If you believe Bob Woodward’s latest book, Fear: Trump in the White House, or the anonymous op-ed published recently by The New York Times, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the country is on the verge of collapse. Both accounts bolster a narrative in which U.S. President Donald Trump’s impulsiveness and lack of interest in policy heighten the risk of the breakdown of American democracy and world peace.
That’s the context for the storm of criticism that followed National Security Advisor John Bolton latest major policy speech. Bolton told the Federalist Society on Sept. 10 that the United States would close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Mission in Washington, and attacked the International Criminal Court. The foreign policy establishment and mainstream media treated Bolton’s statements as proof that the inmates are running the White House asylum.
According to the foreign policy “experts” who largely ran U.S. Middle East policy for most of the last 25 years since the Oslo Accords were signed, booting the PLO from its D.C. digs — like the administration’s decision to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority — will alienate Palestinians and make them less likely to make peace with Israel.
As for Bolton’s attack on the ICC, the outrage could barely be contained. According to a New York Times feature, his stance places the United States in the same category as authoritarian tyrannies and may cause the complete breakdown of international order.
Yet rather than buttress the “fear” of the educated classes about the Trump presidency, Bolton’s speech should cause critics to rethink their assumptions. Trump may be every bit as erratic and unpresidential as he has been portrayed. But a sober look at the policy changes Bolton announced shows that however hectic decision-making has become in this White House, some of those decisions are quite rational. In fact, they are part of a long-overdue rethinking of outdated conventional wisdom that has done damage to the interests of the United States and key allies, including Israel.
The ousting of the PLO is necessary to hold the Palestinians accountable, not only for their past rejections of peace, but for ongoing policies of subsidizing and fomenting terror, as well as their refusal to even consider the administration’s plan.
Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner was mocked for his assurance that the attempt to pressure the Palestinians wouldn’t hurt chances for peace. But a quarter-century of aid and an unwillingness to hold leaders accountable has had the opposite effect the experts anticipated. Granting the Palestinian Authority impunity for stonewalling peace and inculcating hate has ensured that peace won’t happen any time soon. While Kushner’s confidence is unjustified, these measures must be regarded as the first step towards making peace possible in the future.
As for the ICC, the argument that America is siding with authoritarianism by opposing the court is utterly specious. The ICC, which was founded in 2002, was intended to be a symbol of international justice and a court of last resort for crimes against humanity. Instead, it is another example of how such institutions are easily corrupted — displaying blatant bias against Israel and the West, and consistently falling short of its goals.
In its 16 years of existence, the ICC has convicted only eight people, and many of its cases have collapsed. More to the point, it is part of a power grab by the same crowd that has made the United Nations a cesspool of incompetence and anti-Semitism.
Although cloaked in the best possible motives, the ICC is an unaccountable structure with no checks and balances. And like the United Nations, it has proffered despots like the dictator of Venezuela or the kleptocrats of the Palestinian Authority the same influence as democracies. As Bolton pointed out, who in their right mind would trust such a body to dispense justice?
The United States wisely refused to join the ICC when it was founded. And, as Bolton warned, it’s even more important now not tolerate its goings-on.
The ICC recently made clear its plans to investigate U.S. forces fighting Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan. Just as bad, it has also begun preparing for an assault on Israel’s efforts to defend itself against Hamas terrorists in Gaza. It has been soliciting testimony from Palestinians to build a case against the Jewish nation. In both instances, it is acting as a kangaroo court in which democracies would be put in the dock by tyrannies and terrorists.
The “America First” slogan the administration has embraced has unfortunate historical associations. But far from U.S. foreign policy demonstrating a drift towards authoritarianism, it is actually a defense of American values, as well as of the sovereignty of both the United States and Israel.
Whatever concerns we might have about what is going on behind closed doors in the West Wing, in these cases the decisions have been necessary and correct. Think what you like about Trump, but he deserves credit for turning out the PLO, and for warning the ICC to keep its hands off America and Israel.