Now this is news. The Trumpster fires the Warmonger. Or at least, this is how a great many people will think of this. John Bolton has long been considered the resident Neocon swamp dweller, with tenures across multiple presidential administrations. However, it is wrong to assume that his advice was blindly accepted and acted upon by President Trump. Quite the opposite.
NBC News carried the piece that Drudge linked to on its aggregator site, but Fox News writer Brook Singman gave probably the least speculative report.
First this is how President Trump described the situation:
….I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2019
Incidentally, Mr. Bolton told the story a different way, suggesting that the level of disagreement between the two men may have crossed the line of pettiness:
I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, "Let's talk about it tomorrow."
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) September 10, 2019
This of course, has been taken by the mainstream press to imply that this could be another instance of a “Trumper-tantrum” in progress.
Now that we have all the social media nonsense out, though, let’s get to the real significance of this event.
John Bolton has a long, distinguished – AND controversial career as a DC insider. Opinions aside (as they are no doubt agitated on all sides), the man is either truly brilliant or just extremely clever. He has a service record in Washington going back to at least 1982, working for President Reagan’s administration at the US Agency for International Development for Program and Policy Consideration. He served both Presidents Bush for a combined total of nearly ten years, and he served under President Trump for about seventeen months.
He is a foreign policy “hawk” and is widely reviled for being the tip of the US’s sword that for many years seemed ready to attack anyone for any reason. He is also considered a strong conservative and often appears on Fox News to say what he thinks – and he does it!
In recent examples, Mr. Bolton advocated for Ireland’s not getting more deeply involved in the European Union, and he is a harsh critic of the Union itself. He opposed the deal that President George W. Bush made with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to eliminate that country’s WMD program. (Incidentally, President Obama carried out Bolton’s wishes by having Gaddafi brutally murdered with no trial or even cause other than that he was against Obama’s pet project called “the Arab Spring”.)
Mr. Bolton is considered one of the greatest advocates for the 2003 Iraq war. He still insists it was the right thing to have done. He is famously known for saying in 2007 that “the only mistake that the United States did with regard to Iraq was to not leave earlier after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and tell the Iraqis “Here’s a copy of the Federalist Papers. Good luck.”
He is, as might be expected among neocons, a very strong supporter of Israel, and he is on record advocating pre-emptive strikes against North Korea and Iran.
Add to that a very aggressive policy against Russia, noted by Russian Senator Aleksey Pushkov in this quote, “Bolton, along with Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, was an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq. A supporter of jihadists for the sake of overthrowing [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad]. A great specialist in interventions and aggression, and adept at the use of force. McMaster is a general. Bolton is the ideologue of a new cold war, a convinced opponent of Russia.”
Wrapping up the list of stances is of course, China. He noted that China’s buildup of arms in the the South Pacific and Pacific regions was one of the reasons the US needed to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed together with Russia, because China is not also a signatory to this treaty.
Now, this may seem anathema to some of our own readers, but consider this point. Even a broken clock is right once or twice a day. Some of Mr. Bolton’s ideas seem to reflect a committment to American sovereignty within her own borders. Additionally, he is a strong critic of the extreme levels of globalism that were being crafted by the likes of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and some Republicans as well. Indeed. there are points of agreement, which is probably why President Trump took him on as National Security Adviser.
To President Trump’s credit, Mr. Bolton’s ideas were very often not given free rein in terms of being translated to policy. Much of what he said was limited to rhetoric. However, the two men do have extremely different points of view about how to handle the US’ affairs in the world. John Bolton is classic neocon, through and through. To his credit, he at least does not mince words about it.
But the times are different. Fighting wars of conquest appears to be quite ineffective in a world whose levels of technology and development is quite high in most places that are geopolitically important right now: Europe, East Asia, India, Australia, North and South America. And as for Africa, this continent does have its share of wars but even here, there is no longer a colonial style rush for conquest. The last such power that existed in recent times was ISIS, which is far from such power at this time.
This means that going to war hither and yon is no longer the way to solve problems. President Trump knows this, as do Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Oddly enough, NBC’s report suggest that Bolton’s absence from the policy advisory position would be a boon for Mike Pompeo, but many indications suggest that Mr. Pompeo is even less trusted than Bolton was. For example the Russians preferred talking to Mr. Bolton because they knew exactly where he stands on issues. Mr. Pompeo has a different way of doing things, no less neocon (and therefore damaging considering where we actually are as a nation and as a planet made of sovereign states).
From our perspective, it seems that one very poor choice of policy wonk is safely removed from the picture, but there is still another really problematic one. President Trump has done a good job managing these two to keep from extremely dangerous amounts of trouble, but as yet, the President has yet to appoint someone who sees the world as he does, in the same pragmatic view that upholds US sovereignty without trying to be the defacto dictator of the planet. This is not to say that many policy decisions taken by and during the Trump Administration have only extended this long standing policy view, but at the same time, President Trump himself is not interested in this ideologically. He has a different vision and quite frankly the people he has working for him have not been able or willing to get on board with his viewpoint, though they sometimes do seem to try.
President Trump stated that he would make a new pick for National Security Adviser next week. It will be very interesting to see who he comes up with. Even with Mr. Bolton’s tenure and advice, the President was already disregarding his adviser’s advice, but he always listened to it, because it helped him better shape his own ideas, which have on the whole worked pretty well. He has outlasted the Russiagate debacle and even as that freakshow was winding down he began to be more assertive about repairing and restoring good relations with Russia, one piece at a time.
A piece of speculation that we might test over the next several weeks and months is if the removal of Mr. Bolton might be the vanguard of more shifting in the ranks to develop a team that is actually what the President wants and believes is needed to solve many of America’s internal problems, but also to become a much wiser partner on the world stage as its leading superpower.
After all, with great power comes great responsibility. We have seen a generation of VERY irresponsible use of power. John Bolton’s departure appears to be a major step in the right direction towards wise and responsible use of the great power that the US has and will have.
We will follow this story as it develops.