By Jed Babbin
The Washington Times , April 9, 2018
When former U.N. ambassador John Bolton steps into the national security adviser’s job next week, the hyperventilating media would have you believe that the first thing on his “to-do” list is to start a nuclear war with North Korea and probably launch an attack on Iran just because we can. That’s nonsense.
The media are terrified of Mr. Bolton because he is a conservative hawk and has made some very aggressive statements about the North Korean and Iranian regimes. He may be aggressive, but he’s neither crazy nor stupid.
Mr. Bolton will be the president’s third national security adviser, after retired generals Mike Flynn and H. R. McMaster. Mr. Flynn’s tenure was so brief he couldn’t accomplish much, which can’t be said of Mr. McMaster. He and departing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dissuaded the president from taking some of the most important actions necessary to repair the damage to our nation’s security done by former President Obama.
There are at least four policy matters that could comprise an initial agenda for Mr. Bolton, each of which would significantly assist the president in bolstering our national security.
The first is to begin fighting the ideological war that Islamists have constantly waged against us and which we have never tried to counter. In August 2016 Mr. Trump, probably voicing what he had learned from Mr. Flynn, said, “Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”
Mr. Trump was right and strategically so. Radical Islamic terrorism is motivated by a religiously-based ideology. It can only be won by the defeat of that evil ideology.
Mr. McMaster has always insisted that there is no connection between Islam and terrorism. In that he is dangerously wrong. As national security adviser, Mr. Bolton, who better understands the threat, will be uniquely-positioned to commence and manage our ideological war. He will be able to assemble the best psychological warfare team from the CIA, the Pentagon and other agencies to craft and commence the campaign. He will be able to guide the president and other government leaders, to play their critical roles in defeating the Islamist ideology.
The ideological fight will take many years, perhaps decades, to win but there is no prospect of defeating this enemy unless it is won.
The next big item on Mr. Bolton’s agenda should be Mr. Obama’s 2015 nuclear weapons deal with Iran. Since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has been pressured — by Messrs. Tillerson and McMaster, as well as our European allies — to stick with the deal.
In January, the president gave Iran and our allies until May to fix the deal’s defects, implying that unless it is fixed he will revoke it. No changes have been made. Mr. Bolton, from the outset highly critical of the deal, can be expected to press the president to do the right thing and cancel the deal in May.
Mr. Bolton steps into his new job at an opportune moment to address a third item on his agenda. The president is supposed to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the next few weeks. Mr. Bolton will be able to advise the president on the pitfalls of any proposed agreement with Mr. Kim.
When the meeting ends, as it almost certainly will with no agreement other than to talk again, he will be able to convince the president to do far more than has been done to improve our defenses against ballistic missile attacks.
One of the ways to improve our ballistic missile defenses is a space-based system called “Brilliant Pebbles” first unveiled in the 1990s. It is a system of small interceptor missiles, linked to our satellite missile tracking systems, which — even with 1990s technology — would have made America almost penetration-proof against such attacks. Modern technology would make the system even more effective depriving many adversaries, not just North Korea, of a “first strike” capability.
The fourth item on Mr. Bolton’s agenda should be to recommence sending captured terrorists to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Obama stopped the military and the CIA from sending any terrorists to Gitmo in 2008.
Gitmo, isolated and secure, is a place where terrorists can be interrogated at length. Such interrogations, which take place over months and even years, have proven to be a consistent source of actionable intelligence.
We are constantly lectured, by the left and self-proclaimed human rights advocates, that we have no right to hold prisoners indefinitely and that Gitmo is a propaganda tool used to recruit more terrorists. Under the law of war, we can hold prisoners until the conflict is over. It has never been demonstrated that Gitmo benefits terrorist recruitment, but so what if it does? Gitmo — and the fact that no prisoners are tortured there, a fact that is verified by frequent inspections by international groups — is another weapon we should use in the ideological war.
Each of these four policy matters is important, the first three overwhelmingly so. John Bolton is one of the few people who is sufficiently smart and politically-savvy to make them happen.
• Jed Babbin, a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration, is the author of “In the Words of Our Enemies.”
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