There’s an old joke, or sort of joke, about how bombing for peace is like f*cking for virginity. In that analogy, John Bolton is trying to f*ck us all over.
Bolton, United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, has written an op-ed in The New York Times arguing that to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, the United States should bomb Iran. This “reasoning” is as reckless and unreliable as its messenger.
It has been reported that “almost the entire senior hierarchy of Israel’s military and security establishment is worried about a premature attack on Iran and apprehensive about the possible repercussions,” according to Israel’s former chief of defense forces. Robert Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense under both Bush and Obama, cautioned against military strikes in Iran, warning, “A military solution, as far as I’m concerned ... it will bring together a divided nation. It will make them absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons. And they will just go deeper and more covert.”
Gates said the only long-term solution is convincing Iranians that nuclear weapons capacity is not in their interest—the goal of current diplomatic talks.
Even the director of the CIA under Bush said that the Bush administration explored but ultimately rejected a military strike on Iran, concluding it would only “guarantee that which we are trying to prevent—an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret.”
News reports suggest that the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China are making headway in diplomatic negotiations with Iran that would halt nuclear weapons development in Iran for at least a decade and submit the country to rigorous inspections. But Republicans, so eager to bash President Obama on any count, have not only immorally (and possibly illegally) undermined U.S. diplomacy and credibility in the international community, they have argued that Obama is somehow causing brinksmanship by relying on smart diplomacy to avoid nuclear war.
We are supposed to believe this because John Bolton tells us to.
Bolton also asserts that somehow, though Israel having nuclear weapons has not been perceived as a threat in the region, “Iran is a different story.” Oh, OK. Why, exactly? “Extensive progress in uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing reveal its ambitions.” So Iran’s nuclear enrichment is extra-threatening because Iran is engaged in nuclear enrichment? I’m not saying we shouldn’t be treating a nuclear Iran as a major and especially-dangerous problem—clearly the Obama administration is taking the threat seriously. No one is arguing, especially given Iran’s recent expansionist push into Yemen and Iraq, that Iran should be taken in general as anything other than a serious threat to the world, no matter what and even more so with nuclear capacity.
But Bolton is employing “just trust me” reasoning to hype military action. “Saudi, Egyptian and Turkish interests are complex and conflicting, but faced with Iran’s threat, all have concluded that nuclear weapons are essential.”
How do you know that, Mr. Bolton? “Obviously, the Saudis, Turkey and Egypt will not be issuing news releases trumpeting their intentions. But the evidence is accumulating that they have quickened their pace toward developing weapons.”
Would that be the same evidence you relied on to assert that Saddam Hussein was developing WMDs—the same intel the Bush administration used as the justification for going to war in Iraq? Bolton provides little solid evidence of his sky-is-falling assertions. We’re just supposed to trust him, I guess, based on his reputation.
Now, I realize this is the point in the article where Republicans will drone on about liberals reliably pointing to George W. Bush as a way to avoid scrutinizing Barack Obama. Whine away, but the fact is that when veterans of the Bush administration’s disastrous foreign policy drag their own selves out of the dustbin of history to proclaim their expertise and wisdom, reminding the nation of the bountiful evidence to the contrary is entirely fair game.
When former Vice President Dick Cheney went on Fox News to attack President Obama’s strategy in Iraq, host Megyn Kelly shot back, “But time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir.” Kelly listed Cheney’s failings: “You said there was no doubt Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction; you said we would be greeted as liberators; you said the Iraq insurgency was in the last throes back in 2005; and you said that after our intervention, extremists would have to, quote, ‘rethink their strategy of jihad.’ Now, with almost a trillion dollars spent there, with 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?”
Cheney’s response was to disagree with Kelly’s characterization—and keep asserting his righteousness. And so it also goes with John Bolton.
In 2002, while serving as Bush’s Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Bolton said, “We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq.” And regarding launching war in Iraq, Bolton assured, “I expect that the American role actually will be fairly minimal. I think we’ll have an important security role.” And now Bolton is the foreign policy adviser for Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. Which doesn’t exactly burnish his credibility.
Now Mr. Bolton wants to lead the charge, once again, into war. In fact, he’s gone a step further this time. In the case of Iraq, at least Mr. Bolton and the Bush administration could claim preemptive military action against a tyrannical government that had allegedly actually obtained weapons of mass destruction, even though those allegations ultimately (knowingly?) were false.
But here, Bolton is using the future threat of acquisition of nuclear weapons to justify preemptive military action now. In 1992, right-wing hawk Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran was just “three to five years away” from nuclear weapons capacity. Should we have preemptively bombed them then? I mean, facts schmacts, right?
Secretary of State John Kerry says that Iran is still six years away from nuclear capacity. Others say it’s more like two or three, but even still: Reasonable people would argue there’s still time to let a diplomatic solution be worked out and tested. And reasonable people would try other plausible solutions before resorting to all-out war. But Republicans are, increasingly, not reasonable—perpetually too eager to both criticize President Obama and pull the trigger on war regardless of the fact that their track record has been a perpetual f*cking mess.