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Bolton the Clueless

Peter Beinart makes some valuable observations about John Bolton:

He has never served in the military. He has never studied another region of the world, or another period of history, at the graduate level. He has spent his entire adult life in the interlocking world of hawkish think tanks, Washington law firms, Republican politics, and the right-wing media. And he manifests that narrowness in the smugly insular worldview he brings to his new job.

If Bolton’s worldview is “smugly insular” (and it is), the much bigger problem is that he has never had any interest in expanding it. Perhaps the most serious worry about having him as National Security Advisor is that he will dismiss and marginalize the views that he doesn’t like and promote only those that comport with his own. He has a long record as a warmonger and opponent of diplomatic engagement, but what makes him particularly ill-suited to the job he is about to assume is that he has no patience for anyone that disagrees with his wrongheaded views. To say that Bolton is intolerant of dissent and opposing views is not a “smear,” as his pathetic defenders would have it, but an accurate assessment of his overall record in government.

The defining feature of Bolton’s views about the countries that he wants to attack is a remarkable lack of knowledge and understanding. Perhaps that is why he so easily consorts with discredited Iranian exiles and treats them as the future government of Iran. Maybe Bolton is not so much cynical as he is clueless. It may seem obvious to say that Bolton doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but it is all the more damning given how often and how much Bolton likes to talk about these issues. Bolton thrives among Republican hawks with no particular regional or policy expertise, or perhaps I should say that he thrives because he has none. His specialty is making brazen, unfounded assertions that demand aggressive, reckless policies in response, and that is what Trump is going to get from him when he begins his work next month.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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