The almost hour long show was both intellectual and humorous, and gave the listener an inside of view of John Bolton and his new book, Surrender Is Not an Option, Defending America at the United Nations. I am posting the entire interview I transcribed, and encourage all who read it to get your hands on a copy of the book. It’s a must read. KGS
Hey I’m back, the “great one is back”. No no not me, Ambassador John Bolton, is with me, today. Yeah that’s right, at least it looks like him, and it sounds like him, so if he speaks like him. I…. want to wish you a very happy afternoon Ambassador Bolton.
JB: Thank you, glad to be here Atlas.
Atlas: On the behalf of all of my readers, I want to thank you for your Sisyphean tasks over there at the UN. I don’t know if you were ever properly appreciated or thanked for the enormous work you did on the behalf of the American people, it was the American people that you spoke for, and my readers and I, we know that and we appreciate it, because frankly very few speak for us.
JB: Well I appreciate you saying that, and I thank you as well and your readers to, and everybody who worked on the confirmation battles I had in 2005 and 2006. Now I think probably the most rewarding part of the entire experience, was the number of people I never met, had no contact with, who supported the nomination, who thought I was being mistreated, and really stood up for somebody to go to the United Nations who would speak for the American people, and it really gave me a lot of moral boost during some difficult times to know that a lot of people, who didn’t have any personal stake in this at all, didn’t know me from Adam. but were willing to write, or call their congressman, and express their views on the subject. So this is a chance to say thanks to you and thanks to all of them.
Atlas: Well I just want to say that I am sure that some of Mr.Voinovich’s constituents will make him pay dearly. I know that this has nothing to do with you and you’re not advocating it, but I’m speaking on the behalf of me and the people that feel the way that I do. I don’t know if Lincoln Chaffee is sweeping the streets, but if he is I’m surprised that he’s employed. That notwithstanding…
JB: But just remember that Senator Voinovich came around at the end…..
Atlas: Oh puhleeze…
JB: (Laughter) And was going to the support the nomination… (unclear, perhaps I missed a word?)
Atlas: Let me tell you something, “too much too little too late.” Sorry Ambassador Bolton, it’s like if your crazy about a guy and all of a sudden he shows up at your door three years later. “Whooo cares”, ok? If he had done it then it would have been over and done with you would have been there. Although I’ve gotta say with the way things went I think you would have struggled subsequently but I don’t want to jump over your life. I want to go a little bit in chronological order. You have a new book in the stores, today?
JB: Today, right.
Atlas: Surrender is not an Option. Is that your middle name? Where you born .., is that on your birth certificate?
JB: No (laughter) but it’s a, I think that it’s a good summary of a lot of the struggles that I’ve faced at the State department and at the United Nations. Really what I wanted to do in writing the book was tell the “inside story”, about what happens at the State Department, and what happens at the UN when people say “how could the State Department have come up with this position or that position, what could have they have been thinking?” This is a way of showing that, and likewise at the UN when people shake their heads and say “we can’t understand why America is always the target of criticism, why Israel is the target of criticism.” This I hope will take people behind the scenes and in a very candid way and explain why.
Atlas: Actually from what I was able to peruse, I do have a mole or two in the publishing business, I was a publisher of a newspaper once, so I do have my little connections. I have to say that it’s really like a permanent bureaucracy 101. You really explain “how and why” the presidential policy does not get put into effect or how it gets undermined.
JB: Right, will this is especially true for Republican presidents because the State Department, over the decades, has developed a culture that really is a mind of its own, and deep inside many people in the foreign service think that “they should make foreign policy” not the elected president and his appointees. There are many foreign service officers, many people at the State Department who are good and loyal civil servants, and I don’t want to overstate the problem, but there is no doubt that the predominant view at State, is not friendly to conservative or Republican administrations.
Atlas: Nah, I don’t believe that you could overstate the problem. But lets start from the beginning. You’re born.
JB: That’s where it usually starts. (laughter)
Atlas: You’re an American citizen, you were born in Baltimore.
Atlas: Ah, your mother had a little bit of a Delaware, socialist background there.
Atlas: You want to tell us a little bit about that John?
JB: Well she was eh, she said that she used to date Duponts when she was much younger, but then like many people of her generation, she thought of herself as a socialist at one point, but she and my father got past that.
Atlas: And your father was a fire fighter.
JB: Right, for the city of Baltimore.
Atlas: A hero, we know how heroic it can be, ya know 9/11
Atlas: The quintessential fire fighter moment.
Atlas: And they were, what were their politics?
