Saturday, March 19, 2011

John Bolton should shut up.

In a speech to the California Republican Party, John Bolton slammed the Obama administration for "dithering" on Libya.  Had he been president, Bolton said, he would have unilaterally declared a no-fly zone right away, which might have tipped the balance, and "the whole thing might be over."  Of course, that is easy to say in hindsight, and it's easy to say when you have the luxury of not having to accept the consequences of your decisions.  But there are some problems with your suggestion, John.  For one thing, the Libyan rebels were not asking for that kind of assistance at that time, particularly unilateral American assistance, which could have fed into Qaddafi's narrative that the rebels were some kind of foreign-backed force bent on attacking the sovereignty of Libya. Apart from being potentially counter-productive, what would have been the legal basis for American unilateral action? Do we have the right to attack other countries whenever we feel like it? When we had a large scale rebellion in our country in 1861, would we have appreciated it if a stronger power had decided it had the right to bring down our elected government? In this case, the gross human rights violations engaged in by Qadaffi's government, by attacking peaceful civilian protests, do warrant international action, but it has to be done within a proper legal framework.  And it has to be done with consideration of the reaction of other nations, such as Russia and China. As much as we want to help the Libyan people, we also don't want to start World War III over Libya.

One would expect, given John Bolton's readiness to send the Marines to Tripoli once again, that when he was in power, he would have advocated the kind of strong action he is criticizing the Obama administration for not adopting.  Lo and behold, however, at the time John Bolton was serving as US Ambassador to the United Nations, in 2006, we were doing precisely the opposite.  That was the time when the US decided to normalize relations with Libya, removing Libya from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and expanding trade.  Did we hear John Bolton back then criticizing the Bush administration's decision to make nice with Libya?  We did not.  By the way, I'm not suggesting that it was wrong for us to seek rapprochement with Libya a few years ago.  The only thing I am suggesting is in the title of this post.

From the report of Bolton's speech last night, it does appear that he made one intelligent comment.  Bolton said that "The inadequacy of our debate on national security issues is going to come back to haunt us."  The 2012 Republican nominee "has to be prepared on some evening in October to debate President Obama on national security issues and they better be ready for it."  From the looks of things, neither Bolton or any other prospective Republican nominee is ready for prime time on foreign policy issues.

9 comments:

  1. Another iteration of a B-quality late-night horror movie we've seen many times before, entitled: "Tough Talk From Guys On Viagra Who Avidly Supported the Viet Nam War In Their Day But Found a Nice Reserve Unit for Themselves When It Came to Serve". Yup, Bolton was one of the happy-go-lucky crowd such as Dick Armey, Dick Cheney etc who talked the talk but were too chicken to walk the walk. Bolton for President? Dumbest idea of the Century - He makes Giuliani look like Mr. Personality.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't see the "legal" reason for the military actions being taken now in Libya.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The legal justification is set forth in the Security Council Resolution. The text is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/17/un-security-council-resolution

    I would have to study it more closely to give you a better answer, but there is precedent for this kind of intervention. Bosnia and Kosovo, for example, presented a civil war situation in which NATO asserted the right to intervene.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great photo -- I can see a hot tub out on the balcony behind MQ.

    << When we had a large scale rebellion in our country in 1861, would we have appreciated it if a stronger power had decided it had the right to bring down our elected government? >>

    Military support would have been appreciated by many! Thank goodness they were left wanting. Unless your side wins somebody is always disappointed. Even following peacefull elections.

    << In this case, the gross human rights violations engaged in by Qadaffi's government, by attacking peaceful civilian protests, do warrant international action >>

    Exactly. Action is warranted.

    Bolton is critical of Obama. Right or wrong it comes with the Presidency. It's up to us to remain open minded, educated and then agree or disagree. I would think criticism of Obama would be understandable to you. Obama's actions on foreign policy have been closer to Bush's than any of us would have imagined. Nobody got hammered more than Bush.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I do understand that criticism is part of the job. But it still bugs me that no matter what the president does, he is going to get criticized by the same people. If he used the military in Libya right away, he would have been criticized for that. If he held back longer, he would have been criticized for that. If he lets the French take the lead, he will be criticized. If he had decided to have us take the lead, he would be criticized. If he goes to Brazil, he is criticized. If he had canceled his trip to Brazil, he would be criticized.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You nailed it. It was the same for Bush and Clinton and those before them. Similarly, there are those that refuse to criticize Obama no matter what he does -- even when they disagree. It was the same for Bush, Clinton and those before them. I take note of that when I listen, watch and read. No President is always right or wrong. If I don't hear some of both from a source I can assume the source has an agenda (like a press secretary).

    ReplyDelete
  7. Airpower won't really do much. All show and no go. I don't think we should insert troops, either. On this one, I have to say I don't see what we're really getting ourselves into.

    ReplyDelete
  8. On this one I would like to see the French be strong. I think they have what it takes. I think they have heard the wake up call. I think they are four years ahead of the far left in our country. They may be able to lead Europe in a new direction. What a relief that would be.

    ReplyDelete