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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Monday, April 25, 2005

UN Basher as UN Ambassador

Bolton’s Baggage

Unlike most neoconservatives, UN Ambassador-designate John Bolton didn’t start out his political career on the center-left--either as a liberal, social democrat, or socialist. When Irving Kirstol, regarded by many as the “godfather of neoconservatism” described a neoconservative as a “liberal who has been mugged by reality,” he wasn’t describing John R. Bolton.

In the 1950s through the 1970s, the political forerunners who established neoconservatism as the defining trend within American conservatism went through a left-right transformation. In that political morphing, the neoconservatives have redefined U.S. politics from the Reagan administration through the current Bush administration.

Bolton shares much with the closely knit neoconservative political camp: their red-meat anticommunism, their obsession with China and their support of right-wing Zionism in Israel, and their glorification of U.S. power as the main force for good and against evil in our world. Bolton has also forged close links with neoconservatives while a scholar at the Manhattan Institute and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Although sharing most of the neoconservative ideology, Bolton is not himself a true-blue neocon.

Not only his political origins separate him from other middle-aged neoconservatives. Bolton also stands apart from the neoconservative camp because of his longtime association with moderate conservative James Baker and the close ties he had with Dixiecrat Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC). Unlike most neocons, who stay removed from electoral politics, Bolton has repeatedly immersed himself in the mundane and often dirty politics of ensuring Republican Party electoral victories.

One political label that certainly fits Bolton is that of “hawk” or militarist. Like most other Bush administration officials, Bolton is a militarist who has never gone to war—which according to some detractors makes him a “chickenhawk.” In his work in the Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations, Bolton has won a reputation for being the right’s most effective and strident opponent of the United Nations and all forms of global governance and international law not controlled by the U.S. government.

As a teenager Bolton already believed, as Barry Goldwater did, that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” In 1964 Bolton volunteered in Goldwater’s presidential campaign. From high school, Bolton went to Yale and then on to Yale Law School, where he befriended current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and other rightists who were among the first members of the conservative Federalist Society.

After joining the Reagan administration in 1981, Bolton quickly gained a reputation as being one of the new breed of “New Right lawyers” who operated at the second tier of the State Department and gained top policy positions in the Justice Department. Bolton gained entry to the Reagan administration through strong support from Senator Helms and from New Right strategist Richard Viguerie and his influential Conservative Digest. During Reagan’s second term, Bolton began working together with a team of Federalist Society lawyers under Attorney General Edwin Meese. With Federalist Society members and activists in top policy positions, the Justice Department for the first time came under the ideological influence of the New Right.1

The chief goal of the Federalist Society has been to roll back the purported hold of the “liberal establishment” on the judiciary and legal profession. Federalist Society members also oppose liberalism in the international arena in the form of international law and multilateral governance. Together with AEI, the Federalist Society sponsors “NGOWatch,” a project that monitors the activities of nongovernmental organizations they consider anti-American.2

From the start of his political career, Bolton has been a Republican Party loyalist. As a private attorney before joining the Reagan administration in 1981, he worked with Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Paul Laxalt (R-NV).3 In the 1980s he participated in Republican Party efforts to beat back the voter registration campaigns organized by labor and black organizations.4

A veteran of Southern electoral campaigns, Bolton appealed to the racism of white voters and reprised his role in the 2000 presidential campaign. Working closely with his former boss James Baker during the Florida recount following the contested 2000 presidential election, Bolton once again proved his allegiance to the party and polished his reputation as someone “who gets things done.”

As part of the Republican Party’s legal team, headed by former Secretary of State Baker, Bolton ’s boss during the George H.W. Bush administration, Bolton put his hard-ball approach to partisan politics to work. In a complimentary article on Bolton , the Wall Street Journal in July 2002 reported that Bolton ’s “most memorable moment came after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a halt to the recount, when Mr. Bolton strode into a Tallahassee library, where the count was still going on, and declared: ‘I’m with the Bush-Cheney team, and I’m here to stop the vote’.”

After thanking Bolton for his services, Vice President-elect Cheney was asked what job Bolton would get in the new administration. “People ask what [job] John should get,” Cheney said, “My answer is, anything he wants.”5

Bolton Gets Things Done

When announcing his nomination as the new UN ambassador, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Bolton a “tough-minded diplomat” who has a “proven track record of multilateralism.” Bolton certainly has a long track record, but not as a multilateralist. Since the 1970s Bolton has aggressively and stridently attacked multilateral institutions and international treaties. At the same time, however, Bolton has been a firm supporter of multilateral entities and coalitions that the U.S. controls--such as NATO, the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq, and the anti-rogue Security Proliferation Initiative led by Bolton.

“The president and I have asked John to do this work because he knows how to get things done,” said Rice. A hard-line unilateralist and an aggressive opponent of multilateralism and international treaties, Bolton has served as the Bush administration’s designated treaty breaker. From the early days of the first Bush administration, Bolton mounted a campaign to halt all international constraints on U.S. power and prerogative, fiercely opposing existing and proposed international treaties restricting landmines, child soldiers, biological weapons, nuclear weapons testing, small arms trade, and missile defense.

During the first administration, Bolton earned his reputation as a hawk who dismantled the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, renounced President Clinton’s approval of the International Criminal Court, and blocked the efforts to add a verification clause to the bioweapons convention. Displaying what the Wall Street Journal described as his “combative style,” Bolton told an international conference on bioweapons that the verification proposal was “dead, dead, dead, and I don’t want in coming back from the dead.”

Bolton will face a spirited confirmation battle in the Senate, where four years ago his nomination as the new Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security was approved by a vote of 57-43. All fifty Republicans voted to confirm Bolton , joined by Democratic hawks Ben Nelson, Zell Miller, Joseph Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, Russell Feingold, John Breaux, and Evan Bayh.

In law school and throughout his legal and political career, Bolton has gained a reputation as being abrasive, astute, humorless, and relentless in the pursuit of his political agenda. In his office at the State Department, Bolton displays a mock grenade with the label “To John Bolton--World’s Greatest Reaganite.”6

Treaty Breaker

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 1997, Bolton articulated his dismissive view of international treaties. “Treaties are law only for U.S. domestic purposes,” he wrote, “In their international operation, treaties are simply political obligations.” In other words, international treaties signed by the United States should not be considered as a body of law that the United States should respect in its international engagement but rather just political considerations that can be ignored at will.

Bolton has since the mid-1990s led the charge of the anti-multilateralists and UN bashers against the International Criminal Court. Writing in the National Interest, a journal cofounded by Irving Kristol, Bolton argued in 1998 that signing the ICC would make the “president, the cabinet officers who comprise the National Security Council, and other senior civilian and military leaders responsible for our defense and foreign policy … the potential targets of the politically unaccountable Prosecutor in Rome .”

