Expect Trump to Strike Syrian Forces Again, With the Same Result: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Apr. 8, 2018 — If the past is prelude, we should expect a U.S. strike sometime soon against Syrian airfields.
Has Trump Finally Figured It Out?: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Mar. 26, 2018— Donald Trump was elected president with no government experience or in-depth knowledge of foreign policy.
Bolton’s Hire Is a Brilliant Move: Caroline Glick, Breitbart, Mar. 26, 2018— President Donald Trump’s decision to appoint former UN Ambassador John Bolton to serve as his National Security Advisor is arguably the most significant single step he has taken to date toward implementing his America First foreign policy.
Trump’s Lucky Year: Eliot A. Cohen, Foreign Affairs, Apr., 2018— When Donald Trump became president of the United States, many wondered just how abnormal his administration, and particularly his foreign policy, would be.
On Topic Links
The American Public and Israel: A Record of Support, but Clouds on the Horizon: Prof. Eytan Gilboa, BESA, Apr. 2, 2018
What Happens When the US Withdraws From the Iran Nuclear Deal: Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner, Apr. 5, 2018
Jared Kushner’s Dreams of Mideast Peace Are Alive: Noah Feldman, Bloomberg, Mar. 21, 2018
John Bolton Is Right About the U.N.: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Mar. 23, 2018
EXPECT TRUMP TO STRIKE SYRIAN FORCES AGAIN,
WITH THE SAME RESULT
Bloomberg, Apr. 8, 2018
If the past is prelude, we should expect a U.S. strike sometime soon against Syrian airfields. A little more than a year ago, Syrian forces gassed rebels. The grotesque crime earned a condemnation tweet from President Donald Trump. And on April 7, 2017, the president ordered 59 Tomahawk missiles to the Shayrat Airfield, the base from which the attack had been launched. He told his Chinese counterpart about it over chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago.
Over the weekend it looked like history repeating. The Syrian regime once again appeared to gas its people. This time it was in Eastern Ghoutta, a Damascus suburb. Once again Trump tweeted his outrage, calling the Syrian dictator “Animal Assad” and calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran as responsible for the attack because of their support for the regime.
All of this would appear to undermine Trump’s own simplistic calls for the U.S. to bug out of Syria. If Trump delivers on his warning to Assad, Russia and Iran for the latest use of chemical weapons, he will be expanding the mission beyond fighting the Islamic State. (They too fight the Islamic State; indeed they claim the entire opposition to Assad are such crazed jihadis.)
So instead of a real deterrent for future chemical attacks, expect another half measure. A base may be destroyed, but Trump’s dangerous policy will remain unless he truly changes course. This president has unleashed U.S. Special Forces, U.S. bombers and U.S. allies (mainly the Kurds) to destroy the Islamic State’s positions in Syria. That is a good thing and a more muscular continuation of what Obama timidly began in 2014.
But like Obama before him, Trump has been careful not to disturb the sinister plans of the Russo-Iranian-Assad coalition trying to consolidate the country that has broken apart since 2011. The humanitarian costs still stagger the mind. It’s not just the horror of the gassings. Ghoutta for example, like Aleppo before it, has also been under siege. This means basic food and medicine have not reached the civilian population. As photos released late last year from Agence France-Presse showed, infants are literally starving to death.
There is also the displacement of Syrians. More than half of the population has been made homeless by this war. The dictator has also recently proposed a law that would allow the state to seize abandoned homes. Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Taskforce, said this policy would allow the regime to reward his Iranian benefactors with the homes its militias forced families to flee. All of this should compel civilized nations to band together and stop these fiends. But America at this moment has a special responsibility. Despite the gains from Assad and his Russian and Iranian patrons in Syria in the last two years, the war is far from over. For example, the territory east of the Euphrates River that the U.S. and its mainly Kurdish allies have liberated from the Islamic State is not yet under Assad’s boot.
Here the U.S. has a chance to at least give these newly freed towns and cities a kind of safe haven. There is a precedent to do so. Like Trump, George H.W. Bush decided he wanted no part in trying to liberate Iraq after driving Saddam Hussein’s army out of Kuwait in 1991. After Saddam interpreted this policy as a green light to punish the Kurds in northern Iraq though, Bush changed course when Kurdish families were driven into the mountains. Bush established a no-fly zone and the U.S. began to protect this Iraqi minority in the period between the two gulf wars. While the Kurdistan Regional Government today is far from perfect, it is far better off because Bush changed his mind.
