There’s been a lot of free-floating fear and horror in the media recently about the appointment as national security adviser of John Bolton, a man who’s been itching for war(s) since the 1990s. His approach to Iran and North Korea in particular (not quite nuke ’em!, but not that much short of it either) isn’t what you’d call either carefully calibrated or particularly diplomatic. Still, a certain balance in reporting on Bolton has been lacking. You can search in vain for any outlets (other than Fox News) giving President Trump the slightest credit for what he did, which was no mean trick. After all, short of bringing former Vice President Dick Cheney out of “retirement” and making him secretary of defense (as indeed he was for President George H.W. Bush), it’s hard to think of a single former official of the George W. Bush administration — or more or less anyone else — who would still so vehemently defend the absolute brilliance of the invasion of Iraq and of “preemptive war.” On that score, Bolton is as close to the last man standing as you’re likely to find and since, in his eagerness for that 2003 invasion (and his willingness to back intelligence information, no matter how false, promoting it), he was also one of the first men standing, which means he is indeed a unique candidate for the national security adviser’s job.
Unfortunately, the media (Fox News excepted) just doesn’t get the thrill of it all. Keep in mind that President Trump tried “my generals” for more than a year and what did that get him? Deeper into Afghanistan, four dead Green Berets in Niger, stuck in Syria. Now, he’s putting the fate of the republic back in the hands of civilians (and in the process, miraculously enough, turning those hawkish generals into the true “adults” in, or presently leaving, or soon to leave the “room”). So some civilians are about to have their moment. Give them nine months at the outside. Bolton, in particular, has a reputation for being acerbic and beyond blunt in his views, so don’t expect him to last long with a president who clearly must be pandered to in extreme ways by those who care to survive in office — or in the Oval Office — for even modest lengths of time.
Here, then, is the true thrill of it all: imagining what could possibly come next. After the generals, the neocons, the Tea Party right, the Fox News commentators, the Islamophobes and Iranophobes of every sort — that is, by election time 2018 — who’s going to be left? What pool of Martians could Donald Trump possibly choose from for his next set of appointees? Stay tuned and, while you’re waiting, let TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, return you to that invasion-of-Iraq moment and remind you of what a thoroughly stellar crew we’ve had running our ship of state, our own Titanic, for much of the time since.