John Bolton on War & Peace



Supported missile strike on Iran for drone shoot-down

Among the most upsetting moments for the former advisor is the president's decision in June 2019 not to launch a disproportionate missile strike against Iran for downing a U.S. drone at the last minute after Bolton convinced him to.

As the New York Times described the passage: "You can sense Bolton's excitement when he describes going home 'at about 5:30' for a change of clothes because he expected to be at the White House 'all night.' It's therefore an awful shock when Trump decided to call off the strikes at the very last minute, after learning they would kill as many as 150 people."

Source: Common Dreams excerpts from "The Room Where It Happened" , Jun 17, 2020

Advocated violent regime change in Tehran and Pyongyang

Bolton, despite his avuncular mustachioed appearance, is an unrepentant champion of foreign intervention who has advocated violent regime change in Tehran and Pyongyang. The Trump-Kim summit almost didn't happen following Bolton's ill-advised remark about North Korea adhering to the "Libya model"--a reference that North Korean officials took as a threat. (Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was famously run out of power and executed in the streets after agreeing to dismantle his weapons program--a fate that Kim is particularly sensitive to avoid.) North Korean officials responded angrily, characterizing the comparison as "absurd" and "awfully sinister," and Bolton was seemingly benched. Though he ultimately attended the summit in Singapore, Bolton's absence from an Oval Office meeting between Trump and a top North Korean official, Kim Yong Chol, days before the meeting on June 12, was particularly noteworthy.
Source: Vanity Fair on 2018 Trump Administration , Jun 18, 2018

Abrogate the Iran nuclear deal; encourage Israel to attack

Bolton is strongly opposed to the Iran nuclear deal and is a known opponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like Trump, he supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003. "The Middle East peace process has long needed clarity and an injection of reality, and Trump has provided it by making the decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem," Bolton tweeted after Trump announced the landmark decision to recognize Jerusalem.

He has also been a strong critic of the nuclear accord with Tehran, writing on Twitter that "the Iran nuclear deal was a strategic mistake in 2015. This deal needs to be abrogated and America must craft a new reality that reflects the actions of the Iranian regime."

Bolton also advocated for Israel to attack Iran to rein in its nuclear ambitions: "Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed," he wrote in The New York Times in 2015.

Source: Ha'Aretz (Israel) on 2018 Trump Cabinet "Meet Bolton" , Mar 23, 2018

To stop Iran's bomb, bomb Iran

To stop Iran's bomb, bomb Iran. Extensive progress in uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing reveal Iran's ambitions.

The Obama administration's increasingly frantic efforts to reach agreement with Iran have spurred demands for ever-greater concessions from Washington. The president's policy is empowering Iran, effectively handing a permit to Iran's nuclear weapons establishment.

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 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. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran's opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.

Source: NYTimes on 2018 Trump Administration, "Iran's bomb" , Mar 26, 2015

ISIS, despite a few airstrikes, is alive & well

While Obama may think the state of our union is strong, the truth is that with him as President we are weaker than ever, and that makes me furious.
Source: John Bolton PAC email: 2015 State of the Union response , Jan 20, 2015

Military force in Syria is counterproductive

Bolton said that while the civil war in Syria does involve American national security interests, action at this stage--more than two years into the bloody conflict--would be counterproductive. "It is a mess largely of the president's own creation," Bolton charged. "I think our credibility has been damaged, I think the president's credibility has been. But feckless use of military force would damage the country's credibility more."

Bolton said the Syrian opposition contains factions that are deeply hostile to the U.S., and there's no indication that propping them up would be any better for American interests. The U.S. would be better off focusing on threats emanating from Iran, he said. "If you use massive military force against Assad, then that will tip the balance, which I think would be a mistake," Bolton said, acknowledging that the situation is complicated. "If you use minimal force, you won't make the point about deterrence."

Source: Politico.com "Bush vets split" , Aug 31, 2013

Leaving Afghanistan is act of surrender in war on terror

Barack Obama's latest act of surrender in the war against terrorism comes in Afghanistan. Administration sources are leaking that Obama is considering withdrawing all American troops before Dec. 31, 2013, one year early, without leaving even a small, residual force in the country. Such a decision would simply accelerate an already badly misguided policy. Faster draw-downs in Afghanistan are bad enough but even worse is Obama's inability or unwillingness to see the inevitably broader adverse consequences.

According to polls, Americans are weary of the Afghan conflict, so Obama sees another chance to declare the war on terror over and also to score domestic political points. Americans are "war weary" about Afghanistan for specific reasons. As president, Obama has repeatedly insisted there was no rationale for a "war on terrorism" and that he will end the wars he inherited.

Source: AEI Scholars column: Staying in Afghanistan , Jul 13, 2013

Iraq is better off now than under Saddam

Source: AEI Scholars column: Was the Iraq War worth fighting? , Mar 19, 2013

If you want peace, prepare for war

Q: Some critics shoot arrows at you for supposedly being too hawkish. This is the charge leveled at anyone who dares suggest that a superpower should use force to achieve an objective, no matter how dire the circumstance.

A: It is central to successful US foreign policy that we achieve the overwhelming preponderance of our key objectives diplomatically, without the use of force. But as the Romans said, "si vis pacem, para bellum": If you want peace, prepare for war. George Washington used the maxim in his first State of the Union address, and in our day, Ronald Reagan characterized his policy as "peace through strength." The point is clear. Unfortunately, too many mistake resolve for belligerence. President Obama, for example, acts as if American strength is provocative. This is exactly backwards. It is not our strength that is provocative, but our weakness, which simply emboldens our adversaries to take advantage of what they see as decline and retreat.

