John Bolton and His Enemies

Tonight the Associated Press reports that a “former colleague” of John Bolton, Frederick Vreeland, sent an email to Senator Joe Biden that was critical of Bolton. The email was then leaked to the press, either by Vreeland or by Senator Biden’s office. The AP says:

A former colleague of John R. Bolton says President Bush’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations “has none of the qualities needed for that job.”
Bolton “has all the qualities needed to harm the image and objectives in the U.N. and its affiliated international organizations. If it is now U.S. policy not to reform the U.N but to destroy it, Bolton is our man,” Frederick Vreeland, a former U.S. ambassador to Morocco, said in an e-mail to the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Vreeland, who worked with Bolton in the early 1990s under the first President Bush, said Bolton “dealt with visitors to his office as if they were servants with whom he could be dismissive, curt and negative.”
“He spoke of the U.N. as being the enemy,” Vreeland added….”It is totally erroneous to speak of Bolton as a diplomat.”

This extraordinarily bitter attack caused me to wonder who Mr. Vreeland is, and what his connection with John Bolton was. As to the latter point, I assume it must be true that Vreeland “worked with Bolton in the early 1990s,” as the AP says, but it isn’t clear in what capacity. Bolton was the Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs at the State Department from 1989-1993. From 1993 to 1999 he was a partner in a New York law firm. Vreeland was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East and South Asia from February 1991 to February 1992, and the Ambassador to Morocco from 1992 to 1993. While it’s certainly possible that their paths could have crossed at the State Department, their resumes don’t explain why Vreeland would have any particular familiarity with Bolton.
As to the first question–who is Frederick Vreeland?–Google is a little more revealing. Vreeland appears to be a virtual caricature of a career CIA and State Department official. He is rich, socially connected–his mother was the fashion icon Diana Vreeland–and liberal. Vreeland’s views on key foreign policy issues are typical of career State Department Democrats, which is to say, the precise opposite of the views held by the Bush administration and John Bolton.
After the terrorist bombings in Morocco in May 2003, Vreeland wrote an article for the International Herald Tribune. Most Americans, like President Bush, blamed the bombings on the Islamofascist terrorists who perpetrated them. That wasn’t how Vreeland saw it:

The irony is that these terrorist acts, like the similar ones a few days earlier in Saudi Arabia, are collateral damage from the U.S. strategy designed to rid the world of terrorism. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, anti-terrorism has become a vital and valid national objective, but if it is pursued in a counterproductive manner, Americans could soon find themselves living in a perpetual state of red alert.

Got that? Terrorist bombings in Morocco are “collateral damage” from America’s anti-terrorist efforts. But it gets even worse: Vreeland can’t talk about Morocco for four paragraphs without changing the subject to–you guessed it–Israel:

Israel’s lifestyle of constant terrorist threat is exactly what Americans want to avoid. And yet the United States is gradually following the path of successive Likud Party governments, trapped in a vicious circle of repressing terrorism and then being terrorized anew by the scourge this repression is meant to exterminate.
My Israeli friends say that only the U.S. government can persuade Israel’s leaders to ease up on repressing Palestinians and begin addressing Palestinian complaints. Now it looks as if the opposite is happening, with Washington adopting Israeli tactics of fighting fire with fire – retaliation justified by America’s right to act in self-defense, regardless of whether it opens Pandora’s box.
This muscular policy has served the Likud well; it has kept them in office, with their large majorities at election time assured because they stand relentlessly for patriotism, decisive leadership and defense of national values.

What on God’s green earth did Israel have to do with the terrorist attacks in Morocco? Absolutely nothing. But this isn’t argument, it’s obsession. Vreeland concludes with the mantra that so many State Department hands of his generation could never put aside: what America must do, to protect itself against Arab terrorism, is sell out Israel. He concludes:

Americans must act in their own defense. This will require examining what Muslim extremists are complaining about, what arguments Al Qaeda’s recruiters are using – and what can de done to destroy their arguments and cut the ground out from under the fundamentalists. Americans must show Arabs and Muslims all over the world that America stands for justice, work and dignity. America’s fight against Muslim terrorism must include not only strong security measures but also enlightened actions giving hope for a decent future to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Israel – and thus to ourselves.

Vreeland thinks that we need to listen to what Muslim extremists are “complaining about.” This is precisely the tired, dead-end thinking that the Bush administration has finally put to rest. Yet the essence of the attack on John Bolton is that he doesn’t buy it. He doesn’t blame America for terrorism, and he isn’t going to the U.N. to look for opportunities to sell out Israel.
This article, also in the International Herald Tribune and dated August 2003, sheds further light on Vreeland’s thinking about the Middle East. Vreeland endorses the Palestinians’ “right of return,” although he prefers to pay them to stay away from Israel rather than actually welcoming them in:

Israel’s opposition to the concept of a right of return seems ironic in
view of the fact that Zionism, which created the state of Israel, defines itself as the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland…America’s decisive United Nations vote for the creation of Israel, reinforced by the continuing strategic U.S. partnership with Israel, affirm America’s belief at least in the principle of the right of return.

And Vreeland goes so far as to endorse Yaser Arafat’s rejection of the Camp David accords when he was offered only 90% of what he had demanded.
So Frederick Vreeland’s opposition to Bolton, which is being promoted as a non-partisan critique by a “former colleague,” throws the issue of Bolton’s nomination into stark relief. John Bolton stands for a certain set of opinons and values, which mirror those of President Bush: he doesn’t think America is to blame for terrorist attacks; he doesn’t think the U.N. is morally superior to the U.S.; he thinks the job of an American diplomat is to advance the interests of the United States, not other countries; and he sees neither virtue nor advantage in treachery toward American allies, especially Israel. Bolton’s enemies hate him because of these values and opinions, not because he lacks the suave manners of the State Department clique that, for decades, has gotten everything wrong about the Middle East.


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