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Obama critic John Bolton to speak at School of Law today

John Bolton, former United States ambassador to the United Nations, will speak today at the Duke School of Law on President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

The Duke chapter of The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, a national organization of conservatives and libertarians seeking to reform the current American legal system, invited Bolton to speak at the University. His visit is cosponsored by the Duke University Program in American Grand Strategy and the International Law Society. Bolton’s visit comes at “an exciting and relevant time,” said Erica Stalnecker, a second-year law student and president of the Federalist Society chapter at Duke.

Bolton, currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, will speak on “Obama’s New International Order” at 5:30 p.m.

A controversial conservative figure who has worked in several Republican administrations, Bolton served as under secretary of state for arms control and international security from 2001 to 2005 under former President George W. Bush. He was nominated for the position of U.S. permanent Representative to the U.N. by Bush in 2005 but was not confirmed by the Senate after a Democratic filibuster. Many Democrats opposed his harsh criticism of the U.N. as a body, in addition to what they perceived as his abrasive style.

Bolton was never confirmed, but he served as the U.N. representative on a recess appointment from August 2005 to December 2006.

Some conservatives at Duke, however, appreciate Bolton’s ambitious efforts to reform the U.N., and look forward to his engagement today.

“Bolton has a well-deserved reputation for advocating and advancing American interests,” Stalnecker said.

Since Obama took office in January, Bolton has been harshly critical of the president’s foreign policy. The Chronicle’s Ciaran O’Connor spoke with the former ambassador about his views.

The Chronicle: What do you think of the Obama administration’s agreement to hold talks with Iran on security issues?

John Bolton: No, I think it would be fruitless to hold these talks. Iran’s not going to be talked out of its nuclear weapons program, and I think that the last seven years of negotiations have basically demonstrated that.

TC: Recently, Obama scrapped plans for an antiballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe in favor of a reconfigured system based aboard ships. The system proposed by Bush was designed to protect against the Iranian threat, but its location created diplomatic problems with Russia. What do you think of this change, and do you consider it a concession to Russia?

JB: Yes, and I don’t think there was any bargain involved. I think the leadership has never believed in national missile defense, and so they didn’t really think they were giving anything up. I think it leaves the country much more vulnerable.

TC: What do you think about the Obama administration’s approach to North Korea? What was your impression of former President Bill Clinton’s diplomatic role in bringing back Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American journalists captured and imprisoned in North Korea?

JB: I don’t think its approach has been productive. In response to Obama’s “open hand” diplomacy, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test and launched a series of ballistic missiles. I don’t think North Korea will be talked out of its nuclear weapons program, and in fact, the whole diplomatic effort now appears completely stalled. The Clinton mission, I think, played into the hands of terrorists because it showed that if you take Americans hostage you can get somebody like a former president to come and get them out. I think that’s why we’ve had a bipartisan policy for decades that we don’t negotiate with terrorists.

TC: What do you think of our diplomatic relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, given the recent allegations of fraud and vote rigging?

JB: I don’t understand, frankly, why people are so surprised about allegations of fraud, especially the White House. We do have a president from Chicago... [Voting fraud is] just the nature of the game in that part of the world. That doesn’t mean the fraud makes me happy, but it doesn’t affect our strategic interest in keeping Taliban out of power.

TC: What did you think of Obama’s recent trip to the U.N.?

JB: I thought it was very naive in its view of the international arena and kind of narcissistic in his view of his role in U.S. history, but that’s nothing new.

TC: Would you have any advice for the president?

JB: Yes, change a lot of his policies quickly.


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