Trump has an opportunity here to change his mind too. He doesn’t have to commit to rebuilding all of Syria. But at the very least he can make good on America’s debt to those Syrian Kurds who helped defeat the Islamic State, fighting the enemy over there so Americans don’t have to fight so many over here (to borrow the phrase of another President Bush). This would require a policy to at least protect eastern Syria from Assad’s war machine. The alternative is catastrophe and dishonor. If Trump really ends up following through on his promise to get out of Syria (perhaps as early as October), he will be leaving the people who were liberated from ISIS to be slaughtered and displaced. He will be helping Iran complete its land bridge to the Mediterranean Sea. He will have committed American blood and treasure to advance the strategic aims of America’s enemies. That’s a legacy that would shame any president.
HAS TRUMP FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT?
Jonathan S. Tobin
JNS, Mar. 26, 2018
Donald Trump was elected president with no government experience or in-depth knowledge of foreign policy. That ignorance was reflected in some of his first choices to fill key administration positions. Yet after another shakeup this week in which former UN Ambassador John Bolton replaces Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security advisor, it would appear that after 14 months, Trump finally has the team members he needs. The only question is whether the president will have the wisdom to listen to them.
As far as the mainstream media is concerned, McMaster’s exit is just another example of the revolving door of personnel that has cycled in and out of the White House during Trump’s presidency. Liberal critics are not only damning Bolton as just another television personality, but proof that chaos is the only guiding principle of this administration. He is depicted as a knee-jerk hawk who understands nothing about diplomacy and is only interested in getting the United States into wars. His past stand on the Iraq War and his lack of enthusiasm for diplomacy with North Korea also might put him at odds with Trump, who became a harsh retroactive critic of that war and has just agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un.
From that perspective, Bolton’s appointment makes no sense. Naysayers think that like Trump’s appointment of fellow hawk Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, Bolton will be just another passing fancy who will be tossed out the next time the erratic commander-in-chief feels like overturning the administration apple cart once again.
Given the unpredictable nature of this president, it’s impossible to say with certainty that they’re wrong. However, we can only hope that Trump has, by a process of trial and error, finally figured out that what he needs are principled conservatives who see the world as it is, rather than through the prism of diplomatic wishful thinking. He needed aides unencumbered by the foreign policy establishment’s conventional wisdom about how to deal with America’s enemies. That’s exactly what he has now with Pompeo at the State Department, Nikki Haley at the United Nations and Bolton at his side in the White House.
The accusations about Bolton lacking knowledge of diplomacy are simply not correct. He has a long résumé of government experience in the State Department, the Justice Department and at the United Nations with service under former President Ronald Reagan, and the older and younger Bush presidents. Bolton is not a novice; he is an experienced hand with a firm grasp of both the foreign-policy expertise and how the bureaucracy works — or more to the point, often doesn’t work. That’s especially true compared to his two immediate predecessors: Gens. Michael Flynn and McMaster.
The foreign policy establishment doesn’t like Bolton, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. His sterling record stretches back to his time during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, when he headed the diplomatic team tasked with the campaign to rescind the infamous “Zionism is racism” UN resolution. His success there belies the notion that he’s allergic to diplomacy, but what he doesn’t tolerate is the casual acceptance of discrimination against Israel that governs so much of the international community’s actions. During his term as George W. Bush’s UN ambassador, he took stands that were remarkably similar to the ones Haley is taking now. He stood up for Israel against its tormentors and took a dim view of the notion that the United States needed to appease its enemies by sacrificing the security of the Jewish state.
Like everyone else who served in W’s administration, he was implicated in what turned out to be an ill-advised decision to invade Iraq. In his defense, he was right that removing Saddam Hussein from power was a good thing. Unfortunately, among the unintended consequences of that move was the strengthening of Iran, along with the chaos and bloodshed that convulsed Iraq after Saddam was toppled. Even if we concede that invading Iraq was a mistake, Bolton has been right far more often than he’s been wrong. His steadfast opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and his clear thinking about the absolute necessity of American action to either renegotiate or add on to that pact is correct. And fortunately, Trump seems to be in agreement with both him and with Pompeo on this issue.
The term “realist” is identified with a school of thought that embraces the notion of jettisoning Israeli interests and bowing to the dictates of European allies, who have always been unenthusiastic about stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But that is America’s only realistic option. True realism, as embodied by the stands of Bolton and Pompeo, involves understanding that the defense of US interests involves halting Iran’s quest for regional hegemony and a nuclear weapon, not enabling it as President Obama did with his deal. It also means not being deceived by international opinion about the Palestinians, instead demanding that they embrace peace and renounce terror before asking Israel to sacrifice its security for the hope of peace.
