President Trump clearly wasn’t satisfied with firing just Rex Tillerson from his top team, as now H.R. McMaster has been dismissed from his position as National Security Advisor. This has cleared the way for the latest administration replacement: John Bolton. But who is John Bolton and why is everyone shitting themselves?
Bolton is best known for serving as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations between August 2005 and December 2006, though he served only as a recess appointment, resigning before the Senate could vote on his confirmation (because it is unlikely they would have approved it). He is now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, works as an attorney and is frequently seen contributing to Fox News. He also contributes with maddening regularity to many news publications, writing opinion pieces that really stretch the definition of journalism.
Robin Wright described him in the New Yorker this week as ‘arguably the most abrasive American diplomat of the twenty-first century,’ but his difficult nature is not the reason there is disquiet in Washington about his appointment. The disquiet comes from the fact that Trump has managed to hire a man who is even more hard-line than himself. There can’t actually be many that fit this description, so this is quite the accomplishment.
Bolton has called the United Nations ‘a sounding board for anti-Western and specifically anti-American criticism,’ he has criticised the Obama administration’s Iran deal, has advocated all out war with North Korea, called talking with the North Korean government a ‘waste of time’ (but has since praised Trump for agreeing to set up a meeting with Kim Jong-Un, we’ll get to this) and has openly criticised Russia. He also championed the American invasion of Iraq, and even still defends this position.
His North Korea policy is perhaps the most immediately worrying. Bolton has before joked that it is easy to tell when the North Korean regime is lying, because it’s ‘when their lips are moving.’ Terrible jokes aside, Bolton’s attitude towards the country, as outlined in an op-ed in The Hill, is to strike now, before it develops nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States. He has also written in a worrying amount of detail in the Wall Street Journal just how this would be done: a combination of strikes targeting the North Korean’s nuclear programme, military, and government, using special forces and weapons.
It is attitudes like this that have led Bolton to be described as a ‘war hawk’, and a war hawk is the last man the world needs having access to an already dangerously unpredictable American president. As stated above, Bolton has praised Trump for agreeing to meet with Kim Jong-Un, but not as a way of smoothing over the relations between the two countries. Instead, Bolton thinks that if Kim refuses to give up his nuclear weapons (pigs may fly), then it justifies military intervention of the kind that will get Bolton practically salivating.
So, the president, who is already a man who is easily provoked, will have a man prodding him towards war. But it would be naïve to suggest this is an accident. Trump has fired Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, two men who were seen to be trying to steer the president away from his more dangerous attitudes. Now he has John Bolton, but also Mike Pompeo, a man who desires regime change in North Korea, is opposed to closing Guantanamo Bay, and also opposed the Obama administration nuclear deal with Iran. Robin Wright has pointed out that Defence Secretary James Mattis, nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’, is the ‘most pragmatic policy maker left.’ Jesus Christ, this is a mess.
Trump is surrounding himself with a team that rather than keeping him in check, as those who were more optimistic about the chances of world survival through the Trump presidency reminded us they would do, will be pushing him towards wars in unstable regions that could involve a lot of nuclear power. The danger of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo being in Trump’s inner circle cannot be understated. In danger of sounding like the bloke on the street that hands out the Jesus leaflets, the end might actually be nigh. Start buying tinned food, long life milk and clearing out your basement. You might be hiding down there for a little while.
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