JB: Well, they were pretty apolitical, for most of their lives, although they did come to ultimately register as Republicans. My father had a tough time doing that, when he went to work as a fire fighter for the city of Baltimore, after getting out of World war II and knocking around for a few years. He went down to the city hall in Baltimore to register to fill out the form and to register as a Republican and showed his employment as he worked for the city of Baltimore. So he turned his form in, and the clerk said that “there is a mistake here, it say that you’re registering as a Republican?” My father said, “yeah”, and the clerk said “it also says that your employer is the city of Baltimore?” My father said “yeah”, and this is were the story grows over the years if you know what I mean (laughter)? But the point was, that a city employee was not supposed to register as anything other than a Democrat. And to make a long story short, my father registered as an independent and kept his job, but he never forgot that incident.
Atlas: No but it was telling, certainly telling for the future.
Atlas: So I’m fascinated by your young background. You were a Goldwater advocate.
JB: In 1964, I did, I supported Barry Goldwater. That was my first election campaign.
Atlas: How old were you?
JB: I was fifteen at the time.
Atlas: So you were fifteen and you were a supporter of Goldwater? That takes an incredible amount of sagacity and depth I mean I was worried if Marsha Brady’s nose was broken when they threw that basketball at her nose, you know in the Brady Bunch. This is what I was concerned with, now, (laughter) no comparison to yours, but how did you get there? What were you doing in ninth grade?
JB: (Laughter) Well I was always interested in political philosophy, and actually in the ninth grade that’s one of the things that we studied in a course on western civilization, And one of the things that I did was actually read the Communist Manifesto at the time, and unlike many young people who read it and are attracted to it, I read it and I was appalled by it. And that’s what really propelled me into the direction of conservatism. So I’ve always been a conservative, that’s why I’m not a “neoconservative”. You know the definition of a neoconservative is a Liberal who has been “mugged by reality”. (Laughter) And I’ve never been a Liberal.
In Barry Goldwater’s books, “The Conscience of the Conservative”, and Why not Victory”, I really found a lot of inspiration. One of the things Goldwater said in “The Conscience of the Conservative”, is that his objective in coming to Washington, “was to repeal old laws, not pass new ones”. I really thought that was right on target.
Atlas: So when you were young, originally what did you want to be when you grew up?
JB: Well, originally I wanted to go into the foreign service, and when I was applying for college, I applied to the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, because I thought that that’s what I would do. And ultimately when I went to Yale, I decided to become a lawyer instead, but my interest had always been in international affairs and that’s what I majored in as an undergraduate.
Atlas: Why Yale, why not Harvard or Princeton?
JB: Well I thought Yale was a place to go that had attracted me for a lot of reasons, and I applied there in Georgetown, Stanford and in a couple of other places, but was accepted at Yale and decided to go there, and I had two friends there and I liked what I saw.
Atlas: Ok, so lets fast forward it a little bit. Just your career, ok seminal moments of your career. You went on to, just list your positions, you were undersecretary, for arms control…
JB: In the Bush 43 administration I was Undersecretary of State for arms control and international security affairs before I was Ambassador to the UN, but I have been in earlier administrations too. I have been at the US Agency for International Development under Reagan during his first term. In his second term I came back to work for Ed Meese at the Justice Department where we went through the Bork confirmation battles, his nomination for Supreme Court. In the Bush 41 administration I worked for Jim Baker as an Assistant Secretary for International Organizations, which was basically overseeing the entire UN system, so I have been fortunate to be in three different Republican administrations in a wide variety of positions.
Atlas: Well we were very lucky to have you at the UN, it was not the job you had originally had wanted?
JB: No, but I’ve always been fascinated by the UN, and really my first encounter with it was in 1981 when I was at the Agency for International Development, and I’ve written about it, studied it, had been involved for four years in the Bush 41 administration in UN affairs, so I knew a whole lot about the UN, I knew where the bodies were buried, I knew where the skeletons were in the closet. I think frankly that’s one reason there was such opposition to me because you know, everybody who comes to a job brings some attributes, some things they know about it, and some things they don’t know about it, just fortuitously I happen to know a lot about the UN, which many UN ambassadors, many US ambassadors to the UN “didn’t know about it” when they took the job. So I came in knowing where the targets were, and I think that bothered some.
Atlas: You were like the teacher who came into the unruly classroom when there hadn’t been a teacher there for a long time.
JB: Well I think, I would like to say it was a “target rich” environment in New York and it remains so to this day. It’s a nearly impossible institution to reform, because most of the member governments “are very satisfied the way it is”, and it acts as a restraint typically on the United States, and I think that’s very bad on our interests. So when we try and assert American interests in the UN, it produces a negative reaction.
Atlas: The thing about the UN, I want to discuss the UN for a moment. It seems that the anti-Semitism is almost innate, you in the book assign to attacking/poking America in the eye.
JB: Right. well I think that certainly there’s an inherent bias against Israel, and really an anti-Semitic bias that permeates the organization because for many years it was a struggle, it was a place where the struggle against Israel could be carried out more successfully by Israel’s enemies than they could in the real world.
Jointly: “The battlefield.”
