Commentary Magazine


Topic: John Bolton

RE: Did Chuck DeVore Exaggerate His Military Service?

Both DeVore and his press aide contacted me, quite exercised about my post regarding his military service. I imagine the Los Angeles Times is getting the same treatment. DeVore e-mails:

I actually have the micro-cassette recording of Lebanon. You can hear multiple bursts of automatic weapons fire with the Israeli officer finally saying “OK, we are done” and then ordering the  press off the hill. Zelnick stayed to complete his report, BTW, much to the discomfort of his cameraman.

But the issue of proximity, of course, is what is in question.

His press aide complains: “But it’s a he-said, she-said exercise — not even close to ‘Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gun fire fantasy.’ It’s a shame you’d participate in tearing down the only pro-Israel candidate in this race or [in] either party.”

First, Clinton chose to confess her erroneous recollection, or that too would have been a she-said, they-said incident. Second, a candidate’s pro- or anti-Israel leanings are irrelevant to an issue of character. I frankly don’t care whether Richard Blumenthal is the next John Bolton; he’s unfit to serve. Third, Carly Fiorina is solidly pro-Israel and has repeatedly criticized Obama’s Israel policy and his approach to Iran. She is warmly received and embraced by California Jewish Republicans. Readers will assess just how credible the DeVore team is.

On the radio appearance, his aide says that he introduced himself as a reservist. Yes, but the statement was about his present status. In the debate, he also says things like: “Well, as I mentioned before, I am the sole candidate on either side of the aisle with military experience. I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. army.” Hmm. Wouldn’t the average person think he meant “regular Army” in that capacity? And in a response to a question on Mirandizing terrorists, DeVore says: “Well, this is a very critical question. I am looking at my U.S. Army Military I.D. card and at the bottom it says Geneva Conventions I.D. Card. On the back it indicates that I am Geneva Conventions Category Four. Which is a field grade officer out of anything that means that if I am captured by Geneva Conventions signatory, I can’t be forced to do physical work and of course Enlisted people will laugh at that. The point though is that I am the only candidate out of both my Republican opponents and Barbara Boxer whose actually studied the law of war and knows the Geneva Convention because we have to study it as someone going though the Command General Staff College in the U.S. Army.” I think the average listener would conclude this is evidence of service in the regular Army.

Well, you have the account of the candidate and of a well-respected (by liberals and conservative alike) press reporter. And there is a transcript of the debate. Voters will have to decide whether DeVore was exaggerating his service. Maybe he should hold a press conference and let the media ask all the questions they like.

Both DeVore and his press aide contacted me, quite exercised about my post regarding his military service. I imagine the Los Angeles Times is getting the same treatment. DeVore e-mails:

I actually have the micro-cassette recording of Lebanon. You can hear multiple bursts of automatic weapons fire with the Israeli officer finally saying “OK, we are done” and then ordering the  press off the hill. Zelnick stayed to complete his report, BTW, much to the discomfort of his cameraman.

But the issue of proximity, of course, is what is in question.

His press aide complains: “But it’s a he-said, she-said exercise — not even close to ‘Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gun fire fantasy.’ It’s a shame you’d participate in tearing down the only pro-Israel candidate in this race or [in] either party.”

First, Clinton chose to confess her erroneous recollection, or that too would have been a she-said, they-said incident. Second, a candidate’s pro- or anti-Israel leanings are irrelevant to an issue of character. I frankly don’t care whether Richard Blumenthal is the next John Bolton; he’s unfit to serve. Third, Carly Fiorina is solidly pro-Israel and has repeatedly criticized Obama’s Israel policy and his approach to Iran. She is warmly received and embraced by California Jewish Republicans. Readers will assess just how credible the DeVore team is.

On the radio appearance, his aide says that he introduced himself as a reservist. Yes, but the statement was about his present status. In the debate, he also says things like: “Well, as I mentioned before, I am the sole candidate on either side of the aisle with military experience. I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. army.” Hmm. Wouldn’t the average person think he meant “regular Army” in that capacity? And in a response to a question on Mirandizing terrorists, DeVore says: “Well, this is a very critical question. I am looking at my U.S. Army Military I.D. card and at the bottom it says Geneva Conventions I.D. Card. On the back it indicates that I am Geneva Conventions Category Four. Which is a field grade officer out of anything that means that if I am captured by Geneva Conventions signatory, I can’t be forced to do physical work and of course Enlisted people will laugh at that. The point though is that I am the only candidate out of both my Republican opponents and Barbara Boxer whose actually studied the law of war and knows the Geneva Convention because we have to study it as someone going though the Command General Staff College in the U.S. Army.” I think the average listener would conclude this is evidence of service in the regular Army.

Well, you have the account of the candidate and of a well-respected (by liberals and conservative alike) press reporter. And there is a transcript of the debate. Voters will have to decide whether DeVore was exaggerating his service. Maybe he should hold a press conference and let the media ask all the questions they like.

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Gulf States and a Nuclear Iran

Having just returned from the Persian Gulf region (the Arabian Gulf to the Arabs), I can echo the points made by John Bolton in this Wall Street Journal op-ed. Bolton suggests that sanctions have no chance of working and that, absent military action, Iran will go nuclear. That certainly is in line with the general view in the Gulf, where they can see up close how porous all attempts to sanction Iran have been. Indeed, the Gulf states most worried about the Iranian nuclear program also actively trade with Iran. They are starting to hedge their bets, too. Qatar, for example, which hosts a giant American military installation, sent representatives to watch recent Iranian war games.

There is a lot of support, albeit beneath the surface, for American military action against Iran, which, in the Gulfies’ view, could deal a decisive setback to the “Persians.” An Israeli strike, on the other hand, they fear, would not inflict much damage and would only allow the mullahs to rally the Arab street behind them. They are also “deathly afraid” (in the words of one American ambassador) that the U.S. will sell them out by reaching a deal with Iran.

With the growing likelihood of a nuclear Iran, talk has turned to containment, with Gulf states demanding more sophisticated air defenses from the U.S. and even talking about somehow turning the Gulf Cooperation Council into a NATO-like alliance to contain Iran. The Obama administration is clearly planning for a nuclear Iran by preparing to extend the American nuclear umbrella to regional allies. But the local leaders that we talked to (I traveled with a delegation from the Council on Foreign Relations.) made clear that they would place little faith in an American guarantee. They want a Sunni bomb to offset the Shiite bomb, which means that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey would be likely to build their own nuke to counter Iran’s. Thus, at a minimum, the Iranian nuclear program could set off a serious proliferation problem — and that’s without considering the possibility that Iran will share its technology with Syria and other allies.

What is the Obama administration going to do about all this? I agree with Bolton: U.S. airstrikes on Iran are out of the question (unless Iran were to attack shipping in the Persian Gulf, but probably not even then). Instead, the administration is pursuing toothless resolutions at the UN and making ridiculous gestures like revealing the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and trying to negotiate to make the Middle East a “nuclear-free zone.” The more of this that our Arab allies see, the less confidence they will have in American protection. That, in turn, will cause them to either pursue accommodation with Iran or build their own nuclear arsenal. Maybe both. And that makes the world a much more dangerous place.

Having just returned from the Persian Gulf region (the Arabian Gulf to the Arabs), I can echo the points made by John Bolton in this Wall Street Journal op-ed. Bolton suggests that sanctions have no chance of working and that, absent military action, Iran will go nuclear. That certainly is in line with the general view in the Gulf, where they can see up close how porous all attempts to sanction Iran have been. Indeed, the Gulf states most worried about the Iranian nuclear program also actively trade with Iran. They are starting to hedge their bets, too. Qatar, for example, which hosts a giant American military installation, sent representatives to watch recent Iranian war games.

There is a lot of support, albeit beneath the surface, for American military action against Iran, which, in the Gulfies’ view, could deal a decisive setback to the “Persians.” An Israeli strike, on the other hand, they fear, would not inflict much damage and would only allow the mullahs to rally the Arab street behind them. They are also “deathly afraid” (in the words of one American ambassador) that the U.S. will sell them out by reaching a deal with Iran.

With the growing likelihood of a nuclear Iran, talk has turned to containment, with Gulf states demanding more sophisticated air defenses from the U.S. and even talking about somehow turning the Gulf Cooperation Council into a NATO-like alliance to contain Iran. The Obama administration is clearly planning for a nuclear Iran by preparing to extend the American nuclear umbrella to regional allies. But the local leaders that we talked to (I traveled with a delegation from the Council on Foreign Relations.) made clear that they would place little faith in an American guarantee. They want a Sunni bomb to offset the Shiite bomb, which means that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey would be likely to build their own nuke to counter Iran’s. Thus, at a minimum, the Iranian nuclear program could set off a serious proliferation problem — and that’s without considering the possibility that Iran will share its technology with Syria and other allies.

What is the Obama administration going to do about all this? I agree with Bolton: U.S. airstrikes on Iran are out of the question (unless Iran were to attack shipping in the Persian Gulf, but probably not even then). Instead, the administration is pursuing toothless resolutions at the UN and making ridiculous gestures like revealing the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and trying to negotiate to make the Middle East a “nuclear-free zone.” The more of this that our Arab allies see, the less confidence they will have in American protection. That, in turn, will cause them to either pursue accommodation with Iran or build their own nuclear arsenal. Maybe both. And that makes the world a much more dangerous place.

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Buck Up, Mr. President

COMMENTARY contributor and former UN ambassador John Bolton wants Obama to be more like Google. He writes:

Google’s decision to stop censoring searches on its China-based servers, rerouting search requests instead to its uncensored Hong Kong facilities, is historic. The company has shown itself unwilling simply to be on the receiving end of whatever Beijing dishes out. …

Google’s decision should also tell the U.S. government something about how to advocate its interests with China. The Google controversy coincided with cyber attacks against over 200 American companies, believed by U.S. authorities to have been launched by the People’s Liberation Army. China’s unchallenged behavior shows why we should not be optimistic that romancing Beijing will produce crippling sanctions against Iran’s nuclear weapons program any time soon. Instead, the Obama administration should emulate Google’s approach in official dealings, and support U.S. businesses in situations similar to Google so they do not have to act alone.

