On Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily, former U.N. ambassador and AEI Senior Fellow John Bolton said California’s attempt to claw back enlistment bonuses from thousands of National Guard members was “outrageous.”
“If the government made a mistake in paying these bonuses, then I think that’s the government’s mistake, and the rest of us will have to eat it,” Bolton told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow. “But to go after people who relied on the promise, to their detriment in some cases, going into a combat situation like this, that’s not something that 10 or 15 years later you go back and seek to claw the money back.”
“My understanding is that the Pentagon has put a halt to this. It’s not clear to me whether that’s a permanent halt or temporary while they try and figure out what their next step is, but I was just amazed at the story when I read about it. So if it’s come to an end, that’s a good thing, but it was unbelievable that it got started to begin with,” he added.
Marlow asked Bolton for an update on Turkey, which has been threatening a ground invasion of Iraq.
“Well, this is a good indication of how the conflict, whether it’s in Syria or Iraq, is not a two-sided war, and how complex it is, and how infantile, really, the Obama administration’s strategy is,” Bolton observed. “The Turks are determined that whatever else happens in Syria, the Kurds are not going to be able to get contiguous territory stretching from Syria into Iraq, and then up into southern and southeastern Turkey, to help them establish an independent Kurdish state that would essentially include all the territories where there’s an ethnic Kurdish minority.”
“Despite what the Turks have said before about their views of the Assad regime, their views of ISIS, they can still find time in the midst of those struggles to bomb the Kurds – who are, by the way, fighting ISIS,” he noted. “It’s something that may seem confusing in the United States, but in the bizarre context of the Middle East, actually from a Turkish point of view, it makes perfectly good sense.”
Bolton next addressed the Islamic State’s drive into Afghanistan, where he said they are doing better than they were in the Middle East.
“What is important from their perspective here, this notion of a Caliphate – whether it’s headquartered in Raqqa in Syria, encompassing the territory they hold in Syria and Iraq, whether it’s in what used to be Libya, whether it’s Boko Haram in Nigeria, whether it’s their chapter in Yemen, or their chapter in Afghanistan – the notion of a Caliphate requires control of territory, as opposed to al-Qaeda. They don’t pretend to be a Caliphate; they are what they are,” he said.
“So I think whether this is a conscious plan of ISIS central, whether it’s factions of ISIS looking at what’s happening in Iraq and Syria and going off on their own, I don’t know. But it shows a determination and a relentlessness of these various ISIS factions, that whatever happens in Syria and Iraq, at whatever time Obama finally gets around to it, and/or his successor, ISIS will have succeeded in metastasizing to one or more other locations, and this fight will only continue to get worse,” he predicted.
“You know, people look at this confusing disorganization within ISIS, the fact that people can be with an al-Qaeda affiliate one day and the week after, they’re with an ISIS affiliate, and act as if that’s a weakness of the terrorists. In fact, I would argue that it’s actually a strength. It shows that the ferment still is there, that they’re still attracting recruits,” he contended.
“They’re having bizarre ideological disagreements among themselves. Look at the history of Vladimir Lenin, and the takeover of Russia after the October Revolution. You can see a lot of parallels – not ideologically, obviously, but this turmoil in the Muslim world, this civil war as King Abdullah of Jordan has called it, is still very much under way,” Bolton elaborated. “Whatever happens to ISIS in Mosul in the next few weeks and months, whatever happens in Raqqa after that, ISIS – I’m fearing to say – is going to be with us for a long time.”
As for the ongoing battle of Mosul, Bolton said that ISS “not just in Mosul, but across the territory in Iraq that they held previously, for much of the last two years, they have retreated in fairly good order over these months – from Fallujah, in one little village after another.” He added, “I think it’s clear with the slow pace that the Kurds, and the Peshmerga, and the Iraqi forces, and the Shia militia are proceeding … that they’re worried that ISIS has prepared a very intricate defense.”
“They’ve got potentially thousands of people there who are prepared for martyrdom and to take as many of their opponents with them as they can,” he noted. “And obviously there’s a substantial civilian population that remains in Mosul that’s in danger from both sides.”