JB: The battlefield. The Arab states were “continually defeated”, they couldn’t break America’s strong bond with Israel. So what they tried to do is to create a new political reality in New York, and force Israel to fight against them on terrain that was inherently hard for the Israelis to succeed in. And by doing that, in trying to create an alternative reality, they attempted to put Israel into a position it couldn’t sustain what its military strength, its political and economic strength got for it in the real world. But I think also during that entire time, Israel became a surrogate for the United States, that it was frequently easier for countries from the Third World, generally from the Communist countries during the Cold War to attack Israel, a much smaller country.
But to attack it along lines and using principles that if applied to the United States would be very harmful to us as well. So even though Israel may seem like it’s the biggest target, and it is because it’s Israel, it’s also because it bears a disproportionate burden of attacks that would have come our way if many of these countries had the spine to try and do it.
Atlas: Speaking of disproportionate. When you were at the UN, that was the “buzz word” upon Israel’s response to the Hezbollah and Israel war. Did you think that was a disproportionate response?
JB: Not at all, and this is actually a very important case study in how things that Israel does and is criticized for are really targets representing the United States. In the case of the Israel / Hezbollah war, the argument was, “that after all, the only thing, all that Hezbollah had done was fire a few rockets in northern Israel, kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, kill three Israeli soldiers. What was the Israeli response? A punishing air and ground campaign against Hezbollah, against the political infrastructure of Hezbollah, against Hezbollah assets in southern Lebanon, trying to break the political structure of the Hezbollah movement, as well as its military structure.
Now, there are a lot of things about Israel’s campaign you could criticize, is there is a larger issue here? But lets just take the question of Israel’s response. Israel was acting in self defense, it had been under attack by Hezbollah for decades. And on this occasion it decided to go after the basic threat itself. The argument that it was using disproportionate force, implies that the response should have been, well, “Israel should fire a few rockets into Lebanon, Israel should kidnap two Hezbollah soldiers and kill three Hezbollah fighters.” Is that a proportionate response? The answer is, when you’re acting in self defense against an existing, continuing persistent threat, “of course you can employ more force than was originally directed against you”.
The disproportionate force argument applied to American history, lets take the attack on Pearl Harbor. Was our response limited to sinking an equivalent number of Japanese aircraft carriers and battleships that they sank in Pearl Harbor? “Obviously not”, we had been attacked, and we were facing a mortal enemy. That’s the way Israel viewed Hezbollah.
Atlas: I would like to stay on that subject, because I see a diversion in policy. For me, and purely as a laymen, the turning point seemed to be that war. Prior to that, you had Bush, “very firm” on the Bush Doctrine, “very firm” on you know, “you either or with us or against us”, and then he made certain remarks like, when they said was there anything that you regret? First he said, Abu Ghraib, “Hellooo”….ok, and then he said, he regretted saying “bring it on”.
Atlas: Now, I have to tell you that I prefer “bring it on Bush”. Not that I, we want violence, but meaning “hey listen, if you are going to fool with us, we’re going to kill ya”. I mean, when a distinct change (Unclear to me, please check “when this thing changed” ?) , a real change, diplomacy at any or all cost. First of all you must see this NORK nuke deal going down, you must be vomiting?
JB: Yeah, well as I explain in the book, one of the reasons that I was concerned about continuing at the UN, was the handling of North Korea, but also the Israel and Hezbollah war and the subject of Iran. And the change in the Bush foreign policy in the second term moved away from the principles he articulated in the 2000 campaign and during his first term in office. I’m not a psychologist, I can’t describe for you all of the reasons why this change took place. Many people attribute it to a search for a legacy, from Secretary Rice and the administration. I think in part it’s because of the persistence of the State Department bureaucracy that was pushing a line on North Korea and the Middle East “for years” before the Bush administration came into power, and continued to push it afterwards. But for whatever reason, that’s a complex question, but for whatever reason I think the administration’s policies as it heads into its last year in office are very different from the kinds of policies that it pursued in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and I think that’s a big risk for the United States.
Atlas: When you say a legacy, what better legacy than the Bush Doctrine? What a brilliant and bold legacy that could that have been, what’s the legacy here, appeasement? I’m not understanding that, “and I can’t believe that it was sold to him, I don’t understand how it was sold to him”.
JB: Well it’s a, I think that one thing that’s happened in the second term is that there are “fewer voices” in the administration that argue for the original policies as are articulated in the first term, and you can go down the list in terms of Arab/Israeli affairs or the Iranian nuclear weapons program or the North Korean nuclear weapons program, where the administration has diverged. This is one reason, frankly, why I think that the 2008 elections is so consequential from the point of view of American national security because, we face threats in the world from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism, that if not dealt with will plague us for decades to come. So the decision we make on the next president is going to be ver very important, and if the next president “inherits” a situation that’s “already deteriorated” dramatically from where it is now, it will make some already very difficult circumstances, much much more difficult.
