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Former interim U.N. Ambassador John Bolton called for the United States to adopt a more selfish foreign policy and take military action against threatening nations in a speech Tuesday in Mandel Hall. In the talk, Bolton called President Barack Obama’s policies weak and indecisive, saying they will leadto a less secure America.
The speech was sponsored by the Chicago Friends of Israel and the University Republicans.
Bolton criticized Obama’s foreign policy in the nine months of his administration. “His post-American policy is in plain view. When combined with weakness and indecision, this is a potentially toxic combination in areas around the world,” Bolton said. To Bolton, a post-American views America as just another country in the world. “[Obama]’s above all that patriotism stuff that all those working people feel when they wave their flags,” he said.
Bolton acknowledged that Obama brought change, but described it as a change for the worse. “He’s a very different president,” Bolton said. “Central to his politics and his way of thinking is that he does not believe in American exceptionalism.”
A neoconservative, Bolton has advocated a unilateral approach throughout his career, including a post as Undersecretary of State in 2001, when he recommended the U.S. take action to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Bolton spelled out how he thought current policy is failing in every corner of the globe, starting off with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Bolton called for a three-state plan, calling the two-state solution “doomed to failure.” Under Bolton’s plan, Egypt would control the Gaza Strip, a renegotiated West Bank would go to the Jordanians, and Israel would have the remaining land. Admitting the difficulty of his plan, Bolton described the lack of a respected Palestinian authority to negotiate with Israel, which would require the involvement of Egypt and Jordan.
“They need to give up on an idea of a nation called Palestine. It was not written somewhere on stone,” he said.
The United States has improved its world image by shedding the appearance of unilateralism associated with President George W. Bush, Bolton said. When asked in an open question session about America’s place in the world, he elaborated on his view. “An American president should not base his foreign policy on American opinion, let alone foreign opinion,” he said.
Bolton also discussed how negotiating with North Korea and Iran has not benefited the United States. “Time always works on the side of the proliferators, time to develop better technology,” he said.
The current system of incentives for cooperation and disincentives for violations has not worked, Bolton said. “North Korea has found that talks with the U.S. are a way to gain tangible concessions. North Korea loves to talk about giving up its nuclear weapons. It loves to commit to it. It has committed to it many times,” he said.
Bolton described negotiations with Iran as similarly ineffective. “The reality after seven years of negotiation is that Iran has gotten seven years closer to nuclear weapons. [Negotiations] have failed…we have lost and Iran has won,” Bolton said.
He emphasized that the U.S. must do all that it can against rogue countries, because of the potential for disastrous consequences. “I don’t want to live in a world where we’re at the mercy of Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejad,” he said.
In response to a question about the future of Iran, Bolton said there are only two options: A targeted strike by the Israelis against Iranian nuclear facilities or a nuclear Iran.
An attack by Israel would buy time for the U.S., but Bolton prefers a U.S.-led regime change, even though he recognizes it will not happen now.
“We could do it a lot better [than Israel]. We’re going to get blamed for it anyway, so why not do it right?” he said.
Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda provided yet another example of failed policy, Bolton said. He blamed Obama’s indecisiveness, particularly the reevaluation of the strategy and personnel Obama introduced in March, as the reason for worsening problems in the region.
“He cannot decide whether his own strategy is still valid six months later. The administration says there have been supervening events since March—corruption in the election,” Bolton said. “I don’t believe that they didn’t see it coming. Didn’t these people come from Chicago?”
For Bolton, America is in the fight alone. He highlighted Russia’s work against American interests in the Middle East and cited the Russia-Georgia War, which he compared to the 1939 German invasion of Poland, as evidence of increased Russian belligerence and a reason for suspicion.
The U.S. recently agreed to cancel the plans for a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, in compliance with Russian objections. Bolton read it as another sign of weakness.
“If you threaten the administration they will back down. That might not be true, but that’s how [the Russians] think. It’s not just weakness but incompetence,” he said.
Attempting humor, Bolton did not miss an opportunity to zing Obama’s recent Nobel Peace Prize. “That and 25 cents will buy him a cup of coffee in the negotiations with the Russians,” he said.
He ended his speech with hope for conservatives. “I don’t have many words of comfort tonight, but it doesn’t last forever, and there’s always a chance for regime change in America.”