Thursday evening, the LBJ School welcomed former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton for a spirited and comprehensive speech on global policy in Bass Lecture Hall. Ambassador Bolton, who served in senior positions in both Bush Administrations as well as the Reagan Administration, offered a vigorous critique of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. Living up to his reputation as an ardent defender of U.S. global leadership, Bolton countered with an alternative vision of America’s role in the world.
The unifying theme of Bolton’s around the world tour of U.S. foreign policy was that American strength is a force for peace and stability in the world. Bolton interpreted the foreign policy statements and actions of President Obama as an indication that he believes America’s strength is what creates many of the problems in the world. He even said the President seems to believe the world would be a better and safer place if America was weaker, more inward-looking, and less assertive. In stark contrast, Bolton posited that what is provocative in today’s world is American weakness, not American strength—and that the current administration is the most provocative we have ever seen.
Challenging the very notion that Obama cares much at all about national security policy, Bolton said that the President wakes up each morning thinking instead about “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” (in Obama’s own words). Generally inattentive to and unmotivated by foreign policy, when Obama is forced to act in response to an international crisis, he does so on a political basis and to gain political advantage.
Certainly not shying away from controversy, Bolton characterized Obama’s view of the U.S. role in the world as analogous to how he thinks of domestic policy: that it is a good thing to spread wealth around America and a good thing to spread power around world.
Bolton went on to evaluate the myriad national security threats America currently faces. From Russia and China to global terrorism and the Arab Spring to Iran and Syria, Bolton deftly outlined what America should be doing to protect and advance its interests around the world.
During the question and answer session, students asked Bolton to address issues such as the military budget, the Iraq War, South America, and the United Nations. One student asked if Bolton planned to run for president in 2016, to which Bolton responded that he did not anticipate doing so. Some conservative students in attendance, however, commented after the event that they hoped he would run, believing that a Bolton candidacy would help put foreign policy and national security issues on the table in the Republican Primary.
The event was hosted by the Alexander Hamilton Society and was co-sponsored by the Barry Goldwater Society, the Clements Center, and AEI on Campus.