Atlas: So you agree with many of us that we’re at a critical juncture in American history.
JB: well I think that’s right, and you know, it’s certainly a much better world now that the Cold war is over, we don’t face the threat of international communism, but we face a different kind of threat. We face the threat of Islamic fundamentalism in countries around the world, and including this threat in the United States and in Europe, and a threat that will be inconceivably worse if the terrorists get nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. And if you look at the documents that we found in Afghanistan about Al-Qaida’s founding, just documents that tell of al-Qaida’s structure. They have a military department, political department, administration department, all that sort of thing. The military department had four committees, training, operations, research and nuclear weapons.
So, from the outset, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups have recognized that weapons of mass destruction are incredible force multiplier for them. And now we see with the potential instability in Pakistan, dozens of nuclear weapons perhaps escaping from the control of the Musharraf government, falling under a radical Islamist regime, or even if that doesn’t happen, being taken away from the military, or dissidents from within the military selling or giving these weapons away to terrorist groups that we might not be able to find till they are actually used.
Atlas: Do you think that creeping Sharia in America is as big a threat as the nukes coming out of lets say Pakistan? Do you see that as a threat?
JB: I don’t see it as much of a threat in the United States as it is in Europe, because I think that in the United States we have made the melting pot into something that’s unique in the world, and the melting pot means, “you can come from anywhere, you can come from any background, any ethnic group, any geographical region, any religion, any culture and you can become an American.” You don’t have to lose your heritage, but you have to go through a process of assimilation. A hundred years ago our ancestors didn’t have any trouble in saying that’s exactly what we want. They changed peoples’ names, they put them through a lot of changes but we all became Americans.
The problem we face today, is immigrants, they want all the advantages of being an American, but they don’t want to give up any of the advantages they brought from outside the country. And here’s one thing that was critical to America’s success, and that’s the separation of church and state.
JB: We could not have as diverse a country as we have without that being critical. Now, sometimes we have over done it, I don’t think that there is any doubt about that, basically we say, religion is an individual’s choice, they can pursue it any way they want, but it stops when you come into the public arena. And when you have, as we face today, in some forms of Islam, the absolute merger of church and state. This is just fundamentally contradictory to a basic precept of the way Americans live. Now, we’ve had plenty of candidates, office holders who think that religion is extremely important to them, to how they derive their philosophies, and how they act in the world, that is all perfectly legitimate.
What’s not legitimate is to say that my religion exists independently of the state itself, and if you look at judicial decisions in Europe where the Europeans without this benefit that we’ve had of large numbers of immigrants coming into their countries, and don’t know how to handle the claims being made that Sharia should apply to Muslims and some other law should apply to everybody else. This is a real problem in Europe that they’re in the midst of real denial about. I don’t think we face that in the United States, but I think what’s critical is that we maintain the melting pot attitude, and some people say that’s inconsistent with multiculturalism, and I say that “so be it”, because it’s the melting pot, and I think that it’s made America the great country that it is.
Atlas: Well when I allude to creeping Sharia, and I’m talking about you know, the public schools, the public school madrassas, the public schools, not charter schools, there are Arabic, teaching in Arabic culture. That is a form of jihad, a different form of jihad, that’s an academic jihad, or in Houston, you know three chapters on Islam, one specifically on the prophet Mohamed. This seems to me like the same willful ignorance that you just described in Europe?
JB: Yeah, I think that there are problems that we’ve seen in parts of the United States, I don’t mean to say that it doesn’t exist, but I think that we face a qualitatively different situation than the Europeans. Because they have never had to deal, at least in the past many centuries, with the waves of immigration that we’ve had. They have trouble in Western Europe today, having admitted Poland as a member of the European Union, they now complain that all these Polish electricians, plumbers (background laughter) are taking jobs away from good French and German and British working people. And that shows that inside Europe they have difficulties with the kind of integration that we accepted, decades or even the last century.
So when they’re confronted with this migration that they face from North Africa and the Middle East, and the rising share of their population that come from these different heritages, they really don’t have a clue what to deal with it. And a number of people have written about the demographic curves that are developing in Europe, with what I’ll call the native Europeans with very low birth rates, and the immigrants with “much higher birth rates”. I’m no expert on the subject and I certainly wouldn’t say this as a foregone conclusion, but if your population changes you need to know how to deal with that, or your country’s going to change and you’re going to be faced with a contemporary situation analogous to Serbia and Kosovo, where we have one of the few remaining problems in Europe that could erupt in international conflict today, where the United States is pursuing a ” very unrealistic policy”…
Atlas: Wrong headed…
JB: …in terms of demanding Kosovo independence and not allowing the process of negotiations with the Serbs continue. But that’s why I think that the Europeans are more at risk than we are, but I acknowledge that this is a question we’re going to have to face in the coming decades as well.
