Question: What do you get when you combine infantile, narcissistic ego mania with an unbalanced and erratic foreign policy?
Answer: The firing of John Bolton.
Trump fired his third National Security Advisor, John Bolton, yesterday. Most workers, in fact most socialists, might not be paying attention to this, but they should. It is exactly in the twists and turns of the Trump regime that much of its inner dynamics can be best understood.
His first such advisor, Mike Flynn, was Trump’s true soul mate. Reckless, without a thought to future consequences of his actions, and totally self-aggrandizing, his appointment was a match made in heaven. So perfect was the match, in fact, that his having blatantly lied became his own downfall and Trump was forced to get rid of him.
Flynn was replaced by General H. R. McMaster, who along with several other generals represented the mainstream of the US capitalist class within the
Trump administration. As such, McMaster actually took his role seriously, as he did the class he represented. He actually tried to educate Trump, which annoyed Trump no end. As Vox put it “McMaster — along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and, at the time, Tillerson — was labeled an “adult” in the room whose military and strategic expertise would help him gain Trump’s trust and moderate the president’s most potentially dangerous foreign policy impulses.” As Vox also explained, Trump felt McMaster’s briefings “went on too long”. In other words, Trump had to listen to somebody else. The last straw was Trump’s precipitous announcement that he would be withdrawing all US troops from Syria. McMaster was gone shortly after that. Along the way, Trump had clashed with McMaster on policy in Afghanistan. Under pressure from McMaster, Trump sent additional troops there vs. his desire to pull out entirely.
Then we come to John Bolton. One of the major reasons that Bolton was appointed was his apparent agreement with Trump on Iran. But it was exactly there that the differences became apparent, and exactly there that the erratic and contradictory aspects of Trump’s foreign policy are revealed.
MAGA and decline of US imperialism
An important part of Trump’s “make America great again” slogan was the appeal to the sense that America is slipping. He correctly pointed to the US/European treaty with Iran as an example of US weakness. In the past, when Corporate America and its government didn’t like a foreign regime, they simply helped engineer a coup, as they did in Iran in 1953. But they can’t do that anymore, so they had to accommodate the Iranian government. Once having raised leaving that accord, he was stuck with it and he did so. But he had and has no alternative.
War with Iran?
That’s where Bolton came in. Unlike McMaster, Bolton supported leaving that accord. But unlike Trump, Bolton also did have an alternative to the accord: War against Iran and regime change. And he tried to maneuver Trump into a war. He was a strong advocate of a US military strike on Iran and was reportedly “devastated” by Trump’s last minute pull back from that action.
On the other hand, the public entertainment president always thinks of his base, and racist and chauvinist as that base may be, it is exactly the selfishness of that base that has put a drag on military adventurism. It’s one thing to fly drone attacks that kill families at a wedding, or to keep immigrant kids in cages. That’s all fine because it doesn’t directly affect that base. But a military war with Iran? That’s an entirely different matter. It would immediately send gas prices through the roof and probably quickly tip the economy into world recession. All but the Christian fanatics would not favor that, and Trump’s reptilian brain knows it.
Bolton also opposed Trump’s negotiating with the Taliban. But Trump, growing desperate for some foreign policy “success” was determined. He would use that to help in his reelection bid.
So he’s caught in an unresolvable conflict: On the one hand, he’s appealing to patriotism and bitterness in lost US imperial domination; on the other hand, there’s nothing he – meaning US imperialism – can do about it without huge costs at home. Bolton, who has no popular base, couldn’t care less; Trump has to.
Added 9/11: The very day after Bolton was gone, world oil prices dropped. The reason was that the “markets” figured that there was less chance of a war with Iran. This is confirmation of what we said would happen if the reverse were true – if there were a war with Iran.