Choice of Bolton shows US mood
The choice of John Bolton as the next US ambassador to the United Nations underlines the growing sense of vindication in the White House and among neo-conservative circles in Washington over the decision to go to war in Iraq.
Mr Bolton was the most conspicuous hawk in Colin Powell's State Department during the first Bush term, an unflinching advocate of military action against Iraq, a hardliner on Iran and North Korea and, quite often, a critic of multilateral diplomacy.
Ever since the Iraqi elections, White House officials say they have sensed a shift in public mood over the military intervention. Opinion polls have seen a sharp increase in American optimism over Iraq since the January 30 elections.
The democracy protests in Lebanon and the prospect of a Syrian withdrawal, Egypt's decision to hold multi-party presidential elections and the progress towards a Middle East peace settlement have also changed the tone of the debate in the US. Advocates of the war are bragging, critics are on the defensive and the threshold of 1,500 American war dead was passed last week without much notice paid.
President George W. Bush will give “an update” on the war on terror on Tuesday at the National Defense University, a speech intended to reinforce his argument that the Iraq war has served as a catalyst for democratic change across the region. “We're seeing the spread of freedom throughout parts of the Middle East,” the White House said on Monday, previewing Tuesday's speech.
When Condoleezza Rice took over as secretary of state at the beginning of the year, Mr Bolton's departure from the State Department was seen by some as evidence the Bush administration was seeking to adopt a less ideological approach to foreign policy. But the diplomatic line-up, exemplified by the nomination of Mr Bolton, reflects an administration feeling renewed confidence about the president's “liberty doctrine”.
News last week that the White House has been considering Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary and a neo-conservative hawk, as a candidate to head the World Bank further illustrates the spirit of international outreach in Mr Bush's second term.
Mr Bush is eager to re-engage with allies, but is unapologetic about the Iraq war, the policy of pre-emption and the transformational agenda. The result is a foreign policy that involves appointing hawkish conservatives to pivotal positions of US diplomacy. Mr Bolton's nomination, in that sense, is the embodiment of what Ms Rice defines as her mission: “transformational diplomacy”.
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