The Obama administration’s obsequiousness has certainly not paid off to date. China’s ongoing human rights atrocities, its bellicosity toward U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and its refusal to get on board with Iran sanctions suggest that the Obama approach is, in fact, having the opposite reaction. The lower we bow, the more aggressive the Chinese become. And meanwhile, the Russians, the Syrians, and the Iranians look on, observing a tongue-tied American president (except when it comes to voicing “anger” toward Israel) desperate to ingratiate himself with despotic regimes and unwilling to risk their ire. Dictators become more emboldened, America loses its moral standing, and the world becomes less free and less safe. This — along with the crushing debt he is piling up — will be the Obama legacy.

COMMENTARY contributor and former UN ambassador John Bolton wants Obama to be more like Google. He writes:

Google’s decision to stop censoring searches on its China-based servers, rerouting search requests instead to its uncensored Hong Kong facilities, is historic. The company has shown itself unwilling simply to be on the receiving end of whatever Beijing dishes out. …

Google’s decision should also tell the U.S. government something about how to advocate its interests with China. The Google controversy coincided with cyber attacks against over 200 American companies, believed by U.S. authorities to have been launched by the People’s Liberation Army. China’s unchallenged behavior shows why we should not be optimistic that romancing Beijing will produce crippling sanctions against Iran’s nuclear weapons program any time soon. Instead, the Obama administration should emulate Google’s approach in official dealings, and support U.S. businesses in situations similar to Google so they do not have to act alone.

The Obama administration’s obsequiousness has certainly not paid off to date. China’s ongoing human rights atrocities, its bellicosity toward U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and its refusal to get on board with Iran sanctions suggest that the Obama approach is, in fact, having the opposite reaction. The lower we bow, the more aggressive the Chinese become. And meanwhile, the Russians, the Syrians, and the Iranians look on, observing a tongue-tied American president (except when it comes to voicing “anger” toward Israel) desperate to ingratiate himself with despotic regimes and unwilling to risk their ire. Dictators become more emboldened, America loses its moral standing, and the world becomes less free and less safe. This — along with the crushing debt he is piling up — will be the Obama legacy.

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Bibi’s Real Mistake

The Israelis’ error was not in announcing a housing-complex addition, writes John Bolton. It was in trying to play ball with an American administration that seeks to dictate negotiations with intransigent Palestinians and has little interest in stopping the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons. Bolton explains:

Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to avoid open disputes with Washington have not won him White House plaudits. Mr. Obama almost certainly believes the real obstacle to peace is not new housing or unfortunate timing but so-called Israeli intransigence.

On Iran, Mr. Netanyahu has faithfully supported Mr. Obama’s diplomacy, hoping to build credibility with the president against the day when Israel might have to strike Iran’s weapons program preemptively. . . As time passes, Israel’s military option grows more difficult and the chances for success shrink as Iran seeks new air-defense systems and further buries and hardens nuclear facilities.

Mr. Netanyahu’s mistake has been to assume that Mr. Obama basically agrees that we must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But the White House likely believes that a nuclear Iran, though undesirable, can be contained and will therefore not support using military force to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The rub will come, as Bolton notes, when Israel determines that it must take military action and when the Obami do all they can to prevent the Jewish state’s preemptive strike, or to punish it after the fact (“if Israel bombs Iranian nuclear facilities, the president will likely withhold critical replenishments of destroyed Israeli aircraft and other weapons systems”). Bolton’s advice to Bibi is to stop trying to gain chits with Obama and strike while it is still possible. He argues:

The prime minister should recalibrate his approach, and soon. Israel’s deference on Palestinian issues will not help it with Mr. Obama after a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program. It would be a mistake to think that further delays in such a strike will materially change the toxic political response Israel can expect from the White House. Israel’s support will come from Congress and the American people, as opinion polls show, not from the president.

It is quite a dilemma, unlike nearly any an Israeli prime minister has faced so far. But that is because we have never had a president quite so openly dismissive of Israel’s interests. The Obami keep repeating mantras that sound increasingly insincere. There is no space between us on national security. The Americans understand the existential threat to Israel. Our bond with Israel is unshakable. But none of it rings true judging by the behavior and tactics of the Obami. Bully-boy tactics on peace talks and foot-dragging on the Iranian nuclear threat say just the opposite.

Bolton is right that Israel’s greatest aid in this remains Congress and the American public. But let’s not kid ourselves. The president matters and is indispensible both in his prerogative to cooperate or not with an Israeli strike and to react rhetorically and otherwise after the fact. Counting on Congress to check the poor instincts of a commander in chief who lacks any visceral connection to the Jewish state (and, indeed, sees it as a provocateur) is dicey at best. There simply isn’t any substitute for a president who sees American interests aligned with Israel’s and correctly perceives which parties are the problem. Unfortunately, we don’t have such a president right now.

The Israelis’ error was not in announcing a housing-complex addition, writes John Bolton. It was in trying to play ball with an American administration that seeks to dictate negotiations with intransigent Palestinians and has little interest in stopping the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons. Bolton explains:

Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to avoid open disputes with Washington have not won him White House plaudits. Mr. Obama almost certainly believes the real obstacle to peace is not new housing or unfortunate timing but so-called Israeli intransigence.

On Iran, Mr. Netanyahu has faithfully supported Mr. Obama’s diplomacy, hoping to build credibility with the president against the day when Israel might have to strike Iran’s weapons program preemptively. . . As time passes, Israel’s military option grows more difficult and the chances for success shrink as Iran seeks new air-defense systems and further buries and hardens nuclear facilities.

Mr. Netanyahu’s mistake has been to assume that Mr. Obama basically agrees that we must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But the White House likely believes that a nuclear Iran, though undesirable, can be contained and will therefore not support using military force to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The rub will come, as Bolton notes, when Israel determines that it must take military action and when the Obami do all they can to prevent the Jewish state’s preemptive strike, or to punish it after the fact (“if Israel bombs Iranian nuclear facilities, the president will likely withhold critical replenishments of destroyed Israeli aircraft and other weapons systems”). Bolton’s advice to Bibi is to stop trying to gain chits with Obama and strike while it is still possible. He argues:

The prime minister should recalibrate his approach, and soon. Israel’s deference on Palestinian issues will not help it with Mr. Obama after a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program. It would be a mistake to think that further delays in such a strike will materially change the toxic political response Israel can expect from the White House. Israel’s support will come from Congress and the American people, as opinion polls show, not from the president.

It is quite a dilemma, unlike nearly any an Israeli prime minister has faced so far. But that is because we have never had a president quite so openly dismissive of Israel’s interests. The Obami keep repeating mantras that sound increasingly insincere. There is no space between us on national security. The Americans understand the existential threat to Israel. Our bond with Israel is unshakable. But none of it rings true judging by the behavior and tactics of the Obami. Bully-boy tactics on peace talks and foot-dragging on the Iranian nuclear threat say just the opposite.

Bolton is right that Israel’s greatest aid in this remains Congress and the American public. But let’s not kid ourselves. The president matters and is indispensible both in his prerogative to cooperate or not with an Israeli strike and to react rhetorically and otherwise after the fact. Counting on Congress to check the poor instincts of a commander in chief who lacks any visceral connection to the Jewish state (and, indeed, sees it as a provocateur) is dicey at best. There simply isn’t any substitute for a president who sees American interests aligned with Israel’s and correctly perceives which parties are the problem. Unfortunately, we don’t have such a president right now.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Harry Reid is doubling down on ObamaCare and will jam it through with 50 votes if he can evade all the parliamentary challenges. Republicans question whether he has the votes for reconciliation. I’m not sure Nancy Pelosi has 218 on her side. But it sure does put to rest the notion that Democrats are listening to voters after the Scott Brown debacle.

You wonder how he says it with a straight face: “President Obama warned lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Saturday not to turn the upcoming White House health-care summit into ‘political theater,’ but rather ‘to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that’s been with us for generations.'”

Yuval Levin and James C. Capretta observe: “Well, so much for the pivot to jobs. Late last week, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats made clear that, rather than turn to voters’ economic concerns in this winter of discontent, they want to persist in pushing the health care proposals they have championed for a year—proposals voters have rejected by every means at their disposal. … It is now clear that the ‘summit’ the president has called for February 25 is not intended to consider different approaches to health care financing, but rather to create an illusion of momentum that might just lull disoriented congressional Democrats into ramming the health care bill through the budget reconciliation process.”

John Bolton tries to explain to the Obami that “negotiation is not a policy. It is a technique.” And on Iran, it has failed.

Rick Santorum apologizes for helping to elect Arlen Specter in 2004.

Ron Paul wins the straw poll at CPAC, leading credence to the view that the gathering isn’t all that relevant. (But then again, CPAC straw polls haven’t really foreshadowed the nominee in past years.) Paul was then booed, and “CPAC organizers were plainly embarrassed by the results, which could reduce the perceived impact of a contest that was once thought to offer a window into which White House hopefuls were favored by movement conservatives.”

Well, it did accomplish one thing: Tim Pawlenty earned bipartisan bad reviews. Gail Collins: “He doesn’t seem naturally irate. People call him T-Paw, which sounds like a character in a children’s cartoon — maybe a lovable saber-toothed tiger with big feet. Or a pre-Little League game in which children who can’t hit anything with a bat are allowed to just thwack at the ball with their fists. Politicians often get into trouble when they’re trying to sound more furious than they feel.”

