In interview with 'Post,' former US ambassador to UN during the Bush administration says he is mulling GOP presidential run to reassert strong American foreign policy; "This is a very weak administration," he contends.
John Bolton is mulling a run for president because he believes the US needs to recover its international standing and be more assertive, including being willing to bomb Iran and scrap the two-state solution.
"Both our friends and our adversaries alike have assessed this as a very weak administration, uncomfortable with asserting American interests or defending them, particularly through the use of force internationally," Bolton told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Tuesday.
"To raise national security back into the center of the debate – which is where I think it belongs – it could well take a presidential candidacy, because that is what helps focus people’s attention on these issues and that’s why I’m thinking of doing it."
The former under secretary of state for arms control and US ambassador to the UN during the George W. Bush administration, Bolton identified proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism as the top challenges facing America, along with the threat of nuclear Iran.
Bolton, who would seek the Republican nomination should he run, rejected the idea that sanctions could eventually affect Iran’s nuclear ambitions as some in the US and even Israel have suggested.
"The most likely outcome with respect to Iran is that it gets nuclear weapons and very, very soon," he said. "Given that diplomacy has failed, given that sanctions have failed, the only alternative to an Iran with nuclear weapons is a limited military strike against the nuclear weapons program."
Though he said he doesn’t prefer such action, he believes it’s better than the alternatives. And he dismissed the argument that a focused strike would cause regional instability, pointing to Wikileaks’ dissemination of diplomatic cables this week showing Arab support for an attack.
"A preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear program would not cause chaos in the Middle East because the Arab states don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons any more than Israel does," he said.
Bolton noted, however, that taking coordinated action could be harder because of the leaks and the concerns allies abroad will now have about working with America. But he assessed it would be a temporary rather than long-term setback.
Bolton does not believe two-state solution is working
He also said the revealed Arab support also punctures the Obama administration’s contention that progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was needed to help rally the Arab world’s help on Iran.
When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bolton doesn’t think the current effort to forge a two-state solution is working.
"I think the entire model of the two-state solution has failed," he declared. "There’s nobody on the Palestinian side that you can trust who will make the hard commitments necessary to achieve peace or who will be able to carry them out into the future."
Instead, he proposed a "three-state solution" which would include the admittedly unpopular moves of returning Gaza to Egypt and the Palestinian areas of the West Bank back to Jordan.
According to Bolton, the current US-Israel negotiations to extend the settlement freeze in return for 20 F-35 fighter planes also makes for unwise conditioning.
"That’s a destructive kind of relationship for both countries," he warned.
Still, he said it wouldn’t be difficult to reset relations with Israel under a new White House.
"I don’t think that would be hard," he estimated. "Frankly, I’m not aware of any potential Republican candidate for president who couldn’t do a better job on this issue than Obama."
Whether he could be a successful Republican candidate, however, is another question.
Bolton acknowledges that he’s never run for elected office let alone the presidency and would need to consult with his family and give serious thought to the obstacles before making a decision.
Political expert Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, however, gave Bolton no chance of being successful in getting the nomination.
"He has little visibility and no support except among a very small group of neoconservative interventionists," he said. "Moreover, he has no experience in elective politics and has an abrasive personality not well-suited to retail politicking."
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, called Bolton "the longest of long shots" for the Republican nomination, adding that he’s "enough of a realist to know that."
Instead of running to win office, Sabato saw Bolton as launching a campaign in order to raise the profile of certain issues.
"If you want to get some of the issues that you believe need to be discussed on the table, you run for president," he explained.
"This could be a campaign that is dominated overwhelmingly by economic and other domestic issues," Sabato continued, noting Bolton’s interest in ensuring that foreign affairs are also addressed.
Bolton himself admitted his interest in highlighting international and security priorities, saying, "I’ve been concerned for the past two years that there has not been adequate attention to foreign policy and national security issues."
But he emphasized that if he enters the race it will be a sincere bid.
"If I get in this, I get in it to win," he said.