John Bolton is a bit like the barking dog who finally catches the car: what's he doing now?
Bolton has certainly never imagined himself as an "honest broker", the quality that normally defines a successful national security consultant, the post office he wants to take over. Instead, Bolton has cultivated the image of a provocateur, bureaucratic infantes, and permanent enfant terrible . He has seen his role as a challenging policy, rather than upholding it.
Bolton will take control of a foreign policy process that needs more than the fiery rhetoric of a Fox News commentator. Many insiders say that the inter-agency process is now just as dysfunctional as it has been at any point in recent decades. The problem is not so much that the government is crammed with menacing ideologues, but that it's an empty suit.
The fiery Bolton is a troubling opponent for his new boss, showing many of the same fighting qualities. A belligerent, belligerent president now has a person with similar characteristics as his chief adviser to the White House on foreign affairs. This scares people at home and abroad.
Bolton's earlier colleagues describe a more complicated person than some news reports suggest. During the Bush administration, Bolton was a student of Secretary of State James Baker, perhaps the bureaucratic master of modern American politics. Bolton's contemporaries describe a "results-oriented" Yale Law graduate who shaped the US resolutions that led America into the Gulf War and then established a ceasefire. Colleagues in later years remember a more inflexible and manipulative Bolton.
"I learned a lot of bureaucratic skills in the bakeries that I could often use later to confuse the bureaucracy," Bolton writes in his 2007 memoir. He describes Baker's key message: "Fulfill process issues to substantive issues clarified. "
Bolton's test as a National Safety Advisor is that he is now responsible for overseeing a process he instinctively distrusts. It will be an embarrassing situation for someone who (like Donald Trump) sees his mission as a destroyer of conventional wisdom. Bolton must realize that the inter-agency structure is not working well. But can he fix it under a president who seems to like the chaos ̵
Bolton enjoys his confrontational reputation. He himself is not worried about being perceived as a "nice person". In his memoirs from 2007, he refers to advocates of traditional foreign policy views as "entertaining oppressors," "EUroids," and "risen bureaucracy." Interestingly, Henry Kissinger was the only national security adviser to have a similar suspicion of bureaucracy.
Bolton opens his memoirs with a quote from the French revolutionary Georges Danton: "Boldness and audacity and always audacity, and the nation will be saved , "It's the essence of Trumpism, but despite all this boldness, who will drive the railroad?"
Bolton has prepared for the three major challenges he faces as a national security adviser during his career: arms control confrontations with North Korea, Iran and Russia.
Bolton's avarice towards North Korea now looks forward, arguing that Pyongyang would betray its nuclear weapons disarmament commitments under the 1994 Framework Agreement and the Six-Party Talks 2003-2009, and also wrote that it was a mistake He will address this question as President Trump negotiates with Kim Jong Un.
Perhaps Bolton Pyongyang sends word that Trump is not bluffing. This increases leverage, but also increases the risk of conflict.
Iran, with Trump already close to abandoning the nuclear deal, sees Bolton's appointment as eerie as the last nail in that coffin. But Bolton should consider for the last time whether the security of the US and Israel is really being improved by the collapse of the agreement. Four former Israeli military leaders said no in a statement last weekend.
Bolton's largest section could manage the accommodation that Trump apparently wants with Russia. Trump proposes arms control talks with Moscow; Bolton will bring deep and perhaps useful skepticism to this effort.
The final test for Bolton will be to preserve America's strong alliances in Europe and Asia. Pranks Allies is not his profession to say the least. In his memoirs, Bolton attacks the diplomats' preference for "accommodation and compromise with foreigners". This belligerent approach reinforces the president's approach.
The War Cabinet is completed with Bolton. Trump is now limited only if he believes deep down that you can not make America big again and go to war.
Copyright The Washington Post