Today in a column in The National Review, Mitt Romney foreign policy adviser John Bolton split with his candidate’s calls to arm the Syrian rebels, concluding that, “neither U.S. military assistance to the opposition nor current administration policy, which has stumbled from failure to failure over the past year, will advance legitimate American interests.”
Instead, Bolton urges observers not to be swayed by the “emotion” of Syrians being killed by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. “The television images from Syria will not change permanently until the underlying strategic terrain changes permanently,” he says. Bolton proceeds to lay out his own set of policy proposals to remove Assad from power and ultimately overhaul U.S. foreign policy by taking intentionally provocative actions against Russia, China and Iran.
First, Bolton, who served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to the U.N., suggests that “we should cut Syria off from its major supporters” in Iran, China and Russia. He proposes:
We should resume full-scale, indeed accelerated, efforts to construct the limited missile-defense system designed by George W. Bush to protect American territory not against Russia but against rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. [...] We should also announce our withdrawal from the New START arms-control treaty, and our utter disinterest in negotiations to prevent an “arms race” in space. Let Moscow and Beijing think about all that for a while.
Indeed, Bolton acknowledges that such actions “would likely break the famous ‘reset’ button [with Russia] beyond repair.” And his tearing up of the START treaty, constructing an expensive and provocational missile-defense system, and kicking off an “arms race” in space would undeniably leave Moscow and Beijing scratching their heads.
Bolton again reiterated his standard lines on Iran, calling for regime change and an end to diplomatic efforts on Iran’s nuclear program.
As for Syria itself, Bolton has said the U.S. should have turned toward Damascus once Baghdad fell in 2003. But his only solution now is to find and support “Syrian rebel leaders who are truly secular and who oppose radical Islam; who will disavow al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups; and who will reject Russian and Iranian hegemony over their country.”
Bolton’s hawkishness is nothing new but the New York Times’s David Sanger suggested that Bolton may have a prominent role in crafting Mitt Romney’s foreign policy positions. Sanger reported that the Romney campaign’s foreign policy rhetoric last month, “sounds more like the talking points of the neoconservatives — the ‘Bolton faction,’ as insiders call the group led by John Bolton.”