+

Ambassador John Bolton Endorses Yvette Herrell for US House of Representatives in New Mexico Second District

Washington D.C. – Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Ambassador John R. Bolton, announced the John Bolton PAC’s endorsement of Yvette Herrell for US House of Representatives in New Mexico’s Second District. Additionally, the John Bolton PAC will make a contribution of $5,000 to her election campaign.

Statement by Ambassador John Bolton:

“There are just nine congressional districts along the southern border. Yvette Herrell is uniquely positioned to impact the debate around border security if we’re able to maintain our Republican House majority. Border security is national security and it should matter to all Americans that we have competent leadership on our borders. I’m proud to support her in this critical race.”

Statement by Congresswoman Yvette Herrell:

“Keeping our Republican majority in the House starts by winning back New Mexico’s Second District, and I thank Ambassador Bolton for his support in this critical race.”

About the John Bolton PAC (www.boltonpac.com): Through his PAC, SuperPAC and Foundation, Ambassador John Bolton defends America by raising the importance of national security in public discourse and supporting candidates who believe in strong national security policies. Ambassador Bolton has worked hard to restore conservative leadership, which must reverse the recent policies of drift, decline, and defeat. America must rise to the occasion and acknowledge the indispensable role we play in the world. Through 2022, Ambassador Bolton has endorsed over 250 candidates and raised nearly $30 million for his organizations.

###

+

The two-state solution is dead. Israel must achieve total victory.

By John Bolton

Foreign Secretary David Cameron recently suggested that the United Kingdom could recognise the state of “Palestine” before waiting for the conclusion of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He said that recognition “can’t come at the start of the process, but it doesn’t have to be the very end of the process”.

This is dangerous ground for the unwary, including both Cameron and the credulous Biden administration, which is also musing about recognising a nonexistent state. Since the first Oslo Accord, if not before, it has been bedrock peace-process doctrine that both Israel and the Palestinians must agree to any “two-state solution”.  Moreover, Israel is responding to a terrorist attack comparable to al Qaeda’s 9-11 attack on America, while simultaneously menaced by Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. What kind of ally then puts a knife in Israel’s back?

Without agreement by the two most-concerned parties, there is no agreement at all. As former US Secretary of State James Baker often said, “we can’t want peace more than the parties themselves.”

Recognising “statehood” in international affairs is far more consequential than recognising a state of mind. In both treaties and customary international law, statehood has critically important characteristics, including having a defined territory and population, a capital city, and being able to implement normal governmental functions. There is no existing “Palestine” that meets any of these core criteria. Pretending that the Palestinian Authority (or Hamas for that matter) qualifies does not make it so. Indeed, wishing wistfully quite likely inhibits achieving the objectives statehood advocates supposedly want.

Imposing this key potential outcome of contentious negotiations almost certainly reduces Palestinian incentives to deal seriously with the Israeli government, which will in turn reduce Israeli interest in any deal. However much the Foreign Office dislikes Israel or Netanyahu, there is no justification for abandoning a key premise of the international state system.

The origins of the other-worldly notion of recognising a Palestinian state before there is one stem directly from none other than Yasser Arafat. Beginning in 1988-89 and continuing episodically thereafter, Arafat tried to have the Palestine Liberation Organisation admitted as a member of the United Nations and its specialised agencies. Because all UN agency charters limit membership to “states,” Arafat believed that admission would confer state status on the PLO, thus constructing not “facts on the ground” in the Middle East, but in the corridors of the UN.

President George H. W. Bush strongly objected to this fantasy, threatening to withhold all American contributions to any UN component that admitted “Palestine,” a threat ultimately embodied in statutory law by overwhelming House and Senate votes.

This is of far more than just historical interest. The threat worked until American resolve collapsed under Obama, allowing the Palestinian Authority to gain admittance to Unesco (from which Ronald Reagan had earlier withdrawn, with George W. Bush later returning). Obama’s mistake led to President Trump’s decision to withdraw. Biden rejoined. Should Trump win in November, count on a third withdrawal in short order.

Obsessively imagining a Palestinian state has thus caused real damage to the United Nations, which doesn’t matter that much except to the very types of people in the Foreign Office and State Department who also advocate early recognition of Palestine.

