Surrender Is Not an Option
Defending America at the United Nations,
by John Bolton
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
John Bolton served as Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush -- but John Bolton deeply dislikes the United Nations. More relevantly, Bolton rejects the international framework that undergirds the United Nations. Bolton wrote this book as his memoir of his time at the United Nations -- he details at great length his rejection of the UN and of internationalism in general.
Bolton has declared for president in 2016, but he is not a politician. He considered declaring for president in 2012, but backed out -- his goal is 2016 is to bring into the Republican primary the topics outlined in this book. Bolton wrote this book before he considered any presidential race, in 2007, so it is not written as a political statement. Rather, it is a detailed screed about his isolationist worldview, but written in bureaucratic terms. For example, Bolton writes (p. 231):
"Perm rep"? "EU/G-77"? "JUSCANZ"? This book needs a glossary -- that page is dense in bureaucratese but the same sort of jargon occurs throughout the book. Bolton's heavy use of insider jargon says he's just not ready for elective office -- he should run for Senate, or something, to learn how to talk outside-the-Beltway English. There is a much shorter, much less jargon-filled version of this book: Bolton says much the same thing, in Obama is Endangering our Sovereignty, in under 50 pages; a great read compared to this screed.
"I decided it was time to break into the EU/G-77 discussions, buttressed by the news that Japanese perm rep Oshima had received overnight…. I persuaded JUSCANZ to make our commitment cap proposal $900 million [which] Oshima floated, to the amazement of many G77-ers"
If you can get past the jargon (or make a glossary for yourself), Bolton does comment meaningfully on the United Nations and internationalism. He says the founding of the United Nations was well-intentioned, but it quickly "metastasized" because of the Cold War. And then the "wave of decolonization starting in the 1950s, the UN was increasingly a sounding board for anti-Western and specifically anti-American criticism" (p. 197). Bolton's view is well-founded, but ignores the G-77 point of view -- that means the "Group of 77" countries which resulted from the "wave of decolonization" -- who legitimately criticize the US from a non-Western perspective. In other words, Bolton's view is unabashedly American-centered, along the lines of President Bush's "You're either with us or against us."
But Bolton's anti-internationalism is much more sophisticated than Bush's. For example, Bush campaigned against the International Criminal Court (ICC) because Bush wanted to protect American servicemen in Iraq from prosecution as war criminals. Bolton calls the ICC an "unaccountable prosecutor, possibly politically motivated, posing grave risks for the United States and its political and military leaders" (p. 85). Bolton rejects the international framework itself -- not just the ICC, but the entire basis of international law: "I saw treaties as essentially only political documents, and the whole debate over what was 'legally binding' in 'international law' as just another theological exercise" (p. 76). Bolton is attacking the concept known as pacta sunt servanda, which says that international treaties must be adhered to by their signatory countries. Without that underlying concept, there is no such thing as international law at all.
Despite the challenges of reading this book, Bolton has plenty of meaningful insights -- my favorite was Bolton's analysis of North Korea, to which he dedicates an entire chapter (pp. 291ff). North Korea, says Bolton, plays the international game by making deals with benefits up front (like food shipments) and obligations later (like not developing nukes); then collects the benefits before reneging on the obligations. Bolton will bring insights like that to the presidential race, and we hope he sticks with it in this election cycle -- his presence in the 2016 GOP debates will make the debates much more interesting.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, Dec. 2013
| OnTheIssues.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
John Bolton: 1966: Opposed coeducation at all-male Yale University.
Bill Clinton: North Korea can be talked out of its nuclear weapons program.
Condoleezza Rice: 2005: UN needs a "revolution of reform".
George Bush Sr.: United Nations is "the light that failed".
George Bush Sr.: Called for repeal of UN "Zionism is racism" resolution.
George W. Bush: Most Americans question whether to be in UN at all.
John Bolton: 1981: Returned $21M in unspent USAID funds to Treasury.
John Bolton: Unitary UN: funding based on measurable accomplishments.
John Bolton: Organized repeal of UN "Zionism is racism" resolution.
John Bolton: Legally binding international law? Just theological exercise.
John Bolton: Happiest moment at UN: exiting International Criminal Court.
John Bolton: UN Security Council is effective; don't expand it.
John Bolton: United Nations Security Council overemphasizes Africa.
John Bolton: State Dept. requires political leadership to change.
Pat Moynihan: 1975: Led effort against UN "Zionism is racism" resolution.
Ronald Reagan: 1981: Don't spend unused funding; return it to Treasury.
John Bolton: 1976: Challenged post-Watergate campaign finance reform.
John Bolton: UN Conference on small arms focused on US gun control.
Donald Rumsfeld: Reduce nuclear warheads; Russia no longer a strategic threat.
George Bush Sr.: Missile defense for "handfuls not hundreds" of missiles.
George W. Bush: 2001: Withdraw from outdated & dangerous ABM Treaty.
John Bolton: Mutual Assured Destruction: MAD is upside-down logic.
Richard Nixon: 1972: Unilaterally renounced use of biological warfare.
War & Peace|
Colin Powell: Iran working on delivery systems as well as nukes.
John Bolton: 1966: I was like a space alien at anti-Vietnam Yale.
John Bolton: 1970: Joined National Guard to avoid "ludicrous" Vietnam War.
John Bolton: [Under Clinton],.
John Bolton: Throughout Bush presidency, Iranian nukes were a problem.
John Bolton: China likes a divided Korean peninsula.
Richard Lugar: UN needs to be tough on Iran's nuclear weapons program.
The above quotations are from Surrender Is Not an Option
Defending America at the United Nations,
by John Bolton.
2016 Presidential debates
- Third Presidential debate Oct. 19, 2016
- Second Presidential debate Oct. 9, 2016
- Vice Presidential debate Oct. 4, 2016
- First Presidential debate Sept. 26, 2016
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