When I wrote a book about the Bush White House, Communications Director Dan Bartlett e-mailed key officials asking them to give me interviews.
At the State Department, I interviewed Secretary of State Colin Powell. A State Department press officer set up another interview with one of Powell’s key deputies. That interview, which was not for attribution, was like stepping into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Unabashedly, the State Department official lambasted the president over his alleged lack of brains and what he called his “cowboy” mentality.
That encounter came to mind as I was reading John Bolton’s "Surrender Is Not An Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad," which is being published this week. Bolton’s experiences at what the CIA calls the “mush factory” spotlight the fact that the State Department has a mind of its own.
Things were not much better at the dysfunctional United Nations, where Bolton later served.
“The first, and perhaps most revolutionary thing I wanted to do, was to start meetings on time,” he writes.
Bolton states that Iran will never voluntarily give up nuclear weapons. Expecting Iran to abandon its nuclear program is “the road to the Nuclear Holocaust.” While the policy pursued by the Bush administration toward Iran was to offer “carrots and sticks,” it was really about offering “lots of carrots,” he says.
After Bolton learned of the decision that the United States would engage in direct talks with Iran along with the European Union if the regime agreed to cease uranium enrichment, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice invited Bolton to dinner at a chic French restaurant, Aquarelle. She wanted to discuss the decision and ask him to spin it positively to the media.
“In response,” Bolton writes, “for my appetizer, I ordered carrot soup.”
Bolton, the son of a Baltimore firefighter, graduated from Yale and went on to Yale Law School, where he studied under Robert Bork.
Bolton rails about the entrenched bureaucracy within the State Department, where he was undersecretary of state. He says it often tries to set policy rather than implement the administration’s policy. Careerists there are overwhelmingly liberal and suffer from a disorder Bolton calls “clientitus,” promoting the interests of their own regions.
Bolton’s observations are often insightful. He says the State Department is afflicted by “moral equivalency,” which he calls a “disease of the sophisticated.” Thus, Palestinian terrorist attacks and Israeli defensive responses are condemned equally as contributing to the “cycle of violence.” in the region.
Bolton says members of the European Union suffer from an “inability to see dangers just over the horizon.” He refers to foreign policy elites as the “High Minded” and Europeans as “EUroids.” As for Russia, its policies are “based on a form of racism, a view that North Korea and Iranians are not capable of mounting truly serious threats to Russian interests.”
But Bolton makes the mistake of many in the media who assume that Bush is led around by the nose by key advisers. Bush listens to advisers and then makes up his own mind.
And Bolton’s supreme self-confidence is such that he never makes the point that, on those areas where he and the Bush administration differ, we will not know for many years whether he, or the president, was right.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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