Friday, March 23, 2018


I don't have much distinctive to say about professional warmonger John Bolton, now becoming the President's National Security Adviser.

Some of the early reactions in Twitter were pretty striking.

Fred Kaplan has this sketch of Bolton, It’s Time to Panic Now Slate 03/22/20118.

And Über-Realist Stephen Walt weighs in with Welcome to the Dick Cheney Administration Foreign Policy 03/22/2018: /
Let me be clear: Bolton’s appointment is on par with most of Trump’s personnel choices, which is to say that it’s likely to be a disaster. His views on foreign policy are crude and bellicose, and his track record as a policy advocate and pundit do not, to put it politely, inspire confidence. Nor does he seem to have learned a thing from his past mistakes. And where McMaster and Tillerson did what they could to limit the damage that Trump has done to America’s international reputation and critical alliance partnerships, Bolton’s particular skill as a diplomat seems to have been finding creative new ways to offend America’s friends. [my emphasis]

But Walt also reminds us that, for all his deserved bad press, John Bolton is very much within the broad foreign policy establishment consensus in the US. Walt doesn't mean that as praise:
Look at Bolton’s pedigree and career. He’s a graduate of Yale University and Yale Law School. He worked at Covington & Burling, a venerable D.C. law firm where former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once worked. He has been a senior fellow for years at the conservative but mainstream American Enterprise Institute. He writes frequently for obscure, wild-and-crazy “radical” publications like, er … the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and even Foreign Policy. This is your idea of a “fringe” figure?

True, Bolton was a vocal supporter of the Iraq War, but that hardly makes him a weirdo. As I’m sure he’d be the first to point out, a lot of other people drank that particular Kool-Aid, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Jim Steinberg, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Susan Rice, Robert Gates, and a long, long list of other “respectable” figures. And don’t forget that the other geniuses who dreamed up and sold that disaster — people like William Kristol, James Woolsey, Robert Kagan, Bret Stephens, Max Boot, Eliot Cohen, David Frum, Paul Wolfowitz, etc. — are still respected figures in the foreign policy establishment despite having never admitted they were wrong or expressed any public regret for launching a disastrous war in which hundreds of thousands of people died.
Other early takes:

Christine Kim and Josh Smith, 'Human scum and bloodsucker': Bolton's White House appointment fans worries over hawkish record in Asia Reuters 03/22/2018

Franco Ordoñez and Anita Kumar, Trump pick Bolton to drive hardline agenda against Venezuela McClatchey News 03/22/2018

Tracy Wilkinson and Noah Bierman, John Bolton's take-no-prisoners style may prove problematic in the White House Los Angeles Times 03/23/2018:
He has vigorously opposed the Iran nuclear deal, and no doubt will back Trump's threats to withdraw from the landmark accord. Before it was signed in 2015, he suggested bombing Iran to quash its nuclear ambitions.

He also has called for a military attack on nuclear-armed North Korea. Six months ago, as Trump and North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un traded insults and threats, Bolton said the solution was to topple the Pyongyang government and have South Korea take over the North.
Jacob Heilbrunn, Who’s Afraid of John Bolton? The National Interest 03/23/2018:
Here’s just how radical Donald Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as national security advisor really is: the Financial Times reports that even Iran hawks such as Mark Dubowitz, the head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, are rubbing their eyes in disbelief. ...

Strictly speaking, Bolton is not a neocon, but there is definite consanguinity. Bolton has never been worked up about the democratization of other countries. When I saw him on the eve of the Iraq War at the State Department as part of a group of Los Angeles Times editors, he made it abundantly clear that he simply wanted to smash Iraq. He’s a regime-change kind of guy: go in. Take out the enemy. Then leave. Do it again if necessary. So what Trump’s moves seem to signal is the rise of conservative nationalism or, to put it another way, the Cheney doctrine on steroids.

No comments: