After Bolton, Should Trump Be Talking to Despots?

President Trump meets with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on Sentosa Island on June 12, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The putative cause of John Bolton’s firing from the office of national security advisor was reportedly a disagreement he had with the president over Trump’s inviting Taliban leaders to Camp David. It was probably a lot more than that, but this has once more brought up the question of the president’s proclivity for doing the jaw-jaw with despots.


He’s done it with Xi. He’s done it with Kim. He’s done it with Putin. He’s talked about doing it with the Taliban and Iran’s Rouhani. (Why not Ayatollah Khamenei for that last one? He’s the boss. Rouhani’s just a face man.)

For all the tut-tutting and worse that have gone on in our media over these encounters or possible encounters, what’s interesting is that nothing bad has happened because of them. Not even close.

The reason is that Trump does not roll over for these people when he meets them. Indeed, he does the opposite. He walked out on Kim at their last meeting. He’s been far rougher on Putin, despite the pleasantries that so alarmed the children at CNN and The New York Times, with sanctions and more American energy growth than any recent president (certainly than the ineffectual Obama) and he’s giving the Chinese fits on trade. He’s the first one to even address the situation seriously. The Iranians are in worse shape than they’ve ever been with a contracting economy, hyperinflation and the Israelis (with Trump’s implicit permission) pummeling their proxies from the air on an almost daily basis.

Only the Taliban haven’t been suffering more under Trump, but the story of Afghanistan has never been a good one. What do you do about them? You can’t bomb a country into the Stone Age that’s already there. Trump invited the Tals to Camp David and then, when they misbehaved, disinvited them. That’s what he should do.


It’s hard to see what the various sides of the foreign policy establishment, the doves (the tired State Department drones) or the hawks like Bolton, are so upset about. The president’s doing his job and doing it well. Of course, he’s being criticized constantly by the Democrats (“I say tomato and you say tomahtoh”) and accused by those same State Dept. drones of not having a policy. (What was theirs exactly? And what did it accomplish?)

There are always foreign policy problems, but the country’s actually in pretty good shape, historically speaking in remarkable shape. (That’s part of the reason the left is constantly screaming bloody murder over climate change. It’s a supposedly looming calamity that takes their and the public’s attention off how good things really are.)

But what to do about Afghanistan? Trump wants to leave but Bolton wants to stay. To be honest, fifteen years ago I would have agreed with Bolton — and so would have many of you, I wager. And most of our political establishment, right and left, would have too. In fact, they did. Remember “Democracy, whiskey, sexy”? How we would turn Iraq into Denmark…

But for quite a while now most of us have learned otherwise. Horrid as Afghanistan may be — and a culture much of which still treats women like chattel and young boys like concubines in 2019, not to mention subsisting on the production of opium poppies, is pretty horrid indeed — there is little we can do about it. Enough of our young people have been killed or wounded, enough of our treasure spent. Basta! Let’s get out, intelligently obviously (i. e. not like Vietnam).


And we have plenty to do back home. Now that Bernie Sanders is allying with Linda Sarsour, we have to prevent America from turning into Afghanistan.

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