Wednesday, April 25, 2007
There was a curious and revealing confrontation on Newsnight - see it here - between Gavin Esler and John Bolton. Sloppy as I am about following politics, I had only two vague impressions of Bolton - that he was diplomatically controversial and that, with his L'Oreal, suede-coloured hair, white moustache and glinting glasses, he looked like a man in deep disguise. Esler's tactics were all wrong. He merely flung provocative jibes about difficulties in Iraq, giving Bolton the chance to just swat them aside. But Bolton's tactics were inept and dishonest. First, he simply laughed at the comparison with Vietnam, saying Iraq was a battle with terrorists and, therefore, different. But there are deep parallels and, if, as he implied, Vietnam was a more conventional war, then, on the basis of his own analysis, America should have won, but she lost. He also laughed when Esler refused his challenge to come up with alternatives. But it's Esler's job to ask the questions, not necessarily to give answers, though admittedly his style seemed to suggest he did have answers. But the important point is that Bolton's underlying twofold case was a strong one. First, what choice do we have, here and now, but to attempt to stabilise Iraq? And, secondly, in the end, the decision can only be made by the Iraqis. But he ruined his case by describing this as the Iraqis' 'last chance', a phrase that implies a deadline which is precisely what he was supposed to be arguing against. In addition, he sneered threateningly about the consequences if America withdrew not just from Iraq but elsewhere. This, again, is a strong point but his way of making it was to offer us the role of mere vassals of the American empire. Even the closest of America's friends - I count myself one - could only regard such behaviour as disgusting. The man, I now see, is a diplomatic disaster who makes Donald Rumsfeld look like Disraeli. Seldom have I seen such an intelligent man make such a fool of himself and his cause.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 1:07 pm