John Bolton, former U.N. ambassador under George W. Bush, and top-advisor to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, has some advice for his Republican party, and retroactive advice for the failed Romney campaign:
"I would have stressed national security issues more," Bolton told WABC's Aaron Klein of Romney's campaign. "I don't fault the Romney campaign alone for that, though. I think the entire Republican party has spent four years making a huge mistake really retreating from its historic role as the main advocate of sound national security policies. And in that sense the campaign's unwillingness to take on Obama's failed foreign and defense policies was symptomatic of the problem of the party as a whole."
Bolton is one of the perpetually war-hungry neo-cons, led by Dick Cheney during the Bush years, who had their say on foreign policy for much of Bush’s time in office. That he is still relevant in Republican politics is either an echo of a previous time or a sign that the aggressive neo-con ideology of preemptive war is still very much around, waiting for a return to power.
Or perhaps Bolton falls flat for a different reason: that the Bush doctrine of preemptive war and taking the fight to the enemy has been baked into American foreign policy. While Barack Obama got all kinds of mileage as an insurgent Presidential candidate in 2008 for initially opposing the Iraq War (and to his credit, Obama has overseen the end of the Iraq War), Obama’s foreign policy has been marked by its brazen attacks on terror suspects, wherever they reside, with or without the approval of the country the operations are carried out in. During the Bush-Cheney era, foreign policy was front and center, while under Obama, war, both the ongoing one in Afghanistan and the coutryless, and until recently unacknowledged one that has been conducted with unmanned drones, has been done without big announcements or many public debates.
Given all that, I literally don’t know what Bolton is referring to when he speaks of “Obama’s failed foreign and defense policies.” I’m sure Bolton would love for us to invade Iran, because he’s been beating that drum for a solid decade, but from the other side of the aisle, Obama has been a surprisingly hawkish president.
The real test for the state of neo-con foreign policy will come in 2016. Republicans are going to nominate a presidential candidate. Whether that person is a “down with Iran” firebrand, a bland “yay Israel” (a la Romney) or a “let’s spend less on defense” libertarian (Rand Paul, who is very likely running) will say quite a lot about the Republican party.