Due to his instinctual distrust of the establishment — and against the desires of both Tillerson and McMaster — Trump has re-established close relations with Israel after Obama’s quest for daylight. The result was a long overdue recognition of Jerusalem and the beginning of an effort to strengthen restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. To carry out this shift, Trump needs Pompeo and Bolton, not more establishment hacks determined to prevent him from following the right course. Pompeo and Bolton also are tough-minded enough to prevent Trump from making a mistake on North Korea. Their combined thinking about the threat from Russia might also persuade the president to begin backing away from his fixation on a futile effort at a rapprochement with Moscow.
Contrary to the purveyors of conventional wisdom who have been wrong for decades, the pick of Bolton is actually an inspired choice that could help keep Trump from making the sort of unforced errors on foreign policy that he has so often made with ill-advised statements on Twitter. Let’s hope the president is smart enough to stick with a winning foreign-policy team now that he has one.
BOLTON’S HIRE IS A BRILLIANT MOVE
Breitbart, Mar. 26, 2018
President Donald Trump’s decision to appoint former UN Ambassador John Bolton to serve as his National Security Advisor is arguably the most significant single step he has taken to date toward implementing his America First foreign policy. The news hit America’s enemies and competitors — from Pyongyang to Teheran to Moscow to Beijing — like a wall of bricks Thursday night. Early criticisms on the political right of Bolton’s appointment have centered on two points. First, it is argued that Bolton, who has been involved in U.S. foreign policymaking since the Reagan administration, is a creature of the Washington foreign policy swamp.
While it is true that Bolton is from Washington – or Baltimore, to be precise – and although it is true that he held senior foreign policy positions in both Bush administrations, he has always been a thorn in the side of the establishment rather than a member of that establishment. For the better part of three decades, Bolton has bravely held positions that fly in the face of the establishment’s innate preference for appeasement. He was a vocal critic, for example, of then-President Bill Clinton’s disastrous nuclear diplomacy with North Korea.
The 1994 “Agreed Framework” that Clinton concluded with Pyongyang was touted as a peaceful resolution of the nuclear crisis with North Korea. In exchange for shuttering – but not destroying — its nuclear installations, North Korea received light water reactors from the U.S. and massive economic relief. As Bolton warned it would, North Korea pocketed the concessions and gifts and continued to develop its nuclear weapons. In other words, far from preventing North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, the Agreed Framework preserved the North Korean nuclear program and enabled the regime to develop it effectively with U.S. assistance.
For his warnings, Bolton has been reviled as a “warmonger” and a “superhawk” by the foreign policy elite, which has gone out if its way to undercut him. President George W. Bush appointed Bolton to serve as UN ambassador in 2005 in a recess appointment. Three moderate Republicans on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Lincoln Chafee (RI), Chuck Hagel (ND), and George Voinovich (OH), signaled that they would oppose Bolton’s confirmation, blocking it.
At the time, rumors surfaced that then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had quietly undercut Bolton’s confirmation in private conversations with senators. Those rumors were denied, and Rice publicly supported Bolton’s confirmation. But in 2016, Rice, along with her mentor, former secretary of state James Baker, and her deputy and successor as National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, openly opposed President Trump’s intention to appoint Bolton Deputy Secretary of State. At the same time, all three lobbied Trump to appoint outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Bolton was a vocal opponent of Rice’s nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, undertaken after Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. He also opposed Rice’s pursuit of diplomatic ties with Iran through negotiations in Iraq. In both cases, as events showed, Bolton’s criticisms were all in place. Rice’s nuclear diplomacy with North Korea emboldened the regime, and enabled its continued testing of nuclear weapons and development of ballistic missiles. In Iran’s case, Rice’s negotiations with the Iranians in 2007 and 2008 set the stage for president Barack Obama’s nuclear talks with Tehran, which led to the 2015 nuclear deal. That deal, like the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea, preserves, rather than dismantles, Iran’s nuclear program while providing Iran with the financial means to expand its regional power through its terrorist proxies.
On the other hand, Bolton’s actions while in office brought extraordinary benefit to US national security. For instance, as Bush’s undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, in 2003 Bolton conceptualized and launched the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). The purpose of the PSI was to empower nations to interdict ships suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction, delivery systems, and related materials from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. Originally launched with 11 state members, today the PSI has 105 state members. Its members have interdicted multiple ships suspected of transferring illicit weapons systems to other states and to non-state actors.
Like Trump, Bolton is an opponent of international treaties that bind the U.S. in a manner that may be antithetical to its national interests, and prefers bilateral agreements that are tailor-made to defend America’s national interests. Bolton was a firm opponent of the Rome Treaty, which established the International Criminal Court. He worked avidly to vacate America’s signature from the treaty. Due largely to his cogent opposition, the Bush administration decided not to submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification. Bolton concluded 100 bilateral treaties with nations committing them never to present complaints against U.S. military personnel before the tribunal. Bolton’s nationalist convictions, and his refusal to join the foreign policy elite in its adoration of diplomacy, whatever the substance, over a firm, fact-based pursuit of America’s national interests lies at the heart of the foreign policy establishment’s opposition to him…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
TRUMP’S LUCKY YEAR
Eliot A. Cohen
Foreign Affairs, Apr., 2018
When Donald Trump became president of the United States, many wondered just how abnormal his administration, and particularly his foreign policy, would be. After all, as a candidate, Trump had evinced a partiality for foreign strongmen, derided U.S. allies as a gang of freeloaders, proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, sneered at Mexicans, and denounced free-trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the nascent Trans-Pacific Partnership, while demonstrating little understanding of most other dimensions of international politics. Scores of former senior Republican foreign policy officials, myself included, repudiated his candidacy on the grounds of both his character and his bent toward populist isolationism. His inaugural address confirmed fears that he viewed the world in darkly narrow, zero-sum terms. “We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon,” he said. He went on: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first.”
Being in office has done little to moderate Trump’s belligerent rhetoric, improve his commitment to facts, or alter his views on trade and international agreements. Over the course of 2017, he insulted foreign leaders on Twitter, openly undermined his secretary of state, and attacked the FBI and the CIA. He continued to praise dictators, such as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and refused to mention Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty—which enshrines the idea that an attack against one NATO member is an attack against all—when visiting NATO headquarters in Brussels. His subordinates gamely echoed the promise of “America first,” assuring both the public and themselves that Trump’s use of that phrase had nothing to do with Charles Lindbergh’s isolationist and anti-Semitic America First Committee, founded in 1940.
Still, the world did not blow up. World War III did not break out. A case can be made that all things considered, Trump has ended up being a highly erratic, obnoxious version of the Republican normal. He has been strong on defense (he increased the Pentagon’s budget, although not as significantly as it had hoped), willing to use force (he launched cruise missiles at Syria as punishment for its use of chemical weapons), and committed to allies (enthusiastically in the case of Israel and Japan, grudgingly in the case of the Europeans). Although he has been more of an economic nationalist than some might like, the thinking goes that he remains within the bounds of GOP tradition.
Yet this reassuringly non-apocalyptic foreign policy was a product of good fortune, not restraint, and of the resistance of subordinates rather than the boss’ growth. Trump was remarkably lucky in 2017. He did not experience any external shocks and paid no visible price for alienating the United States’ friends. But at the same time, no part of the world is conspicuously better off for his efforts. Instead, the preexisting fissures in the international system are either the same or getting worse; no U.S. adversary is noticeably weaker, and some are getting stronger; and the president’s behavior has devalued the currency of the United States’ reputation and credibility. Sooner or later, his luck will run out. And when it does, the true costs of the Trump presidency will become clear…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
On Topic Links
The American Public and Israel: A Record of Support, but Clouds on the Horizon: Prof. Eytan Gilboa, BESA, Apr. 2, 2018—The Gallup Poll has conducted surveys of American public opinion towards Israel since the 1947 UN Partition Resolution. Since 1977, Gallup has conducted such surveys annually, and during periods of violence or special events, several times a year.
What Happens When the US Withdraws From the Iran Nuclear Deal: Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner, Apr. 5, 2018—The U.S., Iran, and the European Union are heading for a three-way showdown. At contention is President Trump’s seemingly imminent withdrawal of the U.S. from the Iran nuclear agreement. That decision is likely to occur on or before May 12 and is given weight by the looming arrival of John Bolton as national security adviser and Mike Pompeo as secretary of state.
Jared Kushner’s Dreams of Mideast Peace Are Alive: Noah Feldman, Bloomberg, Mar. 21, 2018—It was easy to miss it, what with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson being fired and President Donald Trump fueling rumors of more personnel shake-ups. But last week Jared Kushner, presidential adviser and son-in-law, presided over a highly unusual White House conference on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
John Bolton Is Right About the U.N.: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Mar. 23, 2018—In 1994, John Bolton said that if the United Nations Secretariat building in New York “lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” The quote makes an appearance nearly every time Bolton’s critics compile a hit parade of his alleged infamies. My question is: Why is the remark even controversial?