Commentary Magazine


Bring on Bolton

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.”

Bolton warns that Iran “is not going to be talked out of its nuclear program. So to stop them from doing it, we have to massively increase the pressure.” It is too late to halt the uranium enrichment program, so the priority now is to prevent industrial-scale production. He favors economic sanctions “with pain” as the next step, followed by a serious attempt to bring about regime change from within. “And if all else fails, if the choice is between a nuclear-capable Iran and the use of force, then I think we need to look at the use of force.”

He is not insouciant about the risks of air-strikes: “It’s very risky for the price of oil, risky because you could, let’s say, take out their enrichment capabilities at Natanz, and they may have enrichment capabilities elsewhere you don’t know about.” But he is clear-sighted about the much greater risk of doing nothing: “Imagine what it would be like with a nuclear Iran. Imagine the influence Iran could have over the entire region.”

He is scathing about the “doomed” European attempt to negotiate with Tehran, which Tony Blair reluctantly went along with: “Blair just didn’t focus on it as much as [former Foreign Secretary] Jack Straw did, and it was very much a Foreign Office thing because they wanted to show their European credentials, wanted to work with the Germans and the French to show ‘we’ll solve Iran in a way differently than those cowboy Americans solved Iraq.’” He accuses Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the former British ambassador in Iraq, and other Foreign Office officials of deliberately undermining Mr. Blair’s pro-American policy on a wide range of issues. But he rebuts the claim that Mr. Blair was a “poodle” of Mr. Bush: “Nobody in this administration has thought that. Nobody.”

War leaders are as rare today as they have ever been, and just as precious. I published an essay on the Iranian problem in the current issue of the New Criterion. My conclusion is as follows:

The Iranian regime has been at war with us from the moment it seized power 28 years ago. Ahmadinejad’s Iran represents a lethal combination of nuclear technology and Islamist eschatology. Détente is not an option. Ahmadinejad is not interested in peace; he longs for paradise. The duty of saving the world from the Persian peril falls to us. Leonidas, “the bravest of men,” was said to be descended from Heracles himself. Let us hope and pray that our leaders are made of the same stuff.

John Bolton, for one, most certainly is.