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Ro Khanna: ‘Americans Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief With Bolton Gone’

September 11, 2019
Ro's Op-Eds
Ro Khanna

The Nation

During the 2016 election, Donald Trump campaigned on rejecting the long-standing interventionist foreign policy that led us into trillion-dollar wars in the Middle East. He promised to withdraw us from endless conflicts and prevent our entanglement in new ones. Despite this promise, he appointed John Bolton to be his national security adviser. Bolton contradicted Trump’s campaign promises to end wars and has, over the course of his career, done more damage to American foreign policy than almost any other American in the 21st century.


Bolton’s record of blunders is long. While serving as a top diplomat in the Bush administration, he peddled falsehoods about Saddam’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and was the loudest cheerleader for the Iraq War. During this same period, he pushed to include North Korea in the “Axis of Evil” and tore up President Clinton’s nuclear deal that ended its plutonium development.


As if the catastrophe he orchestrated in Iraq wasn’t enough, Bolton made repeated calls over the last decade to bomb Iran. He joined the Trump administration to make good on his Iran vendetta. After a month of Bolton’s serving as national security adviser, Trump withdrew from the Iran deal. Four months ago, Bolton announced the deployment of the USS Lincoln and Air Force bombers to the Persian Gulf, increasing the chances of war.


Americans can breathe a sigh of relief with Bolton gone. Instead of a foreign policy focused on military threats, economic embargoes, and failed “maximum pressure” campaigns, we must promote diplomatic solutions and military restraint. In Congress, I’ve worked with some of Trump’s closest allies to offer this alternative approach.


While Bolton was risking war with Tehran, I partnered with Florida Republican Matt Gaetz to pass an amendment to the defense bill that blocks funds for an unauthorized offensive war in Iran. The provision received bipartisan support from Congress, including 27 Republicans in the House and even Charles Koch’s Americans for Prosperity.

After Bolton withdrew America from the INF Treaty, threatening a new arms race with Russia, the House advanced legislation I introduced with Lois Frankel in the annual defense authorization bill to prevent the development of new missiles violating the treaty. With Bolton gone, Trump must prioritize extending the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty and find a way to save the INF.


The House has also worked to overturn Bolton’s policies in Yemen. Recently, the House passed my amendment to ban US military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including targeting assistance and spare parts transfers to ground the Saudi Air Force that bombs Yemen’s civilians.
In my first year in Congress, I introduced a War Powers Resolution to end the war in Yemen. A nation-wide grassroots movement built momentum to pass that resolution earlier this year. Although Trump vetoed the resolution under Bolton’s advice, our work still led to the administration to voluntarily suspending refueling.

In sum, Bolton worked around the clock to scuttle diplomatic gains around the world. Now that he won’t be there to derail our progress, Democrats should put politics aside to support diplomatic efforts.


We should build on the letter I sent to Trump with Rand Paul, supporting his decision to wind down the wars in Syria and Afghanistan. We should support negotiations with North Korea, and pass my resolution endorsed by Jimmy Carter to formally end the Korean War.

We also now have a chance to bring all parties together to find a peaceful political solution to the crisis in Venezuela. I’m most encouraged in seeing the Trump administration start direct talks with the Houthis to help end Yemen’s civil war. Bolton’s ouster presents new opportunities for an American foreign policy that ends multigenerational wars and gives diplomacy a chance.


As the armed-services committees negotiate the final version of the defense bill, they must ensure that these provisions promoting military restraint are sent to the president’s desk for a signature. With Bolton out, Trump has a chance to begin living up to the promises he made on the campaign trail to stop endless wars of choice.