National Security Adviser John Bolton resigned on Tuesday, upon President Trump’s request. Both men had numerous political disagreements between them, Trump stated.
“I informed John Bolton last night that his White House services are no longer needed,” Donald Trump wrote on Twitter. He and his team had disagreed on many of Bolton’s ideas. Rumours about how cordial the relationship was had been circulating through Washington for months, as both were known for having diametrically opposed views. Yet Trump continued to defend Bolton publicly. Until now. A successor will be announced next week, the president stated.
Bolton was named National Security Advisor on April 2018, when he succeeded General H.R. McMaster, who was also dismissed by Trump due to strained relationships within the cabinet.
He studied law at Yale University, became a lawyer in Washington, and in 1985 a member of the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan. Under President George W. Bush, Bolton worked for Arms Control and International Security Policy and was a close confidant of Vice President Dick Cheney – well known for his ideas of America’s role in the world.
In 2005 Bolton became the United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush. Initially, Bolton’s nomination was filibustered and subsequently failed in both houses due to Democratic majorities. The Democrats had strong resentments against Bolton and his views on the United Nations.
Bolton is also a former senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the premier conservative think tank, as well as a former Fox News commentator. As a neoconservative, he often advocated for military action in lieu of endless diplomacy dependent on global institutions and supranational states. As a firm believer in American exceptionalism, Bolton seeks to advance American interests without global partnerships, but unilaterally.
As such, Bolton has repeatedly advocated for regime changes in Iran and North Korea. Instead, he witnessed the President of the United States offering his services for a photo-op while praising a North Korean dictator and his talent for “beautiful letters”. Bolton furthermore criticised Trump’s willingness to negotiate with Iran without preconditions. Having been a part of the Bush White House and the War against Terror, this form of continuous appeasement towards the world’s main sponsor of terrorism must have felt like a travesty to Bolton. It is the reason he also rejected direct negotiations with the Taliban – negotiations Trump had been advocating for. Particularly Trump’s issued invitation to the Taliban was opposed by Bolton, who, surprisingly, did not see it as an appropriate measure to host heinous Islamic terrorists in Camp David, a few days prior to the 9/11 anniversary.
However, the fact that the ideological gap between Trump and Bolton could not be bridged any longer, cannot be interpreted as a positive sign by any means. While one can disagree on Bolton and his views on the world, one cannot doubt his commitment to his country and the emphasis he has put on keeping Americans safe. And while the break-up did not come as a surprise, it is yet worrisome. With Bolton’s departure, the administration has lost an astute expert not only on foreign policy but on security. Without his input, a foreign policy of intervention as conducted by many of Trump’s predecessors will become an even more distant memory. Moreover, the retreat of the United States as the world’s last remaining hegemon, willing to step up and counterbalance rogue states and non-state actors has become more imminent.