So, President Trump’s has tapped John Bolton to be his next national security adviser.
Most readers will be familiar with the broad outlines of the Bolton story—he is famously awful as a boss and his hawkish tendencies border on the absurd. A Republican Senate refused to confirm his nomination, by George W. Bush, as ambassador to the United Nations. The thought of Bolton in New York literally moved Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican, to tears.
Bolton has, of course, been on his very best behavior. He recently made news by appearing to support the idea of negotiations with North Korea, comparing it to the deal that the Bush administration struck with Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2003.
Don’t fall for it. The agreement with Libya, and how its relates to North Korea, is actually one of the least-understood episodes in recent diplomacy. But it is important, because it demonstrates how Bolton plies his trade, and the danger he poses.
After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration faced a delicate situation: There were no weapons of mass destruction! Saddam had, in fact, abandoned his programs and the United States had invaded Iraq anyway. This looked, well, bad. How could Bush convince other world leaders, including North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, to give up their nuclear weapons aspirations if it looked like the U.S. would just turn around and topple them, just as it had Saddam?
Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, hit on an ingenuous solution. The United States had also struck a disarmament deal with Libya. Why not have Gaddafi vouch for Bush?
“North Korea will be surprised to see how much will be possible (if it abandons its nuclear programs),” she reportedly told the South Korean foreign minister in 2004. “I wish Kim Jong-Il would talk to Gaddafi.” [Continue reading…]
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