Rishi Sunak walked back Cameron’s frolic, saying the remarks had been “over-interpreted”. During Prime Minister’s Questions, however, he said Britain would recognise a Palestinian state when it was most conducive to the peace process, and stressed his commitment to a two-state solution. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, any prospect that Israel would agree, already close to nonexistent, died along with over 1,200 Israelis killed in Hamas’s barbaric October 7 attack.

If further proof were required, consider Biden’s embarrassing efforts to negotiate a second cease-fire and the release of remaining Israeli hostages brutally kidnapped by Hamas. It was not Israel, but Hamas which effectively scuttled this gambit, by adding conditions guaranteed to provoke Israel’s rejection, which they did

Netanyahu made clear that Israel wants, as it should, “total victory” over Hamas. In World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt insisted that Germany and Japan agree to unconditional surrender. There is no reason Israel should not demand the same from Hamas. We can then turn to other Middle Eastern threats facing Israel and the wider West, nearly all of which emanate from Iran.

This article was first published in The Telegraph on February 10, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

+

Ambassador John Bolton Endorses Former Gov. Larry Hogan for US Senate in Maryland

Washington D.C. – Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Ambassador John R. Bolton, announced the John Bolton PAC’s endorsement of former Governor Larry Hogan in the Maryland Senate race. Additionally, the John Bolton PAC will make a contribution of $10,000 to his primary and general election campaign.  Hogan is running in Bolton’s home state of Maryland.

Statement by Ambassador John Bolton:

“Larry Hogan was an effective Republican governor in a blue state. His skills are badly needed in the Senate.  His candidacy immediately puts this race in play as a likely GOP pickup.  From day one, he will be a key swing vote on critical national security issues like securing our border and providing aid to Ukraine and Israel.  I’m excited for him to represent me as my senator.”

About the John Bolton PAC (www.boltonpac.com): Through his PAC, SuperPAC and Foundation, Ambassador John Bolton defends America by raising the importance of national security in public discourse and supporting candidates who believe in strong national security policies. Ambassador Bolton has worked hard to restore conservative leadership, which must reverse the recent policies of drift, decline, and defeat. America must rise to the occasion and acknowledge the indispensable role we play in the world. Through 2022, Ambassador Bolton has endorsed over 250 candidates and raised nearly $30 million for his organizations.

###

+

Biden’s biggest Middle East problem: Too many competing goals

By John Bolton

Before Washington unleashed strikes against Iranian assets and Iranian-backed militias in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, media reporting highlighted the Biden administration’s concerns over potentially broader regional fallout. Fearful of escalating the current conflict and producing a wider war by crossing Tehran’s publicly declared “red line,” we heard, the United States would not attack inside Iran.

Retaliation, we heard, would be carefully calibrated lest it disrupt negotiations for a lengthy cease-fire and the return of Hamas-held Israeli hostages. Or disrupt talks to recognize “Palestine,” with the Palestinian Authority as Gaza’s postwar government. Or prevent Saudi Arabia’s recognition of Israel. Or complicate President Biden’s desire to withdraw American forces from Iraq and Syria. Or complicate his efforts to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Or more.

So intricately reticulated were Biden’s worries, that striking the right balance seemed impossible. Such worries are legitimate, but not for the reasons advanced by anonymous administration sources. The problem is of Biden’s own making. He has too many wrongheaded, confused and contradictory strategic objectives colliding and gridlocking, most likely leading to inadequate or undesirable results for them all. Washington needs not just aspirations, but priorities and concrete strategies to realize them. You can only simultaneously drive so many camels through one needle’s eye.

Biden’s wish list is overbroad and deeply flawed. For example, the idea of raising the Palestinian Authority from its ashes on the West Bank to govern Gaza leaves Israelis across the political spectrum speechless. The Post’s Ishaan Tharoor recently described the Palestinian Authority as “weak and increasingly unpopular,” a “sclerotic institution, riven with corruption,” and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, as presiding “over his rump of a fiefdom like other Arab autocrats in the region, stifling civil society and repeatedly dodging calls for fresh elections.” It defies common sense that such an entity should be entrusted with responsibility on the West Bank, let alone post-conflict Gaza.

