The man who got it right – has gone 24

Being strong supporters of President Trump, we are not happy making moan about his dismissal of John Bolton as his national security adviser. But make moan we do.

For one very important thing, John Bolton has always been right about how to deal with terrorist organizations like the Taliban, and terrorist regimes like Iran’s: they should never be negotiated with because to do so is to legitimize them. Now it seems that it is over this issue (inter alia, presumably) that the President and Bolton have parted company. (If proof were needed that in this matter Bolton is right, the Iranian government cheered the news of Bolton’s departure.)

Mark Steyn appreciates John Bolton as much as we do.

He writes  (in part … read it all for the wit, the sheer fun):

I first met the new National Security Advisor a decade and a half or so back, in a roomful of European prime ministers and foreign ministers. He delivered a line that stunned the joint:

‘International law does not trump the US Constitution.’

I was standing next to the Finnish Prime Minister, Paavo Lipponen, who had a genuinely puzzled looked on his face and eventually inquired of me: “He is making a joke, no?”

No. Since then, I’ve interviewed him at Fox a couple of times and passed him in the green room on many others. …

I first wrote about him fourteen years ago, after Bush nominated him as UN Ambassador. This is from The Spectator of March 19th 2005 – and my remarks about “the code-speak consensus of the global elite” are relevant, I think, to what drove Trump’s rise – as Mr Bolton was surely aware:

If you’re going to play the oldest established permanent floating transnational crap game for laughs, you might as well pick an act with plenty of material. What I love about John Bolton, America’s new ambassador to the UN, is the sheer volume of ‘damaging’ material. Usually, the Democrats and media have to riffle through decades of dreary platitudes to come up with one potentially exploitable infelicitous soundbite. But with Bolton the damaging quotes are hanging off the trees and dropping straight into your bucket. Five minutes’ casual trawling through the back catalogue and your cup runneth over:

The UN building?

If you lost ten storeys, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.’

Reform of the Security Council?

If I were redoing the Security Council, I’d have one permanent member … the United States.’

The International Criminal Court?

Fuzzy-minded romanticism … not just naive but dangerous.’

International law in general?

It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law.’

Offering incentives to rogue states?

I don’t do carrots.’

But he does do shtick. I happen to agree with all the above statements, but I can see why the international community might be minded to throw its hands up and shriek, ‘Quelle horreur!’ It’s not just the rest of the world. Most of the American media are equally stunned. …

In a roomful of Euro-grandees, [Bolton] was perfectly relaxed … [He] thwacked every ball they served back down their gullets with amazing precision. …He seemed to relish their hostility. At one event, a startled British cabinet minister said to me afterwards, ‘He doesn’t mean all that, does he?’

But he does. And that’s why the Bolton flap is very revealing about conventional wisdom on transnationalism. Diplomats are supposed to be ‘diplomatic’. Why is that? Well, as the late Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson used to say, diplomacy is the art of letting the other fellow have your way. In other words, you were polite, discreet, circumspect, etc., as a means to an end. Not any more.

None of John Bolton’s detractors is worried that his bluntness will jeopardise the administration’s policy goals. Quite the contrary. They’re concerned that the administration has policy goals — that it isn’t yet willing to subordinate its national interest to the polite transnational pieties. In that sense, our understanding of ‘diplomacy’ has become corrupted: it’s no longer the language through which nation states treat with one another so much as the code-speak consensus of a global elite.

For much of the civilised world the transnational pabulum has become an end in itself, and one largely unmoored from anything so tiresome as reality. It doesn’t matter whether there is any global warming or, if there is, whether Kyoto will do anything about it or, if you ratify Kyoto, whether you bother to comply with it: all that matters is that you sign on to the transnational articles of faith. The same thinking applies to the ICC, and Darfur, and the Oil-for-Fraud programme, and anything else involving the UN. …

The normal Western deference to the [UN] has grossly over-inflated its ‘legitimacy’ and ‘moral authority’. That’s what John Bolton had in mind with his observations about international law:

It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so — because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States.’

Just so. When George Bush Sr. went through the UN to assemble his coalition for the first Gulf war, it might have been a ‘diplomatic triumph’ but it was also the biggest single contributing factor to the received wisdom in the decade and a half since that only the UN has the international legitimacy to sanction war — to the point where, on the eve of Iraq’s liberation, the Church of England decided that a ‘just war’ could only be one approved by the Security Council. That in turn amplifies the UN’s claim to sole global legitimacy in a thousand other areas, big and small — the environment, guns, smoking, taxation.

Yet the assumption behind much of the criticism of Bolton … is that, regardless of his government’s foreign policy, a UN ambassador has to be at some level a UN booster. Twenty years ago, the then Secretary of State George Schultz used to welcome the Reagan administration’s ambassadorial appointments to his office and invite each chap to identify his country on the map. The guy who’d just landed the embassy in Chad would invariably point to Chad. ‘No,’ Schultz would say, ‘this is your country’ — and point to the United States. Nobody would expect a US ambassador to the Soviet Union to be a big booster for the Soviets. …

A slyer argument is that yes, the UN’s in a terrible state, what with the Oil-for-Fraud and the Congolese moppets and the flop response to Darfur and the tsunami, but that’s all the more reason why America needs an ambassador able to build consensus for much-needed reforms. The problem with that seductive line is that most of the proposed reforms are likely to make things worse. Again, Bolton is right to be dismissive about restructuring the [UN] Security Council. Even as the Second World War victory parade preserved in aspic, it makes little sense.

I can find only one example of a senior UN figure having the guts to call a member state a ‘totalitarian regime’. It was former secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali … and he was talking about America.

A Secretary-General of the United Nations dared to name a member country as a totalitarian regime, and the country he named was the United States!

John Bolton’s sin isn’t that he’s ‘undiplomatic’, but that he’s correct.

This ship of state has lost a great navigator.