President Donald Trump made a wise choice in picking John Bolton to replace H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser.
Bolton, 69, is a lawyer, diplomat and policy advisor with many years of experience in government. He served as assistant attorney general for President Ronald Reagan, under secretary of state under President George W. Bush, and ambassador to the U.N. for Bush. He is currently a senior fellow at the leading conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute.
As a member of the Bush administration, he earned the reputation of a “hawk,” supporting the invasion of Iraq, which he has not regretted, and which is one of the main reasons he is vilified by the left.
As ambassador to the U.N., he found himself in the somewhat anomalous position of representing the United States in the body which he had consistently excoriated as a blot on international diplomacy. Though he did not succeed in shearing off that parcel of Manhattan into the East River, as he apparently wished to do, he did manage to steer the saner members into expunging the disgraceful 1975 “Zionism is racism” resolution — a notable accomplishment.
Bolton encountered stiff opposition to his ambassadorial appointment (confirmation was blocked in the Senate, and he got in only as a recess appointment). But the Jewish community saw in Bolton a friend of Israel and gave him their backing. Prominent among those who endorsed him were Agudath Israel of America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
After leaving government, Bolton was an unforgiving critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, in particular the Iran nuclear deal:
“Not only does the entire agreement reflect appeasement, but President Obama’s diplomacy produced weak, ambiguous and confusing language in many specific provisions,” Bolton wrote in a February 2017 opinion article. “These drafting failures created huge loopholes, and Iran is now driving its missile and nuclear programs straight through them.”
As such, his appointment as national security advisor has been widely interpreted as a sign that President Trump has decided to scrap the deal. Time will tell.
Regarding Israel, Bolton is also on the same wavelength as the president, or at least broadcasting in the same direction. While President Trump has been flying the flag of pragmatism, claiming not to care whether the Israelis and Palestinians opt for a one-state or a two-state solution, as long as they opt for peace, Bolton has proposed his own alternative.
In a speech last year accepting Bar-Ilan University’s Guardian of Zion Award, Bolton proposed a “three-state solution, which would merge Gaza with Egypt, and parts of the West Bank with Jordan.”
Explaining his resistance to a state for the Palestinians, he said: “I don’t think there are institutions on the Palestinian side that can live up to the commitments of a treaty with Israel, that could give Israel or the U.S. or anyone confidence that such a state could provide for the well-being of the Palestinian people or could resist takeover by terrorist elements.”
Although the view seems a most convincing one — one look at the economic shambles in Gaza and the internecine fighting that persists among Palestinian factions confirms it — Bolton is anathema to those who cling to the two-state solution and brand anyone who doesn’t as a heretic and a candidate for auto da fe. As such, J Street and other liberal groups were “horrified” by the prospect of John Bolton as national security advisor — a recommendation in itself.
President Trump has no doubt delighted in the reaction and overreaction of his and Bolton’s enemies; once again he defies the liberal punditry and assorted other infallibles. They are so drunk with rancor, they don’t know whether to be apoplectic or apocalyptic. So they are both.
But these are the kind of people who consider anybody to the right of John Kerry a destabilizing influence. They have yet to internalize the fact that the Obama administration is over and Hillary Clinton is not redecorating the Oval Office. Needless to say, if the nominee for security advisor would be someone as far to the left of the political spectrum as Bolton is to the right of it, there would be none of the current hysteria.
President Trump, like all U.S. presidents, has a constitutional right to choose his own cabinet and his own advisors. In fact, the position of national security advisor was created in 1947 expressly to provide the president with his own personal expert on security issues, someone who owes allegiance only to him and not to any agency, such as the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Department of State.
Although the role has varied over the years, traditionally he has been charged with being an honest broker of information and analysis, and only secondarily as an advocate, more a filter for true facts than a cheerleader for or against anything.
Bolton is surely aware of that, though he will presumably not be shy about giving the president his opinion when warranted. In any case, the final decisions on Iran, Korea and the rest will be the president’s. Bolton’s job will be to help him reach those decisions with honesty and clarity. We wish him well.