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Bolton blows smoke on Obama

June 10, 2008

Re "Obama the naive," Opinion, June 5

I understand John R. Bolton's desire to paint Barack Obama as a naif by taking his comments out of context and reorienting them in new and fearful ways. That's just conservative politicking as usual. But to portray Obama as somehow unconcerned about our allies abroad is ridiculous.

Obama has more relatives living around the world than perhaps any politician in U.S. history. His understanding of international affairs is grounded in his awareness that there are real people living in the "pariah states." That he might first seek to negotiate with leaders of rogue states hardly means he believes negotiations alone can resolve threats, as Bolton claims. Since when does talk-first mean talk-only?

Another absurd conclusion in Bolton's article is that Democrats always "blame America first" and that somehow this will lead Obama down Walter Mondale's path to defeat. Using a remark from 24 years ago to stigmatize a presidential candidate reminds me of students who Google for quotes to bolster their arguments by association. Wishful thinking? Yes -- and propaganda too.

Melissa Wantz

Ventura

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Although international negotiation is no panacea, history demonstrates that summitry, at times, has contributed significantly to the relaxation of tensions. The world is a better place because President Nixon went to communist China -- the rogue state of the era -- and because Anwar Sadat, a onetime Soviet ally, engaged Israel in the Camp David process that brought peace between Israel and Egypt.

Although Cold War superpower summitry resulted in mixed outcomes, ultimately arms control and confidence-building measures enhanced U.S. security and that of its allies. And although America's adversaries are tough, history demonstrates that Washington can be smart in using negotiation to promote the national interest. Judging by his performance in the Democratic primary, Obama is both smart and tough and would do well in diplomatic jousting as president.

Bennett Ramberg

Los Angeles

The writer served in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration.

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Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, confirms why he was unqualified to serve as our nation's top diplomat to the U.N. When he describes Obama's willingness to meet with leaders of rogue states as naive and dangerous, one has to wonder if Bolton has ever heard of the concept of diplomacy, much less practiced it.

Robert Struble

La Mesa, Calif.

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Bolton may or may not be correct about Nikita Khrushchev's assessment of John F. Kennedy after their first meeting. Interestingly, Bolton conveniently ignores the fact that if Kennedy had listened to Bolton's neocon predecessors, especially Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, we would have initiated a nuclear conflagration. But let's stick with the roaring success of Iraq and our non-diplomatic, preemptive posture. It's worked so far, and at a cost of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi casualties, along with a few hundred-billion dollars and counting.

Tom Fleishman

Valley Glen

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