Friday, March 23, 2018

With Bolton's Appointment, It’s Time to Panic

Unhinged war monger John Bolton.
Donald Trump and his base of support centered on Christian extremists, white supremacists and general misogynists all live in an alternate, objective fact free universe.  Their world view which is full of  hate and paranoia is fanned by Fox News and other right wing "news" outlets that  present a daily dose of propaganda that would have made Joseph Goebbels proud.  Now, Trump has appointed John Bolton to be National Security Advisor.  Bolton is just as unhinged as the ugliest elements of Trump's base and, more frighteningly, is trigger happy and sees military action rather than diplomacy as a solution for  every foreign dispute.  He was a strong advocate of the Iraq War and seems to have learned nothing from that debacle.  A piece in Slate looks at why sane Americans and members of the military should be very, very afraid of where Trump/Pence may take the country.  Another piece in New York Magazine voices similar concerns.  First, here are highlights from Slate:
It’s time to push the panic button.
John Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser—a post that requires no Senate confirmation—puts the United States on a path to war. And it’s fair to say President Donald Trump wants us on that path.
After all, Trump gave Bolton the job after the two held several conversations (despite White House chief of staff John Kelly’s orders barring Bolton from the building). And there was this remark that Trump made after firing Rex Tillerson and nominating the more hawkish Mike Pompeo to take his place: “We’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things I want.”
Bolton has repeatedly called for launching a first strike on North Korea, scuttling the nuclear arms deal with Iran, and then bombing that country too. He says and writes these things not as part of some clever “madman theory” to bring Kim Jong-un and the mullahs of Tehran to the bargaining table, but rather because he simply wants to destroy them and America’s other enemies too.
His agenda is not “peace through strength,” the motto of more conventional Republican hawks that Trump included in a tweet on Wednesday, but rather regime change through war. He is a neocon without the moral fervor of some who wear that label—i.e., he is keen to topple oppressive regimes not in order to spread democracy but rather to expand American power.
In the early days of the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney finagled Bolton a job as undersecretary of state for arms control—an inside joke, since Bolton has never read an arms-control treaty that he liked. But his real assignment was to serve as Cheney’s spy in Foggy Bottom, monitoring and, when possible, obstructing any attempts at peaceful diplomacy mounted by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
When Powell got the boot, Cheney wanted to make Bolton deputy secretary of state, replacing Richard Armitage, who resigned along with his best friend Powell. But Powell’s replacement, Condoleezza Rice, who had been Bush’s national security adviser, blocked the move, fully aware of Bolton’s obstructionist ideology.
As a compromise, Bush nominated Bolton to be United Nations ambassador, but that move proved unbearable to even the Republican-controlled Senate at the time. . . . . he was hostile to the idea of international law, having once declared, “It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so—because over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrain the United States.”
These might be quaint notions for some eccentric midlevel aide to espouse, but the United Nations is founded on international law, Security Council resolutions are drafted to enforce international law, and . . . some of those resolutions were proving useful for expressing, and sometimes enforcing, U.S. national security interests. How could someone with these views serve as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.?
In his confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bolton put on a dreadful show, grumbling and scowling through his walrus mustache.
[A]t least McMaster assembled—and often listened to—a professional staff at the National Security Council and insisted on ousting amateur ideologues, several of them acolytes of Flynn.
Bolton is not likely to put up with a professional staff, and the flood of White House exiles will soon intensify. One subject of discussion at Bolton’s Senate hearings, back in 2005, was his intolerance of any views that differed from his own. He displayed this trait most harshly when, as undersecretary of state, he tried to fire two intelligence analysts who challenged his (erroneous) view that Cuba was developing biological weapons and supplying the weapons to rogue regimes.
Nor is Bolton at all suited to perform one of a national security adviser’s main responsibilities—assembling the Cabinet secretaries to debate various options in foreign and military policy, mediating their differences, and either hammering out a compromise or presenting the choices to the president.
Then again, there may now no longer be many differences to mediate in this administration. The last of the grown-ups is Secretary of Defense James Mattis . . . . [Trump] didn’t know that Mattis regularly consulted a personal library of some 7,000 volumes on history and strategy, that (like most generals) he’s not too keen to go to war unless he really has to, and that (also like most generals) he takes the Geneva Conventions seriously and opposes torture.
With Tillerson out, Bolton in, and Pompeo waiting in the wings for confirmation, Trump is feeling his oats, coming into his own, like Trump is free to be Trump. Finding out just who that is may make the rest of us duck and cover.
The New York Magazine piece contains this:
From the outset of his presidency, to which he was elevated with barely any preparation, Donald Trump was surrounded by a protective cordon of advisers, as a child monarch might. In return for absorbing his tantrums, they would educate their unsteady charge, who would wind up, after pratfalls and drama, inflicting no more ruin on the country than a normal modern Republican president might. . . . Somehow it seemed we might muddle through.
Now Trump is breaking through the protective cordon. The people who joined the government to save Donald Trump from himself, or to save the world from Trump, are leaving. Gary Cohn and Rex Tillerson are gone. Trump is reorganizing his legal team, mobilizing for war against the special counsel. And now he has finally cast off his most important minder, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and replaced him with John Bolton.
Bolton . . . is a true believing ideologue firmly encamped on his party’s right flank, who appears regularly on Fox News to propound ultra-simplistic solutions to the world’s problems, which Trump can easily grasp on his sofa.
Bolton’s foreign policy notions can be quickly operationalized, given the near-total command the executive branch has over foreign policy. What’s more, those ideas have the potential to kill large numbers of people.
Bolton has long been estranged from a substantial segment of his own party, which regards him as dangerous. . . . . while many of his colleagues came away at least somewhat chastened by their errors, Bolton did not. “I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct,” he said in 2015.
Bolton is considered so dangerous, even by many Republican hawks, because he is a true believer, deeply in the grips of black and white notions of simple morality that are difficult to reconcile with the messy reality that is the world. There is a long history of ideologues joining a presidential administration and terrifying the establishment, only to be assimilated into its bureaucratic routines. But Bolton’s character and history seem to defy any such domestication.
The combination of Bolton and Trump poses an especially potent danger. Trump once declared “I love war, in a certain way.” Both men think in terms of zero-sum conflict and harbor an obsession with dominating their adversaries. They are temperamental twins. In North Korea or elsewhere, Bolton could goad Trump into dangerous reaction.
It has been the tail risks – any number of low-probability, high impact events that are far more likely to occur with an authoritarian buffoon in the White House than under a normal president. Trump has spent his presidency surrounded by people who were at least attempting to contain these risks – say, a Constitutional crisis, or a meltdown of the international order. As awful and comically surreal as the first year and a quarter of his term has been, after Trump has taken full command of his administration, we may see it as a golden age.
Be very afraid.  Those of us who live in an area like Hampton Roads, Virginia, with a huge military personnel do not want to see the lives of friends and neighbors thrown away yet again.  Just as importantly, we should not want to see Trump by either mistake or design authorize the use of nuclear weapons.  

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