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View full transcript

Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. How has Trump principled, realistic foreign policy served American interests in Year One of his presidency? That's something that I'm sure he will tackle, at least in part, during his State of the Union address tonight. That was part of the conversation during the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, and there was a very interesting exchange between Israel Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Fareed Zakaria on the controversial...I GUESS...decision for Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital...something that previous presidents had SAID...Trump was the only one that MOVED on it. And Bibi Netanyahu had this reaction to the President's decision, much to the chagrin one of one globalist named Fareed Zakari. Netanyahu (from tape): The seat of government is in Jerusalem. This has been the case for the 70 years of Israel's existence, that we're celebrating now. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people since the time of King David, that's only three thousand years ago. So President Trump made history by recognizing history, recognizing these indelible facts of the past and the present. And under ANY peace agreement, you KNOW that the capital of Israel will continue to be Jerusalem, and the seat of our government will continue to be in Jerusalem, so I think on the contrary, he did a great service for peace, because peace can only be based on truth, on reality. And denying the simple fact that Israel's capital is Jerusalem pushes peace backwards by creating an illusion, fantasy. Can't build peace on fantasy. Proft: For more on this topic, and this aspect of the President's remarks tonight, we're pleased to be joined by our friend John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Bolton thanks so much for joining us again, appreciate it. Bolton: Well, good morning! Glad to be with you. Proft: So how would you summarize Trump's first year on the foreign policy front, and whether or not decisions like the decision in Jerusalem have advanced the cause of peace of the world over? Bolton: Well, I think he's had an awful lot of successes, but he faces an awful lot of problems, because a number of due bills left to him by the previous administration are coming due: the North Korea nuclear program, the Iran nuclear program, chaos in the Middle East and a whole range of other issues. But I think it's...there's been a lot of hysteria about what Trump's foreign policy is. I think it ends up being in the mainstream of conservative Republican thinking on most issues. That's depressing and boring for a lot of the critics, maybe for some of the supporters too, but I think that's the reality. I think it's what we desperately needed after eight years of Barack Obama. Jacobson: Well, the Palestinians are none too happy if the embassy is moved to Jerusalem, but President Trump the other day said he'd deny them foreign aid if they don't continue with peace talks. Bolton: Look, I think it's time...it's time to shake up the conditions in the Middle East. We've been pursuing the two-state solutions, so called, between Israel and the Palestinians, for about six or seven decades, it's not working out too well. And I think what Netanyahu said about peace ultimately being based on truth rather than illusion, it's just something you can't argue with. So acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel's capital and saying we're going to put our embassy there, does just recognize reality. And by the way, to the people who say it prejudices the outcome of the negotiations, that's just not true. Trump's own statement says he's not intending to do that. The embassy, whether it is built from scratch or, as it looks like now, converted from an existing consulate facility, will be in territory always recognized as WEST Jerusalem, WEST of the Green Line, NEVER under claim by the Palestinians. So this is just one example of an urban legend that's been out there for decades, it was never going anywhere. And the idea, for example, that the only people in the world for whom refugee status is inheritable, like DNA, are the Palestinians. That impedes the peace process as well. So the President withheld half of the operating budget of the UN Agency that works with the Palestinians, and as you say, he basically threatened to take off the table the direct aid that the United States gives the Palestinians, for which, by the way, we have ample statutory grounds, and some would say requirements, that the State Department hasn't yet met. So it's a painful reality that intrudes for some people, but I think it's the right thing to do. Proft: Ostensibly tonight the President will, in listing his successes, talk about crippling ISIS. Yesterday the Islamic State issued a new video, calling on "brothers in Europe, America, Russia, Australia, and elsewhere" to "kill them all, now it's time to rise". What is the state of the Islamic State, and how much credit does Trump deserve for removing them...removing their control from places like Syria and Iraq? Bolton: Well, I think that the Territorial Caliphate has largely been destroyed. I think there are still some pockets of resistance, our military says it's a few weeks until they're taken care of, I suspect that's right. And I think it was important to destroy the Territorial Caliphate, because it's holding territory that gives ISIS the color of legitimacy to its claim that it is indeed a legitimate Islamic Caliphate. But losing that territory doesn't mean that ISIS disappears. We know for a fact that a lot of its people got out of the Caliphate, and escaped to places like Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to continue the terrorist attacks against the West, and I do think that they will continue. So, there's been an important victory. I do think that Trump's changing of the rules of engagement for American forces was helpful in that regard. But I think it was not helpful that we continued basically many of the policies of the Obama years, supporting the government of Iraq which is, sad today these days, a subsidiary of the government of Iran, the Ayotollahs basically control it. And that's one reason that we still face enormous threats in the Middle East; to Israel, to our Arab friends, as well as our own interests there as well. Jacobson: Do you think President Trump will address the Taliban? I mean, they killed 100 people, they filled an ambulance with explosives, and then earlier in the week 22 Americans were killed at the Intercontinental Hotel, a good friend of the show, Greg Selig, was there, hiding in-between mattresses, and he had this 13 hours of Hell, and they tracked him down and they killed him. I mean, there seems to be something there with the Taliban. Bolton: Well, I think the President was pretty forceful at lunch yesterday with the UN Security Council when he said "We're not gonna talk to those people." And ultimately, this argument that this group of fanatics and terrorists would sit down and have a nice corporate conference around a conference table was always delusional. I think you've got to defeat these people. It may take a long time, but if you want the terrorist threat eliminated, if you want to make sure they don't re-take Afghanistan, and provide a new base for ISIS or al-Qaeda to threaten Pakistan, with terrorists taking over there and getting their hands on Pakistan's arsenal of nuclear weapons, which is estimated publicly to be 60 or more, maybe up to 200. This is just something that...it's unpleasant, Americans don't like to deal with these long-term lingering infections, but that's what it is, and to preserve the safety of innocent civilians here in the United States, far better to deal with them over there than deal with them over here. Proft: Dr. Richard Benkin has a piece in American Thinker where he profiles a Pashtun village elder who is very complimentary of President Trump's policy. He talks about President Trump's...and Pashtun's generally speaking, a favored form of democratic rule...small D. He has...but this elder that he profiles suggests that Trump is right for calling out Pakistan for decades of lies and deceit, duplicity in the War on Terror. He says that successive US Governments have given Pakistan billions of dollars, and its people...for its people's welfare and to fight the War on Terror, and in return Pakistan has given us nothing BUT terrorism. This kind of in the North Waziristan area that kind of borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I wonder if that is a perspective, although anecdotal, that informs US policy, and Trump's policy, towards Pakistan...or at least it SHOULD, and thus the basis for us to retain some presence there. Bolton: Well, I think Trump's decision recently to withhold assistance from Pakistan was correct, I think from time to time you've gotta show 'em the cold steel, and that was a necessary decision. But, I think it's also important to remember, and I said this a moment ago, that they've got a substantial supply of nuclear weapons, and if the terrorists took control, we would find ourselves with Iran on steroids. So it's a difficult balance to walk, it's a country that every time you turn around you've got to grit your teeth and think about it. I had a friend, a colleague, at the State Department, who said that the government of Pakistan is the only government he knows that consists simultaneously of arsonists and firefighters. And, and, and...and, and that's about right, and that's why it's hard to deal with. But, if you walk away from them, China will basically insert itself as the dominant external power, you'll have this greater risk of even more proliferation of nuclear weapons and this risk of conflict with India rises as well. So, it's hard, and it does require a well thought-out strategy, which is something again, Trump inherited basically a vacuum in terms of strategic policy regarding Pakistan, and he's still gotta make one up. Proft: You talked about the prospect of Pakistan becoming Iran on steroids, if terrorists got a hold of the nuclear weapons...what about Iran, minus the steroids, the actual Iran, and Trump and his position on the Iran Nuclear Deal, and his position that it was the worst deal in American history, at least at a foreign policy level. What are you hoping he says about the survivability of that deal tonight? Bolton: Well, I think if he just repeats what he said before, it'll be a reminder to everybody in Congress that he's still waiting to see if they can come up with anything. I mean, I would have abrogated this deal on January the 20th, 2017, during the Inaugural Address, because it was a strategic mistake. It was the worst diplomatic deceit that the United States has ever suffered, and it hasn't gotten any better with age. So I'm...I'm...if you put me down as what my druthers would be, we would have been out of it long ago. But if it's not gonna come till May, so be it. This is a good time to work with our allies in Europe, and others around the world, to talk about the reality that is going to exist on that date in May when Trump pulls the plug on this thing, which I certainly hope he does. Proft: He is Ambassador John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Bolton thanks again for joining us, appreciate it. Bolton: Always glad to be with you, thanks for having me!

