How much damage can a US National Security Adviser really do to the global order? We’ll soon find out, as the most dangerous man in the western world, Ambassador (an undeserved title) John Bolton will certainly change the trajectory of world events. Perhaps his hard-line attitude toward Russia has already been felt with today’s expulsion of Russian diplomats and shuttering of the Seattle Consulate. President Trump has been criticized for softness toward Russia and hardness toward China by many in the media, though the actual reality is that he’s been harder on Russia than perceived and FAR SOFTER on China than any US President since George H.W. Bush. Trade wars (which might actually benefit China) not withstanding, President Xi has played Trump like a fiddle these last 14 months. He and the Chinese Communist Party have been the great beneficiaries of Trump’s Presidency to this point in time.
Bolton is an uncompromising figure who puts less faith in alliances, diplomacy and pragmatism than any other foreign policy hand. Trump has to this point been reigned in at least to certain extent by the pragmatic and somewhat scholarly trio of Secretary of Defense General Jim Mattis, General H.R. McMaster at the NSA and Rex Tillerson at State. With McMaster and Tillerson both replaced by far more hawkish and confrontational characters, US leadership is sure to fall to a low ebb. Former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, an ally of the neoconservatives takes over at State if he is confirmed. Here’s what to expect from the new look Trump team.
What to expect from the new Trump team and its impact on global affairs:
Increased climate change denial
Bolton and Pompeo will not only lead the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, something already in motion, but will shut down any effort for the US to renegotiate terms and reenter the agreement and will push back on any global initiatives on climate change. It’s almost certain the US won’t attribute changing climate for any refugee crisis or war that might pop up, even though in time of shifting or even diminishing resources thanks to changing weather patterns, it’s the chief cause of conflict (other than religion of course…). This might leave the NATO alliance in some danger in terms of acting with a united voice when it comes to refugees and handling foreign conflicts that break out.
A cancellation of the Iran deal and a possible military confrontation
Since Donald Trump ascended to the Presidency he has attempted rhetorically to undermine President Obama and Secretary Kerry’s remarkable achievement in negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran and thawing relations that had been moved to a frozen chill by neoconservatives and other American policy makers. However, with Rex Tillerson in place as Secretary of State, hope persisted that Tillerson’s position which was closer to Obama and Kerry’s RE: Iran would hold.
Now the polar opposite could happen. John Bolton was in favor of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program in 2007 and has over the course of the last decade articulated a hawkish position while contributing to FOX News, the President’s favorite channel (other than maybe Palm Beach County based Newsmax TV which is run by Trump buddy and conservative provocateur Christopher Ruddy?).
Bolton’s handiwork the Iraq War led to an increasingly strong and belligerent Iran – one that had been mollified by the deal struck by the Obama team.
Hostility with Cuba
Bad for Florida, bad for America. President Obama reversed 55 years of failed American policy. Trump, Bolton and Pompeo almost certainly will restore the flawed, failed policy. Guess what? He still won’t come close to saving the GOP in Miami-Dade County.
Further military intervention in Syria
President Obama wisely in 2013 walked back from his reckless 2012 “red line” pledge while campaigning for reelection. Bolton is almost certain push Trump toward open hostility to the Assad regime in Syria and a potential confrontation with Russia and Iran who both have far greater security interests in Syria than the US does. This will likely not end well for the United States, unless of course you are among the handful of neoconservatives who still defend the Iraq War.
Increased international sympathy for Russia and more power for China
Last week in discussing this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made a comparison with Hitler and the 1936 Summer Olympics. However, by this time in 2019, Putin and Russia might be the object of international sympathy as Bolton, Pompeo, Trump and the United States in alliance with Theresa May’s minority UK Government (if it survives that long) that employs Johnson overreach not only rhetorically as Johnson arguably did last week but in actual actions.
If the US intervenes in Syria, it likely drives even more sympathy toward Russia. Assad is not well liked globally but he is preferred to ISIS and Putin will no doubt cast the battle in those terms publicly.
As far as China is concerned, they have directly benefited from Trump’s loose use of words on Twitter and meandering foreign policy already by consolidating power as a second global pole both economically and politically. The Bolton-Pompeo team is likely to further isolate the US from international opinion, particularly in the developing world where China is already overtaking the US as the nation to look to for economic investment and political inspiration.
Sympathy for North Korea, Venezuela and Islamists who target western interests
George W. Bush made the United States the object of hate throughout the world. Donald Trump has made us the object of ridicule. But adding Bush’s ideology to Trump’s rhetoric will actually make those who target the US from the dark corners of left-wing communism (North Korea), socialism (Venezuela) or right-wing religious fascism (ISIS, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, the Mujaheddin etc, etc, etc) seem reasonable. These groups will gain sympathy in parts of the west for clashing with Trump, Bolton and Pompeo’s America. That should NEVER happen but almost certainly will.
I had felt surviving four years of Trump might not be that difficult for the west given some of the pragmatic forces around the President on the foreign policy side. But now that hope is gone and now we’re going to see a return to the Bush years with an unstable reckless man as the President. Let’s hope we survive this in tact.