WASHINGTON (IPS/GIN) – Many observers, both here and in European capitals, expected that President George Bush’s second term would see a modest turn toward multilateralism and a new readiness to compromise on key issues with traditional U.S. allies.

Today, however, that particular conventional wisdom is being questioned amid renewed anxiety that the unilateralist trajectory on which Pres. Bush launched the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon is back on track.

The biggest single reason for the change was the recent nomination of John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security during the first term, to the high-profile post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.


The problem, as pointed out by a number of Democrats, is that virtually everything Mr. Bolton has ever said about the UN suggests that he thinks the world, and particularly the U.S., would be better off without it, once opining (before 9/11) that if the UN secretariat building lost 10 stories, “it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

“This nomination is a poke in the eye to the world diplomatic community and a signal that the Bush administration is going to continue its unilateralist approach,” noted Joe Volk, executive secretary of a major peace group, Friends Committee for National Legislation (FCNL), one of a growing number of groups who are gearing up for a lobbying campaign to persuade senators to oppose Mr. Bolton’s confirmation.

Former Ambassador Chas Freeman described the appointment as “the equivalent of dropping a neutron bomb on the organization.”

But whatever the nomination said about Pres. Bush’s attitude toward the UN, it also demonstrated that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is supposed to serve as his superior if he is confirmed by the Senate, will likely play a much less powerful role in Pres. Bush’s second term than had been thought, particularly in the wake of her two tours of Europe in February.

Knowing how much Mr. Bolton had undermined former Secretary of State Colin Powell during the first term, Secy. Rice resisted pressure from him, his Congressional backers and Vice President Dick Cheney by refusing to appoint him as her deputy secretary of state–choosing instead “realist” Robert Zoellick–in what was seen as a kind of declaration of independence from the neo-con hawks perched in Mr. Cheney’s office and around Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But the nomination of Mr. Bolton has profoundly challenged the notion that Secy. Rice can stand up to them.

While Mr. Bolton’s nomination was the immediate cause of the reassessment that is now taking place, there have been other signs that the balance of power within the administration has indeed shifted strongly toward the hawks.

Perhaps, the most important was the little-noted appointment of J.D. Crouch as the deputy national security adviser under Secy. Rice’s former deputy, Stephen Hadley. While Mr. Hadley’s foreign policy views were seen as a mixture of realism and Mr. Cheney’s aggressive nationalism, Mr. Crouch, who served most recently as ambassador to Romania, is regarded as a right-wing extremist on both domestic and foreign policy issues.

A protege of William Van Cleave, a Rumsfeld ally and one of the leaders of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) in the 1970s who claimed that the Soviet Union intended to fight and win a nuclear war with the United States (whose daughter now serves as the chief of counter-intelligence under Secy. Rumsfeld), Mr. Crouch was also a favorite of then-Defense Secretary Cheney during Pres. Bush’s father’s administration, 1989-1993.

He worked in the Pentagon’s policy division under the current deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who has been Mr. Cheney’s chief-of-staff and national security adviser over the past four years.

After the first Gulf War in 1991-92, Wolfowitz, Libby and Crouch were all involved in the draft of a controversial Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), parts of which were leaked to The New York Times and then explicitly repudiated by the administration.

It called for global engagement by the U.S. on its own terms calling for a military posture designed to deter “potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.”

It also urged Washington to create “ad hoc assemblies” to deal with crisis situations–the 1992 version of “coalitions of the willing”–and a doctrine of unilateral military pre-emption “to prevent the development or use of weapons of mass destruction.”

And it predicted that U.S. military interventions would be a “constant fixture” of the new world order. It omitted any role for the UN in preserving international peace and security.

When the draft was leaked to the Times, it caused an uproar, with Democratic Senator Joseph Biden claiming that it amounted to a prescription for a “Pax Americana” and and others that it would make Washington the “world’s policeman.”

The Boston Globe recently reported that Secy. Rumsfeld has set forth the main priorities for the Pentagon’s latest “Quadrennial Defense Review”, a major policy paper to guide strategic planning through the end of the decade and beyond. Among the priorities, according to the Globe account, will be preventing the emergence of a “peer competitor,” stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and dramatically expanding the size of U.S. special forces in order to operate more freely and unilaterally worldwide.