John Bolton is(was) everything you don’t want in a national security adviser. He is as stubborn as a rhinoceros, as crafty as a snake, and as dangerous as a scorpion.
Bolton’s is an extreme black-and-white view of the world: if you aren’t an ally of the United States, you are an adversary who needs a boot on your neck in the form of U.S. military force or economic sanctions. The second- and third-order strategic consequences are no obstacle in Bolton’s mind. Why go through the humiliating spectacle of negotiations when you can simply bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities or take out the Kim regime by force?
Diplomacy, after all, is for wimps, spineless State Department bureaucrats, and appeasers. If the boss is insisting on diplomacy, then demand the moon, stars, and everything in between before offering a nickel of sanctions relief.
We don’t know who Bolton’s replacement will be, but we do know what he or she needs to do dump most of the previous regime’s ideas in the garbage and start over with strategies that actually have a chance at success.
Trump needs an adviser who is willing to engage in a pragmatic negotiation and be prepared for uncomfortable but necessary bargaining. He needs someone who will help him end wars—like the 18-year-long quagmire in Afghanistan—that have gone on aimlessly and without purpose.
He needs someone who will hold those within the administration accountable when they refuse to execute policy once it is cleared by the inter-agency. And above all, he or she should prize restraint and think through all the options when the Beltway loudly urges immediate action.
All of this will be easier with Bolton off the team.
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