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Summary

On March 22nd, only a week after the replacement of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump announced the departure of national security adviser General H.R. McMaster. On April 9th, the seat will be filled- for the third time in fourteen months- by John Bolton. The position does not require congressional approval, which is a blessing for Bolton considering he  has historically been unable to succeed in convincing even a Republican controlled congress that his views are sufficiently restrained for public office. An Ivy League trained renowned war hawk who never served time in the military, Bolton is a strong stylistic departure from his predecessor. McMaster’s military background had instilled a preference for order and procedure which clashed with the looser methodology of President Trump. He also prefered a more diplomatic approach to Iran, an increase in troops in Afghanistan, and a stronger front against Russian election interference- the evidence of which he called “incontrovertible”. Many have suggested that the final spark which set his departure into motion was his possible involvement in leaking the news that Trump had ignored memo’s asking him not to congratulate Putin on his recent electoral victory. Despite this, McMaster’s exit has been far more amicable than that of his former colleague Tillerson.

Analysis

To be frank, the appointment of John Bolton may be the most dangerous personnel decision Trump has ever made. There is rarely a foreign policy dispute to which Bolton would not recommend war in response. He entered that national stage as President Reagan’s Assistant Attorney General, a position which he used to suppress information on the Iran-Contra affair. Under President George W. Bush, Bolton worked as the Undersecretary of State in Charge of Arms Control. Perhaps foreshadowing what we have seen from the Trump administration, he viewed his objective as completely antithetical to his job title, going as far as to block the passage of a ban on the personal ownership of military grade weapons. After failing to attain congressional approval for his radical views, Bush appointed him to UN Ambassador while the Senate was on recess. Bolton was one the main figures supporting the invasion of Iraq. In the lead-up to the war he told the Director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague that he would need to resign after he requested chemical weapon inspections in Iraq. Bolton feared that a sincere investigation of the facts at hand would interfere with the case for invasion.

Since the Bush administration, Bolton has resorted to using any media appearance to call for war against Iran and North Korea, while also calling Russia and China two of our greatest enemies. Just recently he wrote an op-ed titled “The Case for Striking North Korea First”, a terrifying prospect considering the Presidential sit down with Kim Jong-un coming this May. In 2014 his Super PAC was involved in hiring the now notorious consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to conduct “behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging”.

To this day, he continues to be a strong defender of the decision to invade Iraq. With the ten year anniversary of the invasion last week, Perhaps the answer to Bolton’s unrepentant commitment to the legacy of the Iraq invasion is that, unlike many of his contemporaries, he does not brand himself as a neo-Conservative. What this means is that he does not bother to concern himself with the same veneer of respectability. His desire for war is not founded in any ideal of promoting democracy and freedom around the world, but rather a method for advancing American interests through any way possible. As a pro-intervention nationalist, he fits nicely alongside Trump, who once asked why we didn’t fully pillage Iraqi oil fields for our own supply. But beyond that, the man is capable, with extensive experience in foreign policy and bureaucratic process. And for that reason, the danger is perhaps more tangible than it ever has been.

Engagement Resources

  • Stay Up to Date With the Struggle for World Peace With the World Peace Council: The WPC is an alliance of pro-peace, anti-imperialist organizations, based in over 100 countries around the world. You can learn more about their work on their website.
  • Listen to a Podcast on the Dangers Posed by John Bolton: This episode of the Intercept’s podcast, Intercepted, covers the history and implications of John Bolton.
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