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National Security & Defense

Wait, Who Didn’t Like John Bolton?

John Bolton at CPAC 2017 (Gage Skidmore)

While explaining why John Bolton departed the role of national security adviser, President Trump explained today in the Oval Office that his efforts to reach out diplomatically to North Korea had been complicated by Bolton comment about “the Libyan model.”

In an April interview with Chris Wallace, Bolton said:

WALLACE: OK. So, let’s talk about your position, the U.S. position going in, what the U.S. wants from Kim. Will President Trump insist that Kim give up, ship out, all of his nuclear weapons, all of his nuclear fuel, all of his ballistic missiles, before the U.S. makes any concessions?

BOLTON: Yes, I think that’s what denuclearization means. We have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004. There are obviously differences. The Libyan program was much smaller, but that was basically the agreement that we made.

In another interview with CBS, Bolton said: “What we want to see from [the North Koreans] is evidence that it’s real and not just rhetoric. One thing that Libya did that led us to overcome our skepticism was that they allowed American and British observers into all their nuclear-related sites. So it wasn’t a question of relying on international mechanisms. We saw them in ways we had never seen before.”

Both the North Koreans and Trump seemed to interpret the remark as something akin to the Western-backed effort to topple Moammar Gaddafi. A few weeks later, Trump declared, “the Libya model isn’t the model that we have at all when we’re thinking of North Korea.”

Today, Trump continued to talk as if Bolton had called for a Western-backed insurgency against the regime. “We were set back very badly when John Bolton talked about the Libyan model! And he made a mistake! And as soon as he mentioned that, the Libyan model – what a disaster! Take a look at what happened to Gaddafi with the Libyan model! And he’s using that, to make a deal, with North Korea? And I don’t blame Kim Jong Un for what he said after that, and he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton. And that’s not a question of being tough, that’s a question of being not smart, to say something like that.”

(Trump also repeatedly complained about Bolton’s role in the decision to invade Iraq, which was not exactly a state secret when Trump chose to hire Bolton.)

Elsewhere, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani also publicly applauded the departure of Bolton. The president reportedly “discussed easing sanctions on Iran to help secure a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later this month,” a move Bolton reportedly vehemently opposed, believing it would give the Iranians something they want in exchange for simply agreeing to meet with us.

Monday, Bolton and Trump reportedly got into a “bitter argument” about the president’s decision to invite the Taliban to Camp David.

Reassuring, isn’t it?

If the leaders of North Korea and Iran don’t like the U.S. national security adviser, that is a good thing. It’s not his job to be liked by the leaders of hostile states.


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