In light of the President’s recent remarks about Secretary of Defense Mattis, Robert W. Merry examines the transformation of Trump’s anti-war campaign rhetoric into that which today is guided by neocons John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. The question then becomes, is Trump’s neocon transformation inevitable, or will the instinctual aversion to war he showed on the campaign trail help him avoid a full blown takeover by the War Party? Merry writes at The American Conservative:
In covering President Donald Trump’s recent pregnant comments about Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, The Wall Street Journal tucked away in its story an observation that hints at the president’s foreign policy direction. In an interview for CBS’s 60 Minutes, the president described Mattis as “sort of a Democrat if you want to know the truth” and suggested he wouldn’t be surprised if his military chief left his post soon. After calling him “a good guy” and saying the two “get along very well,” Trump added, “He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves…. That’s Washington.”
But far more significant than Mattis’s future or Trump’s love of chaos was a sentence embedded in the Journal‘s report. After noting that recent polls indicated that Mattis enjoys strong support from the American people, reporter Nancy A. Youssef writes: “But his influence within the administration has waned in recent months, particularly following the arrival of John Bolton as national security adviser and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state.”
The significance here is that Bolton and Pompeo represent just about everything Trump ran against during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Still, generally speaking, anyone listening to Trump carefully before the election would have been justified in concluding that, if he meant what he said, he would reverse America’s post-Cold War foreign policy as practiced by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Now we know he didn’t mean what he said, and the latest tiff over the fate of Mattis crystallizes that reality.
Thus any neutral observer, at the time of Mattis’s selection as defense secretary, might have concluded that he was more bent on an adventurous American foreign policy than his boss. But it turned out to be just the opposite. There are two reasons for this. First, Mattis is cautious by nature, and he seems to have taken Trump at his word that he didn’t want any more unnecessary American wars of choice.
That seems to have presented a marvelous opportunity to Bolton and Pompeo, whose philosophy and convictions are stark and visible to all. Bolton has made clear his desire for America to bring about regime change in Iran and North Korea. He supported the Iraq war and has never wavered in the face of subsequent events. He has advocated a preemptive strike against North Korea. Pompeo harbors similar views. He favored withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and has waxed bellicose on both Iran and Russia.
Thus a conflict was probably inevitable between Mattis and these more recent administration arrivals.
Bolton and Pompeo are gut fighters who go for the jugular. Trump is malleable, susceptible to obsequious manipulation. Mattis is an old-style military man with a play-it-straight mentality and a discomfort with guile. Thus it appears we may be seeing before our eyes the transformation of Trump the anti-establishment candidate into Trump the presidential neocon.
Read more here.