Issues & Insights

Bolton In London Lauds Brexit On National Security Grounds

I&I Editorial

The British love their chips, but they’d best be careful not to let them get fishy. The most provocative thing U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said during his visit to No. 10 Downing Street this week was that the British don’t want their “telecommunications system in the 5G world to be compromised by the ‘Manchurian chip phenomenon’ any more than we do” — referring to the dangers posed by the Chinese 5G telecom pioneer Huawei.

I&I outlined the Huawai threat in some detail in May. Its hardware and future software upgrades could be used by Beijing for espionage, or even to attack the military and civilian computer resources of the countries using it.

Even liberal Democrats recognize the threat. “Allowing Huawei’s inclusion in our 5G infrastructure could seriously jeopardize our national security and put critical supply chains at risk,” Senate Intelligence Committee top Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia wrote in March. “Software reviews of existing Huawei products are not sufficient to preclude the possibility of a vendor pushing a malicious update that enables surveillance in the future. Any supposedly safe Chinese product is one firmware update away from being an insecure Chinese product.”

Bolton said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new government was “looking really from square one on the Huawei issue” — which some British officials claimed was an inaccurate account of Bolton’s meetings — and Bolton offered to arrange briefings on the U.S. findings on Huawei.

The ‘Special Relationship’ Rejuvenated

But Bolton’s visit was about much more. He ridiculed the European Union as London scrambles to engineer Brexit over the next eight weeks, and he raised hopes for both Americans and the British for a return of the U.S.-British “special relationship” more in line with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher during the most consequential years of the Cold War with the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

“The fashion in the European Union,” Bolton quipped, is that when the people of one of its member nations “vote the wrong way from the way the elites want to go,” they then “make the peasants vote again and again until they get it right.”

“Make the peasants vote again” was a reference to Denmark and Ireland arranging second referendums after votes of no on their first. Denmark voted twice on the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and 1993, and Irish voters were polled twice on both the Nice Treaty in 2001 and 2002, and on the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 and 2009. Curiously, there never seems to be the need for another vote the following year when a country votes yes on a treaty to bind itself tighter to the EU.

Bolton also noted the “palpable economic benefits of Britain getting out of the Byzantine EU regulatory system” and gave assurances that “sector-by-sector” free trade deals, such as on automobiles, could quickly pass Congress and be signed into effect to lessen Brexit’s short-term economic disruption within Britain.

He also made mention of the fact that under Johnson, Britain will patrol the Persian Gulf in partnership with U.S. naval operations there in the face of the renewed Iranian threat, which has extended to seizing British-flagged petroleum tankers. Under Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, British vessels were going to operate in coordination with the EU.

The ultimate hope is that Britain will join the U.S. in withdrawing from President Obama’s fatally-flawed Iran nuclear deal, but the world also faces long-term threats from China and Russia, both of which seek to displace the U.S. as the world’s lone superpower, a stature that goes hand-in-hand with the security provided by NATO. Bolton is looking to a return of the joint assertiveness of Washington and London in defending the free world in the 1980s, as opposed to the more reserved defense policy that would be practiced by an EU that included Britain.

The Same Venom Spewed At Reagan

The left in Britain knows this is largely a return to Reagan and Thatcher, which they consider an anachronism whose historic success in leading to the demise of the Soviet Union is best forgotten. And so we hear the same sneers of three-plus decades ago, that England will be America’s puppy dog.

According to a commentator in the Manchester Guardian, Britain’s pre-eminent newspaper of the left, “the former colonies are out to colonize the UK.” He worries of “uncritical support for Trump’s renewed nuclear arms race with Russia and China” — apparently not having been sent the American left’s talking points that Trump is in cahoots with Vladimir Putin.

Britain will become an “Afghan war-style forward operating base from which to disrupt, subvert and weaken the EU … a tame, timid outpost of the American empire … a radically re-purposed and realigned UK in pursuit of his singular vision of American global hegemony, of the truly exceptional nation whose power and dominion know no limits and whose enemies quail before its unrivaled might.”

All this because “In Bolton’s imperious worldview, the pre-eminent, muscular and righteous U.S. republic rises above all others, sustained by the ultra-conservative, libertarian, populist-nationalist preconceptions and prejudices that only those with commensurately tiny minds can seriously entertain.”

Not quite an invitation to Ambassador Bolton for afternoon tea. But this is identical to the anti-American venom the Euro-left spewed at Ronald Reagan, raging that Britain had chosen to coordinate with its hawkish trans-Atlantic ally instead of its dovish continental next-door neighbors. The left, of course, found themselves discredited by history as dangerous appeasers. When the history of Brexit is written decades from now, it will be the same again.

— Written by Thomas McArdle

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