process strengthening our sense of reality. That such a man must have been by definition intelligent would seem self-evident, but in the never-never land of contemporary academic criticism, nothing is self-evident, and so A.D. Nuttall, lately of Oxford, has written Shakespeare the Thinker (Yale, 428 pp., $30), a book dedicated to the proposition that the Bard was smart.
Not long after the attacks of 9/11 took the lives of some 3,000 Americans, Congress acted to pass the NoFEAR Act of 2002, putting the CIA under its strictures. If one were to guess by the title and the timing, one might conclude that the NoFEAR Act was designed to reconfigure our lead intelligence agency so that it would be well organized to locate, capture, and/or kill our terrorist adversaries. But one would be wrong. All that the the NoFear Act required was for the CIA to work harder in weeding out discrimination and to post summary statistics on its website about its progress in resolving complaints about things like “sexual” and “non-sexual” harassment. In 2005, the typical such complaint was under investigation for an average of 897 days. By the following year, the CIA had made a huge stride forward and the typical complaint was investigated for an average of only 396 days.
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, Iran’s stark raving president, is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Does the CIA have inside sources in Tehran that report to us what he tells his cabinet members, or microphones in his home so that we know what he chats about with his charming wife through her chador? I wouldn’t count on it.
Once upon a time, though, we had a very different kind of intelligence agency.
I recently wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal counseling patience in allowing the troop surge in Baghdad to show its impact. This is an e-mail that I received in response from Lieutenant Colonel Steven Miska, commander of a small base that I recently visited in northwest Baghdad, called Forward Operating Base Justice. He agreed to let me share it with COMMENTARY readers:
Great article. Keep beating this drum. Most of the leaders on the ground simply ignore the political discourse, as it is not helpful to our mission. Nobody wants to be in the middle of a civil war, low-grade or not, but we have found ourselves here. The only solution military leaders on the ground have is to work with the good allies we have made in Iraq.
We have some true patriots that are sacrificing everything and betting on the U.S. to be there for them. How could we look them in the eye if given the order to pull out? The vast majority of the people on the street want what every American wants—hope for tomorrow, good schools and opportunity for their children, a safe neighborhood, employment. Almost nobody trusts the politicians, but they might if they see the coalition forces standing side by side with Iraqi Security Forces for long enough. As the public begins to develop confidence in the Iraqi formations, that trust could rub off into government legitimacy. Our only other option would be to replace the government, which nobody in the U.S. seems to have the political stomach for at this juncture.