President Barack Obama’s readiness to apologize for an apparently accidental Koran-burning incident is a signal of weakness that actually incites further unrest, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton says.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax Saturday afternoon, Bolton said that President Obama’s apologies are only making things worse.
“Look, you apologize when you’ve done something wrong and you want to make amends,” Bolton said. “You don’t apologize when it makes you admit to a mistake that you haven’t made, and in fact in this case incites the people to do some of these things, because they think the apology is an admission of wrongdoing.
“When in fact,” he added, “I think the facts are still murky as far as I’m concerned, but I don’t think anybody set out intentionally to desecrate the Koran. I think quite the opposite is true.”
Bolton stipulated that the administration is not intentionally trying to fan the flames of religious violence in the Middle East.
“But I do think … they assume our people had made a mistake, and that I think is going to have a very negative effect on morale in Afghanistan at exactly the time when operations are beginning to decline.
“And the reaction,” he said, “shows how incorrect it is for the administration to follow this arbitrary timetable to suspend combat operations next year,” said Bolton.
Bolton also commented on last week’s remark by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey that Iran, which has been implicated in several recent assassination attempts, is a “rational actor.”
Bolton said Iran’s view of what is rational is vastly different from the U.S. definition.
He cited the death sentence handed down by Iran against an Iranian pastor who converted from Islam to Christianity.
He called Iran’s action against the pastor “a plain offense against freedom of religion,” adding, “It shows in their system, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience really does not count for anything at all.”
Despite its lack of progress, Bolton said the administration still believes Iran can be brought to the negotiating table and won’t do anything that could endanger that.
He said Dempsey and others in the administration appear to be guilty of “mirror imaging,” that is, the tendency to assume others think the way you do. The fact that an apparently accidental Koran-burning incident would touch off weeklong rioting suggests that is not the case, he said.
“You’re sitting at the table, you’re prepared to try and reach a solution, so surely the other guy is prepared to reach a solution, too,” Bolton said. “But if the guy on the other side of the table thinks that you’re a depraved representative of an immoral, degenerate, declining civilization, maybe his thoughts don’t exactly go along the same lines as yours do.”
Bolton said mirror imaging is a common problem in the State Department, adding, “But as this reveals, it’s obviously a problem at the Defense Department, too.”
One reason for U.S. misconceptions regarding Iranian intentions, he said, is that an increasingly secular America appear increasingly ill-equipped to fathom the depth of religious fervor motivating extremists.
“The left in this country, following the economic determinism of Karl Marx, thinks everything is motivated by economic factors,” he said. “And that’s simply not true.”
That the president is apologizing for the United States, rather than strongly condemning religious persecution in many Islamic countries, sends signals of weakness to America’s enemies, he said.
“I think the perception internationally, and I think particularly in the Middle East, is that the president is weak, he does not assert American interests, that he can be pushed,” Bolton told Newsmax. “And every time that he does something like this, it just simply confirms that impression.
“I think the president thinks that American strength is provocative,” Bolton said. “And in fact, it is 180-degrees the opposite: American weakness is provocative. And Obama is a very provocative president.”
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