Ambassador John Bolton addressed Missouri Boys State on Tuesday, June 15th. After his speech he took questions from the audience for almost an hour. This is the second part of that question and answer session.
….Question: …In recent years we’ve seen how or recent weeks we’ve seen how oil dependence can hurt us environmentally. And in your speech you talked about how the Middle East acquiring nuclear weapons could lead to higher gas prices, but my question is, how, uh, is oil dependence, particularly foreign oil dependence crippling our national defense by placing our dollars in the hands of governments responsible for harboring terrorists?
Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think, uh, given that we’ve got global markets in oil, uh, you, you can see that the, uh, the countries that produce the bulk of it and that form the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries or OPEC, uh, have a, have a disproportionate ef, effect on, uh, on the world’s economy and, and really on the world’s politics simply because they’ve got oil in the ground. My own view is that it would be a lot better for the United States, uh, to drill in, uh, our territorial waters and on our soil and, uh, if we’re gonna pay high gasoline prices let’s at least pay it to ourselves. Now I [applause], I think [cheers], now, we’re, we’re, uh, we’re missing the President’s speech tonight or maybe it comes on shortly about, uh, what, what he now plans to do about this leak in, uh, the Gulf of Mexico. And I don’t, I don’t doubt it’s a severe ecological problem. Uh, but I am worried that we’re gonna get carried away on this. This, this leak, uh, was, uh, was something that obviously nobody foresaw and that, and that, uh, was so severe that it overcame any number of redundant, uh, devices that were designed to prevent exactly, uh, what has happened. There’s no doubt we need to do more on it. But if the conclusion is that we’re simply gonna turn away from oil before we have, uh, substitutes that are, uh, that are in the same cost range we’re gonna cripple the United States economy. Uh, and I think you’ve got to be very clear eyed here that despite the impact of this spill, uh, that it would be a lot better, uh, to find ways to drill that are more ecologically sensitive, uh, and that don’t contain this risk. Why are we drilling in one mile deep ocean territories when we could drill on the North Slope of Alaska, uh, with far fewer environmental risks? [applause] I, I’m not here defend British Petroleum, uh, or what they’ve done as a consequence of this, I’m certainly not here to defend the U.S. government’s response, which I think has been uncoordinated, late, and, uh, obviously ineffective. [applause, cheers] What I am saying is you cannot let one accident, no matter how serious, uh, uh, cause us in a kind of emotional rush, uh, to give up the capabilities that we have in this country. Because if we put more limits on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or in offshore regions in other part of the country, uh, we’re simply gonna have other countries open up for more drilling, uh, and we will be buying an even larger percentage of oil and natural gas from overseas. Uh, which I don’t think is in our interest. So, uh, as bad as this spill is and it is bad and it’s probably gonna get worse, uh, we need to take a deep breath, clean it up, plug the hole, and keep drilling for oil in our own, in our own backyard. [applause]…
…Question: …Tonight during your discussion you were talking about Iran’s developing nuclear program. I was wondering what the U.N. or the U.S. would do, um, to intervene when the, um, the, Iran’s, um, threatening Israel, um, Israel’s sovereignty? And do you think it would make a difference if Mousavi got elected in the past Iranian, um, election because most of the power lies within the theocracy and, aya, Ayatollah Khamani?
