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Abolish UNRWA

By John Bolton

The world undoubtedly was startled to learn that staffers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency participated in Hamas’s barbaric Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged a full investigation, and several countries, including the United States, suspended funding to UNRWA.

Washington should demand far more than just further revelations about UNRWA involvement in Oct. 7’s tragic events.

The larger, more complex truth about UNRWA is its decadeslong performance less as a U.N. agency and more as a bulwark of Palestinian resistance to reality, especially in the Gaza Strip. This larger UNRWA history has contributed significantly to making Palestinians a pariah people, unwanted even by fellow Arabs. And it is UNRWA, along with Hamas, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Palestinian Authority, that embodies the myth of Palestinians’ perpetual refugee status until Israel disappears. UNRWA has been a witting participant in weaponizing the Palestinian people against Israel, ultimately to their own severe detriment.

The answer to the UNRWA problem requires abolishing and dismantling the agency and its philosophy, which runs contrary to international refugee principles derived after World War II. Until the treatment of Palestinians, particularly Gazans, comes into conformity with the more humane approach institutionalized by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, there is little long-term hope that Palestinians will be deweaponized.

Basic UNHCR doctrine originated in the post-1945 mass movements of refugees and displaced persons. Its two main goals are providing protection and assistance for refugees. One form of protection, highly difficult but critical to attempt, is isolating refugees from the politics of the violent conflicts that made them refugees to begin with. UNRWA does the opposite, fanning the flames of discontent even in its basic education programs and cooperating closely with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. On assistance, UNHCR worries not only about refugees’ immediate needs but also their long-term prospects, either returning to their original homes or resettlement elsewhere. This, too, is dramatically different from UNRWA’s uniform focus on the “right of return” to Israeli territory.

UNHCR believes refugees should either return to their country of origin or, if that is impossible for whatever reason, be resettled in third countries. UNHCR often looks to the “country of first asylum,” typically a country bordering the one from which the refugees fled, but there are, at times, capacity and other restraints justifying resettlement elsewhere. One thing clear to all refugee agencies and experts, except UNRWA, is that long-term subsistence in refugee camps is the least desirable alternative. In the mind-deadening camps, there is no hope for viable economic activity or long-term prospects. Yet, to promote the larger political objective of using Palestinians as a wedge against Israel’s very legitimacy, that is exactly what UNRWA does.

The truly humanitarian strategy for Palestinians is to settle them in locations with sustainable economies. To that end, we should realize that Gaza is very different from the West Bank, and the futures of Palestinians should be separated accordingly. On the West Bank, there may well be prospects for long-term stability with the cooperation of Israel and Jordan. That possibility does not exist in Gaza. Assuming Israel and Jordan can agree on a political solution, circumstances on the West Bank are far better for long-term settlement of the existing Palestinian population than in Gaza, which is merely a high-rise, long-stay refugee camp.

Ironically, precisely because of the way prior enemies of Israel abused the Palestinians, there is enormous reluctance to accept them for resettlement. Egypt and Jordan, the real countries of first asylum, are the most vocal in rejecting the option. Indeed, no country in the Middle East has shown interest in permanent refugee resettlement. Surely, however, all can see that simply rebuilding Gaza is a guaranteed failure, perhaps leading quickly to a repetition of Oct. 7.

In any case, Israel is physically reshaping Gaza to ensure its own security, and new Israeli buffer zones and strong points are not going away soon. All parties with a stake in the conflict must accept that the two-state solution is dead. Not only is there no viable economic future in Gaza alone, but connecting it with an archipelago of Palestinian islands on the West Bank won’t improve prospects.

Abolishing UNRWA and replacing it with UNHCR will be difficult, but UNRWA may be collapsing under its own weight. Firing all UNRWA’s roughly 40,000 employees, well over 90% of whom are Palestinians, may be impossible, but whoever is reemployed must be vetted carefully and supervised for a probationary period before receiving job security. UNRWA’s mindset must be eliminated and replaced with UNHCR’s.

There must be a dramatic shift in expectations and policy objectives for the Palestinians as a matter of humanitarian priority, no matter how wrenching and disappointing. For decades, the two-state policy has been tried and failed. It’s time for a new direction.

This article was first published in The Washington Examiner on February 2, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

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Trump Is a Danger to U.S. Security

His isolationist views and erratic thinking and style would post even greater risks in a second term.

When I became President Trump’s national security adviser in 2018, I assumed the gravity of his responsibilities would discipline even him. I was wrong. His erratic approach to governance and his dangerous ideas gravely threaten American security. Republican primary voters should take note.

Mr. Trump’s only consistent focus is on himself. He invariably equated good personal relations with foreign leaders to good relations between countries. Personal relations are important, but the notion that they sway Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and their ilk is perilously wrong.

Mr. Trump’s most dangerous legacy is the spread of the isolationist virus in the Republican Party. The Democrats long ago adopted an incoherent melding of isolationism with indiscriminate multilateralism. If isolationism becomes the dominant view among Republicans, America is in deep trouble.

The most immediate crisis involves Ukraine. Barack Obama’s limp-wristed response to Moscow’s 2014 aggression contributed substantially to Mr. Putin’s 2022 attack. But Mr. Trump’s conduct was also a factor. He accused Ukraine of colluding with Democrats against him in 2016 and demanded answers. No answers were forthcoming, since none existed. President Biden’s aid to Ukraine has been piecemeal and nonstrategic, but it is almost inevitable that a second-term Trump policy on Ukraine would favor Moscow.

Mr. Trump’s assertions that he was “tougher” on Russia than earlier presidents are inaccurate. His administration imposed major sanctions, but they were urged by advisers and carried out only after he protested vigorously. His assertions that Mr. Putin would never have invaded Ukraine had he been re-elected are wishful thinking. Mr. Putin’s flattery pleases Mr. Trump. When Mr. Putin welcomed Mr. Trump’s talk last year of ending the Ukraine war, Mr. Trump gushed: “I like that he said that. Because that means what I’m saying is right.” Mr. Putin knows his mark and would relish a second Trump term.

An even greater danger is that Mr. Trump will act on his desire to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He came precariously close in 2018. The Supreme Court has never ruled authoritatively whether the president can abrogate Senate-ratified treaties, but presidents have regularly done so. Recently enacted legislation to stop Mr. Trump from withdrawing without congressional consent likely wouldn’t survive a court challenge. It could precipitate a constitutional crisis and years of litigation.

Mr. Trump is unlikely to thwart the Beijing-Moscow axis. While he did draw attention to China’s growing threat, his limited conceptual reach led to simple-minded formulas (trade surpluses good, deficits bad). His tough talk allowed others to emphasize greater Chinese misdeeds, including massive theft of Western intellectual property, mercantilist trade policies, manipulation of the World Trade Organization, and “debt diplomacy,” which puts unwary countries in hock to Beijing. These are all real threats, but whether Mr. Trump is capable of countering them is highly doubtful.

Ultimately, Beijing’s obduracy and Mr. Trump’s impulse for personal publicity precluded whatever slim chances existed to eliminate China’s economic abuses. In a second term, Mr. Trump would likely continue seeking “the deal of the century” with China, while his protectionism, in addition to being bad economic policy, would make it harder to stand up to Beijing. The trade fights he picked with Japan, Europe and others impaired our ability to increase pressure against China’s broader transgressions.

The near-term risks of China manufacturing a crisis over Taiwan would rise dramatically. Mr. Xi is watching Ukraine and may be emboldened by Western failure there. A physical invasion is unlikely, but China’s navy could blockade the island and perhaps seize Taiwanese islands near the mainland. The loss of Taiwan’s independence, which would soon follow a U.S. failure to resist Beijing’s blockade, could persuade countries near China to appease Beijing by declaring neutrality.