In support of this position, he contended that international law had already started infringing on the national sovereignty of other countries such as Chile . He charged that the Spanish judge who brought the case against Chile ’s notorious dictator Augusto Pinochet, who took power in a military coup against an elected government, was using international law for political purposes. In his view, the charges against Pinochet for authorizing the murder of 3,000 Chileans should not concern foreign governments, the United Nations, or human rights observers. “Chileans made their choice, and have lived with it,” he wrote.

During the 1990s, Bolton spoke out frequently in public and in Congress against the international policies of the Clinton administration. In a June 25, 1995 op-ed in the Washington Times, Bolton lambasted President Clinton for continuing the funding of “programs on international population control and environmental matters rather than fundamental economic reforms in developing countries.” The type of fundamental reforms advocated by Bolton were those of the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” that stipulated that economic liberalization and privatization were the only path to development. In the same op-ed, Bolton assailed Vice President Gore for his “preference for condoms and trees instead of markets.”

In early 2001 Bolton observed: “It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States .”7

In 1998, when he was senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, Bolton described the ICC as "a product of fuzzy-minded romanticism [that] is not just naïve, but dangerous."8 Early in the first year of the Bush administration, Bolton prevailed upon Secretary of State Colin Powell to give him the honor of renouncing the Clinton administration’s signature of the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bolton called the moment he signed the letter abrogating Clinton ’s approval of the ICC “the happiest moment in my government service.”

In his 2003 speech to the Federalist Society, Bolton explained the administration’s “Article 98” legal strategy to undermine the International Criminal Court. “Each Article 98 agreement,” he said, “meets our key objective--ensuring that all U.S. persons, official or private, are covered under the terms of the agreement. This broad scope of the agreement is essential to ensuring that the ICC will not become an impediment to U.S. activities worldwide.”9 Those countries that do not sign this bilateral agreement are restricted from receiving U.S. military assistance, except for counternarcotics aid.

UN Bashing

Bolton has long dismissed the legitimacy of the United Nations--a multilateral organization that the United States played a key role in creating--not as a pet organization but as a international organization dedicated to “collective security.” A longtime activist with the Federalist Society, Bolton has used this right-wing association of lawyers, judges, and legal experts as a forum to lash out against the United Nations. In a 1994 speech at the liberal World Federalist Association, Bolton declared that “there is no such thing as the United Nations.” To underscore his point, Bolton said. “If the UN secretary building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

Bolton has also made his stand with those who believe the U.S. government should stop its payments to the United Nations. “Many Republicans in Congress--and perhaps a majority,” Bolton said before joining the George W. Bush administration, “not only do not care about losing the General Assembly vote but actually see it as a ‘make-my-day’ outcome. Indeed once the vote is lost… this will simply provide further evidence to many why nothing should be paid to the UN system.”10

In a 1999 article in the Weekly Standard titled “Kofi Annan’s Power Grab,” Bolton laid out the neoconservative position on U.S. military supremacy with respect to what the neocons regarded as the outdated UN Charter. Bolton took issue with Annan’s description of the United Nations as "the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force." According to Bolton, “If the United States allows that claim to go unchallenged, its discretion in using force to advance its national interests is likely to be inhibited in the future.” In mounting the challenge to Annan and the United Nations, Bolton also criticized President Clinton for “his implicit endorsement of the Annan doctrine” during his speech opening the General Assembly session that year.

In Bolton’s view, Annan had put his own legitimacy at risk by expressing his concerns about the NATO bombing campaign over the former Yugoslavia. When visiting the war zone, Annan said: "Unless the Security Council is restored to its preeminent position as the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force, we are on a dangerous path to anarchy." Subsequently, in the secretary general’s annual report to the UN membership, Annan wrote that "enforcement actions without Security Council authorization threaten the very core of the international security system. ... Only the [UN] Charter provides a universally legal basis for the use of force." Bolton wrote that these were “sweeping--indeed, breathtaking--assertions,” although from a post-Iraq invasion perspective Annan’s statements could be described as prophetic.

According to Bolton, “The implicit premise of the Annan doctrine--that force is unimportant while ‘international law’ is practically everything--is widely held in Europe, but is also popular here, particularly in the Clinton administration.” Bolton warned that “if the Annan doctrine is left unanswered, we will soon hear about ‘emerging new international norms’ that will make it harder and harder for the United States to act independently in its own legitimate national interest. And we will wait in vain for our adversaries to follow those ‘norms’.”11

After the UN voted not to authorize the administration’s planned invasion of Iraq, Bolton said the decision was "further evidence to many why nothing should be paid to the UN system." In the run up to the war, he ordered an intelligence probe of UN arms inspector Hans Blix, who headed the UNMOVIC inspection mission in Iraq, and Mohamed El Baradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Not pleased with El Baradei’s lack of a strong stance against Iran, Bolton led a unsuccessful campaign to remove him from his post at the conclusion of his second term.12

Bolton described his theory about the legitimacy of U.S. military actions in his 2003 speech to the Federalist Society. According to Bolton , if the U.S. follows its own constitutional procedures then there is no question about the legitimacy of any resulting U.S. actions abroad. In Bolton ’s view, “There’s a fundamental problem of democratic theory for those who contend, implicitly or otherwise, that the proper operation of America ’s institutions of representative government are not able to confer legitimacy for the use of force.”

“Make no mistake,” said Bolton , “Not asserting that our constitutional procedures themselves confer legitimacy will result over time in the atrophying of our ability to act independently.”

During his career Bolton has never minced words when it comes to his opinions about the United Nations. While his straight-shooting has clarified his opinions on U.S. moral and political supremacy and on what he sees as the dubious legitimacy of the United Nations, Bolton also sees the United Nations as an institution that can be manipulated, exploited, and controlled.

At the same time that Bolton has been bashing the UN, he has been willing to use it to further his political agenda, even taking money personally from the organization that he has labeled as corrupt. When he served as Assistant Secretary of State of International Organization Affairs during the George H.W. Bush administration, Bolton recommended that the United Nations Development Program provide a $2 million grant to the Institute of East-West Dynamics .

The institute was established in 1991 to provide training in free-market principles to the transitional economies of Eastern Europe . Its principals included numerous right-wing UN critics including Burton Pines, then vice-president of the Heritage Foundation and the longtime chief of its UN Assessment Project. The institute’s president was Pedro Sanjuan, a former director of the AEI’s Hemispheric Center and a former UN official during Jeane Kirkpatrick’s tenure as UN ambassador.

Other board members and advisers included an array of figures who were involved in supporting the Nicaraguan contras in their U.S.-backed counterrevolutionary war against the Sandinista government, including Angier Biddle Duke, a member of the NED-funded PRODEMCA and Duncan Sellars, chairman of the International Freedom Fund and former executive director of the Conservative Caucus.

