POLITICS
03/22/2018 10:24 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2018

Here Are 6 Of John Bolton's Most Belligerent Op-Eds In Recent Years

A taste of what's to come?

President Donald Trump named John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and one of the most controversial figures in foreign policy, as his new national security adviser. 

In a tweet on Thursday, the president said Bolton would replace Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster starting on April 9.

Bolton was the U.N. ambassador under former President George W. Bush. He also served in the State Department under presidents George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. 

His return to the White House marks a polarizing move for the administration, even by Trump’s standards. In interviews and statements over the years, Bolton has expressed a hawkish approach to foreign policy and a penchant for the most aggressive tactics. He is also a prolific writer, detailing his strong views in dozens of books and op-eds over the years.

Here are excerpts from six op-eds that put Bolton’s hawkishness on display and provide a taste of what may be to come in his role as national security adviser.

The Legal Case For Striking North Korea First,” The Wall Street Journal, 2018

Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an “imminent threat.” They are wrong. The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times. Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation. [...]

In contemporary times, Israel has already twice struck nuclear-weapons programs in hostile states: destroying the Osirak reactor outside Baghdad in 1981 and a Syrian reactor being built by North Koreans in 2007.

This is how we should think today about the threat of nuclear warheads delivered by ballistic missiles. In 1837 Britain unleashed pre-emptive “fire and fury” against a wooden steamboat. It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current “necessity” posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first.

To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” The New York Times, 2015

The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.

Rendering inoperable the Natanz and Fordow uranium-enrichment installations and the Arak heavy-water production facility and reactor would be priorities. So, too, would be the little-noticed but critical uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan. An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.

A ‘Three-State Solution’ For Middle East Peace,” The Washington Times, 2014

For more than two decades, U.S. policymakers have generally acceded to Palestinian insistence that a new state be created for them, stitching together the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. These territories have no particular history either of national identity or of economic interdependence. They are simply bits and pieces of the collapsed Ottoman Empire and the failed League of Nations’ post-World War I mandate system.

The only logic underlying the demand for a Palestinian state is the political imperative of Israel’s opponents to weaken and encircle the Jewish state, thereby minimizing its potential to establish secure and defensible borders. The cruelest irony is that by using the Palestinian people as the tip of the spear against Israel, their supposed advocates have caused the Palestinians extensive suffering. Their economic well-being, their potential for development and the prospect of living under a noncorrupt, representative government have been lost in the shuffle of challenging Israel’s very right to exist.

This is not a matter for the criminal law, as many American political and academic leaders, including the President, have insisted, even after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

This is a war, as President Hollande has forthrightly called it, not a slightly enhanced version of thieves knocking over the corner grocery store within an ordered civil society. And the mechanism of response must be to destroy the source of the threat, not prosecute it, not contain it, not hope that we will “ultimately” destroy it. “Ultimately” is too far away. [...]

Knee-jerk, uninformed and often wildly inaccurate criticisms of programs (such as several authorized in the wake of 9/11 in the Patriot Act) have created a widespread misimpression in the American public about what exactly our intelligence agencies have been doing and whether there was a “threat” to civil liberties. Now is the time to correct these misimpressions, and to rebut the unfounded criticisms that have in too many cases become the conventional wisdom.

Photos of immigrants trying to storm the Eurostar train’s “chunnel” entrance in France to cross under the English Channel to Britain compete with videos of the recent terrorist attack on the Thalys high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris. How many boat people and others who seem to be economically motivated are actually terrorists, perhaps trained by the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq, seeking to conceal themselves among economic migrants to gain access to Europe? This is the same issue America faces on the Mexican border. [...]

Compounding the problem, tens of thousands of legitimate Middle Eastern refugees are fleeing religious genocide in their home countries, and several EU states, mostly in East and Central Europe, have moved quickly to grant them asylum. These refugees are primarily Christians from Syria and Iraq threatened by the Islamic State or other radical jihadis, but non-Christian sects like the Yazidis are also properly and successfully seeking asylum.

Hard though it may be for some to acknowledge it explicitly, the receiving European governments feel that their humanitarian decision to provide refuge to Christians and others fleeing radical Islamicists is far safer than accepting undifferentiated populations that may contain terrorists using the true refugees as cover. This is hardly farfetched. In 1980, Fidel Castro deliberately and cynically emptied Cuban prisons of true criminals and allowed them to escape to American in the Mariel boatlift, along with over 100,000 legitimate refugees. The Europeans are well to be cautious.

We should not have invaded Iraq in 2003. Instead, we should have finished the job in 1991 after ridding Kuwait of Iraqi aggressors. We were told then that Arab coalition members, especially Syria’s Assad dictatorship, would object to overthrowing Saddam. Perhaps they were seriously worried they were next. Too bad they weren’t. And there would have been no question of any Iraqi WMD after 1991. [...]

The war’s opponents point to today’s chaos in the region and ascribe it to Saddam’s overthrow. That conveniently ignores the tidal wave of radical Islamic ideology that was already rising in the twentieth century’s last decades, and now continues unabated, Saddam or no Saddam. It also misses the West’s devastating failure to stop Iran pursuing nuclear weapons. Bumbling diplomacy has legitimised terrorism’s bankers in Tehran, affording them a clear path to deliverable nuclear warheads on their own timetable.

Iraq today suffers not from the 2003 invasion, but from the 2011 withdrawal of all US combat forces. What strengthened Iran’s hand in Iraq was not the absence of Saddam, but the absence of coalition troops with a writ to crush efforts by the ayatollahs to support and arm Shi’ite militias. When US forces left, the last possibility of Iraq succeeding as a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state left with them. Don’t blame Tony Blair and George W Bush for that failure. Blame their successors.

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