ECHOES FROM THE PAST.

John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been busy giving speeches in the old and dissolute Europe. He addressed a meeting of bitter Thatcherians in Great Britain:

Mr Bolton, who was addressing a fringe meeting organised by Lord (Michael) Ancram, said that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was "pushing out" and "is not receiving adequate push-back" from the west.

"I don't think the use of military force is an attractive option, but I would tell you I don't know what the alternative is.

"Because life is about choices, I think we have to consider the use of military force. I think we have to look at a limited strike against their nuclear facilities."

He added that any strike should be followed by an attempt to remove the "source of the problem", Mr Ahmadinejad.

"If we were to strike Iran it should be accompanied by an effort at regime change ... The US once had the capability to engineer the clandestine overthrow of governments. I wish we could get it back."

The fact that intelligence about Iran's nuclear activity was partial should not be used as an excuse not to act, Mr Bolton insisted.

"Intelligence can be wrong in more than one direction." He asked how the British government would respond if terrorists exploded a nuclear device at home. "'It's only Manchester?' ... Responding after they're used is unacceptable."

I hear odd echoes from the prelude to the Iraq war in all this: The same determination to employ force rather than diplomacy, the same unfounded optimism, the same unrealism about the work that remains to be done after any shock-and-awe attacks. At least Mr. Bolton is no longer the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations ( which he once again calls "fundamentally irrelevant").

But he used to be one, after a recess appointment by President Bush. At the time of Bolton's appointment Bush had only good things to say about him:

Bush said Bolton performed admirably in his tenure at the State Department: "Over the past four years as undersecretary of state, he's shown valuable leadership on one of the most urgent challenges of our time: preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction." Now, Bush added, "he will speak for me on critical issues facing the international community."

I sure hope Bolton's current opinions are only his own.

-- J. Goodrich

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