Avoid strategic trade mish mosh

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton says we need a strategic replacement for the TPP agreement:

“Trade policy and national security policy should be aligned.”

“The problem with the TPP agreement that the US withdrew from yesterday was that it was a clumsy Obama administration attempt with origins in the second Bush administration to trade off economics and politics and it just didn’t work.”

“When you try to make trade-offs without understanding what you’re doing you get a strategic mish mosh.”

“TPP was rightly put in the grave yesterday, but now we need a replacement for it at a strategic level, not merely at a trade level.”


Isolationist? No — Donald Trump has a vision for the world and he’ll make it happen

This article appeared in The Telegraph on January 23, 2017. Click here to view the original article.

By John Bolton
January 23, 2017

Donald Trump’s inauguration unquestionably heralds a rejuvenated US-UK Special Relationship. His view of America’s international role requires it, featuring, for example, reversing Barack Obama’s disdainful relegation of Britain to “the back of the queue” for trade negotiations after leaving the EU. Symbolically, mere hours after taking the constitutional oath, President Trump returned Winston Churchill’s bust to the Oval Office. Theresa May’s imminent visit to Washington is, therefore, perfectly timed.

In his 16-minute inaugural address, Trump’s focus was domestic, contrasting with John F Kennedy’s even-briefer 1961 speech emphasising Cold War themes. Post-Kennedy, the addresses became longer and less memorable, sounding like programmatic State of the Union messages. Trump chose brevity for the sake of emphasis.

Though directed primarily at US voters, but also perfectly appropriate for UK Leave supporters, Trump said: “It is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” Indeed, that happens universally, but only America, Britain and a few others are criticised for it. The new president stressed that his administration would be “transferring power from Washington and giving it back to you, the American people”. But he also wanted to dramatise national unity and patriotism. In a hint of Disraelian “one nation” language, Trump said: “Through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.”

Not awed by the EU

Trump’s emphasis on “making America great again” and “America first” both highlight his implicit revival of American exceptionalism and its essentially inexorable consequence that Washington’s international role will not only not diminish but increase. Although critics cringe at the historical antecedent to “America first”, they should remember John McCain’s inspiring 2008 presidential campaign slogan, “country first”. Just which country do readers think McCain had in mind?

Some European commentators incorrectly predicted doom and gloom about Washington’s future commitments to NATO. Certainly, Trump has criticised NATO, as has almost everyone familiar with its sclerotic decision-making and the failure of too many members to meet their agreed levels of defence spending. Trump is merely saying publicly and emphatically what others have said privately for decades: NATO needs to shape up. That’s what Trump meant in his inaugural address: “We will reinforce old alliances.” Is there something in that sentence that is hard to understand?

Undoubtedly, Trump is not as awed by the EU as Obama or even previous Republican presidents. And with good reason. For decades, the EU has failed on multiple fronts, largely because it became (or always was) primarily an unrealistic political project intended to eviscerate the very concept of the nation state, rather than an economic one. The EU is failing because the citizens of its member states do not feel the EU’s remote leaders have their best interests at heart. Trump’s victory and inaugural address should be warning signals to Europe’s tired and disconnected elites.

Rebooted special relationship

It is a logical extension of this approach that Mrs May will become the first foreign leader to hold talks with the new president later this week. Even though few of the new administration’s political appointees are in office as yet, there will never be greater receptivity to inventive ideas for maximising the post-Brexit economic benefits to both countries. Mrs May and her advisers need to think creatively about the trade and broader economic relationship they want to achieve.

Moreover, a mutually beneficial bilateral US-UK agreement will strengthen London’s hand with Brussels. Contrary to what critics have said, Trump is not against free trade. He simply expects other countries to adhere to the terms they agreed to – something Britain should have no trouble doing. And remember, this is the man who wrote The Art of the Deal.

On international political issues, Trump stated unambiguously that his priority is to “unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth”. This is no small task. By its terms, it means not merely defeating Islamic State and al-Qaeda, but also terrorism’s principal funder and state sponsor, the ayatollahs’ regime in Tehran. This is not the message of an isolationist president, or one who misses the fundamental ideological threat posed by the radical Islamicists​. It unquestionably means the US will look to its allies for counsel and co-operation in their common struggle.


The PM visits the president

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton on British Prime Minister Theresa May’s upcoming White House meeting:

“Leaving the European Union means [Britain] also needs new relationships with its other key economic partners, particularly the United States.”

