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Department of Saturnine Behavior

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Georges Danton, falling himself victim to the Terror, said “la révolution dévore ses enfants” – the revolution is eating its own children. The Neoconservative enterprise has been a catastrophe of epic proportions, but the Neocons, a tenacious bunch, haven’t yet suffered much. Indeed, Bill Kristol, a man whose false prognoses could fill a yearly planner, has recently been installed as an op-ed writer for the New York Times on the basis of a number of false assumptions. First, that he is a conservative. Second, that he can write. Third, that as the son of Irving Kristol, he was a safe bet for the slot (though given who made the choice, that nepotistic impulse is understandable).

But are we not now witnessing some cracks in the house? The Bush Administration’s UN ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is a charter member of the Neocon club, and he spouts their rhetoric incessantly. Word has been about for some time that John Bolton loathes him. Why? It’s certainly not because they have differences on policy or philosophy. I’d say it’s something staggeringly petty. Perhaps it’s because Bolton couldn’t get confirmed for the position that Khalilzad now holds. Indeed, he couldn’t get confirmed even when the G.O.P. controlled the senate, because several Republican senators felt he was hot-tempered, manipulative and couldn’t be trusted with a position as sensitive as the UN post. Khalilzad differs from Bolton in that he’s undeniably competent, and has an engaging, even charming personality. Which makes him exactly what Bolton could never be: an effective diplomat.

Bolton’s vendetta against Khalilzad has included a whispering campaign accusing him of disloyalty. It appears that Bolton has even been closely tracking all of Khalilzad’s movements—probably through a mole in Khalilzad’s office. Fancy that: a private citizen spying on a government official who holds a cabinet-equivalent post. The inner party has its doubts, apparently, about the loyalty of comrade Zal. Only in the Bizarro World of the Bush Administration could it happen.

The latest attacks that Bolton has promoted make for hysterical reading. It seems that the UN ambassador has committed an unforgivable mistake. He actually spoke on a stage on which Iranian government officials were present! Imagine that, the UN ambassador being present in a building in which Iranians were present. Why, it only happens just about every day. But what did he say? It turns out that he tenaciously defended every consummately irrational aspect of the Bush Administration’s Iran policy, refuting and challenging the contentions that the Iranians put to a high-powered gathering of the world’s political and business leaders. That, of course, is a large part of his generally thankless task as head of the U.S. mission to the United Nations.

No, Bolton threw a fit because former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans introduced Khalilzad with the statement that he had the “really formidable advantage of having a name that is not John Bolton,” producing chuckles from the crowd. Now two Neocon blogs close to Bolton, Powerline and Captain’s Quarters take their best shots at Khalilzad. And it’s evident from them that Khalilzad has committed the unforgivable sin. He may share all of their ideas, but he’s competent, and it makes the rest of them look bad.

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