In a surprising turn of events, prominent Democrats have been attacking Trump for firing National Security Advisor John Bolton, instead of celebrating the demise of a man that The Onion called a “Bloodthirsty Warlord.” They could be encouraging Trump to do things that their voters want: end support for the Saudi/UAE led war in Yemen, end the war in Afghanistan, continue negotiations on the Korean peninsula, and re-enter negotiations with Iran or even reenter the Iran deal. All these issues would have been (and have been) torpedoed by John Bolton. But, they’re not.
“John Bolton’s sudden departure is a symbol of the disarray that has unnerved our allies since day one of the Trump Administration. Steady leadership & strategic foreign policy is key to ensuring America’s national security,” tweeted Speaker Pelosi. Steny Hoyer, the Majority Leader, said: “Around the world, they must be so distressed… how dangerous and destabilizing this is… there is so much instability in the White House such a lack of communication between the President and so much of his staff.” Have these two met John Bolton? Countries around the world, including allies who he has bullied who don’t want to get sucked into a war, are breathing a sigh of relief!
Furthering my dismay was the Squad, starting with Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez then Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who attacked Trump for “siding with Kim Jong Un” and firing Bolton using a provocatively written CNN chyron.
Democrats would be wise not to attack Trump from the right on foreign policy, or they might find themselves attacking the prospect of peace.
I understand that for Democrat politicians, Donald Trump can be political kryptonite, but there are ways to avoid praising the president and celebrate the passing danger that was John Bolton. Elizabeth Warren did it simply with this tweet: “The American people are better off with John Bolton out of the White House. The world will be better off when the man who hired him in the first place is out too.”
And this lesson carries over to the issues. Foreign policy advisor for Senator Bernie Sanders, Matt Duss, encouraged Trump’s actions while avoiding praise (in this case with regard to a story about outreach to the Iranians) with this tweet: “If this is the absurdly roundabout face-saving way Trump needs to get back to a nuke deal that he never should’ve withdrawn from, fine. But what an absolute train wreck of a policy.”
Democrats would be wise not to attack Trump from the right on foreign policy, or they might find themselves attacking the prospect of peace. President Trump may have an incoherent personal strategy and a blinkered, racist world-view, but he also seems to hold a deep-seated notion that war is bad for him politically. The president is looking for foreign policy wins. There are real opportunities to end the Korean War, to wind down involvement in Afghanistan, to end support for the Saudi/UAE war in Yemen, and to back away from war with Iran. Donald Trump, while not exactly isolationist and not exactly a dove, presents an opportunity, however small, for peace.
Tyler Bellstrom is a policy analyst and writer based in Washington, DC.