Nor do the objectives of full diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, or a formal Saudi-U.S. military alliance, require near-term Palestinian statehood. Before Oct. 7, Riyadh and Jerusalem were progressing toward mutual recognition, motivated by their shared view of Iran’s threat, amplified by the palpable economic and political benefits likely after recognition. The current conflict has not altered those realities. Rather, Iran’s “ring of fire” strategy against Israel has emphasized, not reduced, the congruence of Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s national security priorities. Riyadh and other Persian Gulf capitals could help by publicly explaining why this is really an Iranian war against Israel, not an Arab- or Palestinian-Israeli war. The issue of Palestinian statehood was not resolved before several Saudi neighbors recognized Israel, nor will it be a dealbreaker for Riyadh.

And while it is clearly desirable to deepen politico-military ties between Washington and Riyadh, the Senate will be ratifying no significant treaties this year or well into the future, given the Constitution’s two-thirds majority requirement. If Biden’s negotiators are suggesting that quick treaty ratification is realistic, both Israelis and Saudis should beware. Nor would a Donald Trump victory in November be likely to change the picture, since no one can honestly say what he will do, other than look to put himself in the best possible light.

Recognizing a Palestinian state before peace is agreed with Israel only compounds the error. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said recognition “can’t come at the start of the process, but it doesn’t have to be the very end of the process.” Sadly, these suggestions mirror Yasser Arafat’s endless campaign in U.N. agencies to make “Palestine” a state just by saying so. They contradict years of U.S. policy, as well as the Oslo accords, and will cause Israel to stiffen its resistance. This is no way to treat an ally gravely threatened by Tehran.

As for the “wider war” issue, the United States and Israel have been in a wider war since Oct. 7. The real worry should not be “wider war,” but the cause of the current one, which is unmistakably Iran. Until Iran stops interfering beyond its borders — stops arming, equipping, training and financing terrorist groups and stops seeking nuclear weapons — there will be no lasting Middle East peace and security. Iran does not and will not fear U.S. power until it pays heavily for what its barbaric surrogate Hamas unleashed four months ago, now joined in violence by Hezbollah, the Houthis and Shiite militias.

Prioritization is essential here — and actually straightforward, contrary to White House hand-wringing. By torquing Iran’s menace into the still-unresolved issue of the Palestinians, Biden has fused multiple problems into a larger, even harder problem. Instead, the United States and Israel should focus first on thwarting Tehran’s multiple offensives, then more intensively focus on other issues. Whatever their public commentary, Arab leaders fully recognize that cementing ties with Israel is critical to their own security, especially facing a possible future with a feckless American president. Every day that passes without consolidating like-minded states against Iran renders achieving any of Biden’s multitudinous goals more difficult.

The Middle East has never been an easy problem set. Biden is making it unnecessarily more difficult.

This article was first published in The Washington Post on February 6, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

+

Here are the dangers of a second term for Donald Trump

By John Bolton

If returned to office, Trump will need others to carry out his directives. He will want White House staffers to follow his orders without asking troubling questions, as testimony in the classified-documents case demonstrates. These staffers will not be known for independent, creative thinking, just personal fidelity to Trump, for whom loyalty flows only one way.

No responsible president would want such a staff; he or she would instead seek advisors who voiced their opinions straightforwardly, not hesitating to bring bad news when necessary. Presidents face tough issues requiring tactical decisions where even philosophically like-minded advisors will disagree. So selecting a strong, competent White House staff has nothing to do with “restraining” a president or undercutting his constitutional authority. It is simply good management.

Everyone knows presidents make the final decision, but a White House of serfs will serve neither presidents nor America well. Indeed, being surrounded by neutered aides fearful of firing could again cause Trump’s downfall, at potentially terrible cost to the country.

The president’s free hand in staffing the West Wing contrasts with appointments for the vast majority of senior “officers of the United States” who manage the broader federal government, where the Senate’s advise-and-consent power limits his discretion.

Trump and many supporters see a “deep state”, a careerist cabal in law enforcement, intelligence, foreign policy, and the military, covertly running the government and conspiring to destroy him and his regime.

‘Deep state’ is a fallacy

The “deep state” is a fallacy, but there is no doubt that government bureaucracies develop distinctive cultures. What Trump and his acolytes don’t understand is that this culture arises not from clandestine conspiracies but from legislative mandates and incentive structures that federal agencies live within. It is often not a pretty picture.