Atlas: Back to Lebanon, 1701, you didn’t like that resolution, you didn’t like it.
JB: No, I felt that when we started out, the policy that the United States was articulating was, we didn’t want just another Middle Eastern cease fire, because there have been dozens cease fires after conflicts in the Middle East over the years. And the consequence had been after every cease fire, the situation simply reverted to the status quo anti, that is to say, we went back in the prospect for conflict, was there and was not really being solved. So I really felt that it was the right thing to do to say, that when this conflict was over we want a different kind of outcome, but what developed, both because Secretary Rice agreed with the Europeans to move in that direction, and because the Europeans themselves fell away from their original commitment, the idea of a profoundly different outcome, 1701 became another Middle East cease fire.
Atlas: You said in regards to 1701, “that you came as close as I ever did in government to refusing a direct order.”
JB: Right. Well this was in…
Atlas: “That’s huge”…
JB: Yeah, well this was in connection with a tactical question about whether to have a meeting and how to call it, and what not. I try to explain in the book, great questions of policy at the State Department often gets picked into little issues of “who sits where” and the process questions lack substance. So it may seem like a small point but, this is how the policies themselves play out, and I just felt that in 1701 we had compromised too many times. And what we had set out to do, to have a different kind of resolution “not just another Middle East cease fire”, but a resolution that would move to a more lasting peace in the region, had been something that we had completely lost sight of by the time we got to the end of the negotiations.
Atlas: And don’t you think that 1701 has been an abysmal failure with the rearming..”they’re rearmed more than before”!
JB: Well there’s no doubt it has been basically ignored in every material respect, a 1701 provided that no outside parties would rearm or resupply or restock Hezbollah. And a report by the UN Secretariat to the Security Council just within the past two weeks, has essentially said Hezbollah is back up to, or in excess of its prewar capability. We also said we wanted a stronger international force in Southern Lebanon, and I have to say here, that this is also something the government of Israel said it did wanted, right at the outset of the war. That it didn’t want, Israel, didn’t want to stay in Southern Lebanon very long and that it wanted the Israeli Defense Forces to come out and be replaced, quickly by a “muscular” international force that would make sure Hezbollah would not re-infiltrate in southern Lebanon.
JB: I was worried about that and I explain all this in the book, I was worried about that from the outset, because, what you would need, a force derived from NATO countries that had very strong rules of engagement. A force prepared to take on Hezbollah if the Shiites tried to come back in and reestablish their militia. And not surprisingly, the US and no one in Europe really wanted that kind of force. So the idea to replace that was what people called “enhanced UNIFIL”, the UNIFIL being the UN peace keeping body that had been there for about slightly over twenty-five years. And the new UNIFIL, the “enhanced UNIFIL” does have troops from NATO countries, from France and Italy and others, but its rules of engagement are no different than the previous UNIFIL, and we have seen Hezbollah is re-infiltrating into Southern Lebanon.
The Lebanese army has not been able to take full control which is what we hoped it be able to do, to have the democratic government of Lebanon reassert its sovereignty over the full country. So that’s another important aspect which 1701 has been voided, but I think the more fundamental problem is, “if we knew right from the beginning of 1701 that we needed something more to achieve a different kind of outcome, we needed to disarm Hezbollah.” If Hezbollah wants to participate in Lebanese politics as a democratic political party, that’s fine, they can do that, but they have to give up their weapons.
Atlas: That would never happen.
JB: You can’t have a political party that’s armed, which implies if they don’t like the election outcome they’re going to shoot their way back into power. We acknowledged that, I didn’t disagree with this conclusion, we acknowledged we couldn’t get that into the first resolution, so we have “a second resolution that we come up to the point of disarming Hezbollah, and we put it off in order to do what became 1701. Perfectly clear today there’s not going to be any second resolution, to disarm Hezbollah. So that many of the fundamental precepts of the whole effort at ending the war between Israel and Hezbollah, has just been ignored at this point.
Atlas: Let me ask you something, back in the early eighties, when Hezbollah at that time, was an “out and out Iranian foreign legion.
Back in the early eighties, Hezbollah took out 243 marines
JB: In Lebanon.
Atlas: In Lebanon, Reagan, what did you think at the time? Not in hindsight, when that happened and then we pulled out, what was your thinking?
JB: Well, I wasn’t sure that we had understood why we had gone into Lebanon in the first place. Now we went in with Italy and France, lets not forget that. That was not a UN force, that was something we did with are allies because of our interest in trying to preserve stability and democracy in Lebanon. But I think it was an ill conceived mission, and was a precursor of other missions where we didn’t clearly have our objectives in mind, and where we demonstrated 25 years ago, we didn’t fully understand what threat from international terrorism was all about. That was maybe the first and most graphic example and a tragic loss of life, but there were others at the time, the bombing our embassy in Lebanon where we lost much of our Middle East CIA presence, terrorist kidnappings of Americans in Lebanon, hijackings, the Achilles Loro.