Ambassador Bolton: Well, I, I don’t, I don’t think the election fundamentally would have changed very much. But I think that the fraud that was, uh, so visible in last year’s election, uh, actually helped demonstrate to a lot of Iranians just how, uh, illegitimate, uh, the Islamic Revolution nineteen seventy-nine has become. I think it’s a very unpopular government in many respects. And I wish the United States, both during the Bush administration and the Obama administration, had done more to supply the opposition with support so that when that fraudulent election had occurred, if we had really given them the resources we might have had an opportunity to see the regime overthrown. Uh, that didn’t happen, we didn’t give them adequate support, either in two thousand nine or in the years preceding that. Uh, and so that opportunity has slipped away and I think it will be quite some time before it comes back. The fact is that, uh, because we have engaged in, uh, now nearly eight years of diplomacy with Iran they have used that time to overcome essentially all of the complex scientific and technological obstacles that stand in the way of a nuclear weapons program. They’re very close to having a weapons capability, it’s really a matter for them when they decide they’re gonna do it. Uh, the diplomacy has failed, the sanctions have failed, uh, so I think today, uh, there are really only, uh, two options facing us with respect to Iran’s nuclear weapons. One is, and this is the most likely option, that indeed they do get nuclear weapons and we’ve got to deal with the consequences of a nuclear Iran. The only thing that will stop that is the second option, which is that some outside power uses preemptive force to strike against the nuclear weapons program, uh, and destroy as much of it as, uh, might be possible, thus setting Iran back, two, three, four, maybe more years. That that is in itself not a complete solution to the problem, but two to four years in, in this business is nearly infinity. I think there’s no chance that the Obama administration will use force. I once thought there was a chance that President Bush would use force. That obviously didn’t happen. I’m not even holding my breath on this administration. Which means that the choice, it’s a very [applause], it’s a very, it’s a very unpleasant choice for Israel, is between seeing Iran get nuclear weapons and taking preemptive action. Uh, military force here is a very unattractive, uh, outcome. It’s very risky, uh, there could be enormous, uh, potential consequences, uh, but in Israel’s case, uh, nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran, uh, could bring, uh, a second Holocaust, this time a, a nuclear holocaust. And, uh, I don’t think that’s something that they want to wait and find out about. When Israel has faced, uh, a potential nuclear threat in the past it has not hesitated to act, uh, preemptively. It destroyed, uh, Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor outside of Baghdad in nineteen eighty-one, as I mentioned a few moments ago it destroyed the North Korean reactor in Syria, uh, in September two thousand seven. Uh, so given, given the alternative of a nuclear Iran I think the military option is very much on the table for the Israelis. I don’t know what they’re gonna do but I don’t think they have much time. Both because, uh, that Iran is increasingly close to actually having a nuclear weapons capability and because, uh, at, at some point the Russians may yet deliver the, uh, what we call the S three hundred air defense system, a very sophisticated air defense system that Israel couldn’t penetrate, uh, which would effectively eliminate the Israeli military option
. So, I think we’re very close to a decision by Israel and, uh, and the consequences that will, that will, that will flow from that. [applause]
Question: …You’ve often been referred to as a neo-conservative and you’ve also been known to, uh, not really appreciate that title all that well. I was wondering why?
Ambassador Bolton: Not, not appreciate the what, the title?
Question: The, yeah.
Ambassador Bolton: Well, the, the, uh, the term neo-conservative was first used about thirty years ago and, uh, the best definition of a neo-conservative was, uh, a neo-conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. [laughter] And I’ve never been a liberal, [applause] so. [cheers] I should move to Missouri, uh. [laughter] So I’ve never been mugged by reality. Uh, I think it is a, uh, it’s obviously intended now as a negative term, uh, used largely I think in a kinda almost anti-Semitic way, uh, because so many, uh, neo-conservatives are, uh, Jewish. You know, I’m, I’m a Lutheran. I, I, I catch it from all directions [applause] [inaudible] sort of no alternative. [applause] Uh, but I, I don’t consider myself a neo-conservative, I’m very much, uh, people, when people ask what kind of label I would put on my foreign policy, they used to ask me this at the U.N. all the time, I say my foreign policy is pro American. [cheers, applause]
Question: …I want to know, briefly, if this is America’s best interest. You spoke heavily on weapons of mass destruction and how America needs to be on her guard, however, legislation has recently been passed which promises to other nations that should they strike the United States with nuclear weapons we will not strike in the same manner. Is this policy, and I quote, in America’s best interest, unquote, if it will further promote those nations with nuclear weapons to impose a terrorist attack on the United States with greater casualties, great, with casualties greater than that in nine eleven.
Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think, I think what you’re referring to is, uh, is, uh, is a thing called the nuclear posture review, uh, which is a, which is a statutory requirement, uh, that administrations go through and the, uh, the policy that the Obama administration announced was essentially limiting the circumstances in which the United States would use nuclear weapons, uh, and, uh, and specifically, uh, when nuclear weapons might be used in response to countries with chemical and biological weapons. Uh, this, the, what they said in the nuclear posture review, uh, comes from a line of thinking, uh, that says countries that are not able to develop their own nuclear weapons program, uh, develop chemical and biological weapons as an alternative, sometimes called the poor man’s nuclear weapons, because actually, they fear that one day the United States is gonna get up in a bad mood and drop a nuclear weapon on them, so that their response is to develop chemical and biological weapons. Now, uh, and, and, and that their, the concerns of these other countries will be allayed if we say, don’t worry, we’re never gonna drop a nuclear weapon on you to begin with. Now, the logic, uh, behind all this is, uh, is, is extraordinarily bad. Number one, these countries aren’t developing chemical, nuclear, biological weapons because of any fear of us, they’re developing for their own reasons in their particular regions, uh, based on their own defensive strategies, number one. Number two, uh, our saying we’re not gonna attack them is not gonna have the slightest impact on their determination to continue, uh, to try acquire exactly these kinds of weapons. And three, it is better for the United States to leave everybody else guessing when we’re prepared to use nuclear weapons. Uh, obviously, this is the kind of discussion nobody wants to have. We don’t want to use nuclear weapons at any point. But if the United States is threatened it seems to me we ought to reserve to ourselves the ability use whatever weapons we have to protect ourselves, [applause] and [ cheers], lim, lim, limiting what we would do simply endangers our own population. And of course the final irony here is we say to all these countries, well, if, if you use chemical or biological weapons you don’t have to fear our using nuclear weapons, they don’t believe us anyway. So, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve limited ourselves for some purposes, we haven’t achieved the objectives we wanted and I think on balance we end up with a weaker and as I said before, therefore, more vulnerable United States. [applause]
Question: …When you were appointed to your position as Ambassador to the U.N. , uh, by president Bush, it was during a time when Congress was in recess, and, um, that they had not appointed you to the position previously when they were in recess., or when they were not in recess. And my question is, when you went into this job, what kind of mindset did you go in with and how did you feel you were going to effectively be the Ambassador to the United States when Congress, who was in effect, um, a representation of the United States, did not fully support you?
Ambassador Bolton: Well, the, the reason, uh, why there wasn’t a confirmation vote was that the Democrats were filibustering me. Senator Biden, now the Vice President, Senator Obama, now the President, uh, and others, uh, didn’t want to let it come to a vote. But I remember having a conversation with Senator Biden who at that time was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, uh, who acknowledged that if there had been a floor vote I would have been confirmed with a very large majority. They didn’t want that to happen because, uh, heaven forbid, they knew I held views about the United Nations that were skeptical and, uh, and I think what they really wanted was not an American Ambassador to the United Nations but American who would be in New York representing the U.N. , uh, back to Washington. That was the exact opposite of the view I held of the job. So, uh, because they, they had enough, uh, votes to, uh, prevent, uh, cloture from being invoked in the Senate, uh, President Bush decided to give me a recess appointment. So, by the way, when you look at the past year and a half and debates about Republican efforts to obstruct President Obama’s program, uh, and the importance of a filibuster proof majority, this is a classic case of, uh, uh, of who’s ox is being gored, you know, when you have the capability to filibuster then it’s a good thing, when you don’t have the capability then it’s a bad thing. So, it’s a , it’s a matter of, uh, of one’s perspective. But the fact is a recess appointment is provided for in the Constitution, uh, it’s exactly the same as being confirmed, uh, and, uh, in terms of the, uh, attitude at the United Nations, uh, it didn’t, there wasn’t any difference really, they just wanted an American ambassador they knew, uh, had the confidence of the President and they obviously knew that I had that. [applause]…
The transcript of the final portion of the question and answer session will follow in a subsequent post.