John Bolton – 2017 Foreign Policy and the 2016 Campaign

John Bolton, our former Ambassador to the United Nations and the non presidential candidate that never had the opportunity to run. He is one political American asset that sadly we will not have the benefit to profit from. In his address below he demonstrates a grasp of the political scene America is presently facing and articulates the political minefield left by our current administration for the one taking office in 2017.

2017 foreign policy & the 2016 campaign –
Idealized strategies founded on hypothetical scenarios no longer useful

Ambassador_John_Bolton_at_FITN_in_Nashua,_NH_by_Michael_Vadon_06_(cropped)By John Bolton
Sunday, December 13, 2015

Islamist terrorists have again shed American blood on American soil. The San Bernardino killers’ ideology is clear, as it was with the 9/11 hijackers. The continuing global threat from their terrorist comrades is not a criminal-law problem but a barbaric war against our country’s deepest principles.

It is, therefore, increasingly critical that national security take center stage in 2016’s political debate. With just over a year until Barack Obama’s term ends, presidential candidates must begin articulating foreign and defense policies based on the international reality they will inherit on Inauguration Day 2017.

The strategic environment Obama actually bequeaths to the incoming president will be the point of departure, not what exists today. Candidates must now be both more comprehensive in their strategic thinking and more directly address the world they will face after they finish the oath of office.

Idealized strategies founded on hypothetical scenarios are no longer useful.

Critiquing Obama’s daily failures also is no longer enough. Neither can we return to Jan. 20, 2009, and start over again. ISIS, collapsing national governments (indeed, chaos) in Iraq and Bashar Assad’s Syria, and Iran’s continuing nuclear-weapons program together constitute a critical focus for the new realism and specificity candidates must now demonstrate. Consider these key facts a new president will face:

• First, Obama has done precious little to reach his self-professed goal to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. For Obama, “ultimately” is very far off. Even after the Paris and San Bernardino savagery, Obama shows no hint of moving beyond his current flaccid efforts. Thus, by January 2017, the ISIS global threat likely will have become materially more serious.

• Second, despite repeatedly asserting that Syria’s Assad must be removed from power, the president has done almost nothing to make it happen. For years, Obama was paralyzed by fear that taking effective action against Assad would endanger his chances for a nuclear deal with Iran, Assad’s chief regional supporter.

Moreover, Obama and secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry consistently misread Russia’s position on Syria’s Ba’ath Party regime, claiming that Putin shared their goal of replacing Assad with some alternative regime. That never was true. Now, Russia has doubled down, building a substantial air base at Latakia, using air power to bolster Assad against the Syrian opposition.

So blind is Obama that he continues hoping Putin will change his mind. No way. If anything, 2016 will see Russia more entrenched militarily in Syria — and more adamantly behind the Ba’athist government. Moreover, because of the deeply flawed Vienna nuclear deal, Tehran, in just months, will gain access to more than $100 billion of previously frozen assets, thus providing resources to finance increased Iranian and Hezbollah military activity supporting Assad.

Obama’s unwillingness to act will therefore leave us, by Jan. 20, 2017, with Assad far more difficult to remove and the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus axis greatly strengthened.

• Third, Tehran by then also will have made another year’s worth of progress toward its long-sought objective of deliverable nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s recent report made clear that Iran continued military work on its nuclear program until at least 2009, well after the 2003 cut-off date asserted in the highly politicized (and now thoroughly discredited) 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. The IAEA also stressed Tehran’s continued stonewalling on key questions it never had answered fully or satisfactorily on military issues. These findings alone show how duplicitous and untrustworthy the ayatollahs remain.

Given this prognosis, it is unrealistic for candidates to talk about removing Assad from power, however desirable such an objective might be in the abstract. This does not mean we should accept Assad or work with his regime; it means that Obama’s mistakes have stuck us with Assad for the foreseeable future.

By January 2017, Russia will be even more entrenched in Syria, meaning either direct confrontation with a new president or accepting a trade Putin would delight in making: reduced Russian involvement in Syria in exchange for lifting the West’s Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia.

Sadly, given the chance, Obama and Europe would both likely make that trade. A new Republican president should not.

As has been true since 2011, Syria and Assad are a strategic side show. The real issue is the regime in Tehran. It is Tehran that is speeding toward nuclear weapons and provoking a regional nuclear arms race. It is Tehran that most threatens Israel. It is Tehran that keeps Assad in power. And it is Tehran that remains the central banker for international terrorism.

Accordingly, the new president must simultaneously pursue the elimination of Iran’s nuclear threat and a robust policy based on U.S. leadership and full participation, including ground forces, to destroy ISIS, not ultimately, but now. Assad simply is secondary to these larger objectives. A realistic 2017 American foreign policy should focus more on eliminating the actual threats we face, not merely on their symptoms.

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