But this growth of Islamic terrorism has been going on for a long time, up through bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, that almost brought the towers down then, and the range of bombings in the embassies in Africa and the Cole. So Reagan’s failure, Reagan’s mistaken after the killing of the marines in Lebanon, you know we can see in hindsight, was part of a long pattern of American misunderstanding and inadequate steps to deal with terrorism until we got to 9/11.
Atlas: Well, and you know and not saving the Shah, I mean you can merely all, bring it all home to that moment in time.
JB: Well you know back in the Carter administration, the administration didn’t like the Shah’s human rights record.
JB: I have memories of that now when we talk about what to do about Musharraf, and Pakistan, has suspended the constitution and declared martial law, begun to arrest his opponents. That’s not a good thing, we don’t favor that, we shouldn’t accept it as if it were a happy event. But by the same token, who better than Musharraf is going to make sure that the Pakistani nuclear weapons do not fall into the hands of terrorists? And who else can command the loyalty of the Pakistani army and continuing the battle we still have and need to have them fight, against the al-Qaida remnants, the Taliban, who are holed up in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan?
Atlas: We are going to take some calls, but before we do, I want to ask you something about the presidential race. First I want to ask you who you would endorse, and you’re not going to tell me but I’m going to ask you anyway. Who would you endorse?
JB: Well, I haven’t endorsed anybody yet.
JB: Because I wanted to write this book, you know I’ve been in the administration six years, and part of the deal you make going into the administration is, you’re entitled to argue your point of view in the internal debates in the administration, but when a decision is made you hue to the line
JB: (Continuing) when it’s decided, whether its by the secretary of state or by the president. I didn’t get elected to anything, Jim Baker, who I think was probably the best secretary of state we’ve had in the last of many decades..
Atlas: Oh I don’t like him.
JB: I think that he’s the best secretary of state we’ve had, I think, he used to say, he used to refer to the president “as the guy who got elected, and the guy who got elected gets to call the shots. So, just basic fundamental loyalty requires as long as you’re in the administration, whether you like it or not, you support the president’s policies, when you get to a point where you can’t support him any more, you leave.
JB: Which is what I did.
JB: But I want to right the book, unconstrained by supporting a new presidential candidate, and frankly by not burdening the candidates themselves, so that today when all of your listeners go into the book stores and buy the book..
Atlas: “Buy the book”.
JB: People, reporters don’t ask candidates, “well here on page 257 Bolton says this, do you agree with that?” I don’t want to burden the candidates with that.
Atlas: I understand.
JB: I wanted to write the book and now I want to get word of the book out to people, without having a conflicting loyalty between what I’m trying to say to explain to the American people how these things happen on one hand, and supporting a candidate on the other.
Atlas: Do you like being a free man?
JB: I definitely like being a free man, and that’s part of the trade off, is when you’re in the administration you have a chance to influence policy, set policy and implement it, but you can’t speak freely publically. When you’re out, probably nobody pays attention to what you’re saying, but at least you can speak you mind.
Atlas: Oh that’s not true, you’ve been all over, to big crowds, all over even in to small places, I think it’s great. Like Johnny Appleseed. No seriously, letting people know. Listen we don’t get allot of truth, we don’t get what’s really happening. “You keep the American people in the loop”
JB: Well that in the way is what the book is about. It takes the last six years and I hope in a fair way, I didn’t set out to go after anybody, I set out to describe what happened, and show behind the scenes to the American people how the State Department works, how the administration works, how the United Nations works, and you know, they can draw their own conclusions. But I didn’t want them to simply have to rely on what the media report because, with all do respect to our friends in the main stream media, many of them don’t understand how the government works all that well either. So this is I hope, people will judge it as a candid, behind the scenes description, and they can see for themselves what actually goes on.
Atlas: But how do we get you to run? There’s a lot of people
Atlas: No that’s not a joke, that’s not a joke, a lot of us feel very strongly about it. they’re not laughing
JB: Well I’m really, really am sincerely flattered by that, but I want to tell you I do think that the Republican field is strong, while I haven’t picked a candidate, I think we have a lot of people with excellent qualifications. This is going to be a very important election. I know that many people will say that they don’t see a new Reagan in the field, there isn’t somebody who picks up all of their important points of view All I can say is “look at the alternatives you’re going to get”, and this is going to be a “very very” important election, and it’s not one we can, I think, just stay at home and say I’m not satisfied with anybody, we don’t really have that choice. Because the selection of the president in 2008 is going to effect us, “not just for the next for years, but for decades to come”, because it’s important decisions the next president will make on national security matters.
Atlas: Ok, we’re going to take some calls, first caller, behave yourself, who’s on the air?