“There’s an enormous opportunity here, both for America and for Britain. For America, it gives Donald Trump an opportunity to show what a real trade relationship between two friends ought to look like.”

“Not only is there economic significance to this, and it’s huge, there’s political significance as well for the future of NATO and the West.”

“There is a lot on NATO’s plate. Anybody who’s ever dealt with NATO decision making, either at headquarters or in the field, knows that it’s sclerotic, knows that it needs to be improved. Saying that we want to modernize and improve NATO is a far cry from saying we want to junk NATO.”


Obama’s Legacy: America ‘Endangered Now on Fronts That Were Inconceivable Eight Years Ago’

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on events surrounding this week’s transfer of power in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve seen eight years of consistent decline consistent decline of American influence around the world, a weakening of structures that have been set up over decades to protect American interests around the world.”

“The decline of this influence has made America a much less-safe space. We’re endangered now on fronts that were inconceivable eight years ago.”

“Trying to recreate those positions of strength around the world, not just military but political and economic, that build up structures of deterrence that keep our adversaries at bay is the top priority and it’s going to be difficult to do given the damage Obama has done.”

“NATO and the U.N. are very different organizations. NATO as a common defense organization is a creation of the United States and intended to protect our interests in the North Atlantic area.”The strength of the alliance if to our advantage. If we don’t look out for stability in Europe to protect ourselves, nobody else is going to do it for us.”


Revisit the ‘One-China Policy’

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal on January 17, 2017. Click here to view the original article.

By John Bolton
January 17, 2017

The People’s Republic of China sent its aircraft carrier, Liaoning, through the Strait of Taiwan early this month, responding at least in part to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s phone conversation congratulating US president-elect Donald Trump.

That’s Beijing’s style: make an unacceptable long-distance phone call, and an aircraft carrier shows up in your backyard. It is akin to proclaiming the South China Sea a Chinese province and constructing islands in international waters to house military bases; to declaring a provocative Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea; and to seizing Singaporean military equipment recently transiting Hong Kong for annual military exercises on Taiwan.

It is high time to revisit the “one-China policy” and decide what the US thinks it means, 45 years after the Shanghai Communique. Donald Trump has said the policy is negotiable. Negotiation should not mean Washington gives and Beijing takes. We need strategically coherent priorities, reflecting not 1972 but 2017, encompassing more than trade and monetary policy, and specifically including Taiwan. Let’s see how an increasingly belligerent China responds.

Constantly chanting “one-China policy” is a favourite Beijing negotiating tactic: pick a benign-sounding slogan; persuade foreign interlocutors to accept it; and then redefine it to Beijing’s satisfaction, dragging the unwary foreigners along for the ride. To Beijing, “one China” means the PRC is the sole legitimate “China”, as sloganised in “the three nos”: no Taiwanese independence; no two Chinas; no one China, one Taiwan. For too long, the US has unthinkingly succumbed to this wordplay.

Even in the Shanghai Communique, however, Washington merely “acknowledges” that “all Chinese” believe “there is but one China”, of which Taiwan is part. Taiwanese public opinion surveys for decades have shown fewer and fewer citizens describing themselves as “Chinese”. Who allowed them to change their minds? Washington has always said reunification had to come peacefully and by mutual agreement. Mutual agreement hasn’t come in 67 years, and won’t in any foreseeable future, especially given China’s increasingly brutal reinterpretation of another slogan — “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong.

Beijing and its acolytes expected that Taiwan would simply collapse. It hasn’t. Chiang Kai-shek’s 1949 retreat was not a temporary respite before final surrender. Neither the Shanghai Communique nor then US president Jimmy Carter’s 1978 derecognition of the Republic of China persuaded Taiwan to go gentle into that good night — especially after congress enacted the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

Eventually Taiwan even became a democracy, with the 1996 popular election of Lee Teng-hui, the peaceful, democratic transfer of power to the opposition party in 2000, and further peaceful transfers in 2008 and last year. So inconsiderate of those free-thinking Taiwanese.

What should the US do now? In addition to a diplomatic ladder of escalation, we can take concrete steps helpful to US interests. Here is one prompted by China’s recent impoundment of Singapore’s military equipment. Spoiler alert: Beijing will not approve.

America could enhance its East Asia military posture by increasing US military sales to Taiwan and by again stationing military personnel and assets there, probably negotiating favourable financial terms. We need not approximate Douglas MacArthur’s image of Taiwan as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier”, or renegotiate a mutual defence treaty. Basing rights and related activity do not imply a full defence alliance. Our activities would not be dissimilar to Singapore’s, although they could be more extensive. The Taiwan Relations Act is expansive enough to encompass such a relationship, so new legislative authority is unnecessary.

