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March 24, 2018
BOLTON: AS BAD AS IT GETS
If Trump is good at firing, it is because he is so bad at hiring.
Donald Trump came to office having made noises favorable to normalizing relations
with Russia and cutting back foreign military adventures. Despite his manifest
personal and professional inadequacies, that vague promise offered a glimmer of
hope to a number of congenital optimists.
But to turn around U.S. foreign policy so drastically, supposing he honestly wanted to
do so, a President would need a team possessing the necessary knowledge, wisdom
and courage to produce and impose a coherent alternative. Trump had no team at all.
He did not seem to have any idea of where to find appropriate men and women to do
the job. He has flailed about, using each choice to demonstrate that the previous one
was a mistake, while meanwhile the Deep State connives to destroy him for all the
Now Trump has chosen as his national security advisor a man who personifies exactly
what candidate Trump hinted he didn’t want: a man with the reputation of being the
worst war hawk in Washington. John R. Bolton is not merely hostile to North Korea, or
to Iran, or to Russia, but is exorbitantly hostile to them all. Bolton is the perfect
national security advisor to get the United States into war against most of the world.
Trained as a lawyer, like just about everybody in Washington, Bolton has no particular
scholarly background for messing around in foreign affairs. Rather, he is the perfect
denizen of the galaxy of think tanks that have essentially seized policy-making away
from academia and serious diplomacy in order to satisfy rich private donors, the
military industrial complex and the Israel lobby.
Bolton has run the gamut of neo-con think tankery, from the Project for the New
American Century (PNAC), the American Enterprise Institute, the war-mongering
Committee for Peace and Security In the Gulf, to JINSA, the Jewish Institute for
National Security of America – although Bolton is not Jewish.
A particularly sinister connection is Bolton’s leading role for the past ten years in
something called the Gatestone Institute. This propaganda group specializes in
spreading alarm about Muslims taking over the world, especially Western Europe. The
obvious point here to identify Palestinians as part of this Muslim threat, the better to
strengthen the Western NATO alliance with Israel. Gatestone’s anti-Muslim crusade
does not extend to condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of extreme Islamists
from the Africa to Indonesia. Nor does it advocate cooperating with Russia in an
international police effort against genuine Islamic extremism. Quite the contrary.
Bolton opposes any deal with Russia, China, Syria, Iran or North Korea on the
grounds that they are “regimes that make agreements and lie about them”. Any such
agreement is “doomed to failure”, he recently told Fox news. This attitude rules out
diplomacy and implies that force is the only way to settle differences. It overlooks the
fact that Moscow has been far more faithful to international agreements than
Washington, but all those D.C. lawyers are there to argue the contrary.
Bolton’s view of relations with Russians is to “make them feel pain”, as he has said on
Such ignorant arrogance should disqualify Bolton from any serious governmental
position – except in Washington with its pathology of unlimited global hegemony.
Bolton has as much understanding of the psychology of other peoples as a factory
robot. He doesn’t want to understand them. His manly pose denies that people with
different histories and different circumstances have a right to their own point of view.
We are good and they are bad, we are right and they are wrong. This is an attitude
copied from Superman comics, and fits the American illusion of possessing the might
that defines right. This can only lead to disaster.
There is not much left to be optimistic about.