Sarah Abed, independent journalist and analyst
On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump finally fired his third national security advisor, John Bolton after eighteen long and grueling months. John happens to be the thirty-fifth member of Trump’s revolving door administration to get fired or resign, since he took office in 2016. Bolton gives a different version of events but regardless of whether he was fired or resigned, Bolton is not in a powerful position anymore (and hopefully nevermore), and the world is a better place for it.
Now some might think is an overly optimistic way to look at things and that his replacement might be just as bad or maybe even worse, but can we think of anyone who could possibly be worse? I think that would be a stretch for even the staunchest neo-conservatives. John was unapologetic about advocating for more war, he hungered with an insatiable appetite to bomb and nuke nations that he didn’t like, he made enemies out of our adversaries and although it’s possible, it would be a difficult task to find someone that matches his outspoken and hard-lined hostile views.
Non-interventionists and anti-war advocates rightfully celebrated what might possibly be the end of the Israel-First, war hawk’s political career. While progressives rejoiced, Democrats and even some Republicans expressed disappointment and sadness about his dismissal.
After having served under three previous presidents; Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, and George W. Bush many questioned the reasoning behind Trump hiring Bolton in the first place. A staunch advocate for intervention and increased war, Bolton’s foreign policy views differed greatly from those Trump advocated for during his presidential campaign, which helped him win the presidency. Wanting to end our involvement in wars, and not get the United states into any additional regime change wars and advocating for diplomacy and negotiations when possible just wasn’t on par with how Bolton preferred to handle foreign affairs.
Bolton vocally opposed diplomacy and dialogue attempts by Trump. Whenever attempts were made to bridge gaps between the United States and its adversaries Bolton found ways to hinder or sabotage progress.
Some have stated that on Monday the two men reached a breaking point over Afghanistan and Iran. Bolton adamantly opposed the idea of Trump meeting with the Taliban in Camp David or Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani later this month in New York.
On Wednesday, Trump, said that they had disagreed on other matters including Venezuela, saying that Bolton “was way out of line”, and had tried to sabotage denuclearization talks with North Korea by mentioning the “Libya model.” That among other reasons might be why Kim Jong Un had a strong distaste for Bolton and didn’t want him involved in any negotiations.
Regardless of what the reasons were (and there are many to choose from including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, North Korea, and Venezuela etc.) behind why Trump fired Bolton after eighteen months, he finally pulled the plug and not a day too soon after having disagreed on many issues.
Bolton’s overnight ouster has left many wondering who will replace him, and whether that person will be Bolton 2.0 or someone more closely aligned with Trump’s foreign policy views. Regarding this, Trump told reports in the White House on Wednesday that there are five people (originally the number being heard around town was nine) who want the position “very much” and the chosen person will be announced next week.
Some have said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (who is favored by Trump) might even straddle both positions as the nation’s chief foreign diplomat and the president’s top national security liaison much like Henry Kissinger did under former President Richard Nixon in 1973. Some are warning that this is a bad idea.
There’s a good chance that Pompeo not only supported but advocated for the ouster of Bolton. Some have said that Pompeo purposely left Bolton out of important meetings in recent weeks.
Many people inside and outside of Trump’s administration believe that Bolton’s dismissal will help ease diplomatic efforts such as peace talks with Iran and North Korea. The idea here isn’t that whoever takes on this role will have that much of an impact or real power but rather will they be able to carry out or execute the policies that Trump decides to put in place? For instance, when Trump announced last December that he wanted to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, Bolton did not agree with that, and worked with others to sway Trump to back down on his decision.
According to an article published by Foreign Policy on Wednesday, some of the names being tossed around are Douglas MacGregor a retired Army Colonel and defense analyst, who told Tucker Carlson on Tuesday that he’d execute Trumps policies unlike Bolton who had prevented him from implementing them. Another is Stephen Biegun, a veteran Republican foreign-policy expert and Trump’s envoy to North Korea. Keith Kellogg, Vice President Mike Pence’s national security advisor who is reportedly very much liked by Trump and a retired lieutenant general.
Some other names making the rounds are Iranian-crisis envoy Brian Hook who recently sent letters to Iranian ship captains filled with bribes and threats and U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell who is known for placing strategic interests ahead of ideological principles.
Just a day after letting Bolton go, Trump is supposedly considering a French plan to extend Iran a $15 billion-dollar credit line if they agree to return to complying with the JCPOA nuclear deal, something Bolton would have surely objected to.
We wish the impressively mustached Bolton good luck (more like good riddance) in his future endeavors (and hopefully less influential roles) and hope that he will someday realize that peace is a better option than war.
If he runs out of career options in the US, Israel might be an alternative, seeing how he won the “Defender of Israel” award in 2018 at the Zionist Organization of America’s annual Brandeis Award dinner in New York.