Dana Milbank: “Obama’s greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care. Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction. The president disregarded that strategy and sided with Capitol Hill liberals who hoped to ram a larger, less popular bill through Congress with Democratic votes only. The result was, as the world now knows, disastrous.” And we know Emanuel’s position on this — and the KSM trial (opposed), and closing Guantanamo (opposed) — because he’s leaked it, trying to let everyone know it’s not his fault that the president is going down the tubes.

Sen. Harry Reid is doubling down on ObamaCare and will jam it through with 50 votes if he can evade all the parliamentary challenges. Republicans question whether he has the votes for reconciliation. I’m not sure Nancy Pelosi has 218 on her side. But it sure does put to rest the notion that Democrats are listening to voters after the Scott Brown debacle.

You wonder how he says it with a straight face: “President Obama warned lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Saturday not to turn the upcoming White House health-care summit into ‘political theater,’ but rather ‘to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that’s been with us for generations.'”

Yuval Levin and James C. Capretta observe: “Well, so much for the pivot to jobs. Late last week, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats made clear that, rather than turn to voters’ economic concerns in this winter of discontent, they want to persist in pushing the health care proposals they have championed for a year—proposals voters have rejected by every means at their disposal. … It is now clear that the ‘summit’ the president has called for February 25 is not intended to consider different approaches to health care financing, but rather to create an illusion of momentum that might just lull disoriented congressional Democrats into ramming the health care bill through the budget reconciliation process.”

John Bolton tries to explain to the Obami that “negotiation is not a policy. It is a technique.” And on Iran, it has failed.

Rick Santorum apologizes for helping to elect Arlen Specter in 2004.

Ron Paul wins the straw poll at CPAC, leading credence to the view that the gathering isn’t all that relevant. (But then again, CPAC straw polls haven’t really foreshadowed the nominee in past years.) Paul was then booed, and “CPAC organizers were plainly embarrassed by the results, which could reduce the perceived impact of a contest that was once thought to offer a window into which White House hopefuls were favored by movement conservatives.”

Well, it did accomplish one thing: Tim Pawlenty earned bipartisan bad reviews. Gail Collins: “He doesn’t seem naturally irate. People call him T-Paw, which sounds like a character in a children’s cartoon — maybe a lovable saber-toothed tiger with big feet. Or a pre-Little League game in which children who can’t hit anything with a bat are allowed to just thwack at the ball with their fists. Politicians often get into trouble when they’re trying to sound more furious than they feel.”

Dana Milbank: “Obama’s greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care. Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction. The president disregarded that strategy and sided with Capitol Hill liberals who hoped to ram a larger, less popular bill through Congress with Democratic votes only. The result was, as the world now knows, disastrous.” And we know Emanuel’s position on this — and the KSM trial (opposed), and closing Guantanamo (opposed) — because he’s leaked it, trying to let everyone know it’s not his fault that the president is going down the tubes.

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Wanted: Realism in Nuclear-Arms Policy

Ross Douthat sounds like former UN Ambassador John Bolton in calling out the Obami’s silly, dangerous notion of a nuclear arms-free world. Douthat rightly observes that the premise of denuclearization is flawed:

The American nuclear arsenal doesn’t encourage local arms races; it forestalls them. Remove our nuclear umbrella from the North Pacific, and South Korea and Japan would feel compelled to go nuclear in a hurry. If Iran gets the bomb, the protections afforded by American missiles may be the only way to prevent nuclearization in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. (In the panel immediately following the “Is Zero Possible?” colloquy [at the weekend Munich Security Conference], the Turkish foreign minister declared that his country has no need of nuclear arms — because, he quickly added, “we are part of the NATO umbrella, so that is sufficient.”)

As Douthat notes, ambitious states want nuclear arms for reasons other than direct competition with the U.S. In the case of Iran, the object is regional hegemony and the ability to threaten the annihilation of the Jewish state.

So why do the Obami persist in this dangerous fiction that unarming ourselves will prevent rogue states from going nuclear? Largely, this is the same nuclear-freeze fetish from the Cold War, throughout which liberals, who refused to discern the moral and political difference between the Soviet bloc and the West, sought to identify the weapons as the source of evil and danger. (It is no coincidence that Obama was a big nuclear freeze fan in his college days.) Refusing to hold rogue sates responsible or candidly recognize that all nations are not “equal,” the Left avoids the messy business of discerning our foes’ motives and intentions and holding them, rather than the U.S. or inanimate objects, responsible for dangers in the world.

But part of the issue here is denial and avoidance. As Douthat notes:

The Munich nuclear-abolition panel took place just 24 hours before Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ordered his scientists to forge ahead with uranium enrichment. Faced with yet another round of Iranian brinkmanship, you can understand why Western leaders might prefer to talk about a world without nuclear weapons. By making the issue bigger, more long-term and more theoretical, they can almost make it seem to go away.

Regardless of where the infatuation with eliminating nuclear weapons originated, it is clear that it is not born of “realism” — that is, an appreciation for how the world works and the motives and nature of our foes and competitors. Hillary Clinton tells us ideology is “so yesterday.” But what could be more “yesterday” than dredging up the nuclear-freeze vision of the 1980s — which, if Obama had been paying attention, was discredited when, in the face of the buildup of American military strength, the Soviet Union collapsed.

As Douthat notes: “When it comes to containing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the existing American arsenal simply isn’t part of the problem. And if Iran does acquire the bomb, our nuclear deterrent will quickly become an important part of the solution.” But our own nuclear arsenal does give Obama something to talk about when he’s doing nothing to prevent the Iranians from acquiring one of their own.

Ross Douthat sounds like former UN Ambassador John Bolton in calling out the Obami’s silly, dangerous notion of a nuclear arms-free world. Douthat rightly observes that the premise of denuclearization is flawed:

The American nuclear arsenal doesn’t encourage local arms races; it forestalls them. Remove our nuclear umbrella from the North Pacific, and South Korea and Japan would feel compelled to go nuclear in a hurry. If Iran gets the bomb, the protections afforded by American missiles may be the only way to prevent nuclearization in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. (In the panel immediately following the “Is Zero Possible?” colloquy [at the weekend Munich Security Conference], the Turkish foreign minister declared that his country has no need of nuclear arms — because, he quickly added, “we are part of the NATO umbrella, so that is sufficient.”)

As Douthat notes, ambitious states want nuclear arms for reasons other than direct competition with the U.S. In the case of Iran, the object is regional hegemony and the ability to threaten the annihilation of the Jewish state.

So why do the Obami persist in this dangerous fiction that unarming ourselves will prevent rogue states from going nuclear? Largely, this is the same nuclear-freeze fetish from the Cold War, throughout which liberals, who refused to discern the moral and political difference between the Soviet bloc and the West, sought to identify the weapons as the source of evil and danger. (It is no coincidence that Obama was a big nuclear freeze fan in his college days.) Refusing to hold rogue sates responsible or candidly recognize that all nations are not “equal,” the Left avoids the messy business of discerning our foes’ motives and intentions and holding them, rather than the U.S. or inanimate objects, responsible for dangers in the world.

But part of the issue here is denial and avoidance. As Douthat notes:

The Munich nuclear-abolition panel took place just 24 hours before Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ordered his scientists to forge ahead with uranium enrichment. Faced with yet another round of Iranian brinkmanship, you can understand why Western leaders might prefer to talk about a world without nuclear weapons. By making the issue bigger, more long-term and more theoretical, they can almost make it seem to go away.

Regardless of where the infatuation with eliminating nuclear weapons originated, it is clear that it is not born of “realism” — that is, an appreciation for how the world works and the motives and nature of our foes and competitors. Hillary Clinton tells us ideology is “so yesterday.” But what could be more “yesterday” than dredging up the nuclear-freeze vision of the 1980s — which, if Obama had been paying attention, was discredited when, in the face of the buildup of American military strength, the Soviet Union collapsed.

As Douthat notes: “When it comes to containing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the existing American arsenal simply isn’t part of the problem. And if Iran does acquire the bomb, our nuclear deterrent will quickly become an important part of the solution.” But our own nuclear arsenal does give Obama something to talk about when he’s doing nothing to prevent the Iranians from acquiring one of their own.

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Waiting for the Realists

COMMENTARY contributor John Bolton reviews in this must-read piece Obama’s brisk SOTU run-through of foreign-policy issues. On nuclear nonproliferation, Bolton observes that Obama made a “critical linkage” after touting the U.S.-Russian arms-control talks, namely that: “These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Bolton says this is nonsense:

Obama described the increasing “isolation” of both North Korea and Iran, the two most conspicuous—but far from the only—nuclear proliferators. He also mentioned the increased sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after its second nuclear test in 2009 and the “growing consequences” he says Iran will face because of his policies.

In fact, reducing our nuclear -arsenal will not somehow persuade Iran and North Korea to alter their behavior or encourage others to apply more pressure on them to do so. Obama’s remarks reflect a complete misreading of strategic realities. . . What warrants close attention is the jarring naïveté of arguing that reducing our capabilities will inhibit nuclear proliferators. That would certainly surprise Tehran and Pyongyang.

Really, there is a childlike assumption by the Obami that these powers will be impressed with the West’s disarmament efforts and want to get in on the back-slapping congratulations too. It is, as Bolton points out, further confirmation that rather than become more “realistic” in our approach to national security, the Obami crew have adopted fictions that bear no relationship to the behavior and motives of the regimes we face. The president has in essence doubled down on a dangerously misguided vision:

Obama has now explicitly rejected the idea that U.S. weakness is provocative, arguing instead that weakness will convince Tehran and Pyongyang to do the opposite of what they have been resolutely doing for decades—vigorously pursuing their nuclear and missile programs. Obama’s first year amply demonstrates that his approach will do nothing even to retard, let alone stop, Iran and North Korea.

