What's up with Bolton?
Colin Powell doesn't believe in Bolton for US Ambassador to the UN and he has been quietly telling whoever wants to listen. Regardless of what one thinks personally of Bolton, one must acknowledge that there are legitimate questions about his history, specifically with regards to his strong anti-UN sentiments.
What is it about John Bolton that makes him such an important candidate? I would think that he isn't worth the trouble or the cost in political capital for Bush, et al to get him confirmed over the objections of the Senate Democrats and some moderate Republicans.
That Colin Powell feels he is the wrong choice holds extra weight for me. Does Colin Powell command respect within conservative military circles? Does his opinion on Bolton influence your opinion in any way?
DadManly Response #1 (I think we'll go a few rounds on this one):
As we start, I want to offer a "standing caveat" to anything I say that anyone takes as "representative" of all soldiers or military service members generally. For the most part, soldiers are trained first and foremost to obey orders, to do what they're told. That doesn't mean they don't have opinions -- soldier "gripes" are as old as humanity, and often about food or women (and now, men). So there is what we might consider a "silent minority" of soldiers who really just want to do their jobs and don't really think about this stuff.
Having said that, almost no one in the U.S. military wants to think about being under the authority of the U.N. (although we've been just that on several U.N. Peacekeeping Missions). The United Nations includes a whole bunch of countries who hate us, are jealous of us, struggle overtly or covertly against us, and these are our friends. I would say that the military is mostly negative about the U.N.; we know it doesn't prevent wars or genocide, and those of us familiar with its weaknesses are convinced it often does more harm than good.
So being a strong critic of the U.N. wouldn't bother many in the military, many of us are strong critics as well! As to Colin Powell, he is not as strongly admired in the military as you might think. Wiser and more politically savvy commentators have suggested Powell "went native" in the State Department, adapting to that organization, its conceits, prejudices, and blind spots. The U.S. Military has a long history of having to clean up what Diplomats create in the naive hope that talk talk talk beats fight fight fight.
The greatest evils of the 20th and 21st Centuries -- Fascism, Communism, and State Sponsored and non-State initiated Terrorism -- grew despite the U.N., and in some ways abetted by the U.N.
One last point. Loyalty means more to a soldier than anything. The man or woman next to you may knowingly sacrifice his or her life for you. They got your back. When the going gets rough, you need to be able to trust that soldier next to you, that he or she won't run away or pull his or her own weight. What Powell is notorious for, is departmental infighting, manipulation between departments, chronic leaking to the press. In other words, actively working against the interests of the current administration or other departments or personalities. This would be viewed as supremely disloyal. Powell is to serve the President, but it often seemed that he first served his own or his department's ends.
And Department of State has an abysmal record in terms of analysis, strategy and approach, foresight, and cost benefit analysis. Through the Cold War, Korea, the fall of the Shah, the emergence of democracy in Central America, Israel and Palestine, the Middle East in general, State has called more outcomes wrong than right. State ineptitude has often made matters go from bad to worse.
Honestly? Most military have no idea who Bolton is. That he might be a hard charger, sometimes brisque, direct and somewhat abrasive? That makes him sound like a former military man.