Source: AEI Scholars column: 5 Questions , Sep 11, 2012

2008: Supported Israeli military operations in Gaza Strip

The UN's recent Goldstone report on Israel's 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip criticized Israel for violations of the law of war, such as the "disproportionate use of force," in ways that severely undermine Israel's inherent right of self-defense. If such conclusions become widely accepted, they will obviously have direct and substantial effects on our ability to undertake our own self-defense, which is, of course, exactly what the globalists have in mind.
Source: Obama is Endangering our Sovereignty, by John Bolton, p. 30 , May 18, 2010

Drone strikes don't get Mirandized; why should others?

The campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan employ armed drone aircraft to target and kill terrorist leaders and supporters, although, needless to say, the targets don't get Miranda rights read to them. The administration seems unwilling to reconcile these strikes with how it handles terrorists captured in the US. Already, there are international complaints that the drone attacks are precisely the kinds of "targeted" or "extra-judicial" killings complained about for years when undertaken by Israel.
Source: Obama is Endangering our Sovereignty, by J. Bolton, p. 31-32 , May 18, 2010

1966: I was like a space alien at anti-Vietnam Yale

I got into Yale, where I started in the fall of 1966, on scholarship. Yale was intense, especially in the late 1960s when anti-Vietnam War sentiment was growing around the country. I was just as much of a libertarian conservative at Yale as I had been in 1964, and given the prevailing campus political attitudes, I might as well have been a space alien. By senior year, students at Yale and elsewhere had decided that "striking" by not attending classes was an effective way to protest whatever was the flavor-of-the-day political issue. I didn't understand or approve of students' striking. I especially resented the sons and daughters of the wealthy, of whom there were many, telling me that I was supposed to, in effect, forfeit my scholarship. I had an education to get, and the protestors could damn well get out of my way as I walked to class.
Source: Surrender is Not an Option, by John Bolton, p. 7-8 , Nov 6, 2007

1970: Joined National Guard to avoid "ludicrous" Vietnam War

Before graduation, I joined the Maryland National Guard, finding a position by driving from armory to armory in the Baltimore area and signing up on waiting lists until a slot opened up. I had concluded that the Vietnam War was lost, and I made the cold calculation that I wasn't going to waste time on a futile struggle. Dying for your country was one thing, but dying to gain territory that antiwar forces in Congress would simply return to the enemy seemed ludicrous to me. Looking back, I am not terribly proud of this calculation, but my World War II veteran father, who still risked his life daily for his fellow citizens as a firefighter, approved of it, and that was good enough for me.
Source: Surrender is Not an Option, by John Bolton, p. 11 , Nov 6, 2007

North Korea will never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily

[Under Clinton], their catechism was always the same: North Korea can be talked out of its nuclear weapons program.

The Democratic People Republic of Korea (DPRK) will never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily. If often promises to do so, as it did in the Clinton administration's 1994 Agreed Framework. It will even more readily BARGAIN over that promise, especially in exchange for items of tangible economic and political value, such as fuel, oil, nuclear reactors, "security assurances," or removal from our list of state sponsors of terrorism. The DPRK will gladly "engage" with us, accept our concession, and then violate its own commitments. The DPRK has followed this game plan successfully many times, and it has every reason to believe it will continue to succeed into the future.

In short, the Clinton policy and the Agreed Framework were classic illustrations of the delusion that a rogue state could be coaxed out of nuclear weapons, and were embarrassments to the US.

Source: Surrender is Not an Option, by John Bolton, p. 99-101 , Nov 6, 2007

Throughout Bush presidency, Iranian nukes were a problem

Throughout George W. Bush's presidency, Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions were a constant problem. Iran's goals never changed, but the administration's goals were too often in flux, and not pursued as consistently or as relentlessly as they might have been. Whether, after his reelection, President Bush wavered personally remains unknown, but too many of his subordinates did, and he allowed them to do so. As a result, Iran continued to make progress toward its goal, while we watched.

I certainly did not accomplish what I wanted to do on Iran. I was not able to convince enough other people above me of the seriousness of Iran's threat; I suggested early on a multilateral diplomatic course that others hijacked and ran in slow motion, to my dismay and to our detriment; and finally, time just ran out on me as I left State.

Source: Surrender is Not an Option, by John Bolton, p.130 , Nov 6, 2007

China likes a divided Korean peninsula

China likes a divided Korean peninsula, likes having North Korea as a vassal and a buffer state between its forces and those of the US & South Korea, and fears the collapse of the Kim Jung-il regime. This policy is widely divergent from what should be the US view, which is that the DPRK regime itself is the source of the problem, which will disappear only when the regime itself disappears. To date, China has been completely unwilling to apply sufficient pressure against North Korea to make it renounce its nuclear ambitions. There are two reasons, one short-term and one long-term:
  1. China fears a wave of Korean refugees across the Yalu River, with its attendant destabilizing political and economic consequences.
  2. China fears the loss of the DPRK itself, given that South Korea and American forces would undoubtedly move to fill the security vacuum that the DPRK's implosion would entail.
Nonetheless, reunification in inevitable, as it was for Germany. China must be confronted with this reality.
Source: Surrender is Not an Option, by John Bolton, p.434-435 , Nov 6, 2007

Extend international order friendly to our security.

Bolton signed Project for the New American Century Statement of Principles

Conservatives have not confidently advanced a strategic vision of America's role in the world. We aim to change this. We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.

As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world's preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests? Our aim is to remind Americans of these lessons and to draw their consequences for today. Here are four consequences:

  1. we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future;
  2. we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;
  3. we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;
  4. we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.
Source: PNAC Principles 97-PNAC-WP on Jun 3, 1997

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Page last updated: Oct 10, 2020