But this sort of thinking is not unique to nuclear proliferation, of course. Was his Middle East gambit — bully Israel, raise Palestinian expectations, and rely on the wonderfulness of himself — any more grounded in reality? Was his idea that yanking missile defense from Poland and the Czech Republic would “reset” our relations with Russia grounded in a historic experience or on a well-thought out strategy? You see the pattern. Obama looks at the world, disregards the motives of our foes, and acts in ways that further aggravate bad situations (e.g., raising Palestinian expectations, encouraging Russian belligerences, providing breathing space to the mullahs). He then reports back that these problems are “hard” and that, lo and behold, he has discovered that there are complicating factors at play. (In his appearance in Tampa this week he seemed to acknowledge just this when he told the crowd, “The problem that we’re confronting right now is that both in Israel and within the Palestinian Territories, the politics are difficult; they’re divided.”)

One is left to gape at the naiveté. While it be dawning on Obama that the Middle East is not amenable to the “Cairo Effect” (his fractured history lesson really didn’t change anything — at least not for the better), that conclusion has not been extrapolated to other foreign-policy challenges. The Obami can be rebuffed and turned back in discrete areas. (Honduras stood up to the Foggy Bottom bullies. Domestic political realities are forcing a rethinking of Obama’s “Not Bush” anti-terror approach.) But they keep at it, ever more certain that the world can conform to their vision rather than the other way around. It is, for those who were waiting for a foreign policy built on “realism,” anything but.

COMMENTARY contributor John Bolton reviews in this must-read piece Obama’s brisk SOTU run-through of foreign-policy issues. On nuclear nonproliferation, Bolton observes that Obama made a “critical linkage” after touting the U.S.-Russian arms-control talks, namely that: “These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Bolton says this is nonsense:

Obama described the increasing “isolation” of both North Korea and Iran, the two most conspicuous—but far from the only—nuclear proliferators. He also mentioned the increased sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after its second nuclear test in 2009 and the “growing consequences” he says Iran will face because of his policies.

In fact, reducing our nuclear -arsenal will not somehow persuade Iran and North Korea to alter their behavior or encourage others to apply more pressure on them to do so. Obama’s remarks reflect a complete misreading of strategic realities. . . What warrants close attention is the jarring naïveté of arguing that reducing our capabilities will inhibit nuclear proliferators. That would certainly surprise Tehran and Pyongyang.

Really, there is a childlike assumption by the Obami that these powers will be impressed with the West’s disarmament efforts and want to get in on the back-slapping congratulations too. It is, as Bolton points out, further confirmation that rather than become more “realistic” in our approach to national security, the Obami crew have adopted fictions that bear no relationship to the behavior and motives of the regimes we face. The president has in essence doubled down on a dangerously misguided vision:

Obama has now explicitly rejected the idea that U.S. weakness is provocative, arguing instead that weakness will convince Tehran and Pyongyang to do the opposite of what they have been resolutely doing for decades—vigorously pursuing their nuclear and missile programs. Obama’s first year amply demonstrates that his approach will do nothing even to retard, let alone stop, Iran and North Korea.

But this sort of thinking is not unique to nuclear proliferation, of course. Was his Middle East gambit — bully Israel, raise Palestinian expectations, and rely on the wonderfulness of himself — any more grounded in reality? Was his idea that yanking missile defense from Poland and the Czech Republic would “reset” our relations with Russia grounded in a historic experience or on a well-thought out strategy? You see the pattern. Obama looks at the world, disregards the motives of our foes, and acts in ways that further aggravate bad situations (e.g., raising Palestinian expectations, encouraging Russian belligerences, providing breathing space to the mullahs). He then reports back that these problems are “hard” and that, lo and behold, he has discovered that there are complicating factors at play. (In his appearance in Tampa this week he seemed to acknowledge just this when he told the crowd, “The problem that we’re confronting right now is that both in Israel and within the Palestinian Territories, the politics are difficult; they’re divided.”)

One is left to gape at the naiveté. While it be dawning on Obama that the Middle East is not amenable to the “Cairo Effect” (his fractured history lesson really didn’t change anything — at least not for the better), that conclusion has not been extrapolated to other foreign-policy challenges. The Obami can be rebuffed and turned back in discrete areas. (Honduras stood up to the Foggy Bottom bullies. Domestic political realities are forcing a rethinking of Obama’s “Not Bush” anti-terror approach.) But they keep at it, ever more certain that the world can conform to their vision rather than the other way around. It is, for those who were waiting for a foreign policy built on “realism,” anything but.

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Intelligence Policy

John Bolton has an excellent editorial in the Wall Street Journal discussing intelligence community (IC) organization. He ultimately recommends doing away with the director of National Intelligence and resubordinating the IC to the National Security Council (NSC), a proposal with some merit. He also makes the exceptional point that one of our biggest issues with intelligence is not so much collecting or analyzing it as assessing its implications.

I confess to being something of a hobby-horsewoman on the latter topic, and I am energized to see Bolton bring it up. He correctly implies that it is squarely within the purview of the president and his advisers to assess the implications of intelligence. Everyone on earth may agree that Iran has a nuclear program that could be readily adapted to the production of nuclear weapons, but only the president of the United States has been elected to decide the implications of that for the policy of his nation. Assessing these implications is inherently a political process, and that means the IC should not be performing it at all, except under policy guidance from the executive.

Intelligence cannot answer the question “Should we strike Iran now?” That is a policy question, but too often a great confusion arises on that head, abetted by the handling of intelligence itself. The “Iraqi WMD” controversy is a superb example of such confusion. No form of intelligence could have ensured that we struck Iraq at precisely the right moment to guarantee a smoking gun. The president made a policy decision; his critics, however, have argued ever since that he made an intelligence decision. Their unspoken premise is that intelligence can naturally appear in a form that obviates policy assessments and eliminates risk, and that Bush truncated some accepted process by not waiting for it to do so.

Intelligence doesn’t do that, however. Bolton is right to raise the issue of assessing policy implications, because it’s in this area that the controversy and vulnerability of the process are concentrated. Every celebrated instance of public dissatisfaction with intelligence is predicated on assumptions about the policy implications of that intelligence. Those assumptions are rarely examined in any systematic way, and presidents almost never address them or seek to shape them in the public mind.

Keeping open the national-security option of preemption, which is peculiarly reliant on intelligence, means that the question of policy implications from intelligence will recur for us in the future. The organizational correctives we apply should honor the executive’s constitutional responsibility for assessing policy implications. Bolton may be right about having the IC report to the NSC; that arrangement would in some ways mimic how the military plugs intelligence into planning and execution. At some point, however, we will have to come to grips with the persistent and legitimate possibility that, in any given situation, what we are seeing among our politicians is a disagreement on policy implications rather than on the intelligence itself. The IC is not responsible for the management or the outcomes of such disputes, and it should not be organized in a way that encourages it to participate in them.

John Bolton has an excellent editorial in the Wall Street Journal discussing intelligence community (IC) organization. He ultimately recommends doing away with the director of National Intelligence and resubordinating the IC to the National Security Council (NSC), a proposal with some merit. He also makes the exceptional point that one of our biggest issues with intelligence is not so much collecting or analyzing it as assessing its implications.

I confess to being something of a hobby-horsewoman on the latter topic, and I am energized to see Bolton bring it up. He correctly implies that it is squarely within the purview of the president and his advisers to assess the implications of intelligence. Everyone on earth may agree that Iran has a nuclear program that could be readily adapted to the production of nuclear weapons, but only the president of the United States has been elected to decide the implications of that for the policy of his nation. Assessing these implications is inherently a political process, and that means the IC should not be performing it at all, except under policy guidance from the executive.

Intelligence cannot answer the question “Should we strike Iran now?” That is a policy question, but too often a great confusion arises on that head, abetted by the handling of intelligence itself. The “Iraqi WMD” controversy is a superb example of such confusion. No form of intelligence could have ensured that we struck Iraq at precisely the right moment to guarantee a smoking gun. The president made a policy decision; his critics, however, have argued ever since that he made an intelligence decision. Their unspoken premise is that intelligence can naturally appear in a form that obviates policy assessments and eliminates risk, and that Bush truncated some accepted process by not waiting for it to do so.

Intelligence doesn’t do that, however. Bolton is right to raise the issue of assessing policy implications, because it’s in this area that the controversy and vulnerability of the process are concentrated. Every celebrated instance of public dissatisfaction with intelligence is predicated on assumptions about the policy implications of that intelligence. Those assumptions are rarely examined in any systematic way, and presidents almost never address them or seek to shape them in the public mind.

Keeping open the national-security option of preemption, which is peculiarly reliant on intelligence, means that the question of policy implications from intelligence will recur for us in the future. The organizational correctives we apply should honor the executive’s constitutional responsibility for assessing policy implications. Bolton may be right about having the IC report to the NSC; that arrangement would in some ways mimic how the military plugs intelligence into planning and execution. At some point, however, we will have to come to grips with the persistent and legitimate possibility that, in any given situation, what we are seeing among our politicians is a disagreement on policy implications rather than on the intelligence itself. The IC is not responsible for the management or the outcomes of such disputes, and it should not be organized in a way that encourages it to participate in them.

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Carrots, Sticks, and Trips

President Obama’s trip to Asia has drawn unfavorable reviews from people as diverse as Leslie Gelb (“disturbing amateurishness” on top of the “inexcusably clumsy” Afghan review) and John Bolton (“one of the most disappointing trips by any U.S. president to the region in decades”) — but none as devastating as that of Christopher Badeaux in the New Ledger (a foreign policy “premised on the idea that the Carter Administration was not inherently wrong on anything, just well ahead of its time”).

Badeaux notes that the critical feature of the relatively successful China polices of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush was their recognition that “the carrot and the stick are closely joined”:

American Presidents praise a free, prosperous China. They speak of strategic partnerships while directing carrier battle groups in the Pacific. They talk about One China while approving arms shipments to Taiwan and hugging the Dalai Lama. They let China know that it faces no threat from the United States, but that it could.