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“Let the American public and general public around the world understand what the problem is that we’re facing”

Mike Baker joined Dan and Amy this morning. Listen to an exclusive interview now. 

View full transcript

Dan Proft: We’re going to get to this… not here, but wait until you see the column that Neil Steinberg wrote in the Sun Times today. Oh, baby! Not that anyone reads Neil Steinberg or the Sun Times, or should, but I mean it’s another illustration – we’ve had so many, from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Chris Murphy; so many ignoramuses all pinning on guns in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack, but Neil Steinberg really takes it to an unintentionally fun level. We’ll get to that, but we have more oppressive matters, and John Brennan, who’s the director of the CIA, of course, outlined the pressing matter, that is the threat of ISIS – the JV team that is moving up the ranks. Brennan had some good news for us and some bad news. Here’s the good news with respect to our fight against ISIS. John Brennan: Several notable indicators are trending in the right direction. ISIL has lost large stretches of territory in both Syria and Iraq. Its finance and media operations have been squeezed. And it has struggled to replenish its ranks of fighters, in part because fewer foreign fighters are traveling to Syria. Moreover, some reports suggest that a growing number of ISIL members are becoming disillusioned with the group and are eager to follow in the footsteps of members who have already defected. Dan Proft: That’s the good news, Brennan testifying before a congressional committee. Here’s the bad news: John Brennan: Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach. The resources needed for terrorism are very modest, and the group would have to suffer even heavier losses of territory, manpower, and money for its terrorist capacity to decline significantly. Dan Proft: So effectively no diminution of ISIS’s ability to exact terrorism on a global scale. We know they’re targeting the West, with the evidence of Brussels and Paris and San Bernardino and Orlando are testament too. That’s bad news. For more on what John Brennan had to say, as well as the underlying threat he’s discussing, we’re now joined by our friend Mike Baker. He is former CIA covert operations officer who specialized in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations, including in the Middle East. He’s now President and Founder of Diligence LLC. Mike, thanks so much for joining us again, appreciate it. Mike Baker: Sure, thank you. Likewise. John Brennan is a very capable guy. He’s a very well experienced individual; he’s been doing this for a long time. He basically laid out, in a very straight forward manner, the upside and also the problem that we face. I think he was being fairly pragmatic, compared to what we typically hear at the White House, which is nothing but sunshine and good news. Dan Proft: And so, Mike, with respect to what we hear from the White House, your assessment of President Obama’s response to the Orlando attack and also as part of that response, going back and forth with critics as to his unwillingness to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”. Mike Baker: I’m not one of those fueling the subject leftover, how many times a given speech the president or someone at the White House talk about it, in terms of Islamic extremism. It’d be nice if they’d be a little bit more straight forward and just call it what it is, but it will get bigger issues to deal with, and I understand, from a 30,000 foot view, in a sense, I suppose, why they’re reluctant to do that. I think it’s long, I think you need to be more direct and open about what it is you’re facing. But I’m not concerned about that. It’s not the number 1 priority. Let the American public and general public around the world understand what the problem is that we’re facing. But the problem that we’ve got and nobody wants to talk about is that we can – and we will, eventually, we’ll defeat them on the ground, in Syria and Iraq; we will take away this so called caliphate, and that’s a very important step. We have to do that. It would have been nice if we’d been more aggressive over the past couple of years in doing this, but the reality is the more success we have on the ground there, the more likely we are to see attacks in the West, on the nature of Orlando or Paris or Brussels or San Bernardino or Toronto or whatever. We’re already seeing that. We’re seeing the Islamic state become more and more aggressive in convincing their minions, their followers, or anybody out there who may turn towards their agenda to do this, because they’re on the back foot. We are having some