Feb. 13, 2009

What leadership and foreign policy challenges will the new administration face? Largely the same challenges the Bush administration faced, according to former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. He delivered a lecture on “Foreign Policy Challenges Facing the Obama Administration” as one in a series sponsored by the John Marshall International Center for the Study of Statesmanship at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.

Those challenges include the Middle East, China, Russia, India and Pakistan, and the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Bolton told a packed room of students and scholars. 

And they are broad, immediate and serious, said Bolton, who has also served as under secretary of state for arms control and international security. 

The former ambassador said he thinks those foreign policy challenges will also prevent the Obama administration from focusing on domestic policy as much as it would like.

“The rest of the world isn’t going to wait for us to get our house in order,” Bolton said, pointing to tension in India and Pakistan and the threat that countries such as North Korea and Iran could produce nuclear weapons.

Although the Obama administration has said it wants to use diplomacy to deal with these threats, Bolton maintained that this approach is unlikely to work, eschewing the idea that because Obama is a more skilled orator he will have more success.

“This administration is convinced that the only way to deal with this is using diplomacy, which has already been tried and has failed,” he said. “The question is not do we have new people in office. The question is what are Iran’s strategic efforts?

“Diplomacy turns out to be like every other activity. It has benefits but it has costs as well.”

Bolton also discussed what he says are a few “myths”: that the United States is declining in power and that America is not held in high esteem in the world anymore.

Following the lecture, he took questions from the audience.

In addition to serving as ambassador to the United Nations and as under secretary of state for arms control and international security, Bolton has also served as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, assistant United States attorney general for legislative affairs and as general counsel for the United States Agency for International Development. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and has recently published the book Surrender is not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad.

The John Marshall Center examines the business of government and the shaping of public policy by hosting fellows and speakers, and developing curriculum and programs primarily focused on the constitution, political economy, politics and ethical reasoning. The center approaches the study and practice of statesmanship through a program that combines scholarly and practical attention to constitutionalism, political economy, politics and ethical reasoning.