Some may object that a US military presence would violate the Shanghai Communique, but the language of the Taiwan Relations Act should take precedence. Circumstances in the region are fundamentally different from 1972, as Beijing would be the first to proclaim. Nearby Asian governments would cite the enormous increase in Chinese military power and belligerence. Most important, effectively-permanent changes in the Taiwan-China relationship have occurred, making much of the communiqué obsolete. The doctrine of rebus sic stantibus — things thus standing — justifies taking a different perspective than in 1972.

Taiwan’s geographic location is closer to East Asia’s mainland and the South China Sea than either Okinawa or Guam, giving US forces greater flexibility for rapid deployment throughout the region should the need arise. Washington might also help ease tensions with Tokyo by redeploying at least some US forces from Okinawa, a festering problem in the US-Japan relationship. And the current leadership of the Philippines offers little chance of increasing military and other co-operation there in the foreseeable future.

Guaranteeing freedom of the seas, deterring military adventurism, and preventing unilateral territorial annexations are core American interests in East and Southeast Asia. Today, as opposed to 1972, a closer military relationship with Taiwan would be a significant step towards achieving these objectives. If China disagrees, by all means let’s talk.


Trump dossier is beyond character assassination

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton weighs in on the Chelsea Manning sentence and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments about the Trump dossier:

“He should have been prosecuted with the death penalty in mind. I do think he committed treason against the United States and the damage that his release of these incredible number of cables and other internal communications to Wikileaks, the damage that did to the United States is incalculable.”

“This is the mark of the Obama ideology. Often what a president does in terms of pardons and commutations really sticks with him. This shows the contempt the President has for national security, for the criminal justice system, for the military, the list is long.”

“The people who commissioned these fake reports on Trump, whether it was political opposition research in the United States or whether it was someone overseas really are worse than prostitutes.”

“One of the verdicts on Obama’s eight years is a decided politicization of the intelligence agencies, almost across the board.”


Calls for a new Iran policy

Amb. John Bolton on the Trump administration and the Iranian opposition:

“Let’s make it clear what the real source of support is for terrorism around the world- it’s the regime in Tehran. They are the world’s central banker. They fund Hezbollah, they fund Hamas, they fund plenty fo others, and they are well on the road to developing nuclear weapons.”

“The real problem here is the regime in Tehran.”

“There is an alternative to the ayatollahs and if you want to make them more amenable to serious negotiations where they might actually do something, just remind them that their time in power is not eternal.”

“The ayatollahs will not be happy at all for President Trump or members of his administration to talk to the Iranian opposition, the National Council for Resistance. That should not deter us. If anything, that should make us more interested in finding out what we can do to help the legitimate opposition in Iran.”

“After the ayatollahs disappear into the ash heap of history we can have elections in Iran.”

“We do not have to accept the ayatollahs as the legitimate voice of everyone in Iran because they are not. They are the true illegitimate regime.”


Previous Candidates Promised to Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Trump ‘Is Going to Do It’

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on the potential relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem:

“I think there are good substantive reasons for the United States to move its embassy there, in much the same way it was a good thing for Donald Trump to take the congratulatory call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen.”

“Let me make one thing clear that perhaps many listeners don’t understand: the U.S. embassy can be in a part of Jerusalem that nobody – not even the Palestinian Authority – has ever claimed ought to be part of a Palestinian state.”

“The notion that somehow we’re violating some commitment to the Palestinians, or prejudging the outcome of negotiations over the future status of Jerusalem, is absolutely wrong, if the embassy is ultimately placed in West Jerusalem – which no one has argued, since 1948, was ever going to be anything other than Israeli territory.”


Friends Experienced in Diplomacy, Military, and Intelligence ‘Laughed At’ BuzzFeed’s Trump Dossier

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on the “dodgy dossier” of opposition research on Donald Trump that has dominated the news this week:

“It’s hard to hurt somebody who has no reputation to protect. In that sense, if you ask what’s the downside for BuzzFeed or CNN, you’d have to say the answer is ‘not much.”

“To put [information] out in a way that says ‘we can’t verify any of this, but we’re going to put it out there anyway’ is just an invitation for a creative writing contest.”

“[The press] is not a priesthood, and it should get criticized just like any other business when it does something outrageous. I would put this right close to the top of the list.”