Obama’s trip seemed simply another stop on a world tour to introduce (in Victor Davis Hanson’s phrase) the exceptional president of an unexceptional nation, complete with an even more exaggerated bow. The only good thing one can say is that at least he showed up (rather than simply send a video) and did not mention that Richard Nixon — one of our pre-Pacific chief executives — could not have imagined when he went to China in 1972 that Obama would one day be president.

The real consequences of this foreign-policy embarrassment, however, may not be in Asia but in Iran. As Iran watches the president on his self-absorbed travels (he is scheduled to pick up an unearned prize in Oslo on December 10 and again address his fellow citizens of the world) and observes him as he redoubles his efforts to talk every time they stiff him, it can be excused for thinking that the chances of its ever facing a stick rather than a carrot are slim.

President Obama’s trip to Asia has drawn unfavorable reviews from people as diverse as Leslie Gelb (“disturbing amateurishness” on top of the “inexcusably clumsy” Afghan review) and John Bolton (“one of the most disappointing trips by any U.S. president to the region in decades”) — but none as devastating as that of Christopher Badeaux in the New Ledger (a foreign policy “premised on the idea that the Carter Administration was not inherently wrong on anything, just well ahead of its time”).

Badeaux notes that the critical feature of the relatively successful China polices of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush was their recognition that “the carrot and the stick are closely joined”:

American Presidents praise a free, prosperous China. They speak of strategic partnerships while directing carrier battle groups in the Pacific. They talk about One China while approving arms shipments to Taiwan and hugging the Dalai Lama. They let China know that it faces no threat from the United States, but that it could.

Obama’s trip seemed simply another stop on a world tour to introduce (in Victor Davis Hanson’s phrase) the exceptional president of an unexceptional nation, complete with an even more exaggerated bow. The only good thing one can say is that at least he showed up (rather than simply send a video) and did not mention that Richard Nixon — one of our pre-Pacific chief executives — could not have imagined when he went to China in 1972 that Obama would one day be president.

The real consequences of this foreign-policy embarrassment, however, may not be in Asia but in Iran. As Iran watches the president on his self-absorbed travels (he is scheduled to pick up an unearned prize in Oslo on December 10 and again address his fellow citizens of the world) and observes him as he redoubles his efforts to talk every time they stiff him, it can be excused for thinking that the chances of its ever facing a stick rather than a carrot are slim.

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Awaiting Obama’s Reply

It is easy to forget that Barack Obama’s gaffe-turned-policy of unconditional dialogue with Tehran presents more than a tactical opportunity for John McCain’s supporters. This misguided approach to national security would advertise the naiveté of its American practitioners and elevate Iranian sophistry to the status of legitimate statecraft. Yet, beyond this there is another outcome to consider. What effect would this unconditional dialogue have on the brave pro-democracy movement inside Iran?

Iranian human rights activists Manda Zand-Ervin & Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi have an open letter to Barack Obama up on Pajamas Media. Before November, Barack Obama should be called upon to respond to the concerns laid out in this document. Here is an important excerpt:

Senator, since 1979 the Mullahs of Iran have killed upwards of one million Iranians, not to mention the nearly one million sacrificed to the 8-year-long Iran/Iraq war. And what the Iranian people have withstood in terms of outrageous human rights violations is shocking; public hangings, stoning, flogging, cutting off limbs, tongues and plucking out eyeballs are an everyday occurrence across Iran. All are meant to strike fear of the ruling Mullahs into people’s hearts.

Since you began talking about unconditionally dialoguing with the Islamic regime of Iran, you too have struck absolute fear in the hearts of the Iranian people, both inside and outside Iran. The few Iranian-Americans who support you are well-intentioned individuals who have been swept up in the excitement and fervor of your campaign. But we can wholeheartedly assure you that your comments have landslide opposition within the much greater Iranian heart both inside and outside Iran.

Iranians believe that the only country who has the moral authority and is able to support them is the United States of America, a country whose foundation as a melting pot mirrors the true character of the once great Persian Empire. But the fact is, as John Bolton so aptly puts it: “Negotiation is a tactic, not policy.” Your policy of direct and unconditional negotiation will give the Mullahs of Iran the legitimacy that they need for more oppression. The real losers will be the already weary people of Iran, whose dreams of freedom and democracy will be dashed for a long time to come. If you empower that regime, the mullahs will continue to harm a country that is already totally economically devastated, as well as socially and politically oppressed.

Barack Obama claims he will restore America’s image abroad. Moreover, on his website, he makes a direct appeal to foreign citizens who’ve suffered while America has stood idly by: “And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”

Welcome to the fierce squandering of now. Obama and his supporters are unable to see that the refusal to meet with terrorists and tyrants hasn’t a thing to do with American arrogance or exceptionalism. It has everything to do with minimizing those parties’ destructive capacities, and empowering the forces ranged against them.

Consider these words spoken by the despised unilateral cowboy George W. Bush during his second inaugural address: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty, we will stand with you.”

The statement was pointed at pro-democracy elements inside Iran and, as Richard Perle notes, it hit its mark. Let’s hope the President fulfills America’s full obligation in this regard before leaving office.

As gifted as Barack Obama is, he will have a hard time standing up for liberty while sitting down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It is easy to forget that Barack Obama’s gaffe-turned-policy of unconditional dialogue with Tehran presents more than a tactical opportunity for John McCain’s supporters. This misguided approach to national security would advertise the naiveté of its American practitioners and elevate Iranian sophistry to the status of legitimate statecraft. Yet, beyond this there is another outcome to consider. What effect would this unconditional dialogue have on the brave pro-democracy movement inside Iran?

Iranian human rights activists Manda Zand-Ervin & Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi have an open letter to Barack Obama up on Pajamas Media. Before November, Barack Obama should be called upon to respond to the concerns laid out in this document. Here is an important excerpt:

Senator, since 1979 the Mullahs of Iran have killed upwards of one million Iranians, not to mention the nearly one million sacrificed to the 8-year-long Iran/Iraq war. And what the Iranian people have withstood in terms of outrageous human rights violations is shocking; public hangings, stoning, flogging, cutting off limbs, tongues and plucking out eyeballs are an everyday occurrence across Iran. All are meant to strike fear of the ruling Mullahs into people’s hearts.

Since you began talking about unconditionally dialoguing with the Islamic regime of Iran, you too have struck absolute fear in the hearts of the Iranian people, both inside and outside Iran. The few Iranian-Americans who support you are well-intentioned individuals who have been swept up in the excitement and fervor of your campaign. But we can wholeheartedly assure you that your comments have landslide opposition within the much greater Iranian heart both inside and outside Iran.

Iranians believe that the only country who has the moral authority and is able to support them is the United States of America, a country whose foundation as a melting pot mirrors the true character of the once great Persian Empire. But the fact is, as John Bolton so aptly puts it: “Negotiation is a tactic, not policy.” Your policy of direct and unconditional negotiation will give the Mullahs of Iran the legitimacy that they need for more oppression. The real losers will be the already weary people of Iran, whose dreams of freedom and democracy will be dashed for a long time to come. If you empower that regime, the mullahs will continue to harm a country that is already totally economically devastated, as well as socially and politically oppressed.

Barack Obama claims he will restore America’s image abroad. Moreover, on his website, he makes a direct appeal to foreign citizens who’ve suffered while America has stood idly by: “And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”

Welcome to the fierce squandering of now. Obama and his supporters are unable to see that the refusal to meet with terrorists and tyrants hasn’t a thing to do with American arrogance or exceptionalism. It has everything to do with minimizing those parties’ destructive capacities, and empowering the forces ranged against them.

Consider these words spoken by the despised unilateral cowboy George W. Bush during his second inaugural address: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty, we will stand with you.”

The statement was pointed at pro-democracy elements inside Iran and, as Richard Perle notes, it hit its mark. Let’s hope the President fulfills America’s full obligation in this regard before leaving office.

As gifted as Barack Obama is, he will have a hard time standing up for liberty while sitting down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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“Tiny” Iran?

As noted here, Barack Obama seemed to discount any real concern about Iran in remarks in Oregon last night. Today, at the beginning of an economic speech, John McCain responded to Obama’s conclusion that compared to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the threat now posed by Iran is “tiny:”

Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant. On the contrary, right now Iran provides some of the deadliest explosive devices used in Iraq to kill our soldiers. They are the chief sponsor of Shia extremists in Iraq, and terrorist organizations in the Middle East. And their President, who has called Israel a “stinking corpse,” has repeatedly made clear his government’s commitment to Israel’s destruction. Most worrying, Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. The biggest national security challenge the United States currently faces is keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the Government of Iran poses is anything but “tiny.”

McCain went on to argue that Obama’s comparison of a presidential meeting to a Soviet summit “betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment” and would only give Iran “massive world media coverage” without hope of any change in the country’s behavior. Could it be that someone over in the McCain camp read Ambassador John Bolton’s column? If so, we can look forward to a much-needed starting point for an informed discussion of why and when we should be talking to our adversaries and who should be doing the talking.

As noted here, Barack Obama seemed to discount any real concern about Iran in remarks in Oregon last night. Today, at the beginning of an economic speech, John McCain responded to Obama’s conclusion that compared to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the threat now posed by Iran is “tiny:”

Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant. On the contrary, right now Iran provides some of the deadliest explosive devices used in Iraq to kill our soldiers. They are the chief sponsor of Shia extremists in Iraq, and terrorist organizations in the Middle East. And their President, who has called Israel a “stinking corpse,” has repeatedly made clear his government’s commitment to Israel’s destruction. Most worrying, Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. The biggest national security challenge the United States currently faces is keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the Government of Iran poses is anything but “tiny.”

