John Bolton will be the new National Security Advisor following McMaster’s resignation:
Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer tapped as President Trump’s national security adviser last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation, will resign and be replaced by John R. Bolton, a hard-line former United States ambassador to the United Nations, White House officials said Thursday.
Bolton was named as a likely replacement for McMaster earlier this year, so we have had good reason to think that this was going to happen sooner or later. That doesn’t make the choice any less appalling, but no one can say that it comes as a surprise. Trump reportedly didn’t like how McMaster talked down to him, and he found the general boring. By contrast, he thinks Bolton is great on television and enjoys listening to him, and that by itself may have been the deciding factor in appointing him. The sheer horror among most foreign policy professionals that will greet Bolton’s appointment is probably another reason why Trump did it.
Now that he will have Pompeo at State and Bolton as his National Security Advisor, Trump will be advised on foreign policy by two very hard-line people that despise diplomatic engagement, support preventive war, and view the world in much the same militaristic, zero-sum way that Trump does. Both have carefully cultivated their relationships with Trump, and both have evidently won his confidence, so we will likely be stuck with both of them for quite some time. There were reports that Secretary Mattis was firmly opposed to Bolton’s appointment. If that really was the case, Mattis has just lost another internal battle and apparently doesn’t have as much influence with the president as many people outside the White House have claimed.
As dangerously wrong as McMaster was on North Korea in particular, Bolton will be even more so on a wide range of issues. The nuclear deal’s fate was already sealed with Pompeo’s nomination if not before, but we have to assume that U.S. policy towards Iran will become even more aggressive across the board than it already was. Bolton is a long-time advocate of preventive war against Iran and North Korea, and he is going to encourage Trump in his disdain for diplomacy. Bolton has already endorsed the summit with Kim as a way to discredit diplomacy, and we can assume that he will do his best to make sure that the summit fails so that he can agitate for launching an attack.
Bolton has a very long record of being wrong on just about every major issue, so it takes someone with similarly terrible judgment to think that he would make a good National Security Advisor. As one of the cheerleaders for the totalitarian cult, Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), Bolton has extraordinarily bad judgment on all things relating to Iran. Coming just days after the 15th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the appointment of a pro-war dead-ender like Bolton to such an important national security post is especially galling. Bolton has also been very hawkish on Taiwan and Ukraine over the years, even advocating for Ukraine’s membership in NATO as late as 2014, so already strained relations with China and Russia are likely to get worse as well.
Everything that was reckless and destructive in Trump’s foreign policy is now much likelier to become even worse.