U.S. Foreign Policy-Making; Ambassador Bolton, Frankly, Stands on the Front Lines

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 26, 2007 | Go to article overview

U.S. Foreign Policy-Making; Ambassador Bolton, Frankly, Stands on the Front Lines


Byline: Helle Dale, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Many of us cheered loudly when President Bush announced the inspired choice of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations in 2005. As one of the most hardnosed and down-to-earth policy-makers in Washington, Mr. Bolton seemed just the man for the job, an ambassador in the mold of Jeane Kirkpatrick who would not be possessed by clientitis. Meanwhile, Democrats and foreign media alike gasped at the choice.

Though Senate Democrats and certain "wet" Republicans refused to confirm Mr. Bolton (and the president then made a recess appointment), he was as effective an ambassador as is possible in the hostile environment of the United Nations. But as someone who is both highly intelligent and very outspoken, Mr. Bolton was far from your typical diplomat. As Sen. Joe Biden noted during Mr. Bolton's confirmation hearings as undersecretary of state for arms control in 2001, "My problem with you over the years is that you have been too competent."

Mr. Bolton's experience at the United Nations and in his various jobs in the State Department is the subject of his much-anticipated new book - anticipated with some trepidation at the United Nations, one might add. "Surrender is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" arrived in the bookstores just in time for Christmas, and as a firsthand account of life in Foggy Bottom and Turtle Bay, it is an amazing blow-by-blow description from the front lines.

At the Heritage Foundation last week, Mr. Bolton spoke about the motivation for writing the book, about his desire to allow sunshine in to illuminate the mysterious ways of U.S. foreign policy in the making. "A senior State Department official once said to me," he noted, "If the American people knew how we make foreign policy, they would come after us with pitchforks."

"If the book does well, so will the pitchfork sales."

"Surrender is not an Option" is about what happens when a Republican president meets the permanent foreign-policy bureaucracy. One of Mr. Bolton's banner causes while at the United Nations - a cause embraced by the Bush administration - was institutional U.N. reform. Even in the context of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's own commission of reform, Mr. Bolton found that producing real change was a Sisyphusian task, as every move proposed by Mr. Annan seemed to make things worse, not better. (Recall that Mr. Bolton caused a stir by describing the new Human Rights Council as "a caterpillar with lipstick," rather than a butterfly. …

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