Bolton, who as a member of the Reagan administration had led the insider campaign to withdraw U.S. membership in UNESCO, had no scruples about recommending that UN moneys be used to fund a free-market, anti-communist “development” organization. In November 1991, Bolton congratulated the UNDP for having made an “initial contribution” of $250,000 to the Institute of East-West Dynamics .13

Bolton himself worked for the United Nations from 1997 to 2000 as an assistant to James Baker, who UN Secretary General named as Special Envoy on the Western Sahara . While working for the United Nations during the Clinton administration, Bolton had no qualms about “put[ting] my UN hat on” at the same time he was AEI’s senior vice president.14 The mission to resolve the demands of the Sahrawi people’s claim of the Western Sahara , a territory of Morocco , failed in part because of the Baker-Bolton team’s own lack of support for the UN resolution condemning Morocco ’s colonization of the Western Sahara .15

Armageddon Man

Bolton is a militarist who embraces the “peace through strength” philosophy of international affairs. Praising Bolton in a speech he delivered on January 1, 2001 at the American Enterprise Institute, Sen. Jesse Helms, who was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon.”

Bolton was a leading voice against the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), signed by President Clinton but never ratified because of strong congressional opposition from Republicans. Following the 1999 Senate vote rejecting the treaty, Bolton said that the vote marked “the beginning of a new realism on the issue of weapons of mass destruction and their global proliferation. The Senate vote is an unmistakable signal that America rejects the illusionary protections of unenforceable treaties.”

A report by the National Academy of Sciences, titled Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, addressed Bolton’s stated grounds of opposition to the CTBT. The report argues that the stated concerns over verification (primarily) and viability of U.S. nuclear stockpile (secondarily) are not technically a problem. According to the report: "Verification capabilities for the treaty are better than generally supposed. U.S. adversaries could not significantly advance their nuclear weapons capabilities through tests below the threshold of detection, and the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its existing weapons stockpile without periodic nuclear tests.”

The Committee on Technical Issues Related to Ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which wrote the report, was formed in mid-2000 at the request of Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then special adviser to the president and secretary of state for the CTBT. Committee members included former directors of the Los Alamos, Sandia, and Oak Ridge national laboratories; other experts on nuclear-weapon design, testing, and maintenance; a leading expert on seismic verification of nuclear explosions; and a former commander in chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific.

While undersecretary of state, Bolton was responsible for organizing the administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative, as a kind of “coalition of the willing” focused on stopping the transfer of WMDs and precursor material. Announced by President Bush while in Poland in May 2003, the PSI is, according to Bolton , “legitimate and will be extremely effective in its efforts against weapons of mass destruction proliferation.” Bolton described the PSI--which specifies that partner nations will cooperate with the United States in intercepting and confiscating suspect shipments going or coming from “rogue” countries--as an example of how the United States can “defend its national interests using novel and loose coalitions.”16

In mid-2001 Bolton announced at the UN Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons that Washington opposed any initiative to regulate trade in small arms or in non-military rifles--or any effort that would “abrogate the constitutional right to bear arms.” Accompanying Bolton to the conference were members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). “It is precisely those weapons that Bolton would exclude from the purview of this conference that are actually killing people and endangering communities around the world,” said Tamar Gabelnick, director of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project at the Federation of American Scientists. She charged that the U.S. delegation, led by Arms Control Secretary Bolton, single-handedly destroyed any possibility of consensus around the Small Arms Action Plan.17

The New Europe

Before Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke of the U.S. alliance with the “New Europe” while dissing the “Old Europe,” Bolton already had signaled that the post-WW II transatlantic alliance was being overhauled by Washington. Months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bolton warned that “the Europeans can be sure that America’s days as a well-bred doormat for EU political and military protection are coming to an end.”

Bolton has been a player in a strategy by U.S. militarists and neoconservatives to expand NATO and to form new U.S.-led political and military coalitions in Central and Eastern Europe. Leading this initiative have been two neoconservative institutes that are located in the same building in Washington, DC--the Project for the New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute.

Before joining the Bush administration, Bolton was a member of the New Atlantic Initiative, a bipartisan initiative sponsored by AEI and funded by two right-wing foundations: Olin Foundation and Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation. The New Atlantic Initiative was launched in June 1996 following the Congress of Prague, where more than 300 conservative politicians, scholars, and investors discussed “the new agenda for transatlantic relations.”

Headquartered at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington , DC , the New Atlantic Initiative is dedicated to strengthening North Atlantic cooperation, admitting the transitional democracies of the former Soviet bloc into NATO and the European Union, and establishing a free trade area between an enlarged European Union and the NAFTA countries.18 The New Atlantic Initiative is closely associated with the Project on Transitional Democracies, and was also closely linked to the now-defunct U.S. Committee on NATO--groups that were both founded by PNAC board members.19

Middle East Restructuring with Israel at the Center

Bolton is an outspoken hawk on U.S. policy in the Middle East, and has since the mid-1990s been closely associated with neoconservative organizations and pressure groups that are close to the right-wing Likud party in Israel--including the Project for the New American Century, American Enterprise Institute, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG).

Bolton boasts that one of his most important achievements was the central role he played at the State Department in 1991 in leading the successful campaign to repeal the 1975 General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism, “thus removing the greatest stain on the UN’s reputation.”

Self-identified as a bipartisan group whose members are prominent in U.S. international policy circles, the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf was launched by neoconservatives in 1998 as part of their incipient campaign to build support for regime change in Iraq. Underwritten by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and organized by the neoconservative Center for Security Policy, CPSG called on Washington to adopt a “comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime.” Working closely with Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC), CPSG, which was co-chaired by Richard Perle, included most of the charter members of the Project for the New American Century (including Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Dov Zakeim, and Peter Rodman) and an array of AEI scholars, including Richard Perle, Jeffrey Gedmin, Michael Ledeen, Joshua Muravchik, David Wurmer, and John Bolton.20

Along with other Bush administration officials, Bolton was on the board of advisers of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs before joining the administration. JINSA supports a “peace through strength” policy to support Israel and works to build “strategic ties” between the U.S. military and U.S. military contractors with Israel. Other administration figures associated with this militarist organization that aims to strengthen the military-industrial complexes in both Israel and the United States are Richard Cheney, Douglas Feith, and Paul Wolfowitz.

Two months prior to the Iraq invasion, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton traveled to Jerusalem to meet with former Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Sharon to discuss strategies for “preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.” No mention was made of the widely accepted fact--although never mentioned by the United States --that Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East . Instead, the undersecretary for disarmament affairs focused on the Bush administration’s disarmament targets following the planned invasion of Iraq . Bolton in February 2003 said that once regime change plans in Iraq were completed, “it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria , Iran , and North Korea afterwards.”21

With respect to Syria , Bolton has been the administration’s attack dog. Without offering any evidence to support his allegations, Bolton in May 2003 said that the Bush administration “knows that Syria has long had a chemical warfare program” including maintaining a “stockpile of the nerve agent sarin and is engaged in research and development of a more toxic and persistent nerve agent.”

