The anti-war and anti-US-meddling wings of all parties should be very happy today. John Bolton, the evil warmonger who has been Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor for the past year and a half has just exited the White House, stage right. Trump fired him, says Trump. I quit, says Bolton. Who cares? He’s gone and the world feels slightly less scary as a result.
In an effort to gauge public opinion on the matter, I read around the top news stories from papers across the country only to discover that views are mixed. Republican opinion is largely pro-Bolton, but oddly enough, some Democrats seem reluctant to admit that getting rid of Bolton is actually a very good thing. They would have us to believe instead that Bolton’s departure is a symptom of how unstable our government is under Trump, rather than a lucky break for vulnerable peoples across the globe.
From Nancy Pelosi: “John Bolton’s sudden departure is a symbol of the disarray that has unnerved our allies since day one of the Trump Administration. Steady leadership & strategic foreign policy is key to ensuring America’s national security.”
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said that he was “legitimately shaken by the grave instability of American foreign policy today.” In his statement, he added another important talking point. “I’m no Bolton fan,” he begin, “but the world is coming apart, and the revolving door of U.S. leadership is disappearing America from the world just at the moment where a stable American hand is most needed.” (emphasis mine and below)
Senators Cardin and Menendez took a different tack: that Trump can’t tolerate an advisor who talks back. Cardin expresses this view best: “Mr. Bolton and I didn’t agree on a lot of issues. But he was a straight shooter. He knows the circumstances. I’m sure he told the president what was going on. The president may not have liked to hear it. And it’s unfortunate if the president won’t accept professional advice.” Right, Bolton was just a “straight shooter” telling the president things he didn’t want to hear. Like bomb Iran? Who wants to hear that?
My favorite argument against anything Trump does that tends to further the cause of world peace is this one, heard earlier this summer when Trump called off the Iran strike. It goes something like this: By negotiating with “our enemies” and making sudden decisions — even good ones — that make him look erratic, Trump is diminishing America’s national prowess as absolute leader of the free world. A corollary to this is: If Trump was doing the right thing, foreign countries wouldn’t dare stand up to us. Or, to put it another way, if you don’t stick to a belligerent show of power around the world, you’re crazy and dangerous.
There are plenty of people who believe that North Korea and its rockets are so grave a threat that we should not negotiate, or that Russia is an evil empire out to destroy our democracy and must be punished, or that Iran should have been bombed rather than show weakness to an upstart foreign power (a minority opinion, no doubt). I would argue on the other side that all these views are incompatible with the condition of peace, and that the only reason I can fathom for people on the left to hold them is that their hatred of Trump is so great that they feel morally obligated to oppose any action he takes, even if the action is (unintentionally) “good.”
To their credit, Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard all issued “good riddance” statements upon hearing the news.
But here’s where the strange bedfellows part comes in: the most openly anti-Bolton voice in recent public discourse has been none other than Tucker Carlson, the right-wing commentator for Fox News. In his broadcast after Bolton’s ouster, he said, “It is great news for America. Especially for the large number of young people who would have been killed in pointless wars if Bolton had stayed on the job. They may not be celebrating tonight, but they should be.” This from the right.
Over on the left, Common Dreams described the mood of progressives and anti-war activists as “overjoyed.”
I agree with Carlson and the Progressives on this one — Trump was right to toss his bellicose NSA, or at least to show him the door. No good was going to come from the policy suggestions of a pathological warmonger. Bolton’s extreme hawkishness is not an unsubstantiated accusation, but common knowledge. According to Reuters, Donald Trump used to introduce Bolton to foreign leaders by saying, “You all know the great John Bolton. He’ll bomb you. He’ll take out your whole country.”
If you oppose war as a foreign policy “tool” and favor a more peaceful world, this one is easy. No matter who comes after him, getting rid of John Bolton was a good thing. I’m sure people around the planet are heaving a sigh of relief today, and a lot of them probably don’t like Donald Trump either.
Photo By US State Department, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons