It is fairly simple to understand what the appointment of John Bolton as the Trump Administration’s National Security Advisor is all about. First of all, as there is no congressional approval or confirmation process involved, the announcement made last week, which is being criticized from all sides, is not really subject to debate. Bolton is the new Advisor and will serve at the will of the president. One might note, however, that he is the third Advisor in fourteen months, so the position itself has in practice turned out to be a death sentence for those who have been bold enough to seek it.
Bolton is in place because his belligerent worldview coordinates very well with and validates that of the president, though it remains to be seen if that will translate into action. Trump’s harsh rhetoric has so far not produced a new war, though there are plenty of threats being flung about regarding Iran and North Korea, and there have been some unfortunate incidents in Syria and with Russia. But so far Donald Trump has, if anything, been more moderate than Hillary Clinton would likely have been.
John Bolton has been praised by some in the media in the false belief that he represents a “bad cop” in the administration who will free up Trump to act as the “good cop” in dealing with world problems. That is a fanciful analysis as the Administration is already well represented in “bad cops” in UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Another argument is that the White House sorely needs a shake-up of the National Security Council, which Bolton will head, because it is not aggressive enough supporting US interests. It is a ridiculous argument as Bolton has never represented actual US interests. His guiding principle is that Washington should bomb everyone who is even remotely a threat and if someone is not a threat and merely an irritant, bomb them anyway.
Bolton’s appointment was based on good chemistry with Trump, who knows virtually nothing about what is going on in the world, but is also derives from demands made by the president’s major financial backer, Israeli-American casino multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Adelson has funded various ventures launched by Bolton and is his patron. For Adelson, US foreign policy is all about Israel, a reality that is reflected in those who are expressing their enthusiasm for the Bolton appointment: Israel’s government, the Israel Lobby in the United States, and the media that reflexively supports anything that is perceived as being beneficial for the Jewish state.
Bolton, described as “the most abrasive American diplomat of the twenty-first century,” is a frequent contributor to the media, so his views on what must be done are pretty well defined. It can be expected that he will continue to support any and all efforts to end the nuclear agreement with Iran and bring about regime change, to include support of the totalitarian terrorist-cult Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK), which has for many years been paying him to speak at their rallies. To reduce Iranian regional influence, he favors “reconstructing” Iraq and Syria.
John Bolton also believes that Russia’s alleged interference in American elections was an “act of war.” He thinks that negotiations with enemies are useless and recommends preemptive attacks by US forces to end the actual or potential weapons of mass destruction threat coming from North Korea and Iran. He further believes that the United Nations is a dangerous anachronism and that leadership of the entire world, when necessary, should be exercised by the United States based solely on American interests.
Not surprisingly, Bolton is hardcore pro-Israeli and has been associated with virulent Islamophobes like Pamela Geller. He wants to end the problem posed by potential Palestinian statehood, which he describes as a ploy to strangle Israel, by allowing Jordan to take control of some bits of the West Bank, Egypt to resume control of Gaza, and the Israelis to absorb what is left for its settlers.
Conservative columnist George Will describes Bolton as the “second most dangerous man in Washington,” the most dangerous being his boss. The New York Times in a lead editorial observes that “There are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton is to lead the country into war. His selection is a decision that is as alarming as any Mr. Trump has made…indulging his worst nationalistic instincts.”
I would add that Bolton is particularly dangerous because he is a well-educated ideologue who sounds credible. He is, unfortunately, exactly the type of advisor that an ignorant president would find convincing. Therein lies the danger.