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In John Bolton, Donald Trump Has an Adviser Who’s Radical Even by Neocon Standards

March 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Natasha Ezrow, The Conversation

With his foreign policy terminally mired in chaos, Trump has almost fully surrounded himself with a mixture of yes-men and warmongers.

The appointment of John Bolton to be the Trump administration’s third national security adviser in the past 14 months, signals a more confrontational approach to the world from an already belligerent regime. Bolton is one of the key figures of neoconservatism, a political tendency that believes that the US should pursue and defend primacy or unlimited power – especially by military means.

The neocons were originally a small group of conservatives who were frustrated with the US’s refusal to spend adequately on military defence. Many started working for the anti-communist Democratic senator, Henry Jackson, in the 1970s, but by the Reagan era, they had become Republicans. In contrast to conservatives who favoured détente with the USSR, the neocons advocated an aggressive confrontation and huge increases in military spending. Under Ronald Reagan, they began to get what they wanted.

When the Cold War ended, the US no longer faced a credible challenger to its military supremacy, and talks of pre-emptive military action were mostly shut down. But the neocons, concerned that US military spending was dropping again, never gave up their cause. Unlike conservatives who were reluctant to intervene militarily, they still advocated a much more hostile foreign policy, insisting that all options be kept on the table to tackle new “threats” facing the US.

They spent the 1990s crafting a blueprint for American power, which included military intervention and nation-building in the Middle East. With the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, this vision became Bush administration policy. Neocons advocated the invasion of Iraq in order to pursue a democratic transformation of the Middle East; in the words of Donald Rumsfeld, to pursue terrorists in the region and “drain the swamp they live in”.

This is the ideological foundry in which Bolton’s views were cast – and he is one of its most hardline products. Though Bolton was close with other neocons, including former vice-president Dick Cheney, he is even more extreme than many in the Bush administration, including Bush himself. Bolton felt that …read more


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