Taiwan’s fall would encourage Beijing to finalize its asserted annexation of almost all the South China Sea. Littoral states like Vietnam and the Philippines would cease resistance. Commerce with Japan and South Korea, especially of Middle Eastern oil, would be subjected to Chinese control, and Beijing would have nearly unfettered access to the Indian Ocean, endangering India.

And imagine Mr. Trump’s euphoria at resuming contact with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, about whom he famously boasted that “we fell in love.” Mr. Trump almost gave away the store to Pyongyang, and he could try again. A reckless nuclear deal would alienate Japan and South Korea, extend China’s influence, and strengthen the Beijing-Moscow axis.

Israel’s security might seem an issue on which Mr. Trump’s first-term decisions and rhetoric should comfort even his opponents. But he has harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the Oct. 7 attacks, and there is no foreign-policy area in which the absence of electoral constraints could liberate Mr. Trump as much as in the Middle East. There is even a danger of a new deal with Tehran. Mr. Trump almost succumbed to French President Emmanuel Macron’s pleading to meet Iran’s foreign minister in August 2019.

Mr. Trump negotiated the catastrophic withdrawal deal with the Taliban, which Mr. Biden further bungled. The overlap between Messrs. Trump’s and Biden’s views on Afghanistan demonstrate the absence of any Trump national-security philosophy. Even in the Western Hemisphere, Mr. Trump didn’t carry through on reversing Obama administration policies on Cuba and Venezuela. His affinity for strongmen may lead to deals with Nicolás Maduro and whatever apparatchik rules in Havana.

Given Mr. Trump’s isolationism and disconnected thinking, there is every reason to doubt his support for the defense buildup we urgently need. He initially believed he could cut defense spending simply because his skills as a negotiator could reduce procurement costs. Even as he increased defense budgets, he showed acute discomfort, largely under the influence of isolationist lawmakers. He once tweeted that his own military budget was “crazy” and that he, Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi should confer to prevent a new arms race. Mr. Trump is no friend of the military. In private, he was confounded that anyone would put himself in danger by joining.

A second Trump term would bring erratic policy and uncertain leadership, which the China-Russia axis would be only too eager to exploit.

This article was first published in The Wall Street Journal on January 31, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

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America’s Arms-Control Restraints No Longer Make Sense

Our enemies are proliferating, so we must adapt

On June 18, 1935, the United Kingdom and Germany entered “a permanent and definite agreement” that limited Germany’s total warship tonnage to 35 percent of the British Commonwealth’s. This was a major concession from Great Britain, since agreements at the Washington (1921–22) and London (1930) naval conferences had already significantly reduced its own fleet. Hitler defined “permanent and definite” to mean lasting less than four years: He abrogated the treaty on April 28, 1939, four convenient months before the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact carved up Poland and started World War II. Arms control at work.

After 1945, America concluded a series of treaties that were, when signed or shortly thereafter, almost uniformly disadvantageous to us. Considerable efforts to eliminate these restraints have been made, but significant risk remains of reverting to the old ways or not extracting ourselves from the remaining harmful treaties. Whoever next wins the presidency should seek the effective end of the usual arms-control theology before the tide turns again.

To have any chance of bolstering U.S. national security, arms control must fit into larger strategic frameworks, which it has not done well in the last century. Even if they made sense in their day, many arms-control treaties have not withstood changing circumstances. Preserving them is even less viable as we enter a new phase of international affairs: the era after the post–Cold War era. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Iran’s ongoing “ring of fire” strategy against Israel, China’s aspirations for regional and then global hegemony, and the Beijing–Moscow axis augur trying times. We need a post–post–Cold War strategy avowedly skeptical of both the theoretical and the operational aspects of the usual approaches to arms control.

Rethinking arms-control doctrine down to its foundations began with Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative and resumed with George W. Bush. The partisan and philosophical debates they launched have continued ever since, but the next president will confront foreign- and defense-policy decisions that cannot be postponed or ignored. Best to do some advance thinking now.