Caller: Hello can you hear me?
Caller: Oh Pamela, oh Pamela, so great to hear me, this is Joseph, and I have a question for the greatest ambassador we’ve ever had, and the greatest blogger America’s ever had. And the first one is, should we do away with the United Nations? And the second question is, and part of this is simply frustration as a flag waving American. If we, I understand Ambassador Bolton if you said no, but could we like get Pamela Geller to serve as a blogger attached to the UN mission, somebody out there that just tells the straight up truth? Please, get somebody out there that’s just gonna stand up for America.
Atlas: You’re very cute! And I dont that job! You have one shot to ask Ambassador Bolton a question, you going to take it or not.?
JB: Well I think, let me answer the question about the United Nations and whether we should get out of it. You know, the fact is that the organization is there, it can serve American foreign policy interests, and it has in a number of instances. I have to tell ya, even saying something like that drives many UN supporters crazy, because they say “well what do you mean serving American foreign policy interests?” Well that’s what member governments in the UN are entitled to try an do. There are 192 UN members “every one of them”, pursue their national interests in New York. The only one that is ever criticized for it is the United States.
The fact is many of our best friends and allies rely on legitimacy from the UN, that’s not something we need to do, but we have to take into account their needs, and there it is, so you use the UN for what it’s worth, but you don’t let it constrain American policy. And I definitely think that when you have candidates, some of them saying in effect over the past several months, who want to run our entire foreign policy through the UN, those are the candidate you want to press and ask them exactly what they mean by that and see how far they are prepared to go. Because I think if they say that sort of thing, or they’re prepared to pursue that sort of “global test policy”, that we can’t do anything unless we get global acceptance of it, you constrain America in very dangerous ways. And that’s exactly what the presidential campaigns are good for, to get that kind of debate out into the public. Thank you for your question.
Atlas: Are you finished Joseph?
Joseph: Oh I just wanted to thank the Ambassador for taking my question and I hope if there is time that maybe we can talk a bit why somehow Israel which was created by the UN, is the number one target of so much hatred in the UN?
Atlas: Can I just interrupt you sir? It was not created by the UN, I just want you to know that. Jews fought and won, and those freedom fighters in 48′, fought and won. I know that Ambassador Bolton can go into particular of what the UN did, but the Jews fought and won that land in 48′.
JB: It is a fact that the UN had a role in legitimizing internationally the state of Israel, so it is particularly inappropriate to see the UN itself now turned against Israel. And I think it’s one reason why so many people in the United States have a negative attitude about the United Nations, because they see through what has happened and they see the unfairness of the attacks on Israel, and as I’ve said before, attacks that in many respects were poorly disguised attacks on the United States. And that’s something that the supporters of the UN, in this country never seem willing to recognize, to take into account what actually happened in the corridors and in the hallways of the UN.
Atlas: Well thank you Joseph
Joseph: Anytime, and I’ll clear off so the next guy can have some fun. Thanks.
Atlas: Ok cookie.
Atlas: I would like to ask you one last question, one last thing, “another line that I love”, that said, “if the American people knew how we formulated policy, they’d be after us with pitchforks”.
JB: Right, well this is a line by a very senior career State Department official, a fella who has been around for many years in the State Department, and has seen many different Secretaries of State. He used to shake his head and say that, “if the American people knew how we conducted foreign policy they’d be after us with pitchforks”. I just thought that was..
Atlas: A great quote.
JB: (continuing) …”so true”, and really if, I owned shares in a pitchfork company, I think I’d be in for some good earnings reports..
JB: (continuing) ..because I hope people will look at this book, and say, this really does explain what goes on behind the scenes at the State Department. And I hope I tell it in an interesting enough way, that people could see that policies don’t get made by abstract forces in the sky, policies get made by real people inside the administration, and at the UN, in international negotiations. And when you have a better understanding of how the policies are actually made, you can see the limits, for example, in what the UN is capable of, by understanding better what actually goes on there, and you can understand why the State Department makes so many mistakes.
Atlas: Well explain the “clientitus”
JB: “Clientitus” is actually a word the State Department itself came up with, and it shows that they don’t understand the problem. “Clientitus” refers to the phenomenon that is very wide spread, that people take up the coloration of the countries forwhich they’re responsible. So if you are on the French desk, you begin to sound like you’re advocating French positions, or if you’re on the China desk you begin to sound like you’re advocating Chinese positions. But even the word “clientitus” is the wrong word. If the State Department has a client, surely it’s the United States of America.
Atlas: (laughing) I think so.