McCain went on to argue that Obama’s comparison of a presidential meeting to a Soviet summit “betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment” and would only give Iran “massive world media coverage” without hope of any change in the country’s behavior. Could it be that someone over in the McCain camp read Ambassador John Bolton’s column? If so, we can look forward to a much-needed starting point for an informed discussion of why and when we should be talking to our adversaries and who should be doing the talking.

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The Cost Of Talk

Ambassador John Bolton performs the invaluable service of explaining just what’s wrong with Barack Obama’s notion of unconditional talks with the world’s rogue state leaders. I will borrow the observation of my colleague Noah Pollak, who remarked to me that the average voter may not quite see what’s wrong with “talking to our enemies,” as Obama’s position is invariably and misleadingly phrased by mainstream media.

I share Bolton’s view that it is critical to explain why in certain exceptional cases, when no responsible negotiating partner is available and when the precious commodity of a presidential meeting is at issue, that the costs often outweigh the benefits of sitting down with leaders of terror-sponsoring states. But the logic of this position is hardly self-evident. Several of his prominent Democratic supporters don’t agree with Obama’s notion of unconditional, presidential talks with Ahmejinejad and other terror state leaders, but the mainstream media is loath to point that out or explain why even other liberal Democratic Senators don’t buy into his approach. It is therefore incumbent on John McCain to explain why this is so. McCain will need to articulate his own view, which, as Bolton puts it, is not “never talk to adversaries,” but rather “that negotiations should be used to resolve international disputes 99% of the time.” Bolton’s column seems an ideal starting point for that discussion.

Ambassador John Bolton performs the invaluable service of explaining just what’s wrong with Barack Obama’s notion of unconditional talks with the world’s rogue state leaders. I will borrow the observation of my colleague Noah Pollak, who remarked to me that the average voter may not quite see what’s wrong with “talking to our enemies,” as Obama’s position is invariably and misleadingly phrased by mainstream media.

I share Bolton’s view that it is critical to explain why in certain exceptional cases, when no responsible negotiating partner is available and when the precious commodity of a presidential meeting is at issue, that the costs often outweigh the benefits of sitting down with leaders of terror-sponsoring states. But the logic of this position is hardly self-evident. Several of his prominent Democratic supporters don’t agree with Obama’s notion of unconditional, presidential talks with Ahmejinejad and other terror state leaders, but the mainstream media is loath to point that out or explain why even other liberal Democratic Senators don’t buy into his approach. It is therefore incumbent on John McCain to explain why this is so. McCain will need to articulate his own view, which, as Bolton puts it, is not “never talk to adversaries,” but rather “that negotiations should be used to resolve international disputes 99% of the time.” Bolton’s column seems an ideal starting point for that discussion.

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Faith-Based Deterrence

“Some people imagine there is a building somewhere with a secret door they can open and find a group of scantily clad women enriching uranium.”

And with that unspeakably hilarious excuse, our chief North Korea negotiator, Christopher Hill of the State Department, has quipped America into submission. Today’s Wall Street Journal carries a piece by John Bolton about Mr. Hill and the startling failure of the American effort to disarm North Korea. Bolton writes:

According to numerous press reports and Mr. Hill’s April 10 congressional briefing, the U.S. will be expected to accept on faith, literally, North Korean assertions that it has not engaged in significant uranium enrichment, and that it has not proliferated nuclear technology or materials to countries like Syria and Iran.

Indeed, the North will not even make the declaration it earlier agreed to, but merely “acknowledge” that we are concerned about reports of such activities – which the United States itself will actually list. By some accounts, the North Korean statement will not even be public. In exchange for this utter nonperformance, the North will be rewarded with political “compensation” (its word): Concurrent with its “declaration,” it will be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and freed from the Trading With the Enemy Act.

Axis, schmaxis. As Bolton points out, the worst is yet to come. North Korea has been compensated for refusing to comply with the least intrusive of inspections. If Iran’s mullahs had ever considered being transparent about their own enrichment, they’re laughing about it now. The question of America’s role as the world’s police department is a debatable one. But if we’re  going to be the donut-chomping, overtime-collecting cop who was grandfathered into the force under outdated qualifications, who’s going to object? Only the nations we’ve pledged to protect, I suppose

“Some people imagine there is a building somewhere with a secret door they can open and find a group of scantily clad women enriching uranium.”

And with that unspeakably hilarious excuse, our chief North Korea negotiator, Christopher Hill of the State Department, has quipped America into submission. Today’s Wall Street Journal carries a piece by John Bolton about Mr. Hill and the startling failure of the American effort to disarm North Korea. Bolton writes:

According to numerous press reports and Mr. Hill’s April 10 congressional briefing, the U.S. will be expected to accept on faith, literally, North Korean assertions that it has not engaged in significant uranium enrichment, and that it has not proliferated nuclear technology or materials to countries like Syria and Iran.

Indeed, the North will not even make the declaration it earlier agreed to, but merely “acknowledge” that we are concerned about reports of such activities – which the United States itself will actually list. By some accounts, the North Korean statement will not even be public. In exchange for this utter nonperformance, the North will be rewarded with political “compensation” (its word): Concurrent with its “declaration,” it will be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and freed from the Trading With the Enemy Act.

Axis, schmaxis. As Bolton points out, the worst is yet to come. North Korea has been compensated for refusing to comply with the least intrusive of inspections. If Iran’s mullahs had ever considered being transparent about their own enrichment, they’re laughing about it now. The question of America’s role as the world’s police department is a debatable one. But if we’re  going to be the donut-chomping, overtime-collecting cop who was grandfathered into the force under outdated qualifications, who’s going to object? Only the nations we’ve pledged to protect, I suppose

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The Artificial Neocon

I know there are a few competing priorities, but at this moment in our long life as a nation I can think of no more urgent task for Congress than to pass emergency legislation banning the further use of the word “neocon.” At least until a committee of deep thinkers can get together to agree on a commonly accepted definition. (A starting point may be the Robert Kagan essay I referred to in an earlier posting.) Until that happens, its use will only continue to muddy and obfuscate the debate over otherwise important issues.

Exhibit 2,348,485 of this terminological confusion may be found on today’s front page of the New York Times. In an article entitled “2 Camps Trying to Influence McCain on Foreign Policy,” Times correspondents Elizabeth Bumiller and Larry Rohter posit a nonexistent death struggle between John McCain’s “neocon” advisers (including yours truly) and those of a more “pragmatic” bent. Several bloggers have already noted the article’s shoddy sourcing and tendentious nature.

For my part, I’m simply mystified by how Bumiller and Rohter decided to assign certain personages and policies and not others to the “neocon” camp. Why, for instance, is John Bolton a neocon and John Lehman a “pragmatist” (as the graphic that accompanies the article has it)? I have no idea–and I bet Bolton doesn’t either, since he has repeatedly said he’s not a neocon. Indeed, he’s been a vocal opponent of the idea that democracy promotion should be at the center of American foreign policy (as many neocons argue). A conservative yes, even a hawkish conservative, but not a neocon.

Support for the Iraq War cannot be the test of “neocon-ness.” It was supported by virtually all conservatives, neo- and otherwise, and by many liberals as well. Aware of this difficulty, Bumiller and Rohter imply that pragmatists display their superior wisdom by criticizing the conduct of the war effort. In assigning Colin Powell and Richard Armitage to the pragmatist camp, for example, they write:

While Mr. Powell and Mr. Armitage supported Mr. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq while they were in office, they have become critics of the management of the war.

By that standard, I’m a “pragmatist” too. So are Bob Kagan, Bill Kristol, Fred Kagan, and just about every other “neocon” you can think of.

Another test that Bumiller and Rohter seem to apply is willingness “to work more closely with allies” –something that pragmatists are for and neocons are supposedly against. Bumiller and Rohter write that, in a recent Los Angeles speech, McCain hewed to the pragmatist path because he “rejected the unilateralism that has been the hallmark of the Bush administration’s foreign policy in favor of what he called ‘being a good and reliable ally to our fellow democracies’.”

How do they square this with their earlier assertion that the “author who helped write much of the foreign policy speech that Mr. McCain delivered in Los Angeles on March 26″ was none other than arch-neocon Robert Kagan? Can it be that “neocons” might actually be in favor of working with other countries and not simply bombing them? What a revolutionary idea. Rest assured, it is not a thought that has ever entered the heads of the MSM–or at least affected their coverage.

I know there are a few competing priorities, but at this moment in our long life as a nation I can think of no more urgent task for Congress than to pass emergency legislation banning the further use of the word “neocon.” At least until a committee of deep thinkers can get together to agree on a commonly accepted definition. (A starting point may be the Robert Kagan essay I referred to in an earlier posting.) Until that happens, its use will only continue to muddy and obfuscate the debate over otherwise important issues.

Exhibit 2,348,485 of this terminological confusion may be found on today’s front page of the New York Times. In an article entitled “2 Camps Trying to Influence McCain on Foreign Policy,” Times correspondents Elizabeth Bumiller and Larry Rohter posit a nonexistent death struggle between John McCain’s “neocon” advisers (including yours truly) and those of a more “pragmatic” bent. Several bloggers have already noted the article’s shoddy sourcing and tendentious nature.

For my part, I’m simply mystified by how Bumiller and Rohter decided to assign certain personages and policies and not others to the “neocon” camp. Why, for instance, is John Bolton a neocon and John Lehman a “pragmatist” (as the graphic that accompanies the article has it)? I have no idea–and I bet Bolton doesn’t either, since he has repeatedly said he’s not a neocon. Indeed, he’s been a vocal opponent of the idea that democracy promotion should be at the center of American foreign policy (as many neocons argue). A conservative yes, even a hawkish conservative, but not a neocon.

Support for the Iraq War cannot be the test of “neocon-ness.” It was supported by virtually all conservatives, neo- and otherwise, and by many liberals as well. Aware of this difficulty, Bumiller and Rohter imply that pragmatists display their superior wisdom by criticizing the conduct of the war effort. In assigning Colin Powell and Richard Armitage to the pragmatist camp, for example, they write:

While Mr. Powell and Mr. Armitage supported Mr. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq while they were in office, they have become critics of the management of the war.

