Q+A Celebrity Connection: John Bolton

The 27th United States National Security Advisor has a speaking engagement planned on Hilton Head.

Portrait of John Bolton
Photo Credit: Philip Bermingham

By Leslie T. Snadowsky

Ambassador John Bolton will address national security challenges and opportunities facing the Biden Administration as the first featured speaker for the World Affairs Council of Hilton’s Head’s 2021-2022 First Friday Speaker Series.

Bolton served as National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump between 2018 and 2019, was a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute from 2007 to 2018, was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations between 2005 and 2006 and held high-level positions during the Administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Bolton, a staunch defender of American interests, has advocated tough measures against the nuclear weapons programs of both Iran and North Korea and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction worldwide. An author and an attorney, Bolton’s op-ed articles are regularly featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.

What lessons were learned from our involvement in Afghanistan?

With then President Donald Trump, during NATO Summit 2018.

It is never American strength that is provocative, but American weakness. Such weakness is tragically evident in the Biden-Trump obsession with total military withdrawal from Afghanistan. This is a terrible tragedy considering the lives and treasure America and its allies, especially the Afghans, have lost over two decades. A worse fate will come if, after the Taliban resumes control across Afghanistan, al Qaeda, Isil and other terrorist groups again take sanctuary there, threatening the resumption of significant, anti-Western terrorist operations.

We entered Afghanistan for core strategic reasons: to remove the Taliban government and destroy al Qaeda. We had substantial but incomplete success. We remained for equally compelling reasons: to prevent a recurrence of terrorist capabilities to strike America and its allies, and to watch more carefully developments in Pakistan and Iran. For the West more broadly, the Afghan withdrawal dangerously impugns our worldwide resolve. Beijing, Moscow and Tehran are fully alert, looking for every opportunity to exploit U.S. weakness.

The Afghan collapse is either a major intelligence failure or proof of congenital wishful thinking by President Biden and his advisers, probably both. Worse, the collapse of Afghanistan’s national military is a debacle for America, Britain and our allies, posing a potential new worldwide threat. If, as now seems certain, al Qaeda, Isil and other terrorist groups take sanctuary in the country, we will have effectively returned to a pre-9/11 terrorist environment.

What’s your outlook on North Korea and its nuclear intentions? 

John Bolton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

North Korea’s Pyongyang likely now has the ability to put a warhead over North America and is pursuing systems beyond land-based ballistic missiles. There is, however, no certainty among observers that the North can target accurately or its warheads can survive the difficult atmospheric reentry process. Critically, therefore, enough time remains (albeit not much) to stop North Korea before it directly threatens the United States and its ally Japan. Tokyo and Washington should both understand the real target of their efforts must be Beijing in China and not Pyongyang in North Korea.

For over 70 years Beijing has provided North Korea with enormous military assistance and, while denying recent support for nuclear-related programs, undoubtedly provided considerable help previously (as did Moscow). Politically, Beijing flies protective cover for Pyongyang at The United Nations Security Council. Economically, North Korea would collapse quickly if China suspended energy transfers, which constitute 90 percent-plus of its supplies, not to mention massive subsidies and humanitarian assistance. Indisputably, China made and sustains North Korea. Beijing must now own up to its responsibility, and it is time for the U.S. to focus on China.

Quick Facts

Who are the smartest political leaders you’ve met?
•U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and White House Chief of Staff Jim Baker
•U.S. Secretary of Defense, U.S. Congressman and White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld

What’s the most historic moment you’ve personally witnessed/ been a part of?

Best book about politics you’ve read (except yours, of course)?
•The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940 by William Manchester

Bolton graduated with a B.A., summa cum laude, from Yale College and received his J.D. from Yale Law School.

Bolton currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife Gretchen.

Bolton is looking forward to visiting Hilton Head for the first time during his WACHH speaking engagement.

Watch him speak

When: 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Friday, October 1

Where: First Presbyterian Church, Hilton Head Island

Note: Due to limited capacity in the venue, attendance at this event is limited to World Affairs Council members, but guests can register to watch the live stream. wachh.org

Bolton’s Books

The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir
Simon & Schuster (June 2020)

How Barack Obama is Endangering our National Sovereignty
Encounter Books (April 2010)

Surrender is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad
Simon & Schuster (November 2007)

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