It was inevitable that a hard fall had to come for a man who lived for the brink, the big stick of a bygone era, and power and might as the only solution to intractable problems. History is littered with fragments of the hubristic, fundamentalist, and egotistical. Now former White House National Security Adviser, John Bolton, is the latest casualty of being out of step and being put out to pasture.
Like many things that characterise Guyana today, Mr. Bolton kept looking back. In a world awash with a culture of huddling for working things out through the temperateness of diplomacy, he reached for the military.
Mr. Bolton’s miscalculation – in no small part a creation of the take-no-prisoners ethos of his president – was to recommend the all-out, headlong flight into fight first and pick up the pieces later. It just does not work that way anymore in a world that is so interconnected.
He was behind his times. John Bolton was a man, who also left himself little room behind which to manoeuvre for possibly making a different stand. Waiting Guyanese voters know of such attributes across our own national leadership board. There are some like Mr. Bolton here in Guyana; unlike America, the Guyanese extremists and brinkmen last for ages. They neither resign nor are fired.
Whether overseas or domestic, the record is of line after line in the sand; lines and sand run out eventually. Last Tuesday, the former National Security Adviser confronted his own 9/11 moment. He had to go. The year of one of the Vulcans came to a close. It had to, as there is only space for one president, one final decision-maker. He had outlived both usefulness and relevance; a product of his own excesses on just every boiling point: Iran, Venezuela, and Afghanistan.
The Wall Street Journal’s September 11th editorial saw things differently. The Journal recognised the departing Bolton as the one sober voice (a dissenting one), and the only substantive restraint on the inconsistent impulses of his president.
According to the Journal, “For all of his tough talk, Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to want a tough foreign policy. His desire for deals is the reason he flatters dictators and strongmen on the other side of the negotiating table despite their records.” It sounds like a policy of take the battle to the enemy and let the chips fall.
The not-so-carefully nuanced offering from the respected Journal warned that, “Another danger is that Mr. Trump’s behaviour is increasingly self-isolating.” And that is, “because Mr. Bolton stands for the Jacksonian wing of U.S. foreign policy…” That Jacksonian wing is hostile to broad-based international partnerships. It is committed to an aggressive defence of America’s vital strategic interests.
Neighbouring Venezuela falls into that sphere, and with which the Journal included Iran, North Korea and Russia.
To those, the New York Times of September 10 added a fifth, Afghanistan, in its coverage titled “Five policy clashes between John Bolton and President Trump.” Interestingly, whereas the Journal spoke of the man resigning, the Times called it a firing; and, pointedly, from the Times, “Mr. Bolton had also confronted Russia over its elections interference, a notoriously touchy subject for Mr. Trump, who sees discussion of it as undermining his legitimacy”.
This ought to remind Guyanese of the resistance to issues over credentials and other sensitive matters.
Moreover, in its September 10 editorial, the New York Times seized upon the ouster of Mr. Bolton to emphasise the chaos and uncertainties swirling around the current administration and U.S. foreign policy.
The editorial titled, “What does John Bolton ouster say about Donald Trump” went to town on the president’s management of the nation’s affairs through such sharp phrases as, “zest for chaos” and “his mercurial, impatient, crisis-driven approach” and “the White House may be in turmoil…and adversaries may be seeking advantage…” and through all this, more of the dysfunctional prevails.
Clearly, John Bolton’s overpowering instincts were out of touch with a more nuclear-armed world. It was also at odds with the unacknowledged reality of slowly dwindling American influence internationally. He was the wrong man at the wrong time in the wrong place with the wrong attitude…and the wrong president, too.
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