Bush’s aspirations were more limited than what liberals derided as Reagan’s “Star Wars.” Bush worried about American vulnerability to the prospect of “handfuls, not hundreds,” of ballistic missiles launched against us by rogue states. Providing even limited national missile defense, however, required withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, as Bush did in December 2001. Arms control’s high priests and priestesses, and key senators such as Joe Biden and John Kerry, were apoplectic. Missile defense was provocative, they said. Leaving the ABM Treaty meant abandoning “the cornerstone of international strategic stability” (a phrase commonly used by politicians, diplomats, and arms controllers) and upsetting the premise of mutual assured destruction, they said.

But Bush persisted and withdrew. As the saying goes, the dogs barked and the caravan moved on. In 2002, Bush turned to a new kind of strategic-arms agreement with Vladimir Putin, the Treaty of Moscow, which set asymmetric limits on deployed strategic nuclear warheads and was structured in ways very different from earlier or later nuclear-weapons treaties. We abandoned the complex, highly dubious counting and attribution metrics of prior strategic-weapons deals, as well as verification procedures that Russia had perfected means to evade. The Treaty of Moscow was sufficiently reviled by the arms-control theocracy that Barack Obama replaced it in 2010 with the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), reverting to failed earlier approaches, more on which below.

During Bush’s first term, we also blocked efforts in the United Nations at international gun control. We established the G-8 Global Partnership — to increase funding for the destruction of Russia’s “excess” nuclear and chemical weapons and delivery systems — and launched the Proliferation Security Initiative to combat international trafficking in weapons and materials of mass destruction. Neither effort required treaties or international bureaucracies. We unsigned the Rome Statute, the treaty that had created the International Criminal Court, to protect U.S. service members from the threat of criminal action by unaccountable global prosecutors.

Finally, the Bush administration scotched a proposed “verification” protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) that risked intellectual-property piracy against U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers but did not enhance the verification of breaches. The BWC and the Chemical Weapons Convention express aspirations not to use these weapons of mass destruction, but it is almost impossible to verify compliance with them. Moreover, arms controllers forget that the BWC sprang from Richard Nixon’s unilateral decision to eliminate American biological munitions, which proved that we could abjure undesirable weapons systems on our own.

The Bush administration went a long way toward ending arms control, but the true believers returned to power under Obama. Eager to ditch the heretical Treaty of Moscow, his negotiators produced New START — the lineal descendant of two earlier SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) and three START agreements — which entered into force in February 2011 for ten years, extendable once for five more. The Senate should never have ratified this execrable deal, as I explained in these pages (“A Treaty for Utopia,” May 2010). Nonetheless, with a Democratic majority it did so in a late-2010 lame-duck session, by 71 votes (all 56 Democrats, two independents, and 13 Republicans) to 26. While the vote seems lopsided, there were three nonvoters — retiring anti-treaty Republicans who opposed ratification — and the Senate secured the constitutionally required two-thirds ratification majority by only five votes. Today, given a possible Republican majority ahead and the unlikelihood that so many Republicans would defect again, ratifying a successor treaty is a dubious prospect at best.

The Trump administration resumed untying Gulliver, exiting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 2019. While the INF Treaty may have made sense in the 1980s, by the time of withdrawal only the United States was abiding by its provisions. The likes of China and Iran, not treaty parties, were accumulating substantial numbers of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and Russia was systematically violating INF Treaty limits. That left America as the only country abiding by the treaty, an obviously self-inflicted handicap that withdrawal corrected. Then, in 2020, the U.S. withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty because Russia had abused its overflight privileges and because our national technical assets made overflight to obtain information obsolete. Russia subsequently withdrew from Open Skies.

But the arms-control theology still has powerful adherents. On January 26, 2021, newly inaugurated Joe Biden sent his first signal of weakness to Putin by unconditionally extending New START for five years without seeking modifications to it. This critical capitulation was utterly unwarranted by New START’s merits or by developments since its ratification. The treaty was fatally defective in that it did not address tactical nuclear weapons, in which Russia had clear superiority. It remains true that no new deal would be sensible for the United States unless it included tactical as well as strategic warheads.

