How dangerous is John Bolton?


There hasn’t been much coverage around these parts of the nomination of John Bolton to the UN, mainly because Steve Clemons has been doing the one-man force-of-nature thing on this topic. Much of the focus has been on the fact that Bolton categorically opposes international institutions, the UN being but one example, and thus is ideologically the wrong person for the job. That’s a good argument, certainly, but hardly the pithiest one can summon up. A more urgent argument is that Bolton has actually been a liability on the security front, as Wade Boese, research director of the Arms Control Association, explains in the American Prospect today. For instance:

Although most U.S. programs to help Russia eliminate or secure its excess weaponry and materials are run by the Departments of Defense and Energy, Bolton was entrusted with resolving a liability dispute with Moscow holding up a program to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-usable material. His failure to accomplish this task drew the rare fire of a fellow Republican. “If [Bolton] doesn’t think it’s important enough to solve … then I submit that you ought to get somebody that can,” declared Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) last June.

Of course, we already know that the Bush administration doesn’t think nuclear proliferation is an important priority, but this is appalling. Oh, and as Steve Clemons notes today, Bolton was instrumental in sidelining the Iraq WMD analysts who were actually correct on aspects of prewar intelligence. On a happy note, this little incident is going to factor prominently into Bolton’s confirmation hearings, so perhaps his nomination will be derailed after all. Much will depend on Sen. Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI), who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose Rhode Island constituency is strongly opposed to Bolton, but who also seems to be on the business end of some arm-twisting by the White House.

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