Obama’s not-so-smooth transition


This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on January 7, 2017. Click here to view the original article.

By John Bolton
January 7, 2017

America’s presidential transitions are critical to smoothly transferring power but are simultaneously fraught with danger. Decisions by the departing president almost invariably affect the new president. While we must not impair the basic constitutional principle that there is only one president at a time, sensible leaders recognize that the world does not begin anew on Inauguration Day.

Both the president and the president-elect can fulfill their respective electoral mandates without undue friction if they handle the task well. If they handle it poorly, America and its friends worldwide unnecessarily suffer uncertainty and confusion that tarnishes the outgoing president’s reputation and unfairly hampers his successor.

Unfortunately, we are now experiencing the second kind of transition. On both domestic and international matters, Barack Obama has taken sweeping executive actions after Donald Trump’s Nov. 8 election but before his Jan. 20 inauguration. These include broad executive orders precluding oil and gas production on hundreds of millions of acres of offshore federal areas; designating broad swathes of Utah and Nevada as national monuments to prevent even carefully monitored economic development; rushing through voluminous new economic regulations; and allowing countless political appointees to “burrow in” to federal career jobs, thereby preventing the incoming administration from removing them.

Internationally, Obama allowed the adoption last month of an unprecedented, harshly anti-Israel U.N. Security Council resolution, sanctioned Russia, and expelled Russian personnel from America because of alleged cyberattacks in the 2016 elections and harassment of U.S. diplomats in Moscow. He also made further concessions to Iran’s ayatollahs to save the collapsing 2015 nuclear deal. And we still have nearly two weeks until Inauguration Day — ample time for more mischief.

Why has Obama gone to such lengths, which he knows are completely contrary to the policies of the new administration and Republican congressional majorities? While every outgoing administration engages in such activities to some degree, that being human nature, none recently has matched Obama’s frenetic pace. Certainly, building his legacy, boxing in the Trump White House and exacting a bit of political revenge are likely factors.

But the surest explanation is that Obama, like most political leaders, Republican and Democrat, simply did not expect Trump to beat Hillary Clinton. Much of what Obama is now doing he would not have done before Nov. 8 for fear of providing ammunition to his political opposition. Since our presidential campaign season is basically now two years long, Obama had little leeway after losing control of the Senate in 2014 (having already lost the House of Representatives in 2010).

His administration likely did not foresee any problems in a surge of post-Nov. 8 activity because, assuming Clinton won, they did not fear his initiatives would be reversed. He could take controversial steps, receive both the credit and the criticism, and leave Clinton a clean slate. Almost surely she would not have rolled back any significant measures. Trump’s victory changed everything, confronting Obama with the unpleasant reality that both his plans for the transition period and his entire legacy were suddenly in jeopardy.

Other outgoing presidents have not been so churlish. Perhaps the best example is how President George H.W. Bush handled his November 1992 decision to intervene militarily in Somalia after losing just a few weeks before to Bill Clinton. Bush was deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Somalia, which had effectively descended into anarchy. Already a lame duck, Bush nonetheless boldly decided on the day before Thanksgiving to dispatch U.S. military forces (and others willing to assist) to open channels for humanitarian relief supplies to reach endangered Somali civilians.

Although, in the initial stage, Bush insisted on U.S. command to ensure the intervention succeeded, he was prepared to turn over responsibility to a U.N. peacekeeping force once the mission was accomplished. Success in fact came quickly. Thus, as Clinton’s inauguration approached, President Bush confronted the decision of what to do with the deployed American troops. He informed the incoming Clinton team that he was prepared either to withdraw all U.S. troops by Jan. 20, or leave them in place, depending on what the Clinton administration policy would be. President-elect Clinton responded that he would like the troops to remain, and so they did. Clinton went on to pursue a failed policy of nation-building in Somalia, including the deaths of 43 U.S. troops, but these were all entirely his decisions, unrelated to what he inherited on Jan. 20.

Bush was fully president until Jan. 20, 1993, and he did what he thought needed to be done in Somalia. But he had both the grace and the wisdom to know that his successor might have a different view, and he acted accordingly. President George W. Bush understood his father’s insight, and in his turn acted to provide President-elect Obama with a smooth transition.

It’s too bad Obama hasn’t followed their examples.

John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and, previously, the undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.


Ambassador John Bolton, a diplomat and a lawyer, has spent many years in public service. He served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 2005-2006. He was Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001 to 2005. In the Reagan Administration, he was an Assistant Attorney General.