Good Riddance, John Bolton

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

Curt Mills’ reporting told us it was coming yesterday, and today Trump has finally fired Bolton:

Mr. Trump announced the decision on Twitter. “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”

It took far too long to happen, but Bolton’s firing is undeniably good news. Bolton is the embodiment of everything wrong with hawkish Republican foreign policy, and his role in the administration has been without question a purely destructive one. I have to admit I didn’t think it would happen. Bolton had prevailed again and again on policy, and despite pushing his own agenda and doing an abysmal job as National Security Advisor he remained in place. Whatever Trump’s reason was for getting rid of him, it was the right decision. Bolton ends his career as one of the worst National Security Advisors in U.S. history. He should never have been hired, but at least he is out of government. Now he can go shill for the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) full-time.

Whoever takes over as Bolton’s replacement will have a difficult job of repairing the damage that he did. Bolton presided over the most dysfunctional national security process in recent memory by design, and that compounded the administration’s existing foreign policy dysfunction. He pushed an extremely hawkish agenda that has led the US closer to unnecessary war with Iran, disastrously committed the US to regime change in Venezuela, and effectively torpedoed diplomatic engagement with North Korea. Most recently, he prevailed on Trump to kill the negotiations with the Taliban. He was a leading supporter of the cruel economic warfare that the US has waged against Iran and Venezuela over the last year. The Trump administration’s foreign policy will still be a failed mess without him, but it will have one less fanatic involved in setting policy.

Trump’s three National Security Advisors don’t appear to have had a lot in common, but all of them were dangerous hard-liners in different ways. Flynn was a conspiratorial Iran hawk, and Bolton was even worse. McMaster seemed the most reasonable of the three, but let’s remember that he was the one promoting the idea of preventive war against North Korea. The president has gone through several National Security Advisors in less than three years, and that reminds us that the president is bad at hiring competent personnel. If Trump chooses someone else with the same mentality and ideological hang-ups, we shouldn’t expect much of a change in policy.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

10 thoughts on “Good Riddance, John Bolton”

  1. Trump, in a type of move exceedingly rare in his Administration, actually did the right thing. Although the world is not even close to out of the woods yet, I enjoyed the “Win Without War” idea for a fundraising letter which proposed sending Bolton cards congratulating him on his well deserved retirement.

    1. When your administration is a bunch of wrongs folded in on themselves, doing the “right thing” is inevitable. Trump hired Bolton in the first place, and will replace him with someone reasonably as awful.

    2. It’s definitely a broken clock kind of decision. But in an administration that boasts a 70+% turn over rate how can we tell if it actually had anything to do with policy ?

    3. This is the intended reaction: with the evil Bolton finally gone (the evil Bolton being somehow fully responsible for every atrocity and every geopolitical gaffe that happened during his tenure), the well-intended but poorly advised orange babe-in-the-woods is once again free to selflessly pursue MAGA.

  2. Getting rid of Sheldon’s boy, ehh? Hmm. It all depends on who replaces him. I seriously doubt Trump is going to risk angering The Lobby this close to election time.

    1. Or he’ll use this to extract more out of them and end up with a hotel/golf course lobby in Isisrael. He may not be very bright, but he’s very focused.

  3. Orange clown’s subordinates are apparently nothing but an expendable facade; convenient blame receptacles which are ejected when orange clown’s policies inevitably fail. To put it another way, they’re the sacrificial political “body armor” that the evil clown wears when he does his heinous crimes; then he discards the damaged armor and comes across as having finally “done the right thing.”

  4. “He should never have been hired, but at least he is out of government.”

    The fact that he was; and that Pompeo wasn’t dumped as well, makes me doubt this had anything to do with policy disaggrements. I expect he just wasn’t sufficiently sycophantic and submissive to the imperial POTUS and that grated on his majestys ego.

  5. On this profoundly-sad national “patriots day,” my fantasy is for a squad of veterans to hold down that Captain Kangaroo conterfeit while an ex-DI takes a close clipper to Bolton’s upper lip. Unfortunately, he deserves so much more humiliation than that.

  6. There is a factor with Bolton which I think is underestimated, that of accidental nuclear war. If there is some kind of alert coming in there is a short time in which to decide what to do. If the tension is low then the incoming alert will not trigger any actions because an attack is considered unlikely. In a context of high tension and then knowing people like Bolton are involved in decisions, the calculus changes.The guess that the alert might indicate a real first strike becomes more plausible. And the chance for an aggressive response to an incoming alert will be higher while the alert is exactly the same.

    There are of course many more factors at work. At the same time we are increasing the chance for such alerts with aggressive nato expansion and decreasing the reaction times. And throwing away treaties. And new loony hawks who were promoted in the US by people who considered it good business in a period where the risk for war was considered low.

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