I have, for example, long argued that the State Department needs a “cultural revolution” to redirect its efforts, one that will take decades to bring about. But directing recalcitrant bureaucracies, however difficult and frustrating, is a required skill for any president who truly wants to accomplish significant change and not merely bloviate about it.

Since Trump does not understand this logic, he will inevitably and repeatedly cross lines that will cause conflict, often constitutional conflict. Take the four pending criminal indictments against Trump. He will have constitutional authority to order Justice to dismiss the two cases brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith, or, if necessary, pardon himself.

Trump has already argued for a government shutdown to stop Smith’s trial preparations and investigations. While the president’s authority to self-pardon is disputed, litigating a Trump self-pardon could take years before definite resolution, even assuming someone has standing to litigate the issue. And if the Supreme Court invalidated Trump’s self-pardoning, it might take yet another impeachment saga to remove him from office. He will not depart voluntarily this time.

The result could well be mass resignations from Smith’s office, and perhaps across Justice. This time, there will be little prospect, as during the “Saturday Night Massacre”, of halting a tide of resignations. When Richard Nixon ordered the firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, Attorney General Elliott Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, resigned because of commitments that they made during their confirmations. Nixon then ordered the department’s third-ranking official, Solicitor General Robert Bork, to fire Cox, and Bork said he would also resign. But Richardson talked him out of it, arguing that Bork alone could prevent a flood of resignations from lower-ranking Justice lawyers. Richardson told him, “You’ve got the gun now, Bob. It’s your duty to pull the trigger.” Bork did so, maintaining the department’s basic function and integrity were vital.

Every time Trump seeks retribution through Justice, as he has on multiple occasions, the risk of protest resignations arises, impairing the effective operation of the entire federal legal system. In such circumstances, who would serve in a Trump Justice Department? The same question applies across the federal bureaucracy.

The New York and Georgia indictments are more complicated. Trump has no authority to direct them, nor can he pardon himself, because they are not federal cases. What would he do if convicted and sentenced? Quite possibly, he would simply reject such outcomes (particularly if they involved jail time), arguing, typically, that they were “witch hunts”, and refusing to accept the validity of the legal results.

Impeachment may be only remedy

What then? How do state or local officials deal with an incumbent president contesting their jurisdiction and authority? And who at the national level would assist them? Yet again, impeachment may be the only remedy.

Because of that possibility, Congress will be in constant agitation during a second Trump incumbency: constant combat with Trump over his legitimacy in office will distract America from pending threats, especially internationally, where his attention span is already perilously short.

Beyond Justice, the entire “deep state” will face comparable tribulations. Trump’s prior clashes with national security bureaucracies are well known. Who will be willing to serve there as political appointees, and who among them could expect easy Senate confirmation?

Trump is completely comfortable with extraordinary personnel turnover, partly because he has no idea what is required to steer the massive federal bureaucracy, and partly because high turnover means he alone remains the centre of attention. Trump is not focused on reducing the federal government’s size and scope so much as on achieving objectives personal to him, particularly retribution. In consequence, vast portions of the national security machinery may simply grind to a halt in a second Trump term. We are entirely in uncharted territory.

Deviations from conservative norms

There is no “Trumpism”. His lack of philosophy and inability to reason in policy terms leaves him uniquely susceptible to dramatic shifts in his “positions”, and certainly in his rhetoric. If his self-interested cost-benefit analysis of something changes, his “policy” view changes accordingly, and quickly. This is a major contributing factor to Trump’s endemic untrustworthiness and unfitness for the presidency.

Examples of his deviations from conservative norms already abound, as in 2016 when Trump said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” this is hardly a law and order position. Nor is his solicitude for Jan 6 rioters, including hosting a fundraiser at his Bedminster resort and pledging to contribute to their legal defence fund.

“There have been few people that have been treated in the history of our country” like these defendants, he said, incorrectly. Had they really been Antifa members, he would have favoured maximum sentences. The consistent conservative view is straightforward: Whatever the politics of those who invade the Capitol to disrupt Congress’s orderly functioning, they should serve maximum prison terms without parole.

Trump’s ineligibility for a third term (which could be changed only by constitutional amendment) inhibits him in some respects. But in other ways, it also frees him from political constraints. In my experience, when substantive policy arguments made no headway, Trump was often persuaded by arguments based on personal political benefit. Because he need not fear the challenges of another presidential election, the political constraints around him are much looser, and the real “guardrail” of voter opinion will be minimised.