What’s more Bolton raised alarmist claims that Syria “is pursuing the development of biological weapons and is able to produce at least small amounts of biological warfare agents.”22 Soon after the Iraq invasion and despite the fact the no WMDs were found in Iraq , Bolton warned Syria , Libya , and Iran that “the cost of their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high.”

Contras and Cuba

When he worked as an assistant attorney general under Edwin Meese, Bolton thwarted the Kerry Commission’s efforts to obtain documentation, including Bolton ’s personal notes, about the Iran-Contra affair and alleged Contra drug smuggling. Working with congressional Republicans, Bolton also stonewalled congressional demands to interview deputies of then-Attorney General Edwin Meese regarding their role in the affair.23

Also while at the Justice Department, Bolton refused to provide internal documents to the Senate during the confirmation hearings for the nominations of Rehnquist, Scalia, and Kennedy to the Supreme Court.24

Speaking before an audience at the Heritage Foundation in May 2002, Bolton made the case that Cuba should be included among the axis of evil countries because of its development of biowarfare capacity. Cuba is world renowned for its biomedical industry, but according to Bolton the industry was concealing a WMD project. He charged that Cuba has “at least a limited offensive biological warfare research development effort” and that it has “provided dual-use technology to other rogue states.”

Providing no evidence for his allegations, Bolton said that Cuba was involved in the sales of illicit biowarfare technology at least in part as a way to boost its cash-short economy. Other administration officials, when pressed, declined to support Bolton ’s charges against Cuba . Bolton ’s claims that Cuba was developing biological weapons and that Syria possessed WMDs were completely unsubstantiated by leading officials.

Bolton never complied with congressional demands to provide documentation on the Cuban assertion, and the CIA effectively blocked Bolton’s appearance before the Senate regarding his allegations about Syria’s weapons of mass destruction. A congressional investigation of Cuba’s alleged WMD program found no evidence to back Bolton’s assertions.25

Cornering and Confronting the Dragon

One of the long-running divides in the Republican Party is between those who favor constructive engagement with China and those who propagate an alarmist view of China . John Bolton is a leading figure in the confrontationalist “ China lobby,” sometimes called the Blue Team. In the post-WW II period, the China lobby was most closely associated with the old guard right and militantly anticommunist organizations like the American Security Council.

Today, the China lobby finds its home in the neoconservative think tanks and policy institutes, notably the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for Security Policy. With such figures as John Bolton, it has also found a home in the Bush administration. Bolton and other administration figures, such as CIA director Porter Goss and Donald Rumsfeld, are warning that China increasingly represents a military threat not just to other Asian countries but to the United States itself.26

Bolton is not only one of the administration’s leading hawks on China policy, he is also its strongest advocate of Taiwan ’s independence and of U.S. defense of Taiwan . Bolton has close professional and personal ties in Taipei . According to an investigative report by the Washington Post ( April 9, 2001 ), Bolton was on the payroll of the Taiwan government before joining the Bush administration. Bolton received $30,000 for “research papers on UN membership issues involving Taiwan ” at the same time he was promoting diplomatic recognition of Taiwan before various congressional committees.27

In 1999 Bolton, speaking as an AEI scholar, said that "...diplomatic recognition of Taiwan would be just the kind of demonstration of U.S. leadership that the region needs and that many of its people hope for. The notion that China would actually respond with force is a fantasy." Bolton joined a prominent group of neoconservatives and traditional conservatives who signed a statement jointly sponsored by the Project for the New American Century and the Heritage Foundation that lambasted the Clinton administration for its failure to offer unequivocal support of Taiwan . The statement, whose signatories included William Kristol, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, I. Lewis Libby, Edwin Meese, William Buckley, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Paul Weyrich, James Woolsey, and Paul Wolfowitz, called for a state-to-state relationship with Taiwan .28

Before joining the administration, Bolton was a contributing columnist for the Taipei Times. When Taiwan ’s first lady Wu Shu-chen visited Washington in what was widely regarded as a quasi-official state visit, Bolton , described by the Taipei Times as “an ardent friend of Taiwan ,” held a lengthy personal discussion with President Chen Shui-bian’s wife. At the time of his election, Bolton charged the Clinton administration of a policy of “strategic ambivalence” that left Taiwan vulnerable to Chinese invasion. According to Bolton , the U.S. should defend Taiwan against any possible provocation by China , including in the frontline islands of Kinmen and Matsu .

At the time of Wu Shu-chen’s visit, both Taiwanese and U.S. officials said the visit was not a private one and she would not be meeting with U.S. government officials. The first lady addressed a forum at AEI in which she called for the country’s admission to the United Nations as an independent nation--a prospect that China has said it would not tolerate given that it considers Taiwan to be a “renegade” province. Wu Shu-chen was also awarded the Democracy Service Medal by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a neoconservative-led institution that depends almost exclusively on U.S. government funding.29 Presenting the award was Rep. Christopher Cox, a “China Lobby” member who has worked closely with Bolton on China and is a member of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus.

Like many neoconservatives, Bolton charged that the Clinton administration practiced “disdainful diplomacy toward the Republic of China on Taiwan ” while giving preferential treatment to the Palestinian Authority. The neoconservative camp generally regards U.S. policy toward Taiwan as a bellwether for the degree of U.S. commitment to Israel . According to Bolton , writing in January 2000 for AEI: “That the PLO is a more consequential player [than Taiwan ] in the United Nations speaks volumes… [about] the organization’s detachment from reality.”30

In July 2003, during the run-up to the six-nation talks with North Korea , Bolton described President Kim Jong Il as the “tyrannical dictator” of a country where “life is a hellish nightmare.” North Korea responded in kind, saying that “such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks…. We have decided not to consider him as an official of the U.S. administration any longer nor to deal with him.” The State Department sent a replacement for Bolton to the talks.31

Legal Sleaze

John Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, rejects the legitimacy of international law--at least when international conventions, treaties, and norms constrain what he regards as U.S. national interests. Bolton also has a record of questionable legal and ethical dealings at home.

As an associate at the high-powered Covington law firm, Bolton in 1978 worked with Sen. Jesse Helms and the National Congressional Club, the senator’s campaign-financing organization, to help form a new campaign finance organization called Jefferson Marketing. According to the Legal Times, Jefferson Marketing was established "as a vehicle to supply candidates with such services as advertising and direct mail without having to worry about the federal laws preventing PACs, like the Congressional Club, from contributing more than $5,000 per election to any one candidate's campaign committee." After its formation, Jefferson Marketing became a holding company for three firms--Campaign Management Inc., Computer Operations & Mailing Professionals, and Discount Paper Brokers.

