I spoke with former U.N. ambassador John Bolton on Friday afternoon. He told me that Newt Gingrich hadn’t spoken to him about becoming secretary of state before Gingrich popped out with that suggestion in a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition. Bolton, however, has communicated with Gingrich and some of his opponents on foreign policy matters more generally. Bolton tells me, “My objective is to raise the saliency of foreign policy issues.” Right now that means he’s not endorsing anyone, but that might change.
We also talked briefly about Iran. Not surprisingly, since Bolton has been warning of the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran for several years, he’s very dismayed by the Obama administration’s approach. As for the downed drone, he says, “There may be operational reasons not to destroy it. It’s impossible to tell these things from the outside.”But he sees a “disturbing signal” in the administration’s professed concern that taking out the drone would “be an act of war.” The ayatollahs will use any excuse, they can find, he tells me. The fact that the administration is so obviously reluctant to bother the Iranian regime is alarming to him. Moreover, it sure doesn’t bode well for the notion that we can “contain” a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.
I also ask him about the proposed new Iran sanctions and the administration efforts to water them down. He stops me right away. “I don’t consider these new sanctions,” he says. These are simply adding more entities and individuals to the list of barred entities covered by existing sanctions, he explains. As to why the administration is trying to water them down, he offers two possible explanations. “They still want to negotiate with the Iranians,” he speculates. So we don’t want to get them too mad, you see. The second, he says, may be the administration’s concern that broader sanctions will hurt “average” people. That’s another way of saying, he argues, that Iran is going to be able to get the bomb. If you want sanctions that don’t disturb the recipients, you really aren’t serious about sanctions.
Bolton’s no-nonsense approach to foreign policy is a breath of fresh air compared to the equivocation and obfuscation you get from the administration. He’s also been proven correct — most especially on North Korea’s and Iran’s insistence on pursuing nuclear weapons (and the failure of “engagement” to stop them in two administrations) and on the dark side of the Arab Spring, which is increasingly Islamist and anti-Western in tone.
Come to think of it, the GOP might consider cutting out the middle man and getting Bolton to run for president. (He considered running for some time.) The Republicans could, and almost certainly will, do a lot worse.