In his three page article Bolton articulates a vision of a redrawn map of the middle east. It's a fascinating window into the mindset and worldview of an influential neo-consevative (he does not describe himself as a neocon, but as one of the signatories of the PNAC it's hard to classify him as anything but a neocon). The article really sets itself up for an extensive fisking, but I like to think I am a busy man with important things to do, so I am going to skip almost to the end where he makes his point:
Obviously, the central problem is not Iran’s surrogates, but Iran itself, America’s main regional adversary. And until the United States confronts the ever more pressing need for regime change in Tehran, we can hardly expect others in the region to have the strength or the will to arrange things to suit our interests. Obama’s obsession with securing a nuclear-weapons deal means the odds that he would support overthrowing the ayatollahs approach zero. The regime is determined to possess nuclear weapons, so appeasing it in Syria, as Obama has done, was never going to cause Tehran to modify its positions in the nuclear talks. Far better to concentrate on regime change in Iran by overtly and covertly supporting the widespread opposition and watch Assad fall as collateral damage thereafter.
These possible outcomes constitute working hypotheses for U.S. objectives flowing from the destruction of the Islamic State. They are not philosophical abstractions, but practical suggestions that could well change as regional circumstances change. What we must not do is take our eye off the critical first step of destroying the Islamic State. Nor can we let theories about the kinds of regimes we would like to see emerge in the region blind us to what may actually be achievable.
What the hell? John Bolton at this point has spent two and a half pages arguing for regime change in Iran, regime change in Syria, the dismantling of Iraq into two or three pieces one of which would be an independent Kurdistan made from bits of Iraq, Turkey and Syria. He does not ever explicitly state what the point of this exercise would be. What precisely would be the objective for which he advocates?
He advocates playing RISK with the entire middle east and completely forgets it isn't a single player game. In his analysis he fails to mention little things like Saudi Arabia, Israel, and China. He spares half a sentence to mention 'facing off with Russia' but not why one might want to do that. He himself admits that he cannot predict what kinds of governments would arise in the wake of this project, and yet he seems to think the current status quo is so unbearable that we must undertake a third great middle eastern war (or series of wars) in order to stop IS and redraw the map for unspecified strategic objectives?
I don't think it's out of order to ask why IS is a problem the US must solve and just what America is supposed to get out of his proposed course of action.