In addition, technological threats that postdate New START (which deals with the Cold War triad of land-based ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers) need to be confronted, especially cruise missiles, which can now reach hypersonic speeds.

Most important, China has made substantial progress since 2010 toward becoming a peer nuclear power. Beijing may not yet have the deliverable-weapons capacity of Washington or Moscow, but the trajectory is clear.

A tripolar U.S.–Russian–Chinese nuclear world (no other power has or will have rates of warhead production comparable to China’s) would be almost inexpressibly more dangerous than a bipolar U.S.–USSR world. The most critical threat that China’s growing strategic-weapons arsenal poses is to the United States. How will it manifest? Will we face periodic, independent risks of nuclear conflict with either China or Russia? Or a combined threat simultaneously? Or serial threats? Or all of the above? Answers to these questions will dictate the nuclear-force levels necessary to deter first-strike launches by either Beijing or Moscow or by both, and to defeat them no matter how nuclear-conflict scenarios may unfold.

None of this is pleasant to contemplate, but, as Herman Kahn advised, thinking about the unthinkable is necessary in a nuclear world. These existential issues must be addressed before we can safely enter trilateral nuclear-arms-control negotiations. Beijing is refusing to negotiate until it achieves rough numerical parity with Washington and Moscow. There is little room for diplomacy anyway, since in February 2023 Russia suspended its participation in New START. Further strategic-weapons agreements with Russia alone would be suicidal: Bilateral nuclear treaties may be sensible in a bipolar nuclear world, but they make no sense in a tripolar world. Russia and China surely grasp this. We can only hope Joe Biden does as well. Next January, our president will have just one year to decide how to handle New START’s impending expiration. We should assess now which candidates understand the stakes and are likely to avoid being encumbered by agreements not just outmoded but dangerous for America.

A closely related challenge is the issue of U.S. nuclear testing. Unarguably, if we do not soon resume underground testing, the safety and reliability of our aging nuclear arsenal will be increasingly at risk, as America’s Strategic Posture, a recent congressionally mandated report, shows. Since 1992, Washington has faced a self-imposed ban on underground nuclear testing even though no international treaty in force prohibits it. The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 bars only atmospheric, space, and underwater testing, a gap that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would have banned all testing, was intended to close. Because, however, not all five legitimate nuclear powers under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ratified the CTBT, it never entered into force and likely never will. Though the U.S. signed the CTBT in 1996, the Senate rejected its ratification by a vote of 51 to 48 in 1999. Russia recently announced its withdrawal, thereby predictably dismaying Biden’s advisers. The next U.S. president should extinguish the CTBT by unsigning it. As was recently revealed, Beijing seems to be reactivating and upgrading its Lop Nor nuclear-testing facility. We can predict confidently that neither China nor Russia will hesitate to do what it thinks necessary to advance its nuclear-weapons capabilities. We should not be caught short.

Additional unfinished business involves the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, another arms-control “cornerstone,” this one of European security. Effective since 1990, as the Cold War ended, CFE became obsolete almost immediately. The Warsaw Pact disbanded (its members largely joining NATO) and the USSR fragmented. Russia suspended CFE Treaty compliance several times before withdrawing formally in November 2023, having already invaded Ukraine, another CFE Treaty party. In response, the United States and our NATO allies suspended CFE Treaty performance. Like the CTBT, the CFE Treaty is a zombie that the next president should promptly destroy.

The list of arms-control-diplomacy failures goes on. The NPT, for example, has never hindered truly determined proliferators such as North Korea (which now has a second illicit nuclear reactor online) or Iran, much as arms-control agreements have consistently failed to prevent grave violations by determined aggressors.

This long, sad history has given us adequate warning, and the next president should learn from it. The array of threats the United States faces makes it imperative that we initiate substantial, full-spectrum increases in our defense capabilities, from traditional combat arms and cyberspace assets to nuclear weapons. Instead of limiting our capabilities, we must ensure that we know what we need and have it on hand. We are nowhere near that point.

This article was first published in The National Review on January 25, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

ABOUT JOHN BOLTON

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.