To the editor: John Bolton's assertion that President Obama's national security strategy has set America back "decades" is a selective reading of recent history. If any event of the past decade has undercut America's power and reputation, it is the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was energetically supported by Bolton, a key member of George W. Bush's foreign policy team. ("Obama's 'lead from behind' security strategy will plague America for decades," Op-Ed, Feb. 9)
Independent estimates put the full costs to society of our misadventure in Iraq at more than $3 trillion — money that would go a long way toward closing federal budget shortfalls over the next several years. Unsupported allegations that Saddam Hussein was acquiring weapons of mass destruction have undercut the reputation of U.S. intelligence agencies. And Islamic State grew out of Al Qaeda in Iraq, an organization forged in opposition to the U.S. occupation.
We will be living with the consequences of our disastrous intervention in Iraq for years to come. The last thing we should do is take Bolton's advice and double down on the policies that got us into our current predicament in the first place.
William Hartung, New York
The writer is director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.
To the editor: I am a recovering curmudgeon. One of the umpteen steps of this attitude adjustment requires that I react with a happy face to everything that crosses my path.
After a valiant effort with respect to Obama's approach to foreign affairs, the best I can do is classify his views as the soft delusions of a naive dreamer.
Early on, Obama reminded us that he was no cow pie-kicking cowboy from Texas, but rather a fully evolved postmodern aesthete who appreciated the beauty in apologizing for a time-honored foreign policy forged by a Democratic predecessor, Harry Truman, who eschewed weakness in the face of provocation. Truman dealt with reality, while Obama attempts to titrate reality with nuance, a losing proposition save within academic environs.
More Truman would be appreciated.
Paul Bloustein, Cincinnati
To the editor: Reading Bolton's article caused me to yearn for simpler days.
When the Bush presidency was finished, the Dow Jones industrial average was at a manageable 8,000 points and our unemployment rate was at a healthy 7.8%. We never balked at going to war to maintain respect and fear of the U.S.
John Bolton, please come back and save us.
Owen Kearney, Pomona
To the editor: Bolton believes that Obama's approach to foreign affairs is costing the U.S. its credibility.
Sorry to disappoint Bolton, but the U.S. lost credibility a long time ago. Vietnam showed we cannot win another people's war. Then there were the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our boots on the ground have proved themselves incapable of bullying countries that have lost faith in the supposed goodness of our intentions. Be it the Gulf of Tonkin incident or weapons of mass destruction, our leaders have lied too many times for us to be trusted by anyone.
Maybe Obama is right to tread lightly. Maybe this is the way to regain the trust of the international community or to avoid another defeat and more lost lives.
Marie Matthews, San Pedro