By that standard, I’m a “pragmatist” too. So are Bob Kagan, Bill Kristol, Fred Kagan, and just about every other “neocon” you can think of.

Another test that Bumiller and Rohter seem to apply is willingness “to work more closely with allies” –something that pragmatists are for and neocons are supposedly against. Bumiller and Rohter write that, in a recent Los Angeles speech, McCain hewed to the pragmatist path because he “rejected the unilateralism that has been the hallmark of the Bush administration’s foreign policy in favor of what he called ‘being a good and reliable ally to our fellow democracies’.”

How do they square this with their earlier assertion that the “author who helped write much of the foreign policy speech that Mr. McCain delivered in Los Angeles on March 26″ was none other than arch-neocon Robert Kagan? Can it be that “neocons” might actually be in favor of working with other countries and not simply bombing them? What a revolutionary idea. Rest assured, it is not a thought that has ever entered the heads of the MSM–or at least affected their coverage.

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Things Were Going Just Fine

John McCain had been on a roll going into Saturday’s elections, but his loss in Kansas and the close races in Louisiana and Washington stopped that short.

On Friday at CPAC, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton sung McCain’s praises and then heartily endorsed him on Saturday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Fred Thompson got on the McCain bandwagon too. The Wall Street Journal’s editors disparaged the notion that social conservatives should sit home or vote for Hillary Clinton ( “What they can’t do with any credibility is claim that helping to elect a liberal President will further the causes that these conservatives claim to believe most deeply in”) while President Reagan’s National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane doesn’t think much of the talk show critics’ suggestion that we hand management of the war over to one of the Democrats. Newt Gingrich recognizes the obvious ( “He’s had a lifetime voting record that’s dramatically more conservative than Clinton and Obama”) and Larry Kudlow voices support as well.

Bill Kristol thinks the anti-McCain sentiment among conservatives is exaggerated, and a simple account from the campaign trail reveals a obvious truth: lots of conservatives have supported McCain all along. Otherwise he wouldn’t be closing in on the magic delegate number of 1191. (A Newsweek poll shows 75% of conservatives and 69% of conservatives would be “happy” with McCain as the nominee.)

Nevertheless, the best thing McCain can do now is win the trio of primaries on Tuesday and Wisconsin the following week. I suspect that he won’t have any luck chasing Huckabee out of the race until he hits the winning total of 1191 delegates.

John McCain had been on a roll going into Saturday’s elections, but his loss in Kansas and the close races in Louisiana and Washington stopped that short.

On Friday at CPAC, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton sung McCain’s praises and then heartily endorsed him on Saturday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Fred Thompson got on the McCain bandwagon too. The Wall Street Journal’s editors disparaged the notion that social conservatives should sit home or vote for Hillary Clinton ( “What they can’t do with any credibility is claim that helping to elect a liberal President will further the causes that these conservatives claim to believe most deeply in”) while President Reagan’s National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane doesn’t think much of the talk show critics’ suggestion that we hand management of the war over to one of the Democrats. Newt Gingrich recognizes the obvious ( “He’s had a lifetime voting record that’s dramatically more conservative than Clinton and Obama”) and Larry Kudlow voices support as well.

Bill Kristol thinks the anti-McCain sentiment among conservatives is exaggerated, and a simple account from the campaign trail reveals a obvious truth: lots of conservatives have supported McCain all along. Otherwise he wouldn’t be closing in on the magic delegate number of 1191. (A Newsweek poll shows 75% of conservatives and 69% of conservatives would be “happy” with McCain as the nominee.)

Nevertheless, the best thing McCain can do now is win the trio of primaries on Tuesday and Wisconsin the following week. I suspect that he won’t have any luck chasing Huckabee out of the race until he hits the winning total of 1191 delegates.

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There Goes John Bolton Again

In order to justify its invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration cooked the intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. That is the allegation tirelessly hurled about by opponents of the war. Norman Podhoretz put paid to it in his Who is Lying About Iraq.

If turns out that if anyone has been doing the cooking, it has been the CIA and the broader intelligence community itself. The most recent glaring instance came with the recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran that opened with the flat — and flatly false — assertion “that in fall, 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

How did this come about? Are the institutions that produced this flawed estimate out of control? Michael McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, has been testifying today on Capitol Hill today about the threats facing the United States. Just in time, John Bolton has a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal raising the key questions about the NIE that McConnell should be asked.

Was the NIE’s opening salvo intended to produce policy consequences congenial to Mr. McConnell’s own sentiments? If not, how did he miss the obvious consequences that flowed from the NIE within minutes of its public release?

This was a sin of either commission or omission. If the intelligence community intended the NIE’s first judgment to have policy ramifications — in particular to dissuade the Bush administration from a more forceful policy against Iran — then it was out of line, a sin of commission.

If, on the other hand, Mr. McConnell and others missed the NIE’s explosive nature, then this is at best a sin of omission, and perhaps far worse. Will Mr. McConnell say he saw nothing significant in how the NIE was written?
Does he believe in fact that the first sentence is the NIE’s single most important point? If not, why was it the first sentence?

These are excellent questions all. When Bolton was named United Nations ambassador by President Bush, the New York Times called it a “terrible choice at a critical time.” As I noted in my review of Bolton’s UN memoir, let us hope that more such terrible choices lie ahead. The nation needs an intelligence director who, in Bolton’s words, can “commit the intelligence community to stick to its knitting — intelligence — and return its policy enthusiasts to agencies where policy is made.” Come to think of it, John Bolton would be an excellent candidate for the job.

In order to justify its invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration cooked the intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. That is the allegation tirelessly hurled about by opponents of the war. Norman Podhoretz put paid to it in his Who is Lying About Iraq.

If turns out that if anyone has been doing the cooking, it has been the CIA and the broader intelligence community itself. The most recent glaring instance came with the recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran that opened with the flat — and flatly false — assertion “that in fall, 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

How did this come about? Are the institutions that produced this flawed estimate out of control? Michael McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, has been testifying today on Capitol Hill today about the threats facing the United States. Just in time, John Bolton has a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal raising the key questions about the NIE that McConnell should be asked.

Was the NIE’s opening salvo intended to produce policy consequences congenial to Mr. McConnell’s own sentiments? If not, how did he miss the obvious consequences that flowed from the NIE within minutes of its public release?

This was a sin of either commission or omission. If the intelligence community intended the NIE’s first judgment to have policy ramifications — in particular to dissuade the Bush administration from a more forceful policy against Iran — then it was out of line, a sin of commission.

If, on the other hand, Mr. McConnell and others missed the NIE’s explosive nature, then this is at best a sin of omission, and perhaps far worse. Will Mr. McConnell say he saw nothing significant in how the NIE was written?
Does he believe in fact that the first sentence is the NIE’s single most important point? If not, why was it the first sentence?

These are excellent questions all. When Bolton was named United Nations ambassador by President Bush, the New York Times called it a “terrible choice at a critical time.” As I noted in my review of Bolton’s UN memoir, let us hope that more such terrible choices lie ahead. The nation needs an intelligence director who, in Bolton’s words, can “commit the intelligence community to stick to its knitting — intelligence — and return its policy enthusiasts to agencies where policy is made.” Come to think of it, John Bolton would be an excellent candidate for the job.

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Seymour Hersh’s Shot in The Dark

The Jerusalem Post noted yesterday that on Wolf Blitzer’s CNN show Seymour Hersh discussed an upcoming New Yorker piece in which he will disclose that “Israel did not have a clear idea of the nature of the facility it targeted in Syria in September 2007″ and that “the primary objective of the bombing was to send a forceful message to Iran.” The piece is appropriately titled “A Shot in the Dark.”

When I saw this, the first thing I thought of was John Bolton’s speech at the Herzliya Conference in Israel a couple of weeks ago. Bolton devoted a substantial portion of his talk to discussing the 2007 strike, and questioning why the Israeli and American governments have been so reticent on the nature of the target. Obviously, Bolton cannot explicitly reveal what happened. But his method of discussing the incident was to tiptoe around it so meticulously that the outline of what he thinks was targeted emerged with unmistakable clarity.

I haven’t been able to locate a finished transcript of his remarks, but the IDC (which sponsors the conference) has posted rough transcripts of the conference presentations, the excerpt of which below I’ve edited for spelling and typos:

The general public still doesn’t know the relationship between North Korea and Syria and whether it was a joint effort, a trade of supplies or something else. Our governments however do know the details and I wonder if that censorship and classification of information is necessary . . .

Syria with its domination by Iran wouldn’t be able to build a nuclear facility without, at least, the acquiescence of Iran. Even with Iranian permission Syria still has two problems. First they don’t have the capability; secondly they don’t have the money. As a solution to this North Korea could provide the capability while Iran, from its oil sales, could provide the money.

In this case it’s more than cooperation and more like a joint effort. I feel that it’s clear that there is more here that needs to be disclosed. I feel that there isn’t any need for either the Israeli or United States governments to reveal how they came about the intelligence or about how they knew of the facility. Nor do I believe that there is a need to disclose the classified information about the operation.

What should not be withheld is what the facility actually was and why it was withheld….Now there won’t be a Syrian retaliation and there does seem to be North Korean involvement, so why not say so?

The reason why the Israeli government isn’t disclosing any information means that there is more occurring here and this information is being withheld because of the possibly that North Korea was violating their agreement of the Six Party Talks and proliferating nuclear arms against [that] agreement.

As characterized by Bolton, the Israeli strike wasn’t much of a “shot in the dark” at all. It will be interesting to see what Hersh (who has a fondness for shocking revelations from anonymous government sources) has to say about it.

