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Horowitz: Bolton - Exactly What We Don’t Need

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

 

Rob Horowitz

For the overwhelming majority of the nation that does not believe that President Trump is fit to be President, the presence of Generals Mattis, Kelly and McMaster, the so-called “adults in the room” has been a comforting security blanket. Since Trump’s scary combination of abject ignorance about foreign policy and impulsive decision-making greatly ups the odds of an ill-advised decision that can lead us into a  catastrophic war, the thought that there were prudent generals who knowfirst-hand thee deadly costs of war with the president’s ear provided an uneasy citizenry with some reassurance.

That is why the replacement of one of the so-called adults, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with John Bolton is so unsettling. For a president with thoughtful and settled foreign policy views, the selection of John Bolton-- for whom military force is often a first option rather than a last resort-- would still be highly ill-advised. For this president, whose behavior is growing increasingly erratic and is unmoored from in-depth knowledge of the world’s conflict points or a fixed foreign policy philosophy, it is potentially disastrous.

An Assistant Secretary of State and United Nations Ambassador under President George W. Bush, John Bolton was a staunch and aggressive advocate for the Iraq War. He still believes it was the right decision. He later broke with President Bush, becoming a fierce critic when the Administration moved to soften some of their hardline stances. Bolton strongly supports a first strike in North Korea as well as withdrawing from the Iranian Nuclear Agreement and pursuing a policy of regime change.

He is known for a bare-knuckled style in advocating for his hawkish views with a documented record of seeking to get people with differing views fired and distorting intelligence findings so that they better conform with his pre-existing opinions.  Carl Ford Jr, a fellow Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush Administration, famously called Bolton “a kiss up-kick- down sort of guy” and a “serial abuser” of underlings.

The National Security Adviser is supposed to be an honest broker of differing views, providing options to the President in a dispassionate manner and offering sage advice. To say Bolton does not fit this description is a marked understatement. Both  of the remaining Generals, Secretary of Defense Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly, opposed his hiring with Mattis reportedly saying he would have difficulty working with him.

For those of us who believe that wars are almost always better avoided, it is hard to imagine a more frightening combination than President Trump and John Bolton. As much as I am usually an optimist and will certainly hope for the best, if there is any upside to this, it sure eludes me.

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates.. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

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