Views on the News: Bolton gets the axe
On Tuesday, President Trump announced that he fired National Security Advisor John Bolton. Bolton, who is known for his hawkish and militaristic foreign policy stances, stated that he had offered to resign the previous evening, citing harsh and irreconcilable differences between him and the president over numerous foreign policy issues. With Bolton no longer serving in his previous role, how do you think the foreign policy and national security strategies of the United States will be impacted? What do you think are the ethical implications of Trump vacating a highly influential and powerful national security position over an ideological disagreement?
Prof. Gary Samore (POL)
The resignation of National Security Advisor Bolton removes an impediment to President Trump's desire to deliver diplomatic deals with North Korea, Iran, and the Taliban before the U.S. Presidential elections in 2020. President Trump is completely within his rights to replace a senior national security official who opposed his foreign policy objectives. However, Bolton's departure in no way ensures that such deals can be achieved. First, the resistance within the U.S. government and Congress to concessions that President Trump might offer in pursuit of expedient deals is broader than Bolton himself. Second, the departure of Bolton may lead the Iranians or North Koreans to harden their bargaining positions, in the expectation that Trump is desperate for diplomatic achievements to bolster his reelection campaign. Finally, the implications of Bolton’s removal on the substance and process of foreign policy will depend on who replaces him, which, as of now, is uncertain.
Gary Samore is a professor of the Practice of Politics and the senior executive director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, and served as President Obama’s White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Prof. Kerry Chase (POL)
John Bolton’s out — plus ça change… It makes not a bit of difference for US foreign policy. Bolton shared Trump’s disdain for international organizations, the Iran nuclear deal, and all things Obama. But once Bolton left Fox News for the White House, Trump slighted him repeatedly and rarely listened to his counsel. There was no signature Bolton achievement in his short tenure, and the reasons behind his hiring remain baffling. For all of Trump’s complaints — Bolton’s Iraq war-mongering, his insensitivity toward the North Koreans, and of course the mustache — it is extraordinary that his opposition to inviting the Taliban to Camp David on the anniversary month of 9/11 may have been the last straw. Did Bolton jump or was he pushed? It doesn’t matter. Mike Pompeo, Kim Jong-un, and Tucker Carlson all wanted him booted. His days were numbered.
Kerry Chase is an associate professor of Politics specializing in International Relations and U.S. Foreign Economic Policy.
Trevor Filseth ’19
It’s easy to be torn by John Bolton’s departure. On the one hand, his militaristic approach to American foreign policy was alarming; I have many friends, some Iranian, who were very concerned with the prospect of a war with Iran on Bolton’s account. On the other hand, Bolton was an experienced (if hawkish) statesman with abundant experience in international diplomacy. His departure from the White House leaves one fewer adult near the Oval Office, at a time when mature leadership is more important than ever. If nothing else, the whole episode further reflects the vindictiveness of the president, who refused Bolton’s initial resignation only to fire him the next morning. One can only hope that our next National Security Adviser can keep Trump out of trouble for the remainder of his term.
Trevor Filseth ’19 is a History major and an opinion columnist for the Justice.
Prof. Michael Strand (SOC)
The problem is that we keep calling Trump a political “person” as conceived, if anywhere, by modern liberalism. He is not a person. He is not even a simulacra as the postmoderns thought. He is an amoeba that shape-shifts. His goals, decisions, ideas (etc) are not ascribable to a person. His actions flow to him without tactical intervention or even effort on his part. They are the product of a complicated stream of media signs that he spends his time absorbing, and which creates Trump’s position at that point—like an amoeba. At the next point, the position will be different, unpredictable, contradictory, erratic—amoeba-like. Modern liberalism wanted persons (and persons alone) to be capable of politics because persons have thoughts, interests and reasons. Political persons can have ideologies. Bolton (a political person) has an ideology. A political amoeba, by contrast, will usually brain-eat its host.
Michael Strand is an assistant professor of Sociology specializing in social theory, the philosophy of social science, and economic sociology.