Together with another Covington attorney, Brice Clagett, Bolton later represented the National Congressional Club and Jefferson Marketing--which were treated as a single legal entity--in various lawsuits filed against it by the Federal Election Commission (FEC)--all of which led to a $10,000 fine levied by the FEC against the National Congressional Club in 1986.

In 1987 the National Congressional Club reported a debt of $900,000, with its major creditors being Richard Viguerie, Charles Black, Jr., Covington and Burling, and the DC law office of Baker & Hostetler--all of which maintained good relations with the right-wing political action committee as their debts for service offered went unpaid. Jefferson Marketing was the PAC’s largest creditor, with more than $676,000 due from the National Congressional Club. By the end of the decade, FEC documents showed that Helms’ political action committee owed Covington $111,000. But this was not considered a major concern for Covington , according to firm spokesman H. Edward Dunkelberger, Jr.32

A decade later Bolton was again entangled in money laundering schemes to support Republican candidates, but this time it involved money channeled from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the Republican Party by way of a “think tank” linked to the Republican National Committee (RNC). In 1995-96 Bolton served as president of the National Policy Forum (NPF), which, according to a congressional investigation, functioned as an intermediary organization to funnel foreign and corporate money to Republicans.

The NPF had been established in 1993 in anticipation of the 1994 general election. Founded by the RNC’s chairman Haley Barbour a few months after he assumed the party’s chairmanship, the forum was organized as a nonprofit, tax-exempt education institute, although the IRS later ruled that NPF was a subsidiary of the RNC and not entitled to its requested tax-exempt status.

A congressional investigation into foreign money and influence in the 1996 presidential campaign brought to light the role of the NPF, which, according to a minority report of the congressional committee, channeled $800,00 in foreign money into the 1996 election cycle after having also used the same mechanisms to fund congressional races around the country in 1994.

When John Bolton became NPF president in 1995, the forum began organizing “megaconferences” as a hook to raise money for the party. These conferences brought together Republican members of congress, lobbyists, and corporate executives to discuss matters that were frequently the object of pending legislation. An NPF memo laid out the funding strategy: “NPF will continue to recruit new donors through conference sponsorships. ... In order for the conferences to take place, they must pay for themselves or turn a profit. Industry and association leaders will be recruited to participate and sponsor those forums, starting at $25,000.”

Corporate representatives professed surprise at the size of the contribution request. “It's pretty astounding,” said one invitee. “If this doesn't have ‘payment for access' (to top GOP lawmakers) written all over it, I don't know what does.”

Bolton also made sure that handsome contributors received their money’s worth. In another NPF memo, two NPF employees told Bolton that, in return for a $200,000 donation by US West, the telecommunications company should be assured that the policy issues that most concern them should be incorporated into the NPF agenda for their upcoming telecommunications “megaconference.”

In addition to the continuing money laundering, during John Bolton’ tenure as NPF president, the forum received a $25,000 contribution from the Pacific Cultural Foundation. Both Barbour and Bolton expressed their appreciation in a letter to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative, which functions as Taiwan ’s embassy in Washington . According to one communication with Taiwan ’s official representative in Washington , it was noted that the “generous contribution” would enable the forum “to continue to develop and advocate good international policy.”

Bolton left his position at the National Policy Forum shortly before Congress launched its probe into whether the group illegally accepted foreign contributions. No charges were ever filed as a result of the congressional hearings, which according to the Democratic Party minority members of the committee didn’t devote adequate resources into the investigation of NPF operations.33

Foreign Policy Mandate

The naming of Bolton as UN ambassador was another clear signal from President Bush that he intends to forge ahead with the national security strategy blueprint laid out for him by groups like the Project for the New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute. This has never been a hidden agenda, and during Bush’s first term the radical statements and policies of Bolton and other high foreign policy officials clearly described the directions and methods of this aggressive foreign and military policy agenda.

The president says his reelection gave him a mandate for his radical policy agenda at home and abroad. By nominating Bolton to represent the United States before the international community, President Bush has in effect challenged all nations either to get with the agenda or be swept aside by U.S. power and purpose.


Philip H. Burch, Reagan Bush, and Right-Wing Politics: Elites, Think Tanks, Power, and Policy (Greenwich, CN: JAI Press, 1997), p. 158.

Jill Abramson, “ Right Place at the Right Time,” American Lawyer, June 1986; Philip H. Burch, Reagan Bush, and Right-Wing Politics: Elites, Think Tanks, Power, and Policy (Greenwich, CN: JAI Press, 1997), p. 182.

Christopher Marquis, “Absent from the Korea Talks: Bush’s Hard-Liner,” New York Times, September 2, 2003.

Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2002; “John Bolton: The Iron Hand in the State Department’s Velvet Glove,” NewsMax.com, July 19, 2002.

Glenn Kessler and Colum Lynch, “Critic of UN Named Envoy,” Washington Post, March 8, 2005.

Gabriel Espinosa Gonzales, “The Dubious Career of John Bolton: The Latest Mad Man at Foggy Bottom.” CounterPunch, December 16, 2004

"John Bolton: The Iron Hand in the State Department's Velvet Glove," Newsmax.com, July 19, 2002

“Address by the Honorable John Bolton,” The 2003 National Lawyers Convention of the Federalist Society, November 13, 2003.
Washington Times, October 24, 1998.

John R. Bolton, “Kofi Annan’s UN Power Grab,” Weekly Standard, October 4, 1999.

Gabriel Espinosa Gonzales, “The Dubious Career of John Bolton: The Latest Mad Man at Foggy Bottom.” CounterPunch, December 16, 2004

Ian Williams, “United Nations of America? Why the Right Loves the UN,” The Nation, April 13, 1992.

Honorable John Bolton, “Resolving the Western Sahara Conflict,” Defense Forum Foundation, March 3, 1998.

See Stephen Zunes, “ Western Sahara Conflict Continues to Challenge the United Nations,” Foreign Policy in Focus/International Relations Center, September 2003.

“Address by the Honorable John Bolton,” The 2003 National Lawyers Convention of the Federalist Society, November 13, 2003.
Jim Lobe, “ North Korea Won’t Recognize State Department Ideologue,” CommonDreams.org, August 8, 2004.

“New Atlantic Initiative,” Right Web Profile, International Relations Center

“U.S. Committee on NATO,” Right Web Profile, International Relations Center

“Project on Transitional Democracies,” International Relations Center

Letter to the President, February 19, 1998, Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf

Ian Williams, “John Bolton in Jerusalem: The New Age of Disarmament Wars,” Foreign Policy in Focus, February 20, 2003.

Ian William, “Road to Damascus,” Foreign Policy in Focus/Project Against the Present Danger, November 24, 2003.

Jim Lobe, “ North Korea Won't Recognize State Dep't. Ideologue.” Inter Press Service, August 4, 2003 .

