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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The World According to John Bolton

John BoltonWe take a break from teabaggers in near-riot, people who believe Barack Obama is an illegal alien who hates white people, and the GOP alternative to health care reform to consider journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling. After accidentally crossing the border between China and North Korea (or, perhaps, after being tricked into crossing it), they found themselves in the custody of what few would argue wasn't the most totalitarian state in the world. Charged with being in North Korea to launch a "smear campaign" against the regime, the two journalists were sentenced to twelve years of hard labor. You'd imagine that a North Korean labor camp would make a Stalinist gulag look like Club Med -- this was a virtual death sentence.

Ling and Lee were undoubtedly arrested to be used as pawns in a geopolitical chess game. And it's this fact that lends credibility to the theory that they were led across the border by North Korean agents masquerading as guides. That Laura Ling's sister Lisa had previously embarrassed the North Korean government probably didn't help matters any.

After four and a half months in a North Korean prison, Lee and Ling were given a pardon and released yesterday.

Agence France-Presse:

Bill Clinton has safely left Pyongyang with two US journalists after they were pardoned by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, a spokesman for the former US president said Tuesday.

“President Clinton has safely left North Korea with Laura Ling and Euna Lee. They are en route to Los Angeles where Laura and Euna will be reunited with their families,” Clinton’s spokesman Matt McKenna said.

North Korea said Clinton delivered a special message to Kim from US President Barack Obama during his historic trip, which followed acute tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile tests, but the White House denied this.

The families of the reporters were unsurprisingly "overjoyed" at the news. In fact, pretty much everyone was happy with the result -- with one glaring exception, former Bush ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Bolton called Clinton's trip "unwise." Later, after the news came that the journalists would be freed, Bolton doubled down and told FOX News that the outcome was "a classic case of rewarding bad behavior." Yeah, you figure that one out -- it doesn't make any sense to me. To someone who doesn't share Bolton's solid grasp of diplomacy and global politics, it would seem that the "reward" part of this is all on our side.

But what do I know. John Bolton's the expert here. His expertise is legend and his opinions are so well respected that Bush had to make him a recess appointment, because Bolton didn't stand a chance in hell of ever being confirmed by the Senate. It was part of the Bush strategy of always finding the person most perfectly unsuited for the job. If you were going to send an amabassador to the United Nations, you found the one person in America who hated the UN the most and thought it was a worthless and useless organization. That was John Bolton; a diplomat with no taste -- let alone talent -- for diplomacy.

"...Mr. Bolton's history of inflammatory statements about the UN would seem to make it more difficult for him to advance US interests at the UN. I am concerned about whether Mr. Bolton even believes the UN is a viable institution and a useful instrument of US foreign policy," then-Senator Barack Obama said in a floor statement opposing Bolton's nomination. "Saying that it wouldn't make a difference if you lop off ten floors of the UN building in New York isn't exactly the best way to earn people's respect and support -- whatever the context."

Closely tied to the Project for a New American Century, Bolton is unabashedly neocon. And this is a great moment to look back and consider how well out that mindset we are. Like Dick Cheney, Bolton is at heart a coward and all of his opinions are the result of a coward's overreaction. After all, North Korea has the bomb! And nations that pose even an entirely theoretical threat to the US must be crushed. It was Bolton, after all, who suggested that now would be a good time for Israel to bomb Iran -- because the disputed elections didn't result in a revolution. All those people out in the streets fighting for their rights? You know, the ones we're all supposed to be supporting?

Vaporize them. The only thing that matters is that Iran has the bomb! Which, of course, it doesn't.

Bolton's opinions of geopolitics, diplomacy, and foreign policy should be dismissed out of hand. Consider his record of success as US ambassador to the UN. During his term, we... Uhh... Umm...

I guess we didn't go to war with the moon. So there's that. Otherwise, I can't think of a single triumph of ambassadorial acumen we can pin like a medal on John Bolton's chest. Given his record, I can't come up with a single reason why we should give a crap what John Bolton thinks.

Well, other than to serve as a monument to the idiocy we've left behind. We tried it your way, John. It was a disaster. We're going to go in another direction now.


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vet said...

So... Ling's sister has previously taken part in the (ongoing) smear campaign against North Korea, and you still don't think there's any possibility that the journalists really were doing something - not wrong exactly, but not exactly innocent either?

I'm not denying they were arrested and used as pawns. That's what happens to people who get caught in these situations. But that doesn't mean they weren't doing exactly what the Koreans said they were: the "pawn" thing works just as well with professional spies as with innocent sightseers, and everyone in between.

(Same goes for those American "hikers" now being held in Iran. Okay, so they're not exactly James Bond, but that doesn't mean they're wholly innocent either.)

Bolton has a point, but it's a stupid point. Clinton's trip was a great photo-op for Kim Jong Il. Fairly obviously, that was the price he demanded for letting the women go. Bolton seems to think it was too high a price to pay for two people's freedom. I don't know how many Americans would agree with that.

SMG said...

I don't care if we sent Bozo the clown to get them out, I'm just glad they are out! Clinton did an excellent job as a diplomat and a statesman.

I did think it was kind of a slap in the face to Hillary though. Bill was on a short list of people Mr. Kim was willing to meet with. The only list she is on in North Korea is people Kim Jong Il would let iron his shirt.

Wisco said...

I don't know that I'd call LIsa Ling's documentary for National Geographic a "smear campaign," although I don't doubt that the PDRK wasn't too happy with it. All she did was go into the country without handlers and talk to the people. Turns out that N. Korea's almost literally like 1984. Smears aren't really required to make them look bad.

Still, it's my understanding that the reporting Lee and Ling were doing was on human trafficking and refugees. If that's their cover story, it wouldn't make China any happier than NK's take makes NK. I wouldn't be surprised if they're barred from China now.

You're right to call Bolton's point a "stupid point." No one's going to change their opinion of Kim Jong-Il because of this. He worries that Clinton "legitimates" Pyongyang, but in whose eyes? Kim's? If that's the case, who cares? Seriously, you've got to ask yourself WTF he's talking about.

In the end, Bolton's fears are a coward's fears -- unrealistic.

M said...

Bolten's mind is rotten and dangerous. He's a radical dog with intellectual rabies.

North Korea is a living mass-mind control experiment.

If we can go in and get what we want from those people, even if we have to resort to rolling on our bellies singing Hunk O' Burnin' Love, so be it.

Fuck pride. It's stupid and a waste of time and lives.

We Jedi mind-tricked those daffy bastards.

YEAH Diplomacy!

Just another example of debunked tactics in the very limited arsenal of neocon ideology showing egg-faced geopolitical quackery.

How many "wrong again, shithead!" retorts can these people endure before they're no longer spouting their ideas on public airwaves?

They have no shame.