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.
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.