Council for a Livable World, Oppose John Bolton's Nomination as State Department's Arms Control Leader! August 11, 2001

Jim Lobe, “ North Korea Won't Recognize State Dep't. Ideologue.” Inter Press Service, August 4, 2003

Conn Hallinan, “Cornering the Dragon,” Foreign Policy In Focus, February 25, 2005.

Foreign Policy in Focus: The Republican Rule: Other Officials’ Profiles.

David Corn, “Bush Gives the UN the Finger.” The Nation, March 7, 2005 .

Ian Williams, “Bush’s Perverse UN Pick.” The Nation, March 8, 2005 .

“Statement on the Defense of Taiwan,” PNAC and Heritage Foundation, August 20, 1999.
Charles Snyder, “ U.S. Policy Maker Bolton Meets with First Lady Wu,” Taipei Times, September 26, 2002.

John Bolton, “Unequal Treatment for Taiwan,” On the Issues, AEI, January 1, 2000.

" North Korea Bans Bolton from Talks," Associated Press, August 3, 2003 .

Charles Babington, “Helms PAC’s Debt to Covington Lingers,” Legal Times, February 19, 1990; James Lyons, “Congressional Club, Once Mighty, in Deep Debt,” Legal Times, November 23, 1987; Ben Macintyre, “Bush “Accepted Foreign Donations,” The Times (London), February 9, 2000.

Investigation of Illegal or Improper Activities in Connection with 1996 Federal Election Campaigns. Final Report of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, Senate, March 10, 1998.

Tom Barry is policy director of the International Relations Center, online at www.irc-online.org. Barry directs the IRC's Right Web project.

Published by the International Relations Center (IRC, online at www.irc-online.org). ©2005.

Recommended citation:
Tom Barry, "Bolton's Baggage," (Silver City, NM: International Relations Center, March 11, 2005).

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Production Information:
Editor: Tom Barry, IRC
Research: Tanya I. Garcia
Layout: Tonya Cannariato, IRC


The Normalization of War

At the end of the Cold War, Americans said "yes" to military power. The skepticism about arms and armies that pervaded the American experiment from its founding vanished. Political leaders, liberals and conservatives alike, became enamored with military might.

The ensuing affair had and continues to have a heedless, Gatsby-like aspect, a passion pursued in utter disregard of any consequences that might ensue. Few in power have openly considered whether valuing military power for its own sake or cultivating permanent global military superiority might be at odds with American principles. Indeed, one striking aspect of America's drift toward militarism has been the absence of dissent offered by any political figure of genuine stature.

For example, when Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, ran for the presidency in 2004, he framed his differences with George W Bush's national security policies in terms of tactics rather than first principles. Kerry did not question the wisdom of styling the US response to the events of September 11, 2001, as a generations-long "global war on terror". It was not the prospect of open-ended war that drew Kerry's ire. It was rather the fact that the war had been "extraordinarily mismanaged and ineptly prosecuted". Kerry faulted Bush because, in his view, US troops in Iraq lacked "the preparation and hardware they needed to fight as effectively as they could". Bush was expecting too few soldiers to do too much with too little. Declaring that "keeping our military strong and keeping our troops as safe as they can be should be our highest priority", Kerry promised if elected to fix these deficiencies. Americans could count on a President Kerry to expand the armed forces and improve their ability to fight.

Yet on this score Kerry's circumspection was entirely predictable. It was the candidate's way of signaling that he was sound on defense and had no intention of departing from the prevailing national-security consensus.

Under the terms of that consensus, mainstream politicians today take as a given that American military supremacy is an unqualified good, evidence of a larger American superiority. They see this armed might as the key to creating an international order that accommodates American values. One result of that consensus over the past quarter-century has been to militarize US policy and encourage tendencies suggesting that American society itself is increasingly enamored with its self-image as the military-power nonpareil.

How much is enough?

This new American militarism manifests itself in several different ways. It does so, first of all, in the scope, cost, and configuration of America's present-day military establishment.

Through the first two centuries of US history, political leaders in Washington gauged the size and capabilities of America's armed services according to the security tasks immediately at hand. A grave and proximate threat to the nation's well-being might require a large and powerful military establishment. In the absence of such a threat, policymakers scaled down that establishment accordingly. With the passing of crisis, the army raised up for the crisis went immediately out of existence. This had been the case in 1865, in 1918, and in 1945.

Since the end of the Cold War, having come to value military power for its own sake, the United States has abandoned this principle and is committed as a matter of policy to maintaining military capabilities far in excess of those of any would-be adversary or combination of adversaries. This commitment finds both a qualitative and quantitative expression, with the US military establishment dwarfing that of even America's closest ally. Thus, whereas the US Navy maintains and operates a total of 12 large attack aircraft carriers, the once-vaunted Royal Navy has none - indeed, in all the battle fleets of the world there is no ship even remotely comparable to a Nimitz-class carrier, weighing in at some 97,000 tons fully loaded, longer than three [US] football fields, cruising at a speed above 30 knots, and powered by nuclear reactors that give it an essentially infinite radius of action. Today, the US Marine Corps possesses more attack aircraft than does the entire Royal Air Force - and the United States has two other even larger "air forces", one an integral part of the navy and the other officially designated as the US Air Force. Indeed, in terms of numbers of men and women in uniform, the US Marine Corps is half again as large as the entire British army - and the Pentagon has a second, even larger "army" actually called the US Army - which in turn also operates its own "air force" of some 5,000 aircraft.

All of these massive and redundant capabilities cost money. Notably, the present-day Pentagon budget, adjusted for inflation, is 12% larger than the average defense budget of the Cold War era. In 2002, American defense spending exceeded by a factor of 25 the combined defense budgets of the seven "rogue states" then comprising the roster of US enemies. Indeed, by some calculations, the United States spends more on defense than all other nations in the world together. This is a circumstance without historical precedent.

Furthermore, in all likelihood, the gap in military spending between the United States and all other nations will expand further still in the years to come. Projected increases in the defense budget will boost Pentagon spending in real terms to a level higher than it was during the Ronald Reagan era (1981-1989). According to the Pentagon's announced long-range plans, by 2009 its budget will exceed the Cold War average by 23% - despite the absence of anything remotely resembling a so-called peer competitor. However astonishing this fact might seem, it elicits little comment, either from political leaders or the press. It is simply taken for granted. The truth is that there no longer exists any meaningful context within which Americans might consider the question, "How much is enough?"

On a day-to-day basis, what do these expensive forces exist to do? Simply put, for the Department of Defense and all of its constituent parts, defense per se figures as little more than an afterthought. The primary mission of America's far-flung military establishment is global power projection, a reality tacitly understood in all quarters of American society. To suggest that the US military has become the world's police force may slightly overstate the case, but only slightly.

