President Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin to his reelection as president of the Russian Federation. It was a matter of simply courtesy to do so. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (aka the National Security Advisor), three star general McMaster, had advised him to not congratulate Putin. (McMaster now claims differently.) That was bad advise. But it became even worse when McMaster, or someone in his shop, promptly leak this to the press. The usual Republican nutters like John McCain grumbled and Trump was furious.
Trump decided to fire McMaster the very next day. He had it coming. Both the White House Chief of Staff Kerry as well as the Secretary of Defense Mattis wanted McMaster out. Unfortunately for them Trump chose a replacement that they did not want and will find difficult to live with.
John Bolton is not a neo-conservative. He does not dream of 'spreading democracy' or 'nation building'. He is a 'smash, burn and leave' libertarian hawk. He is also an exceptionally avid bureaucrat who knows how to get the things he wants done. That quality is what makes him truly dangerous. Bolton is known for sweet-talking to his superiors, being ruthless against competitors and for kicking down on everyone below him.
Soon Netanyahoo will have the cabinet in place in DC he always dreamed of. A hawkish Pompeo at State, a real tortureras head of the CIA and now Bolton are already sufficient to protect Israels further expansion. Kelly and, only later onMattis will likely be the next to get fired. That will eliminate the last people with access to Trump who have some marginal sanity on war and peace issues. Trump will be completely isolated and easy to manipulate.
Bolton has a hammer and he will find lots of nails. Like Hillary Clinton he will want to fight with Iran, North Korea, Russia, China and others in no particular order. He will want to destroy Syria. He is cozy with the Kurds and the Iranian terror cult MEK. He addressed (vid) their congress eight years in a row and made lots of money for saying things like this:
"[B]efore 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran.”
Bolton has little concern for U.S. allies except, maybe, for Israel.
His first priority will be to prevent the announced summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un. He will want more sanction on North Korea and may argue for a 'preventive' strike against it. He does not care that such a strike will certainly kill tens of thousands of Koreans in the north and south and several thousand U.S. soldiers and civilians.
New sanctions on North Korea are problematic as Trump has just put additional tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. imports of Chinese goods. (The Chinese response is smart: Tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods from states that Trump won.) Why should China and Russia (and South Korea) help the U.S. to strangulate North Korea when they themselves are under fire? To prevent a U.S. strike that may anyway come the very next day?
The Europeans who were part of the nuclear agreement with Iran have to answer a similar question. Why offer Trump a 'compromise' over the JCPOA when the chances are now high that he will destroy it anyway?
What will Bolton do on Syria? Will he try to find a new agreement with Erdogan and drag Turkey away from endorsing Russia's polices in Syria? If he manages to do so, Syria's north will become a shared Turkish-U.S. entity and will be lost for a long time. New attacks on the Syrian government, from the north, south and east, where the U.S. re-trains ISIS into a new 'moderate rebel' army, would then open the next phase of the war.
So far the mean time of survival for Trump appointees is some six to eight month. Let us hope that John Bolton's appointment will - in the end - lower that average.
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