Moreover, he will be hearing endlessly about his “legacy”, a message with an uncanny ability to turn the heads of public officials away from philosophical and policy goals toward their own self-enhancement. How far astray he will go is unknowable, but his record indicates that conservatives supporting Trump because they believe he is one of them, could be quite surprised after four more years.

This article was first published in The Telegraph on February 3, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

+

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.

+

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.

+

As Iran-backed militias attack Americans, Biden tries to save Tehran terrorists

By John Bolton

Many words describe President Biden’s Iran policy. “Craven,” “weak,” “obsequious” and “embarrassing,” among others, come readily to mind.

But there are no words to describe adequately the recent White House decision, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, to warn Tehran about a possible terrorist attack.

Sunday’s serious American casualties in Jordan, at the hands of an Iran-backed militia, tragically underscore Biden’s folly.

Anonymous administration sources justified sharing intelligence with a US enemy by citing a “duty to warn” policy applicable to both citizens and noncitizens.

Although the Journal story mentions “exceptions” to this policy, its administration sources were less than candid.

I have experienced duty-to-warn personally.

Starting in 2020, the FBI, pursuant to the policy, has warned me of Iran’s efforts to assassinate me and other current and former American officials.

I’m sure Tehran is pleased to know President Biden nonetheless still has its best interests at heart.

The origins of duty-to-warn lie in the Libyan-ordered 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Information about terrorist threats had earlier been sent to US embassies but without comparable warning to the general public.

Combined with reports of other preferential treatment for government officials, the post-Lockerbie outcry produced federal legislation creating a “no double standard” policy.

Broadly stated, the State Department shares threat-related information to both official and non-official Americans, which is especially important for our citizens living or traveling abroad.

US law-enforcement and intelligence agencies were contemporaneously considering how to deal with information regarding American citizens facing specific terrorist threats.

The “duty to warn” evolved over decades, adjusting the scope and extent of threats considered and the categories of people to be warned.

Elements of the policy remain classified, but Intelligence Community Directive 191, largely unclassified, is likely the authority the anonymous administration sources cited.

Claiming Biden officials had no choice but to disclose threat intelligence to Iran is flatly wrong.

It is nearly inconceivable US policymakers could believe it wise to disclose sensitive material to an enemy state currently taking numerous hostile steps against Americans.

The Journal gave only one example of sharing intelligence with an adversary: in December 2019 when Donald Trump provided information to Vladimir Putin, hardly an inspiring precedent.

ICD 191 is limited in significant respects.

It is merely a policy statement, not a legislative requirement, and therefore subject to adaptation as circumstances require.

Indeed, it already provides two justifications for not disclosing threat information that emphatically apply to Iran.

The terrorists’ target here was memorial services for Qassem Soleimani, former head of Iran’s Quds Force, sent to his Maker courtesy of the United States in January 2020.

These memorials were Iranian government events, attended by large numbers of government officials, especially from the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards (of which the force is a component) and others.

ICD 191 authorizes waiving disclosure where the target is at risk because of its “participation in an insurgency, insurrection or other armed conflict” or where there is reason to believe the target “is a terrorist, a direct supporter of terrorists, an assassin” or commits other criminal activity.

These exemptions define attendees at the Soleimani memorial services to a T.

The White House decision to proceed anyway is an entirely unforced error.

It comes even while the administration is treating US military and civilian personnel in Syria and Iraq as little more than tethered goats, inviting targets for Iran-backed-militia attacks.

With the Houthis’ efforts to strike American naval vessels in the Red Sea, these attacks are now unambiguous, notwithstanding US and UK retaliation against the Yemeni terrorist group for firing on commercial ships.

And, as noted, Iran is directing an active assassination campaign against current and former government officials and private citizens like Masih Alinejad and Salman Rushdie.

Iran’s reaction to receiving intelligence about a possible terrorist attack is unknown, but Tehran obviously failed to defend against the threat, which manifested itself Jan. 3.

Thus, not only was Biden’s tip to the mullahs misguided, it failed, thereby proving it was a mistake to begin with.

There is no doubt ICD 191’s current text, written during the Obama years, is inadequate and needs strengthening, especially in light of Biden’s palpable misjudgment.

Duty-to-warn should not apply, for example, if the persons or state being targeted are themselves trying to murder US citizens.