That well over a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union the United States continues to maintain bases and military forces in several dozens of countries - by some counts well over a hundred in all - rouses minimal controversy, despite the fact that many of these countries are perfectly capable of providing for their own security needs. That even apart from fighting wars and pursuing terrorists, US forces are constantly prowling around the globe - training, exercising, planning, and posturing - elicits no more notice (and in some cases less) from the average American than the presence of a cop on a city street corner. Even before the Pentagon officially assigned itself the mission of "shaping" the international environment, members of the political elite, liberals and conservatives alike, had reached a common understanding that scattering US troops around the globe to restrain, inspire, influence, persuade, or cajole paid dividends. Whether any correlation exists between this vast panoply of forward-deployed forces on the one hand and antipathy to the United States abroad on the other has remained for the most part a taboo subject.

The quest for military dominion

The indisputable fact of global US military preeminence also affects the collective mindset of the officer corps. For the armed services, dominance constitutes a baseline or a point of departure from which to scale the heights of ever greater military capabilities. Indeed, the services have come to view outright supremacy as merely adequate and any hesitation in efforts to increase the margin of supremacy as evidence of falling behind.

Thus, according to one typical study of the US Navy's future, "sea supremacy beginning at our shorelines and extending outward to distant theaters is a necessary condition for the defense of the US". Of course, the US Navy already possesses unquestioned global preeminence; the real point of the study is to argue for the urgency of radical enhancements to that preeminence. The officer-authors of this study express confidence that given sufficient money the navy can achieve ever greater supremacy, enabling the navy of the future to enjoy "overwhelming precision firepower", "pervasive surveillance", and "dominant control of a maneuvering area, whether sea, undersea, land, air, space or cyberspace". In this study and in virtually all others, political and strategic questions implicit in the proposition that supremacy in distant theaters forms a prerequisite of "defense" are left begging - indeed, are probably unrecognized. At times, this quest for military dominion takes on galactic proportions. Acknowledging that the United States enjoys "superiority in many aspects of space capability", a senior defense official nonetheless complains that "we don't have space dominance and we don't have space supremacy". Since outer space is "the ultimate high ground", which the United States must control, he urges immediate action to correct this deficiency. When it comes to military power, mere superiority will not suffice.

The new American militarism also manifests itself through an increased propensity to use force, leading, in effect, to the normalization of war. There was a time in recent memory, most notably while the so-called Vietnam Syndrome infected the American body politic, when Republican and Democratic administrations alike viewed with real trepidation the prospect of sending US troops into action abroad. Since the advent of the new Wilsonianism, however, self-restraint regarding the use of force has all but disappeared. During the entire Cold War era, from 1945 through 1988, large-scale US military actions abroad totaled a scant six. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, they have become almost annual events. The brief period extending from 1989's Operation Just Cause (the overthrow of Manuel Noriega) to 2003's Operation Iraqi Freedom (the overthrow of Saddam Hussein) featured nine major military interventions. And that count does not include innumerable lesser actions such as Bill Clinton's signature cruise-missile attacks against obscure targets in obscure places, the almost daily bombing of Iraq throughout the late 1990s, or the quasi-combat missions that have seen GIs dispatched to Rwanda, Colombia, East Timor, and the Philippines. Altogether, the tempo of US military interventionism has become nothing short of frenetic.

As this roster of incidents lengthened, Americans grew accustomed to - perhaps even comfortable with - reading in their morning newspapers the latest reports of US soldiers responding to some crisis somewhere on the other side of the globe. As crisis became a seemingly permanent condition, so too did war. The Bush administration has tacitly acknowledged as much in describing the global campaign against terror as a conflict likely to last decades and in promulgating - and in Iraq implementing - a doctrine of preventive war.

In former times American policymakers treated (or at least pretended to treat) the use of force as evidence that diplomacy had failed. In our own time they have concluded (in the words of Vice President Dick Cheney) that force "makes your diplomacy more effective going forward, dealing with other problems". Policymakers have increasingly come to see coercion as a sort of all-purpose tool. Among American war planners, the assumption has now taken root that whenever and wherever US forces next engage in hostilities, it will be the result of the United States consciously choosing to launch a war. As President Bush has remarked, the big lesson of September 11 was that "this country must go on the offense and stay on the offense". The American public's ready acceptance of the prospect of war without foreseeable end and of a policy that abandons even the pretense of the United States fighting defensively or viewing war as a last resort shows clearly how far the process of militarization has advanced.

The new esthetic of war

Reinforcing this heightened predilection for arms has been the appearance in recent years of a new esthetic of war. This is the third indication of advancing militarism.

The old 20th-century esthetic of armed conflict as barbarism, brutality, ugliness, and sheer waste grew out of World War I, as depicted by writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Erich Maria Remarque, and Robert Graves. World War II, Korea, and Vietnam reaffirmed that aesthetic, in the latter case with films like Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Full Metal Jacket.

The intersection of art and war gave birth to two large truths. The first was that the modern battlefield was a slaughterhouse, and modern war an orgy of destruction that devoured guilty and innocent alike. The second, stemming from the first, was that military service was an inherently degrading experience and military institutions by their very nature repressive and inhumane. After 1914, only fascists dared to challenge these truths. Only fascists celebrated war and depicted armies as forward-looking - expressions of national unity and collective purpose that paved the way for utopia. To be a genuine progressive, liberal in instinct, enlightened in sensibility, was to reject such notions as preposterous.

But by the turn of the 21st century, a new image of war had emerged, if not fully displacing the old one at least serving as a counterweight. To many observers, events of the 1990s suggested that war's very nature was undergoing a profound change. The era of mass armies, going back to the time of Napoleon, and of mechanized warfare, an offshoot of industrialization, was coming to an end. A new era of high-tech warfare, waged by highly skilled professionals equipped with "smart" weapons, had commenced. Describing the result inspired the creation of a new lexicon of military terms: war was becoming surgical, frictionless, postmodern, even abstract or virtual. It was "coercive diplomacy" - the object of the exercise no longer to kill but to persuade. By the end of the 20th century, Michael Ignatieff of Harvard University concluded, war had become "a spectacle". It had transformed itself into a kind of "spectator sport", one offering "the added thrill that it is real for someone, but not, happily, for the spectator". Even for the participants, fighting no longer implied the prospect of dying for some abstract cause, since the very notion of "sacrifice in battle had become implausible or ironic".

Combat in the information age promised to overturn all of "the hoary dictums about the fog and friction" that had traditionally made warfare such a chancy proposition. American commanders, affirmed General Tommy Franks, could expect to enjoy "the kind of Olympian perspective that Homer had given his gods".

