The role of National Security Advisor was created in the early years of the Cold War for two reasons. First, to coordinate the national security apparatus which includes all the intelligence agencies and the Departments of Defense and State. Second, to act as a senior advisor to the President and brief him on national security affairs. These roles have remained relatively unchanged since their inception.
Some better known National Security Advisors include Henry Kissinger, John Poindexter, Colin Powell, John Hadley, and Susan Rice. Under Trump, we’ve witnessed two National Security Advisors. Michael Flynn, who served for a short, twenty-four-day period until it was discovered that he misled the Vice President on his past affairs with the Russian ambassador. Then, H.R. McMaster who is a three-star general, former military history professor, distinguished research fellow and counterinsurgency advisor. He has served in the first Gulf War and numerous counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East.
McMaster is incredibly well-qualified to advise the President on matters of national security and very much understands the cost of waging war. He and the President had been at odds regarding North Korea and the Iran nuclear deal in the past.
The job, again, of the National Security Advisor is to reflect the viewpoint of the national security apparatus– even if the President disagrees with it. Reportedly, the President grew tired of being told ripping up the Iranian nuclear deal is detrimental to national security, which would result in the acceleration of Iran’s path to the bomb, and fired McMaster from his job.
His replacement is a yes man and an enabler of Trump’s worst nationalistic tendencies– his name is John Bolton.
Bolton got his start in diplomacy working as the Under Secretary of State for Arms and Control and International Security Affairs in the George W. Bush Administration. His work primarily focused on tracking the development of weapons of mass destruction. In the run-up to the Iraq War, he regularly argued Saddam had WMD’s– which wasn’t true—and has been routinely accused of misshaping U.S. intelligence to fit his worldview. Famously, he accused Cuba of having biological weapons. When the State Department’s top bioweapons analyst refused to sign off on that claim, Bolton attempted to have him removed without providing evidence himself.
When John Bolton was nominated to represent the United States at the United Nations in 2005, multiple staff from within the State Department testified in the Senate that Bolton had a history of abusing subordinates with disrespectful behavior and attempting to have officials who disagree with his policy positions canned. It became such an issue that during a Republican-held Senate under the presidency of George W. Bush, he failed to receive a confirmation because his unprofessionalism disqualified him from the job. He later was given the position while Congress was in recess.
Since he left the government, Bolton has worked with the American Enterprise Institute and regularly appeared as a commentator on Fox News. His current foreign policy views are well known as he advocates for a forcible regime change in Iran and North Korea as the only legitimate option in dealing with these countries.
Regardless of your belief on how to deal with Iran and North Korea, the position of the National Security Advisor is to communicate the views of the national security apparatus to the President in a clear and unbiased form.
H.R. McMaster understood the threat Iran poses. He has experience in both Iraq Wars and even lost his own men to Iranian provided weapons. He understands the cost of regime change, war and the folly of destabilizing regions without planning for what comes next.
John Bolton, on the other hand, is a bomb thrower with a history of cherry picking information to support his own hawkish worldviews no matter how horrific the consequences, while berating staff who disagree with him on facts.
Based on the responsibilities of the National Security Advisor, as well as Bolton’s personal record within the intelligence community, I firmly believe that entrusting him to advise a President who has limited foreign policy experience is detrimental to the best interest of the United States, especially as we enter delicate talks with North Korea.
Regardless of your policy positions, his unprofessionalism and conduct is unacceptable behavior for any American official and is an insult to the well-qualified men and women who tirelessly work to keep our nation secure.