“This is an example that the Obama approach, which let ISIS, once it broke out, once the Iraqi army broke before Mosul two years ago, Obama’s slow-roll strategy has given ISIS an enormous amount of time with which to prepare the defenses that we now see unfolding in Mosul,” Bolton charged. “It’s not just the slowness of the offensive to take back this territory; it’s the days and weeks and months that ISIS has had, through their extraordinary Internet and social media propaganda effort, to recruit new adherents, to train them, to deploy them for terrorist missions in Western Europe and the United States – and to build up these alternative ISIS bases, if you will, elsewhere around the world. It was clear a long time ago that Obama’s approach of ‘leading from behind, no-drama Obama, who’s in a rush?’ was simply going to give ISIS a continued advantage. And I’m afraid in Mosul and plenty of other places, that’s what we’re still seeing happening.”
Turning to Russia, Bolton talked about the new Satan 2 nuclear missile (an ominous name, which Bolton pointed out is actually a Western military designation). He described it as a “MIRV missile,” said that “it used to be the SS-18,” and that “it could hold ten warheads.”
“While we have been sitting back under the New START treaty, negotiated by Hillary Clinton’s State Department for Obama, and we’ve been scaling back, Russia’s been building up. And why shouldn’t they, from their point of view? They meet with no resistance. They get every concession they want in strategic weapons talks. They’re violating treaties like the INF treaty, and have been for some time, with no pushback from the Obama administration,” Bolton said with disgust.
“They don’t fear Hillary Clinton. I think you and I have talked before about this urban legend that somehow Vladimir Putin just can’t wait for Donald Trump to be elected,” he told Marlow. “Good grief! If I were Putin and had to confront a new American president, I’d much rather confront an indecisive, weak, bureaucratic Hillary Clinton than Trump, or any of a lot of other people, for that matter.”
“The Russians see they’ve got several more months here until January 20th, at a minimum, where we’re not going to do much of anything to impede their efforts to expand their influence and project power, and I don’t think if Hillary wins, they’re much worried about the four-year period after January the 20th,” he said.
Bolton said Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state “will go down as part of the larger Obama foreign policy of seeing American influence weakened all over the world.”
“I think their fatal mistake – I mean, they made so many, we don’t have time to go through them all – but their fatal mistake was not understanding the Arab Spring, not understanding that it was not an outbreak of democratic sentiment,” Bolton judged. “It was really the rise of radical Islam to an even more significant level than anywhere else. And so their policies during the four years she was at the State Department, and in the time since then, have been incoherent. They can’t seem to get a grip on just exactly what it is they want.”
“Look at Egypt as one example, where they supported Mubarak, then they wanted Mubarak overthrown. Then they said, ‘Well, let’s postpone it. Let’s have elections.’ That brings the Muslim Brotherhood to power, and they say, ‘Well, maybe that wasn’t such a great idea.’ And the net-net is now, after all this time, almost nobody in Egypt trusts the administration, and the Russians have been expanding their influence,” he said.
“In Syria, we’ve seen the extraordinary circumstance of Russia building a new airbase in Latakia, just a few minutes’ flying time from the northern border of Israel. Unfortunately, whoever the next president is, it’s not enough just to say, ‘Okay, I guess we’ll reverse the Obama administration’s policies’ because the Russians, among others, have created facts on the ground that you can’t just snap your fingers and wish away. We are in a worse position today, across the Middle East, than we were on January 20, 2009, and I don’t think Hillary has a clue how to change that,” said Bolton.
He did not entirely agree with Donald Trump’s warning that Hillary Clinton would usher in World War III with her Syria policy, but he warned that “whether it’s Obama or Clinton, the weakness of the United States invites confrontation and challenge from our adversaries.”
“When they think we’re growing weaker, they see the chance to advance their agenda,” Bolton said. “I think it’s a miscalculation on their part of fundamental American strength, and maybe even a miscalculation of the steel and the spine even of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. It’s when you’re sending mixed signals, and signals of weakness, that your adversaries are most likely to miscalculate, and it’s a miscalculation that’s most likely to lead to war: an incident at sea of a Russian plane buzzing our ships, of coming too close in firing missiles from the Houthi rebels at U.S. destroyers in the Red Sea. You can see how these incidents can escalate.”
“If they faced a strong president, they wouldn’t even engage in this kind of harassment, and the risk of a miscalculation would be lower,” Bolton contended. “So I think continued American decline does increase the risk of hostilities because it’s not American strength that’s provocative; it’s American weakness that’s provocative.”
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