JB: So if you suffer from clientitus, it ought to be excessive in advocating American positions. Very few people at the State Department get accused of that. So they’ve actually given the wrong name to the problem, to say that “clientitus” means you’re too pro French or too pro Chinese. There’s a story about Secretary of State George Schultz which may be true or may not be true, but he saw this problem of clientitus and was concerned about it, so when a new ambassador was picked, he would come into his office for a last visit before going over seas. Schultz would point to a big globe on the floor of his office and spin the globe and say to the new ambassador, whether it was political or career, “point me to your country, show me where you’re going”. Invariably the ambassador would spin the globe and point to Uruguay or Zambia or Burma or some place and Schultz would say, “say, no no and he would spin the globe and he would point to the United States and he’d say, “That’s your country”.
Atlas: Yeah baby!
JB: Now that story may be true or not true, but it’s a story everybody needs to know about, because it underlines the problems that we face, just on a day to day basis in asserting America’s interest in our international diplomacy.
Atlas: Ok, so in closing. I would like to just discuss briefly, but it’s so important, the negotiations, the ongoing painful negotiations where we negotiate -give carrots- and Iran continues to build nuclear weapons.
JB: Well this is really a very sad story because for over four years now, going on five, we have deferred to Britain, France and Germany, what we call the “EU Three, the European Union Three”, and their efforts to find a diplomatic way to convince Iran to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. And you know another phrase we use in the State Department is “carrots and sticks”, they say “well with respect to Iran, we’ll have a policy carrots and sticks, incentives and disincentives”. The problem is whenever they draw up the list, it’s heavy on carrots (laughter) and pretty light on sticks, and especially when you deal with the European Union.
Over the last four plus years, they have offered every carrot they could think of to the Iranians to get them to give up their nuclear weapons program. A friend of mine at the Defense Department used to say that the motto of the European Union ought to be “speak softly and carry a big carrot”. (laughter) And they’ve tried with Iran and Iran has basically thumbed their nose at this whole process, but it’s not been cost free, diplomacy, failed diplomacy is not cost free. What these four years have produced is time for Iran, time is usually on the side of the proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. Time has given Iran the ability to master all of the complex scientific and technological steps necessary to have complete domestic control over the nuclear fuel cycle.
Which means that the decision when to actually weaponize highly enriched uranium is now entirely in Iran’s hands, and the further decision what to do with those weapons is in their hands. So the consequence of four years of failed “EU Three diplomacy”, is not cost free, it puts us in a very constrained position as to what we can do in terms of our options. I think basically limited to two, regime change or the use of force. Neither one is very attractive, but life is about choices, and if the choice is between an Iran with nuclear weapons or the possible use of American force to prevent that from happening, I think that you have to look at the use of force.
Atlas: How do you effect a regime change. How?
JB: Look, there is an enormous discontent inside Iran.
JB: There is economic discontent, the Mullahs have made hash of the economy since 1979. There’s discontent with the harsh sharia rule, the young people are educated and the overwhelming majority of the population now, they want a different kind of life, and there is allot of ethnic dissatisfaction with the small Persian majority. So if we had been working on regime change for the last four years, instead of simply deferring to European diplomatic effort, we might be in a very different situation now. I still think it’s worth pursuing regime change, but we may not just, we won’t have enough time do it, which is why, for well or ill, the use of force against, the targeted use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program may be our only alternative.
Atlas: You’re saying that it may be the only thing left, our only option left?
JB: Right, because the Iranians are far enough along in the process and lets be clear about one other thing. People are always talking about intelligence failures, there’s a lot we don’t know about Iran’s nuclear program, our intelligence is not as good as it should be. There are many many things we miss, that doesn’t make me fell better, that makes me allot more nervous, because it’s what we don’t know that may mean the Iranians are actually much farther along or in a much better position to withstand a military attack.
Atlas: And the NORKs?
JB: Well the North Koreans have been, I think been humiliating the administration..
JB: The North Koreans “are experts” at negotiating and not giving up their nuclear weapons. ´They are even very good “at promising” to give up their nuclear weapons, they’ve done it many times in the last fifteen years. The trouble is when it comes right down to it, the North Koreans are happy to take concrete economical and political benefits, but then they don’t give up their nuclear weapons program. And we find most recently that they may well have been cloning their main reactor in the Syrian desert. Building a replica of the Yongbyon nuclear facility.
Now we don’t know allot of the details, it’s not appropriate to draw real conclusions but they’re certainly doing something out there in the desert, and the Israelis bombed it on September the sixth. If in fact this was a North Korean effort working with Syria, possibly working with Iran or Iranian financing, to clone the Yongbyon reactor, it shows yet again, they’ve taken us for a ride, “promising” to give up nuclear weapons and yet simply, outsourcing their nuclear weapons program to Syria.
Atlas: Very dangerous time.
JB: Very dangerous indeed.
Atlas: Ok, well, Ambassador Bolton, I want to thank you for reminding us.
JB: Thank you. It was a pleasure to be here.
Atlas: And guys, thank you for listening! Next week, I will also have somebody totally hot, see ya!