Bolton's Departure Leaves Ranks Thin At State Department
The resignation of U.N. Ambassador John ("Say It Loud, Say It Proud") Bolton is only the latest in a string of high-ranking departures from the State Department.
With some positions open now for nearly six months, the question is: Does anyone want to be a diplomat in the Bush Administration, which has shunned diplomacy in favor of tough talk?
After all, this is an administration that has dismissed the idea of talking with Iran and Syria -- and rest assured, the Iraq Study Group's recommendation of such talks will not likely budge Bush. And it has refused to have bilateral talks with North Korea.
For all of the Bush team's bluster and tough talk, efforts to contain the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea have thus far failed. Maybe that's why there are so many vacancies on the State Department's diplomatic team.
Things must be getting lonely for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The buzz is that she has been unable to find anyone who wants to replace Deputy Secretary of State Bob Zoellick, who returned to the private sector in June. Zoellick was Rice's #2.
Last month, State Department Counselor Philip Zelikow resigned, to return to his job as a history professor at the University of Virginia. Zelikow, a long-time Rice ally and her most senior adviser on Iraq, was nonetheless a critic of the Bush Administration's efforts in Iraq.
According to the Bob Woodward book State of Denial, Zelikow wrote a secret memo characterizing Iraq as "a failed state" two years after the U.S.-led invasion. In September 2005, he wrote a memo estimating a 70 percent chance of success in achieving a stable, democratic Iraq, and what he called a "significant risk" of "catastrophic failure," the book said.
And things may get worse for Rice.
R. Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs and Rice's #3, has expressed interest in replacing Bolton. But the New York Times reports that because Burns is Rice's most-trusted deputy, "she may be unwilling to relinquish him."
This isn't a great time for such a thin diplomatic team. Bush, when reluctantly accepting Bolton's resignation, said that it's a "sensitive and important time" for U.S. diplomacy.
And that's true ... sort of.