success out there. Dan Proft: Let me just interject and ask you about this matter as well, on the policy side and what you’re discussing in this same topic area. This so called Dissent Channel Cable that was signed by 51 state department officers involved with advising on Syrian policy, hauling for targeted military strikes against the Assad regime in Damascus as urging regime changes, the only way to defeat ISIS, and suggesting that “the failure to stem Assad’s flagrant abuses would only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as Daesh - ISIS, even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield”. That’s 51 state department officials breaking bad on the Obama administration’s policy with respect to Syria, and suggesting, if you will, a reset. Mike Baker: It’s 51 state department officials who all probably consider themselves progressives and who will also would likely blame us for the anger that the Islamic extremists will feel towards the US and our allies. I’m not putting a lot of stock in that. The reality is, we’re not going to get rid of Assad. And does anyone think Vladimir Putin is going to stand around and watch his primary ally in that region, a guy who has allowed them to maintain their only port for the Black Sea fleet, do we think that’s going to happen? No, it’s not, so we need to be more realistic about this. Again, is Assad a bad guy, is he a butcher? Well, I would say, “Of course he is”. But has it earned international security interests? No. What are international security interests? Protecting the homeland, protecting the United States and our allies? Yeah. He was the one thrown up about it. Dan Proft: But on the one hand then you have dissension in the progressive ranks, kind of more muddle to the Obama foreign policy, and you’re suggesting essentially both sides are wrong in what they’re suggesting. You talked about the ground and winning this on the ground; be more specific on what you think is required to deal ISIS a death blow. Mike Baker: If we’re conducting the air campaign that the White House is talking about, that’s great, but the air campaign can only be more effective if it’s more efficient, and so just looking at the air campaign, what do we need? Well, we need more capability to make that as sufficient as possible. That means more – and this is going to be very frustrating, if you believe it – we need more ground personnel. I’m just talking. I’m not saying that we should do this, I’m just saying what you would need to do to witness. I understand we’ll all fed up about this. We’re all fatigued from this, but if we’re going to win this war, the reality is we’re going to have to be at the pointing edge of the spear. This happy day dream that we’ve got about eventually getting our allies out there to pick up the ball and run with it in a meaningful way, we’re going to be talking about that 10 years from now, if that’s the way we want to do this. Amy Jacobson: What about these home grown terrorists? Omar Mateen, do you think he had a direct link to the Islamic State, or was he a terrorist wannabe that was trying to prove something to daddy, possibly? Mike Baker: I think – especially because of what we had in San Bernardino, we had a guy that, for a variety of reasons, was willing to become self-radicalized. I don’t think there was any direct tasking from the Islamic state. I don’t think there was any support sell that provided him with resources and training. They don’t care; the Islamic state, just like Al-Qaeda, they don’t care who falls under their spell, whether it’s a psychotic nut job, or whether it’s somebody who’s a devout religious individual who firmly believes in what they’re doing. As long as they carry out attacks against the infidels, that’s a win from the extremist point of view. But I think that Mateen was one of those individuals that, yeah, sure, of course; was he unstable? Yeah, absolutely, but he knew what he was doing. He approached this in a fairly methodical manner, and from his surveillance and casing and target selection, to the gathering up the logistics in order to do this, to identifying why he was doing it. The idea that it can be diminished to simply a hate crime by an unstable individual confused over his sexuality is completely missing the point and completely denying the overall problem that we’re dealing with at 30,000 feet. Dan Proft: That’s Mike Baker, because he gives it to you straight. Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer who specialized in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency, now President and Founder of Diligence LLC. Mike, thanks, as always, for joining us, appreciate it. Mike Baker: Thank you very much. I appreciate it as well. Take care!

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