• On Tuesday, John Bolton abruptly left the post of national security adviser in Trump administration. It is not clear if Trump asked Bolton to resign, or Bolton offered to resign. On Twitter, both Trump and Bolton offered opposing accounts.
• Bolton became national security adviser on April 9, 2018. He was Trump’s third national security adviser.
• Bolton and Trump previously had strong disagreements on matters related to Iran, Afghanistan and other global challenges. Bolton has been an advocate of regime change in Iran and North Korea.
• Iranian government welcomed Bolton’s departure, and expects warmer relations ahead.
• Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, said “I don’t think any leader around the world should make any assumption that because some one of us departs that President Trump’s foreign policy will change in a material way.”
• Charles Kupperman, the deputy national security adviser, will fill Bolton’s role until Trump names a replacement next week.
The news of John Bolton’s firing is not particularly surprising. The contrasting views of the president and Bolton regarding national security matters were causing a stir from the get-go. While Trump’s approach focuses more heavily on direct conversations with state heads, Bolton was a proponent for hands-on conflict “resolution.” But his departure is still something we should critically consider.
Bolton was one of few dissenting voices in the White House. He wasn’t afraid of disagreeing with Trump, even if it was uncomfortable to do so. For example, the recent plans of Taliban talks at Camp David (eerily close to the 18th anniversary of 9/11), were canceled because of Bolton’s advocacy against such tactics. He made the case that this was untimely, and potentially dangerous, even vice-president Pence concurred with Bolton. But now we are left with no resolutions to many problems in front of us, and no guarantee or confidence of a replacement who will also dare to scrutinize the president’s moves.
Now that he’s gone, the president will feel like he has a completely free hand to do as he pleases. And when there is no loud dissenting voice in the mix, Trump can execute his creative tactics as he sees fit, without a full examination of the potential consequences thereof. He has already engaged with numerous leaders of non-Democratic nations, and if he is now able to follow his desired path without much opposition, U.S. national security will be in danger. These plans won’t be well prepared if they’re not subjected to rigorous deliberations, involving experts holding differing opinions. We’re looking more and more at a government constructed of loyalists and the whims of one leader.
Bolton’s departure is certainly stirring up various opinions across the aisle. Some are happy, some are disappointed—albeit for different reasons across party lines. But to me, it is abundantly clear that Trump's approach and decision to seek a replacement in light of Bolton's problematic approach to national security matters, is actually a very good thing.
The problem in and of itself is mostly just a media creation. We voted for Trump because he is unafraid, decisive, and cares about this country. He has held onto his anti-interventionist national security outlook as much as possible. That was part of his campaign promise. Bolton stood for quite the opposite approach, encouraging Trump to neglect those promises. People are quick to jump to conclusions, that Trump must’ve tossed him aside because they disagreed on various matters. But that’s not the entire narrative at play here.
Trump has stated his appreciation for various viewpoints in discussion, which helps him decide on the best approach. But Bolton pushed that threshold from discussion to dispute. He was willing to wage as many wars necessary, which could’ve cost many, many U.S. lives and would've placed a massive strain on military spending. His priorities were just not aligned with those of the Trump Administration, making this decision a wise one.
The president has great instincts, especially when it comes to avoiding and putting an end to seemingly endless wars. He has a good handle on foreign policy. His tough approach on China, and his willingness to personally visit and converse with North Korea's dictator have already spoken volumes. He is seeking peace, and that can only be achieved by having the right team backing up his unprecedented, yet powerful approach. He needs an advisor who can bolster that approach with thoughtful implementation processes and insights, and I believe the vacant seat that Bolton's departure leaves is an excellent opportunity for Trump. With the right person taking his place, U.S. foreign policy and national security will continue to flourish as it has in recent years.