Kevin Cody

John “Thunder” Bolton warns Obama of limits to diplomacy

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President Donald Trump’s newly appointed National Security Advisor John Bolton addresses Distinguished Speaker Series subscribers at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in 2009. Photo by Kevin Cody 

by Kevin Cody

Editor’s note: In January 2009, John Bolton addressed Distinguished Speaker Series subscribers at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in Redondo Beach. Last Thursday, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, under George W. Bush, was named National Security Advisor by President Donald Trump. Because his Distinguished Speakers Series speech, addressed many of issues he will be advising the president on, Easy Reader is reprinting its story about Bolton’s January 2009 talk.

On the evening before Barack Obama’s inauguration, John Bolton gave a dark reality check to Distinguished Speaker Series subscribers.

“The world isn’t going to change at noon tomorrow in Washington D.C. The concerns of the last eight years — the war on terrorism, concern over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the efforts of many powers to assert their interest at our expense — aren’t going to change,” the former U.S. representative to the United Nations said at the start of his talk at the Redondo Performing Arts Center.

“I’ll predict today, that Obama’s policy on Iraq won’t look too different from the Bush Administration’s, had it remained in power another two years.”

The reason, he said, is domestic politics.

“It has to do with President Obama wanting to focus on domestic policy. If he announced withdrawals and instability results, then it’s his responsibility. If he implements the Bush policy, stretching the U.S presence out into the future, it gives Obama a chance to deal with domestic economic issues. It provides a defense to critics. He can say ‘I just did what Bush did.’ It will upset the left, but where else can they go?”

Bolton did foresee a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

“But it has less to do with the need for increased forces than on the eradication of illegal narcotics. Dry up the source of revenue, which our military is reluctant to do for inexplicable reasons, and you deny the Taliban resources for its struggle,” Bolton said.

To illustrate the challenges the new president faces in living up to his campaign promises, especially those involving foreign policy, Bolton recalled a 1992 meeting between newly elected President Bill Clinton and the first President Bush.

Clinton had promised in his campaign to reverse Bush’s policy of turning back Haitian boat refugees.

“Bush showed satellite photos of Haiti’s pristine beaches before Clinton’s statement, and the beaches a few days later, when they were covered with people building boats.”

Despite representing the U.S. at the United Nations, Bolton is famously undiplomatic. “There’s no such thing as the United Nations. If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference,” he told a World Federalists gathering in 1994. In 2003, while representing the U.S. in negotiations with North Korea, he described premier Kim Jong-il as a “tyrannical dictator” under whose rule “life is a hellish nightmare.” A North Korea spokesperson responded by calling Bolton “human scum and bloodsucker.” During his talk in Redondo Bolton observed that the average North Korean is three to six inches shorter than South Koreans.

The limits of diplomacy

Bolton defended the invasion of Iraq as necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons, and strongly suggested that a similar response is necessary to stop Iran’s nuclear programs.

But what he expects in dealing with Iran is a continuation of the Bush administration’s diplomatic efforts.

“Clinton said at her confirmation hearings that we need better diplomacy with Iran. I was tempted to ask, ‘What do you think has been going on for the past six years, while the Europeans have been negotiating with Iran.”

“The net result of those discussions is that Iran is five years closer to a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.”

Bolton said negotiations with Iran “highlight what diplomacy is all about.”

“The debate is not between reasonable people who engage in diplomacy and those who don’t. The debate is between those who believe diplomacy should resolve 99 percent of problems, versus the group that believes diplomacy should resolve 100 percent of problems,” he said.

While never directly advocating a military attack on Iran, Bolton appeared to rule out all other options.

“Iran won’t be chit chatted out of its nuclear weapons program…This is not an issue for a smooth talker…I don’t think Iran will ever be talked out of its nuclear weapons program and it is a central banker for terrorism – Hezbollah and Hamas…

“If Israel used military force against Iran, as it did against Iraq in 1981, and against Syria last September, whatever Arab states would say publicly, privately, they would be cheering for Israel. The Arab states in the Persian Gulf don’t want Iran to have nukes.”

A diplomatic solution to Israeli-Palestinian problem

Bolton did offer a diplomatic solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

“Hillary Clinton repeated Bush’s formula for dealing with Hamas. It must renounce terrorism, recognize Israel and accept the previous agreements Arab states have with Israel…

“But for both presidents, this is a way of saying Hamas has to give up being Hamas. It rejects the existence of Israel, it doesn’t intend to accept the Arab agreements and it was founded as a terrorist organization.

“Hamas has a one state solution, and it doesn’t involve Israel,” Bolton said.

Bolton too, proposed a one state solution, but it didn’t involve the Palestinians.

“We’ve passed that moment in history,” he said, speaking of the creation of a Palestinian state.

“The political and economic reality is that we should go back to the pre [Arab-Israeli War]1967 arrangements. Egypt had sovereignty over Gaza, Jordan had sovereignty over the West Bank. Neither Jordan nor Egypt want the Palestinians, any more than Israel does. But they need to be motivated by humanitarian concerns. The Palestinians need jobs and a real economy.”

Super power conflicts

Under the category of countries asserting themselves at the U.S.’s expense, he singled out Russia and China.

“In the past year we’ve seen a more aggressive Russia on a variety of fronts. Part of the reason was oil climbing to $145 a barrel last year, giving Russia huge windfall profits, enabling them to modernize their conventional forces and upgrade their strategic nuclear forces.”

He said Russia’s “well planned” invasion of Georgia was intended by Putin to demonstrate he could recapture Georgia’s natural gas line, and “to establish Russia’s hegemony within the former USSR.”

With oil at its current prices, he pointed out, “Russia’s national economy is the size of the Netherlands, but it is a Netherlands with thousands of nuclear weapons, so we have to take it seriously.”

President Obama will realize the difficulties of diplomacy with China, Bolton noted, when he must decide whether or not to invite the Dalai Lama to the White House this summer, on the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan leader’s escape to India.

“China doesn’t want the Dalai Lama invited to the White House. Do you vote with your conscience and invite him, or leave him outside on the lawn?’ Bolton asked.

He advised Obama “to look at China without the rose colored glasses of recent history.”

“In pursuit of positive relations we can’t overlook the potential downside of a China that turns to aggression rather than to peaceful economic development,” he said.

China, he pointed, is using its newfound wealth to expand its nuclear and conventional forces. New submarines and aircraft carrier have given it blue water naval capabilities, challenging U.S. domination of the western Pacific.

A positive note

The one bright spot in the world that Bolton identified is the U.S.

“I think the idea that the U.S. is on the downswing and Europe is on the upswing is contrary to reality,” he said.

“Demographically, their population is below the replacement rate and they face a potential crisis with immigration from the Middle East and Africa… Unlike the United States, Europe doesn’t have a history of integrating immigrants into their society. They like to accuse the U.S. of discrimination, but Europeans hold the record for that,” he said. ER

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