In short, by the dawn of the 21st century the reigning postulates of technology-as-panacea had knocked away much of the accumulated blood-rust sullying war's reputation. Thus reimagined - and amidst widespread assurances that the United States could be expected to retain a monopoly on this new way of war - armed conflict regained an esthetic respectability, even palatability, that the literary and artistic interpreters of 20th-century military cataclysms were thought to have demolished once and for all. In the right circumstances, for the right cause, it now turned out, war could actually offer an attractive option - cost-effective, humane, even thrilling. Indeed, as the Anglo-American race to Baghdad conclusively demonstrated in the spring of 2003, in the eyes of many, war has once again become a grand pageant, performance art, or perhaps a temporary diversion from the ennui and boring routine of everyday life. As one observer noted with approval, "public enthusiasm for the whiz-bang technology of the US military" had become "almost boyish". Reinforcing this enthusiasm was the expectation that the great majority of Americans could count on being able to enjoy this new type of war from a safe distance.

The moral superiority of the soldier

This new esthetic has contributed, in turn, to an appreciable boost in the status of military institutions and soldiers themselves, a fourth manifestation of the new American militarism.

Since the end of the Cold War, opinion polls surveying public attitudes toward national institutions have regularly ranked the armed services first. While confidence in the executive branch, the Congress, the media, and even organized religion is diminishing, confidence in the military continues to climb. Otherwise acutely wary of having their pockets picked, Americans count on men and women in uniform to do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons. Americans fearful that the rest of society may be teetering on the brink of moral collapse console themselves with the thought that the armed services remain a repository of traditional values and old-fashioned virtue.

Confidence in the military has found further expression in a tendency to elevate the soldier to the status of national icon, the apotheosis of all that is great and good about contemporary America. The men and women of the armed services, gushed Newsweek in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, "looked like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. They were young, confident, and hard-working, and they went about their business with poise and elan." A writer for Rolling Stone magazine reported after a more recent and extended immersion in military life that "the army was not the awful thing that my [anti-military] father had imagined"; it was instead "the sort of America he always pictured when he explained ... his best hopes for the country".

According to the old post-Vietnam-era political correctness, the armed services had been a refuge for louts and mediocrities who probably couldn't make it in the real world. By the turn of the 21st century a different view had taken hold. Now the United States military was "a place where everyone tried their hardest. A place where everybody ... looked out for each other. A place where people - intelligent, talented people - said honestly that money wasn't what drove them. A place where people spoke openly about their feelings." Soldiers, it turned out, were not only more virtuous than the rest of us, but also more sensitive and even happier. Contemplating the GIs advancing on Baghdad in March 2003, the classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson saw something more than soldiers in battle. He ascertained "transcendence at work". According to Hanson, the armed services had "somehow distilled from the rest of us an elite cohort" in which virtues cherished by earlier generations of Americans continued to flourish.

Soldiers have tended to concur with this evaluation of their own moral superiority. In a 2003 survey of military personnel, "two-thirds [of those polled] said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve ... Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality." Such attitudes leave even some senior officers more than a little uncomfortable. Noting with regret that "the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve", retired Admiral Stanley Arthur has expressed concern that "more and more, enlisted as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve". Such tendencies, concluded Arthur, are "not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy".

In public life today, paying homage to those in uniform has become obligatory and the one unforgivable sin is to be found guilty of failing to "support the troops". In the realm of partisan politics, the political right has shown considerable skill in exploiting this dynamic, shamelessly pandering to the military itself and by extension to those members of the public laboring under the misconception, a residue from Vietnam, that the armed services are under siege from a rabidly anti-military left.

In fact, the Democratic mainstream - if only to save itself from extinction - has long since purged itself of any dovish inclinations. "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about," Madeleine Albright demanded of General Colin Powell, "if we can't use it?" As Albright's question famously attests, when it comes to advocating the use of force, Democrats can be positively gung-ho. Moreover, in comparison to their Republican counterparts, they are at least as deferential to military leaders and probably more reluctant to question claims of military expertise.

Even among left-liberal activists, the reflexive anti-militarism of the 1960s has given way to a more nuanced view. Although hard-pressed to match self-aggrandizing conservative claims of being one with the troops, progressives have come to appreciate the potential for using the armed services to advance their own agenda. Do-gooders want to harness military power to their efforts to do good. Thus the most persistent calls for US intervention abroad to relieve the plight of the abused and persecuted come from the militant left. In the present moment, writes Michael Ignatieff, "empire has become a precondition for democracy". Ignatieff, a prominent human-rights advocate, summons the United States to "use imperial power to strengthen respect for self-determination [and] to give states back to abused, oppressed people who deserve to rule them for themselves".

The president as warlord

Occasionally, albeit infrequently, the prospect of an upcoming military adventure still elicits opposition, even from a public grown accustomed to war. For example, during the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, large-scale demonstrations against President Bush's planned intervention filled the streets of many American cities. The prospect of the United States launching a preventive war without the sanction of the UN Security Council produced the largest outpouring of public protest that the country had seen since the Vietnam War. Yet the response of the political classes to this phenomenon was essentially to ignore it. No politician of national stature offered himself or herself as the movement's champion. No would-be statesman nursing even the slightest prospects of winning high national office was willing to risk being tagged with not supporting those whom President Bush was ordering into harm's way. When the Congress took up the matter, Democrats who denounced George W Bush's policies in every other respect dutifully authorized him to invade Iraq. For up-and-coming politicians, opposition to war had become something of a third rail: only the very brave or the very foolhardy dared to venture anywhere near it.

More recently still, this has culminated in George W Bush styling himself as the nation's first full-fledged warrior-president. The staging of Bush's victory lap shortly after the conquest of Baghdad in the spring of 2003 - the dramatic landing on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, with the president decked out in the full regalia of a naval aviator emerging from the cockpit to bask in the adulation of the crew - was lifted directly from the triumphant final scenes of the movie Top Gun, with the boyish George Bush standing in for the boyish Tom Cruise. For this nationally televised moment, Bush was not simply mingling with the troops; he had merged his identity with their own and made himself one of them - the president as warlord. In short order, the marketplace ratified this effort; a toy manufacturer offered for US$39.99 a Bush-lookalike military action figure advertised as "Elite Force Aviator: George W Bush - US President and Naval Aviator".

Thus has the condition that worried C Wright Mills in 1956 come to pass in our own day. "For the first time in the nation's history," Mills wrote, "men in authority are talking about an 'emergency' without a foreseeable end." While in earlier times Americans had viewed history as "a peaceful continuum interrupted by war", today planning, preparing, and waging war has become "the normal state and seemingly permanent condition of the United States". And "the only accepted 'plan' for peace is the loaded pistol".

Andrew J Bacevich is professor of international relations and director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University. A graduate of West Point and a Vietnam veteran, he has a doctorate in history from Princeton and was a Bush Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. He is the author of several books, including the just-published The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War. This article is a slightly adapted excerpt from that book, and is used by permission of Tomdispatch, of the author, and of Oxford University Press Inc. (Copyright 2005 Andrew J Bacevich.)