Sacked Bolton wanted war, not peace, in Afghanistan - GulfToday

Sacked Bolton wanted war, not peace, in Afghanistan

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Donald Trump greets John Bolton in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. File/AP

Donald Trump’s summary firing of National Security adviser John Bolton was hardly surprising. Bolton’s dismissal followed Trump’s cancellation of his meeting with the Taliban at the US presidential retreat at Camp David, an encounter which, it was hoped, would be a public relations triumph for Trump who is desperate for a foreign policy success as he campaigns for re-election.

Bolton opposed the meeting in principle not simply because the “deal” reached between Taliban leaders and US negotiators was weak and incomplete and rejected by the US-backed Afghan government. Known as “Uberhawk,” the leading US warmonger Bolton wanted war not peace in Afghanistan.

Bolton also opposed Trump’s suggestion to ease some sanctions on Iran in order to promote a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — perhaps, facilitated by French President Emmanuel Macron — on the sidelines of the opening of the UN General Assembly.

Trump seeks to disengage the US military from global entanglements while Bolton strives to expand US military reach. It is, therefore, difficult to comprehend why Trump chose Bolton in the first place and tolerated him as long as he did. For 17 months they have been working at cross-purposes. What the administration does next in foreign affairs could depend on the figure Trump decides to appoint as Bolton’s successor.  Ex-Central Intelligence Agency official and analyst Paul Pillar writing in The National Interest points out that Trump came to realise that Bolton had to go because of his “determination to wreck deals clashed with Trump’s desire to make deals...” Indeed, Pillar says that Bolton was likely to “sabotage (Trump’s) efforts” in deal making.

Bolton could be expected to take such action because he had done it before. He began his wrecking work in 2002 as Secretary of State for Arms Control by convincing US President George W. Bush to withdraw from the 1994 Agreed Framework reached with North Korea which obliged Pyongyang to freeze construction and operation of nuclear reactors believed to be involved in preparing to manufacture nuclear weapons in exchange for allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its nuclear facilities. This agreement was to be followed by negotiations to denuclearise the Korean peninsula and normalise US-South Korean relations with North Korea.

In 2001 North Korea was suspected of having a secret stock of plutonium from which it might have been able to make two weapons, today it is believed to have 60 nuclear bombs. This development might have been halted if Bolton had not intervened. According to a March 18,2019, article in The National Interest by Daniel Davis, Bolton sabotaged a “small deal” during the February summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jon-un although this could have led to a comprehensive agreement.

In May 2002, Bolton delivered an address in which he added Cuba, Libya and Syria to North Korea, Iran and Iraq. These three were members of the “Axis of Evil” defined by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union speech.

Bolton was one of the architects of the 2003 US war on Iraq, the greatest US politico-military disaster of this century, and remains convinced he was right although he was proven wrong by subsequent events.

Bolton was promoted for a top job in the Trump administration by casino billionaire and Trump donor Sheldon Adelson, a super-supporter of Israel. He has been a major factor in Trump’s decisions to adopt hawkish policies on Iran and to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and forget US official opposition to Israeli colonies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Bolton is not only an enthusiastic supporter of Israel but also a powerful advocate of waging war on Iran and effecting “regime change” in that country.

Bolton was Trump’s third security adviser, following Michael Flynn who resigned after lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation  and H.R. McMaster, a general who understood that the worst impulses of the man in the White House had to be restrained. It is significant that Bolton was appointed ahead of Trump’s exit from the six-nation agreement with Iran to reduce its nuclear programme by 90 per cent in exchange for lifting sanctions. Bolton — joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, another hawk and supporter of Israel — also urged Trump to initiate his so far failed “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran with the aim of forcing Tehran to knuckle under Trump’s demands on nuclear and regional issues.

Bolton has served in Republican administrations in different capacities since the term of Ronald Reagan (1981-89) and is a Washington insider who knows how to operate successfully within and outside government. He has an abrasive manner which grated on Trump as well as others in his administration. He strongly opposes the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel and backed Trump’s shift of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He is a founder of the Friends of Israel Initiative among with a dozen international personalities.

His views on other countries and global issues are coloured by his devotion to Israel. Bolton does not confine his hawkishness to this region. In addition to seeking “regime change” in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, he yearns to topple governments in Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and North Korea. While advocating the use of military means to achieve his objectives, he supported the Vietnam war while avoiding service in this conflict. This was the position adopted by key Republican politicians of his generation, including ex-President George W. Bush, who became known as “chicken-hawks.”  During Bush Junior’s term in office, Bolton served briefly as US ambassador to the UN after a struggle with Congress to confirm his appointment. The Economist called him “the most controversial ambassador ever sent (by Washington) to the United Nations.”

Bolton’s malign influence will not be curbed by his absence from the White House. His policy stands have been adopted by Pompeo who is more flexible and less confrontational than Bolton. As soon as he was out of office, he resumed control of two political action committees he founded and donated $10,000 each to the (2020) campaigns of five Republican legislators he favours. He will continue to make mischief.

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