The Jerusalem Post noted yesterday that on Wolf Blitzer’s CNN show Seymour Hersh discussed an upcoming New Yorker piece in which he will disclose that “Israel did not have a clear idea of the nature of the facility it targeted in Syria in September 2007″ and that “the primary objective of the bombing was to send a forceful message to Iran.” The piece is appropriately titled “A Shot in the Dark.”

When I saw this, the first thing I thought of was John Bolton’s speech at the Herzliya Conference in Israel a couple of weeks ago. Bolton devoted a substantial portion of his talk to discussing the 2007 strike, and questioning why the Israeli and American governments have been so reticent on the nature of the target. Obviously, Bolton cannot explicitly reveal what happened. But his method of discussing the incident was to tiptoe around it so meticulously that the outline of what he thinks was targeted emerged with unmistakable clarity.

I haven’t been able to locate a finished transcript of his remarks, but the IDC (which sponsors the conference) has posted rough transcripts of the conference presentations, the excerpt of which below I’ve edited for spelling and typos:

The general public still doesn’t know the relationship between North Korea and Syria and whether it was a joint effort, a trade of supplies or something else. Our governments however do know the details and I wonder if that censorship and classification of information is necessary . . .

Syria with its domination by Iran wouldn’t be able to build a nuclear facility without, at least, the acquiescence of Iran. Even with Iranian permission Syria still has two problems. First they don’t have the capability; secondly they don’t have the money. As a solution to this North Korea could provide the capability while Iran, from its oil sales, could provide the money.

In this case it’s more than cooperation and more like a joint effort. I feel that it’s clear that there is more here that needs to be disclosed. I feel that there isn’t any need for either the Israeli or United States governments to reveal how they came about the intelligence or about how they knew of the facility. Nor do I believe that there is a need to disclose the classified information about the operation.

What should not be withheld is what the facility actually was and why it was withheld….Now there won’t be a Syrian retaliation and there does seem to be North Korean involvement, so why not say so?

The reason why the Israeli government isn’t disclosing any information means that there is more occurring here and this information is being withheld because of the possibly that North Korea was violating their agreement of the Six Party Talks and proliferating nuclear arms against [that] agreement.

As characterized by Bolton, the Israeli strike wasn’t much of a “shot in the dark” at all. It will be interesting to see what Hersh (who has a fondness for shocking revelations from anonymous government sources) has to say about it.

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State of the Union: Iran

Last night President Bush, in his State of the Union address, had a message for Tehran’s ayatollahs: “Verifiably suspend your nuclear enrichment, so negotiations can begin.” Then he demanded that they “come clean” about their “nuclear intentions and past actions.” What were missing were two essential words: “Or else.”

The omission is all the more significant because the President used tougher language for Iran on another topic. After listing a series of Iranian transgressions including the funding and training of militias in Iraq, he said, “But above all, know this: America will confront those who threaten our troops.”

I love ringing language from American presidents, but it’s time to examine its effect on Iranian leaders. If I were a mullah in Tehran, the word that would be going through my mind is the Farsi equivalent of “hollow.” After all, I know that I have been helping to kill American troops in Iraq for the past several years and President Bush hasn’t done anything of particular significance to me. Would I be right in concluding that he will not be doing anything more in the future? And if he won’t do anything about my killing more Americans, then why, in light of his use of “above all,” should I think he will do anything about my nuclear program?

President Bush may be coming to the end of his second term, but as the Wall Street Journal pointed out this morning, “even a lame duck President has more power to influence events than anyone else on the planet.” So he does not have an excuse. If he thought there is a diplomatic solution, he should have said so last night. If there is not—and none is in sight in my view—then he needed to tell the Iranians what is the price they will have to pay for their conduct. This morning John Bolton, interviewed by Bill Hemmer on the Fox News Channel, said that there were only two options left: regime change and the use of force. Agree with him or not, Bolton is one person who is talking about “or else.”

Last night President Bush, in his State of the Union address, had a message for Tehran’s ayatollahs: “Verifiably suspend your nuclear enrichment, so negotiations can begin.” Then he demanded that they “come clean” about their “nuclear intentions and past actions.” What were missing were two essential words: “Or else.”

The omission is all the more significant because the President used tougher language for Iran on another topic. After listing a series of Iranian transgressions including the funding and training of militias in Iraq, he said, “But above all, know this: America will confront those who threaten our troops.”

I love ringing language from American presidents, but it’s time to examine its effect on Iranian leaders. If I were a mullah in Tehran, the word that would be going through my mind is the Farsi equivalent of “hollow.” After all, I know that I have been helping to kill American troops in Iraq for the past several years and President Bush hasn’t done anything of particular significance to me. Would I be right in concluding that he will not be doing anything more in the future? And if he won’t do anything about my killing more Americans, then why, in light of his use of “above all,” should I think he will do anything about my nuclear program?

President Bush may be coming to the end of his second term, but as the Wall Street Journal pointed out this morning, “even a lame duck President has more power to influence events than anyone else on the planet.” So he does not have an excuse. If he thought there is a diplomatic solution, he should have said so last night. If there is not—and none is in sight in my view—then he needed to tell the Iranians what is the price they will have to pay for their conduct. This morning John Bolton, interviewed by Bill Hemmer on the Fox News Channel, said that there were only two options left: regime change and the use of force. Agree with him or not, Bolton is one person who is talking about “or else.”

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What John Bolton Just Said about Iran

A panel on the Iranian nuclear threat just wrapped up here at the Herzliya conference in Israel, and John Bolton answered an audience question with the following, which is not an exact quote (I was scribbling in a notebook as he spoke), but which if in error is not far off:

Make no mistake: The United States is not going to do anything about Iran. The U.S. hasn’t in the past, we have no policy now, and we’re not going to have one for the remainder of this administration. It’s not going to happen.

This was his most terse statement of these ideas; his speech, a transcript of which I’ll post as soon as I can locate one, explained all of the above in more depressing detail.

A panel on the Iranian nuclear threat just wrapped up here at the Herzliya conference in Israel, and John Bolton answered an audience question with the following, which is not an exact quote (I was scribbling in a notebook as he spoke), but which if in error is not far off:

Make no mistake: The United States is not going to do anything about Iran. The U.S. hasn’t in the past, we have no policy now, and we’re not going to have one for the remainder of this administration. It’s not going to happen.

This was his most terse statement of these ideas; his speech, a transcript of which I’ll post as soon as I can locate one, explained all of the above in more depressing detail.

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John Bolton’s Profound Mistake

North Korea, almost completely sealed off from the world, mired in Communist stasis, and forging ahead with a nuclear-weapons program, is a deeply mysterious place. But is its behavior any more mysterious than that of the United States?

Back in February, six-party talks produced an agreement for North Korea to abandon its nuclear-weapons program in exchange for a generous package of foreign aid. January 1, 2008 was the deadline for it to reveal all the details of what it had been up to. But here we are on January 3, and it is evident that North Korea is planning to turn its homework in late, if it ever turns it in at all.

How is the Bush administration reacting to this latest broken promise, one of dozens that dot the five-year history of this latest attempt to persuade Pyongyong to negotiate away its weapons? “It’s unfortunate, but we are going to keep working on this,” are the words uttered by a State Department spokesman in response. Kim Jong Il must be trembling in his boots.

The United States has been engaged in a diplomatic charade, and that is the title of an op-ed in today’s USA Today by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute, which begins: “Once and for all: Can we please stop pretending that Kim Jong Il is negotiating with us in good faith?”

But this charade is no parlor game. Eberstadt explains what has already transpired and what is at stake in the years ahead:

Viewed without illusion, these vaunted denuclearization talks with North Korea have in practice provided diplomatic cover for Pyongyang to achieve its long-desired status as a nuclear weapons state. And, by the way, any American official who thinks Kim Jong Il wouldn’t dare sell his nuclear wares abroad is off in a dream world.

Connecting the Dots admits to being baffled by American behavior. Is President Bush kicking this dangerous can down the road for a Hillary or Obama or a Huckabee to handle? Back in September, John Bolton courageously dissented from the Bush administration he had only just served to call the continuing American participation in the negotiation charade a “profound mistake.” Unfortunately, he has once again been proved right. 

 

North Korea, almost completely sealed off from the world, mired in Communist stasis, and forging ahead with a nuclear-weapons program, is a deeply mysterious place. But is its behavior any more mysterious than that of the United States?

Back in February, six-party talks produced an agreement for North Korea to abandon its nuclear-weapons program in exchange for a generous package of foreign aid. January 1, 2008 was the deadline for it to reveal all the details of what it had been up to. But here we are on January 3, and it is evident that North Korea is planning to turn its homework in late, if it ever turns it in at all.

How is the Bush administration reacting to this latest broken promise, one of dozens that dot the five-year history of this latest attempt to persuade Pyongyong to negotiate away its weapons? “It’s unfortunate, but we are going to keep working on this,” are the words uttered by a State Department spokesman in response. Kim Jong Il must be trembling in his boots.

The United States has been engaged in a diplomatic charade, and that is the title of an op-ed in today’s USA Today by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute, which begins: “Once and for all: Can we please stop pretending that Kim Jong Il is negotiating with us in good faith?”

But this charade is no parlor game. Eberstadt explains what has already transpired and what is at stake in the years ahead:

Viewed without illusion, these vaunted denuclearization talks with North Korea have in practice provided diplomatic cover for Pyongyang to achieve its long-desired status as a nuclear weapons state. And, by the way, any American official who thinks Kim Jong Il wouldn’t dare sell his nuclear wares abroad is off in a dream world.

Connecting the Dots admits to being baffled by American behavior. Is President Bush kicking this dangerous can down the road for a Hillary or Obama or a Huckabee to handle? Back in September, John Bolton courageously dissented from the Bush administration he had only just served to call the continuing American participation in the negotiation charade a “profound mistake.” Unfortunately, he has once again been proved right. 

 

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