John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations well-known for his hawkish views, is to become President Trump’s National Security Advisor, reported the Guardian on Friday. Bolton’s promotion comes amid a period of turmoil for the White House, which has been beset by scandal and increasing pressure from an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election. The firing of Bolton’s predecessor, H.R. McMaster, is the most recent high profile departure from the White House since the removal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the resignation of White House Attorney John Dowd.
Bolton’s presence is surprising, considering his reputation. A polarizing figure, Bolton is best known for his hard-line stance on the use of swift and unrelenting force to solve the United States’ problems. Bolton is no advocate for diplomacy; he considers it a sign of weakness, and has published opinion pieces that call for the elimination of international treaties such as the Iran Agreement. His proposed solution: “to stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.” He has also advocated for an overwhelming preemptive strike on North Korea for similar reasons. His predilection for aggressive solutions has been met with fierce criticism. According to Adam Mount, a fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, Bolton is “one of the most extreme, irresponsible and dangerous voices in the country.”
This appointment matches an incredibly unsettling pattern displayed by an administration marked by extreme and diverse pressures. While he may be the most extreme, Bolton is not the only hawk appointed to a role in the White House. Mike Pompeo, who replacing Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, is a Republican Congressman who has served as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and who rose to elected office on the Tea Party wave of 2011. Pompeo shares Bolton’s disdain for diplomacy, and has also advocated for a military response to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Having such war hawks in the corridors of power, directly at the shoulder of the President of the United States, does not bode well for world peace.
Bolton himself has been at the centre of events that have defined the 21st century. Prior to his term as ambassador to the U.N., he served as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. In this role, he was directly involved with the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003. According to Greg Thielmann, an American Foreign Service veteran, Bolton was ideologically rigid, often ignoring intelligence that contradicted his world-view while abusively targeting individuals who disagreed with his logic and his decisions. Essentially, Bolton was central to the process whereby “intelligence and facts [were] fixed around the policy” of invasion.
Bolton’s history of rejecting diplomacy and advocating for extreme use of military force is very concerning to the international community. Diplomacy is a necessary tool to avoid conflict and maintaining positive, cooperative relationships between countries. A strategy defined by ‘shooting now and asking questions later’ will isolate the United States, and further destabilize its already precarious position as the guardian of liberal democracy and peace, worthy of trust and respect in the global village.
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