Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton reflected on foreign policy during the first year of the Trump administration on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily with SiriusXM host Alex Marlow.
“I think he’s gotten started in the first year,” Bolton said of President Trump. “I think the most important point he has made repeatedly, including in his speech in South Korea there Wednesday morning, last night our time in the United States, is that he is not Barack Obama.”
“He has proposed dramatic increases in our military budget,” Bolton noted. “Last night, what he said many times, he believes in Ronald Reagan’s strategy of peace through strength. I think he has focused on the North Korean and Iranian nuclear threats better than really any president in the last 25 years.”
“I think he still doesn’t have control over the national security apparatus of the government, and I think he needs to get that control because a lot of decisions that are made at the lower levels can constrain and affect what he does at his level,” he cautioned. “A lot needs to be changed. He certainly needs to do a lot on the domestic side too. I’m not discounting that, just trying to respond on the foreign policy and defense side, but I’d say this is a very significant beginning.”
Bolton said “presidential determination” will be vital to determining the fate of both Trump and the Republican Party.
“I’ve been honored to serve in three Republican administrations in different positions at the State and Justice Departments, and I think the rule is that when you go to an administration, you’re perfectly free to offer your advice, your opinions, but ultimately decisions are always being made at levels above you, unless you happen to be the president,” he said.
“You have to accept two things for the privilege of serving in the government and giving your two cents’ worth. In exchange for that privilege, you have to acknowledge that decisions may be made that you won’t agree with, and you have to acknowledge that once those decisions are made – particularly when they’re made by what former Secretary of State Jim Baker used to call ‘the guy who got elected’ – that your job is to carry those decisions out, not to block them, not to circumvent them, not to short-circuit them,” he explained.
“Now, for an honorable person, sometimes this can get to be too burdensome,” Bolton added. “You just think as a matter of principle the president has gone in the wrong direction, or you cannot in good conscience follow his decisions, at that point the honorable thing to do is resign. That’s for political appointees. That should be the rule for the career bureaucrats as well, but all too often – especially in the national security field – they think their judgments are superior to the guy who got elected.”
“I’ve seen it in Republican administrations over, and over, and over again. And they do obstruct, and they do circumvent, and they do short-circuit. And they leak to the press, while we’re on the subject. All of those behaviors are dishonorable,” he contended.
“I think particularly for political people if you can’t get with the program, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, the gentlemanly thing to do and gentlewomanly thing to do is resign with dignity and honor. That’s the test that I apply, and when I see people who are not comfortable with what the president is doing, my view is that really they could just resign,” said Bolton.
Marlow asked if recent events in Saudi Arabia portend a “genuine reform movement” that could result in a more liberalized country with a “lighter version of Islam” under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s direction.
“I think it’s too soon to tell,” Bolton replied. “I’ve heard what Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, has said. I’ve seen some of the things that he’s done, and I think many of them are to the good. But whether or not this power struggle is over I think really is very much undecided.”
“What’s happened let’s say generally in the past year has been a huge change in the way Saudi Arabia has conducted its internal politics from the time the kingdom was set up after World War One,” he said. “The king and the crown prince have moved with speed and decisiveness, and really made some very hard decisions. But whether the rest of the royal family is going to accept it, whether the Wahhabi clerics are going to accept it, I think we don’t know the answer to that yet.”
“I’m not doubting who’s on top now,” Bolton stressed. “They’ve got control effectively, at least at the top levels, of all the military services, internal security, and police. I couldn’t name someone who would be in a position to challenge them. Many people who might have been are under arrest. A few have died recently in things like helicopter accidents. As we used to say in the Cold War, as the Soviets used to say: ‘That was no coincidence, comrade.’ Look, they are on top.”
“I think also that the terrorists in the region, ISIS, al-Qaeda, could try to take advantage of this,” he warned. “I think Iran is certainly going to take advantage of it. I well remember the Shah of Iran. He was a modernizing, Westernizing monarch for Iran, and he ran afoul of the religious hardliners in his country. He was overthrown, and Khomeini came in. I don’t think that’s beyond the pale in Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates, or others. I certainly hope I’m wrong on that. But don’t discount the strength of the opposition in these countries and others in the Gulf.”
Turning to President Trump’s trip to Asia, Bolton said “the first two stops in Japan and South Korea have gone very, very well for the president.”
“I thought his speech to the national assembly of South Korea last night, Tuesday American time, was a home run,” he said. “I thought he was right on target on the North Korean nuclear weapons program, how cruel and tyrannical the North Korean society is, what a success story South Korea has been in partnership with the United States. I thought he hit all the right notes.”
“Now in Beijing, this is the big event. This is the center ring in the three-ring circus,” he continued. “It’s the most important of the three stops so far. It’s the most important of the entire visit. He sees Xi Jinping at the height of his power after the 19th Communist Party Congress, North Korea at the top of the agenda, a lot of other things like trade issues as well, but dealing with the North Korean nuclear weapons program – because we’re running out of time to stop it – is going to be the measure of this trip.”
“We’ll see if China means what it says, as it has for the past 25 years it doesn’t want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. If it really means that, it will change not its rhetoric but its actions because in the past 25 years they have not done anything material to slow the North Koreans down. Now is the time for action. We’ll see what comes out of these meetings,” he said.
Bolton concluded by offering a preview of his upcoming testimony on the subject of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
“Chairman Ron DeSantis of the House Oversight Committee has a subcommittee on national security this morning. I advocate moving the embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which the United States has never done,” he explained.
“I make the case primarily on diplomatic business reasons. I don’t think there’s a huge political issue here. I just think it’s better for American diplomacy – here’s a startling thought! – to be in the capital of the country we’re accredited to. That’s what I’m recommending,” said Bolton.
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