Why I May Run for President
by John Bolton
Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations that “the first duty of the sovereign, that of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies, can be performed only by means of a military force.” Today, failing to protect our national security inevitably endangers our economic prosperity by making us vulnerable to global adversaries.
It is clear that President Obama does not agree with Smith’s wisdom. Obama’s policies are jeopardizing not only our national security and economy, but our constitutional sovereignty too.
That is why I have been considering running for President. The Republican Party must nominate a leader who, unlike Obama, understands instinctively that America’s liberty, prosperity and national security are inextricably linked.
Sadly, last week’s debt-ceiling legislation, potentially resulting in catastrophic cuts to our defense budget, only reinforces my deep concerns. This may have been the best we could get, and it is far better than we feared. But the deal risks massive defense cutbacks, potentially pointing a dagger at the heart of our security and sovereignty.
We now face a minimum of $700 to 800 billion more in defense cuts, in addition to the $400 billion Obama has already imposed, with potentially catastrophic consequences. The joint committee established to fashion the second tranche of spending cuts (or tax increases) is not likely to protect us from massive defense cuts. The liberals will be working feverishly to put conservatives on the committee in an untenable position: a Hobson’s choice between tax increases and deep cuts in defense spending.
The debt-ceiling legislation’s trigger mechanism, with its grave risk of disproportionate cuts in defense spending, is potentially even more draconian. America’s national security is not just another wasteful government program, especially in perilous times like today. We are heavily involved in two major conflicts, the long-term global War on Terror and the critical effort to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Recent confirmation that Iran, on the verge of becoming a nuclear power, is materially aiding al-Qaeda only underlines the risk of massive U.S. defense cuts.
President Obama, unlike all his predecessors since Franklin Roosevelt, does not treat national security as his top priority. He does not see the world as threatening to U.S. interests. And he is comfortable with America’s “inevitable” decline in the world, rather than being determined to prevent it. Obama is our first post-American President. He fancies himself to be above mere “patriotism.” He is less an advocate for American interests than a “citizen of the world,” in his own phrase.
For two-and-a-half years, Americans have witnessed the devastating results of Obama’s “post-American” worldview. Russia has taken advantage of his naïve “reset” policy, while Iran and North Korea continue to aggressively pursue nuclear weapons. Staunch allies such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Japan question our resolve. Even France thinks he lacks leadership. China and the International Monetary Fund now openly cast doubt on the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. And Obama’s policy toward Libya has been an abject failure to date. He entered the conflict for the wrong reasons, failed to allow our military to accomplish its mission, invited Russia in to mediate, and now seems content to allow Muammar Gaddafi to remain in Libya. An Obama adviser called his approach “leading from behind.” Indeed it is, but it is not the American way.
No ally has been more victimized by Obama’s worldview than Israel. As our most anti-Israel President, bar none, Obama fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the security threats to Israel and the United States in the Middle East. Iran’s support for terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons goes unanswered. Radical groups around the region have been emboldened in the face of sustained incoherence in U.S. policy. In addition to Israel, Arab friends in the region, especially those producing oil and gas critical to the international economy, are shocked at the Obama administration’s treatment of close friends and its inability to comprehend, let alone defend, core American interests.
In addition, Obama is enamored of European-style schemes for global governance. He has naïvely called for a world in which America voluntarily gives up its nuclear weapons in hopes that our adversaries do so too. He yearns to join the International Criminal Court and risks subjecting America’s warriors to prosecutions and trial.Unable to achieve national gun-control legislation at home, he is seeking a backdoor route through an “arms trade treaty” now under negotiation at the United Nations. Despite his pro forma denials, Obama fundamentally does not believe in American exceptionalism, nor that American strength has ensured our peace and security since World War II.
Americans should understand that Obama’s international policies have a direct and profound impact on our economic prosperity. One obvious example is the devastating impact of another terrorist attack here at home, especially one with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Instability abroad has a profound impact on oil and gas supplies, and therefore the price we pay to fill up the family car with gasoline. Global supply chains vital to America’s jobs are threatened when our Navy is unable to protect U.S. shipping and vital sea lanes. Our failed border security policy allows the violence of drug cartels to spill across our borders and endanger our families. Obama’s existing cuts in our defense budget, and the ones surely coming under the debt-ceiling bill, will only magnify our inability to protect ourselves.
No GOP Candidate So Far
In 16 months, Americans will again go to the polls and vote for the person they believe can best lead our country. Beyond question, Obama’s economic policies have failed to renew the economy and are now a principal reason the recovery is stalled. His national security policies are even more dangerous. The American dream is under assault, and Obama is not fighting back. We need a real President in the Oval Office, someone who knows instinctively and by experience that, as Adam Smith said, “the first duty of the sovereign” is to protect and promote American sovereignty and national security. Otherwise, economic prosperity will count for little.
To date, in my view, no Republican candidate has persuasively argued that our economic recovery and long-term prosperity are completely intertwined with a strong national security posture. If no one else is prepared to make that case, I will.
Mr. Bolton is former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
This article was originally published by Human Events Magazine.