The president never liked his mustache anyway.
Donald Trump fired John Bolton as national security adviser on Tuesday. Or, actually, on Monday, according to the tweet announcing the move.
“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House”, the president said. “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration”.
A new national security adviser will be named “next week”, apparently.
Bolton’s notoriously hawkish foreign policy bent and reputation for supporting interventionism abroad always made him an odd choice for the Trump administration. The president campaigned on extricating the country from costly foreign imbroglios and claims to have unwaveringly opposed the Iraq war, a disastrous conflict that Bolton has made a career of unapologetically defending.
Trump found himself on the brink of war with Iran in June, and came precariously close to wading knee-deep into a coup in Venezuela. The president’s efforts to end US operations in Syria and bring troops home from Afghanistan have doubtlessly been complicated by Bolton’s presence.
Late last month, the Washington Post reported that Bolton wasn’t invited to a top-level meeting on the future of America’s Afghanistan strategy. “The attendance of the top security aide would normally be critical, but the omission was no mistake”, senior officials told the paper.
Unsurprisingly, Bolton had become “a staunch internal foe” of the fledgling peace deal, which crashed and burned over the weekend when Trump canceled clandestine plans to meet with Taliban leaders at Camp David.
“[Bolton’s] opposition to the diplomatic effort in Afghanistan has irritated President Trump and led aides to leave the National Security Council out of sensitive discussions about the agreement”, WaPo went on to say.
Contrary to Trump’s ostensible concern for human life, Bolton has a long history of giving projected casualties the short shrift. Consider this excerpt from an April article in The New Yorker, for instance:
In fact, Bolton has believed for decades that these are the only two choices. In the early two-thousands, as the Bush Administration was negotiating to limit North Korea’s nuclear program, Bolton stridently advocated war. Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff, was so concerned that he brought Bolton into a private meeting on the consequences of military strikes: “I gave him a ten-minute brief on what a war with North Korea would look like—a hundred thousand casualties in the first thirty days, many of them Americans. The Japanese that would die. The Chinese that would die. The fact that Seoul, one of the most modern and forward-looking cities in the world, would probably be reduced to the Dark Ages. I told him, ‘That’s Passchendaele, John. That’s Ypres.’ ”
He said that Bolton was unmoved: “John looked at me and said, ‘Are you done? Clearly, you do war. I don’t do war. I do policy.’ ”
In the same profile, Dexter Filkins notes that “people who have worked with Bolton say that he is focused less on North Korea than on Iran, where his vigilance can sometimes seem out of proportion to the apparent threat”.
That penchant for warmongering vis-à-vis Iran almost surely clashed with Trump’s wariness of plunging the US into an armed conflict worse than Iraq the year before an election.
One imagines a discussion around the Taliban fiasco might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Trump, who dispatched Mike Pompeo to the networks on Sunday to defend the White House’s decision to invite the Taliban to the US.
“I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning”, Trump went on to detail on Tuesday afternoon.
Bolton disputes this. “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow'”, he tweeted.
Trump went on to thank John “very much for his service” which, again, is “no longer needed”.
Oh well, there’s always Fox News.
Speaking of which, Bolton texted Brian Kilmeade (live) to refute Trump’s account.