FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Pre-emptive Triggers: John Bolton Joins Trump

It has given those in a permanent state of jitters greater reason to jump off the cliff to a certain fate, but John Bolton’s elevation to President Donald J. Trump’s inner circle is predictable and, patterns of employment permitting, brief.  It is easy to see each and every appointment of the current president as manically dangerous, shading those of his predecessors.  Move over national security advisor H. R. McMaster and welcome Mr. Pre-emption.

The predictions of imminent cataclysm at this latest turn have a certain screeching quality, feeding the endless exhaust fan of Trumpographic terrors.  There is a fear that war with Iran might well be possible.  This would be tenable, presuming that Trump had taken leave of his remaining senses, and Bolton had received a surge of blood lust.  The doomsday cartel is being kept busy.

With all of this, it is easy to forget the last president who found Bolton’s services useful, one who with singular influence plunged the Middle East into multigenerational chaos and sanguinary mayhem.  As a right-wing shock pundit he was appointed by President George W. Bush, that other monstrosity of the White House, to destabilise the United Nations.  (To be more exact, destabilise the US relationship with that oft confused, disparate entity.)

The danger Bolton poses is dependent on the access, regularity and seeming cogency of his advice to the president.  As he explained on Fox News, he is an open book, smudged, as it were, by a certain enthusiasm for war.

“During my career, I have written I don’t know how many articles and op-eds and opinion pieces. I have given – I can’t count the number of speeches, I’ve had countless interviews… They’re all out there on the public record.  I’ve never been shy about what my views are.”

He is the creature of pre-emption, the proponent of violent redress regarding international disputes.  Evidence of misconduct matters less than the prompt elimination of threats, a strike on Washington’s enemies before they assume any significant influence or form.  He has, for instance, put forth boisterous, if clinical positions on striking North Korea (amusingly enough, he dresses this as legal), and Iran.

“It is perfectly legitimate,” he wrote last month in The Wall Street Journal, “for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first.” He admitted to various “gaps in US intelligence in North Korea,” but rather than seeing this as a note to be cautious, Bolton suggests the opposite.  Washington “should not wait until the very last minute.  That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation.”

His writings have a cool surgical air to them, absent casualties and consequences. The dead, in these instances, do not speak, let alone matter.  There are only necessary attacks, imbalances of power that need redressing, and military set pieces.  Iran, for instance, requires eradication, a homicidal view that would deserve in at least some small way, the tag of genocide.  “[E]nd the Islamic Republic before its 40th anniversary,” he cheered in the pages of the WJS.

In 2005, he outlined approaches to crippling the Islamic Republic’s potential nuclear capacity, a somewhat less evolved idea of extinguishing the state.  “Rendering inoperable the Natanz and Fordow uranium enrichment installations and the Arak heavy-water production facility and reactor would be priorities.  So, too, would be the little noticed but critical uranium-conversion facility in Isfahan.”  Attack Iran, break “key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle” and retard the program by three to five years.  Naturally bring Israel on board to do the thorough job.

His positions have always assumed pre-emption. Threats loom in a permanent hot house of problems for US security.  In 2002, during his time as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Bolton pressed his staff to draw up a document claiming that Cuba had an active biological weapons program and was in the business of transferring that technology to outlaw states.

On May 6, 2002, he described these heralded findings at the Heritage Foundation, prompting something of a storm: “The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort.  Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states.  We are concerned that such technology could support BW programs in those states.”

His superiors were left reeling with qualifications.  “We did not say,” claimed a more cautious Secretary of State Colin Powell, “that [Cuba] actually had such weapons, but it has the capacity and the capability to conduct such research.”  So do most states, for that matter, but such a distinction has never troubled Bolton.

When confronted with demurring views on Cuba’s capabilities, Bolton intimidated the analysts, who grittily held out.  As David Ignatius explained, “Bolton wanted to sound the alarm about Cuba, regardless of what the [National Intelligence Estimate] said.”  Such conduct led to an initial blocking of his appointment as ambassador to the UN.

Critics will be wishing some for some act of cannibalisation within the Trump administration.  The vital concern here is whether Bolton’s inability to accept evidence of actual threats coalesces with the president’s fantasies.  But reduced to a personal dimension (the moustache Trump so detests), Bolton’s days are already numbered.

 

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 20, 2019
Robert Hunziker
The Dangerous Methane Mystery
David Schultz
The Intellectual Origins of the Trump Presidency and the Construction of Contemporary American Politics
Sabri Öncü
Thus Spoke the Bond Market
Gary Leupp
Japanese and German Doubts on U.S. Drumbeat Towards Iran War
Binoy Kampmark
The Fragility of Democracy: Hong Kong, China and the Extradition Bill
Doug Johnson
On the Morning Consult Poll, Margins of Error, and the Undecideds in the Democratic Primary
Laura Flanders
In Barcelona, Being a Fearless City Mayor Means Letting the People Decide
Martha Rosenberg
Humor: Stop These Language Abuses
Jim Goodman
Current Farm Crisis Offers Opportunity For Change
Cesar Chelala
The Pope is Wrong on Argentina
Kim C. Domenico
Lessons from D.H. : A Soul-based Anarchist Vision for Peace-making
Jesse Jackson
Mobilizing the Poor People’s Campaign
Wim Laven
We Need Evidence-Based Decision Making
Cesar Chelala
Health Consequences of Overwork
June 19, 2019
Matthew Stevenson
Requiem for a Lightweight: the Mayor Pete Factor
Kenneth Surin
In China Again
Stephen Cooper
Abolishing the Death Penalty Requires Morality
George Ochenski
The DNC Can’t Be Allowed to Ignore the Climate Crisis
John W. Whitehead
The Omnipresent Surveillance State
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
Guaidó’s Star Fades as His Envoys to Colombia Allegedly Commit Fraud With Humanitarian Funds for Venezuela
Dave Lindorff
What About Venezuela’s Hacked Power Grid?
Howard Lisnoff
Try Not to Look Away
Binoy Kampmark
Matters of Water: Dubious Approvals and the Adani Carmichael Mine
Karl Grossman
The Battle to Stop the Shoreham Nuclear Plant, Revisited
Kani Xulam
Farting in a Turkish Mosque
Dean Baker
New Manufacturing Jobs are Not Union Jobs
Elizabeth Keyes
“I Can’t Believe Alcohol Is Stronger Than Love”
June 18, 2019
John McMurtry
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Evidence About Iran is “Dodgy” at Best
Yoav Litvin
Catch 2020 – Trump’s Authoritarian Endgame
Thomas Knapp
Opposition Research: It’s Not Trump’s Fault That Politics is a “Dirty” Game
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage that is Deadly, Illegal and Ineffective
Gary Leupp
Marx and Walking Zen
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Color Revolution In Hong Kong: USA Vs. China
Howard Lisnoff
The False Prophets Cometh
Michael T. Klare
Bolton Wants to Fight Iran, But the Pentagon Has Its Sights on China
Steve Early
The Global Movement Against Gentrification
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Like Rent Control
Tom Engelhardt
If Trump’s the Symptom, Then What’s the Disease?
June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail