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Will Bolton Replace McMaster?

Curt Mills reports that John Bolton is considered a top prospect to replace H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor:

Who would replace McMaster? A leading candidate is John Bolton, the Fox News staple, former UN ambassador, veteran defense intellectual and avatar for Mustache Magazine. His influence in the White House hit a nadir in August—when he publicly complained that he couldn’t get a meeting with 45. But since then he’s mounted a vociferous internal comeback.

Bolton’s name has repeatedly been floated for top positions in the Trump administration, including National Security Advisor, but fortunately he has been passed over so far. He would be a terrible choice to replace McMaster, who has also proven to be dangerous and irresponsible in his own right on North Korea, but it could have the unintended effect of exposing Trump’s worst policies to closer scrutiny and criticism if Bolton is the one defending them.

Because of his military experience and rank, McMaster has been treated with a degree of deference and respect that would not be afforded to someone like Bolton, and that has allowed him to get away with making alarming and irresponsible statements without causing much of a backlash. Bolton is an ideologue and an incorrigible hard-liner, and if he were appointed that would put an end to the fantasy that Trump is being guided by “adults” that will restrain him. Trump’s foreign policy would become significantly worse if Bolton replaced McMaster, especially on everything related to Iran, but it would also be so much obviously worse that it could provoke stronger opposition to his policies.

In case one needed a reminder of just how awful Bolton is, he wrote another op-ed calling for regime change in Iran earlier this month:

Iran’s opposition needs external support, material as well as rhetorical, to continue its momentum. It would be tragic not to torque up the economic pressure by reactivating all sanctions now under waiver, and adding more.

If that doesn’t sound so unreasonable to some of you, bear in mind that for Bolton “Iran’s opposition” means the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) cult that virtually all Iranians detest. Nothing could be more bankrupt than a discredited Iraq war booster calling for regime change in yet another country while hitching himself to a group of disgraced exiles, but that is what Bolton is offering. If Trump were to replace McMaster with him, it is likely that we would end up with some version of a disastrous Iran policy focused on promoting regime change and empowering a deranged cult with no legitimacy. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

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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