Listening is different from believing, and believing is different from trust. Before casting aspersions on the pretext of his ever-stern countenance, America should listen with an open mind at the candor which bellows from below the rigid mustache of John Bolton, President Trump’s National Security Advisor. Bolton, who has recently sparked a myriad of headlines about his militant attitude, is front and center in the current policy debate regarding current global tensions with Iran, Venezuela and North Korea, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bolton is savvy and understands the power of having his expert opinion expressed bluntly and widely in the media. He clearly understands the power of candor within that medium. On May 13, the White House reviewed a plan that was supposedly crafted by John Bolton that would send 120,000 US troops to deter Iran. Subsequently, headlines sprawled and chyrons attacked Bolton for his hawkishness. Even Trump seemed to push back against Bolton, claiming that he “tempers Bolton.”
The press has excoriated Bolton for being too bellicose, casting him as a villain nefariously adjusting his spectacles, pedantically plotting the next war — another mustachio hellbent on destroying the world. This is untrue. Bolton may be a zealot, but he’s a zealot in defending the apparently archaic notion that America is exceptional. He defends America like a ravenous pit bull. “Beware of Bolton” is the signage that adversaries see at diplomatic gates when Bolton is in the White House. Despite criticism from the press, this is a good thing.
Sergey Kislyak, former Russian Ambassador to the US, described Bolton as “tough, and that is as it should be as our interests are very different, but one always knows where he stands and that he has a clear understanding of both your nation’s interests and how to maximize those interests.” Many Americans, entranced by halcyon-like idealism, gasp at Bolton’s brashness. However, to world leaders who are privy to the harsh reality of geopolitics, Bolton is a formidable opponent. A Yale Law graduate and experienced government navigator, he will not be wishy-washy when it comes to drawing lines in the sand about where America stands.
This is helpful not only to the adversarial nations who, when facing Bolton, know where brinkmanship ends and shelling begins, but Americans should feel assured that under Bolton, America will never kowtow to an adversary. Bolton will use the leveraging power of the United States to advance our interests. His abrasive approach should be viewed without assigning morals to them.
Trump, who often touts his own skills as a negotiator, must love Bolton’s ability to use American leverage to accomplish things in the international arena. At the very least, Bolton is a reliable pit bull who can always be unleashed. The vast leverage America has in the international community is natural and should be used. If another country had such leverage, there is no telling to the degree with which they’d use it.
Bolton keeps adversaries on their toes, and he does so by bluntly stating his positions rather than obscuring them. Speaking to a group of exiled Iranians in 2017, Bolton declared bluntly, “The outcome of the president’s policy review should be to determine that the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution will not last until its 40th birthday. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself.”
Bolton was the catalyst to Trump pulling out of the landmark Iran Nuclear Deal, signed by President Obama in 2015. Many saw this as an aggressive, unilateral action that undermined the legitimacy of future U.S. deals. Bolton saw something more troubling. In the deal, all of our non-military options were off the table in terms of dealing with Iran, leaving us with little to no leverage with them. It would be one thing if Iran peacefully prospered with the lifting of sanctions. They instead used it to buttress their military activity in the Middle East, ramping up funding to proxies such as Hezbollah, the same group that killed 241 American soldiers in a surprise attack in Lebanon in the 1980s.
This is the same Iranian regime that promotes the chants “Death to America” as a political slogan. Just this week, they told students “You young people should be assured that you will witness the demise of the enemies of humanity, meaning the degenerate American civilization.” Is it any surprise that Bolton wanted the economic leverage against Iran back on the table when they have a regime hellbent on the destruction of our country?
It’s not just Americans. Ask the hundreds of thousands of Iranian Baha’is who fled Iran to the US after 1979 due to their persecution. “Since 2005, more than 1006 Baha’is have been arrested by the Iranian regime,” all for having a different faith from the majority Iranians. Interestingly enough, one of them is a close friend of mine and a graduate of the University of Utah. While he would like to remain anonymous, he told me that while he does not like Trump, he would “love to see the destruction of the Iranian regime.”
Before we cast aspersions on Bolton because of his rhetoric, let us listen and consider the reality of the situation. Bolton didn’t want to send 120,000 troops to wage war willy-nilly. It was to use leverage against an Iranian regime who wants Americans and minority Iranians dead because they don’t follow the edicts of the Ayatollah’s theocracy. Where others flounder through weak rhetoric, Bolton acts. The Iranian regime knows that when Bolton hears “Death to America,” he foams at the mouth.
Bolton is on our side. He hasn’t raked in corporate profits and has been a government servant since the 1980s. His net worth likely does not exceed one million dollars. What would his motivation be for war? Does it boil down to a blood-lust for death? Probably not. Even his staunchest critics admit that Bolton has a “sincere belief” in American greatness. Bolton sees himself as America’s mama bear, who will viciously attack anyone who might threaten her cubs. Bolton is always sincere, candid, and straight-forward. Americans know what they are getting, and so do our adversaries, including Iran. America has a fighter in John R. Bolton. Whatever failures and shortcomings he may have, they are not in fealty to this nation.
Note: This article has been edited to clarify that the author does not think Bolton’s net worth exceeds one million dollars.