That’s Iran.

Duty-to-warn should not apply to any person or state arming, training or financing terrorist groups threatening or attacking American personnel overseas.

That’s Iran.

This article was first published in The New York Post on January 28, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

+

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.

+

Kim Jong Un Drops the Mask

North Korea officially repudiates ‘peaceful reunification’ in favor of total domination.

North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un last week eviscerated any remaining pretense that his regime seeks peaceful reunification with South Korea. Now that Pyongyang has nearly developed the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile, Mr. Kim has decided to scrap almost 80 years of intra-Korean policy.

In a Castro-length speech filled with rhetoric about America’s “policy of confrontation,” Mr. Kim announced his decision to strip the North’s “constitution” of all vestiges of peaceful reunification and to eliminate the government offices handling the issue. By effectively recognizing that there are two states on the Korean Peninsula, Mr. Kim has ensured there is no turning back. If war breaks out, he said, the North plans on “completely occupying, subjugating and reclaiming” South Korea and annexing it “as a part of the territory of our Republic.”

Mr. Kim’s belligerence and constitutional changes are bell ringers, the strongest possible signals of his intentions. The audience is both domestic and global. His rhetoric exposes how the South Korean left’s “sunshine policy” of détente and appeasement is not only wrong but dangerous. Mr. Kim refers to Seoul as Pyongyang’s “primary foe and invariable principal enemy.”

Over the years, many credulous South Korean and American leaders have accepted the North’s claims that it pursued nuclear weapons only because it was afraid of being attacked. These observers decided that persuading the Kim dynasty to abandon its nuclear objectives was a matter of proving that the U.S. had no “hostile intent” toward the North. This argument failed to grasp that the regime wanted nuclear weapons to pursue reunification its own way—the North absorbing the South, not the other way around. Using nuclear weapons to threaten Seoul’s allies and neighbors, Pyongyang sought U.S. withdrawal from South Korea. Mr. Kim wanted to convince the Americans to abandon the South Koreans in the event of an invasion.

Counting on weak U.S. leaders who didn’t see South Korea as a strategic asset, and whom they could subject to nuclear blackmail, the Kims followed a version of Deng Xiaoping’s “hide and bide” approach: concealing their growing nuclear and ballistic-missile programs and awaiting a docile regime in Washington. Today, the North sees its moment at hand in a weak Joe Biden—or a feckless Donald Trump, who unilaterally canceled joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises in 2018 without receiving anything in return.

Moreover, despite the “no-limits partnership” between Moscow and Beijing, Mr. Kim has regained sufficient leverage to be able to play Russia against China. His grandfather Kim Il Sung did the same during the Cold War. In 1950, neither Joseph Stalin nor Mao Zedong was enthusiastic about North Korea attacking across the 38th parallel, which they both feared would provoke war with the U.S. Kim Il Sung nonetheless persuaded both leaders that the other supported invasion. On June 25, 1950, Pyongyang caught Seoul and Washington by surprise and nearly drove U.S. forces into the sea.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Moscow’s influence in Pyongyang waned considerably, increasing the North’s reliance on Beijing for its survival. Now equipped with nuclear capabilities and increasingly potent delivery systems, Mr. Kim remembers his grandfather’s game plan. Russia’s failures in Ukraine opened an opportunity for realignment that Mr. Kim swiftly seized, arming Russia at a critical time. Vladimir Putin will soon have a chance to say thanks in person. The Russian leader has announced plans to visit North Korea at “an early date.”

The U.S. failure to repulse Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Iran’s “ring of fire” strategy against Israel is undoubtedly prompting considerable deliberation in China. While Ukraine wasn’t overrun, it is far from being victorious, thereby proving to the world that the West will tolerate unprovoked aggression. In the Middle East, Americans and Israelis disagree on how to prosecute the war on Hamas, likely to the detriment of both countries. Mr. Trump’s only contribution to date has been to say that he’ll resolve both conflicts quickly, details to follow.

With the Biden administration overwhelmed and a presidential election looming, Pyongyang and Beijing may well believe their window of opportunity has arrived. By rallying the North’s people, rewriting its constitution, and abolishing the machinery of reunification diplomacy, Mr. Kim could be preparing to jump through it.

This article was first published in Wall Street Journal 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.