The Corner

National Security & Defense

Why We Need John Bolton

John Bolton at CPAC 2017 (Gage Skidmore)

John Bolton was a determined opponent of the deal with the Taliban, as this New York Times story notes:

On the Friday before Labor Day, President Trump gathered top advisers in the Situation Room to consider what could be among the profound decisions of his presidency — a peace plan with the Taliban after 18 years of grinding, bloody war in Afghanistan.

The meeting brought to a head a bristling conflict dividing his foreign policy team for months, pitting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, in a battle for the competing instincts of a president who relishes tough talk but promised to wind down America’s endless wars.

As they discussed terms of the agreement, Mr. Pompeo and his negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, made the case that it would enable Mr. Trump to begin withdrawing troops while securing a commitment from the Taliban not to shelter terrorists. Mr. Bolton, beaming in by video from Warsaw, where he was visiting, argued that Mr. Trump could keep his campaign pledge to draw down forces without getting in bed with killers swathed in American blood….

Mr. Bolton was the leading voice against the deal on the inside as Mr. Pompeo’s allies increasingly tried to isolate the national security adviser. Mr. Bolton argued that Mr. Trump could pull out 5,000 troops while still leaving enough forces to assist counterterrorism efforts without a deal with the Taliban, a group he argued could not be trusted.

This intense internal fight over Afghan policy is why there have been a spate of anti-Bolton stories in the press lately. He wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers speaking forthrightly about why this course was a mistake, even when the decision seemed to be going the other way. It’s important that this president—any president—get unvarnished advice from his aides, and Bolton is always willing to provide it.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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