Is the Trump administration moving from "America First" to "War First"?


The hardline former US ambassador to the United Nations is back. The Trump administration has replaced H R McMaster with John Bolton as his third national security adviser in 14 months - who will officially take office on April 9. 

It was reported that Bolton was passed over as Secretary of State in 2016, a position Rex Tillerson was recently fired from, due to his moustache. Trump seems to have now overcome his pogonophobia. 

Bolton was among the crop of neoconservatives previously employed by the George W Bush administration and is someone intimately familiar with controversy. He now finds himself in a powerful role with a platform to push his hawkish views on a range of foreign policy issues. 

So what exactly are John Bolton's views?

On Iraq

A consistent advocate for the Iraq war, John Bolton, continues to believe that "the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct."

Compare this with Trump's views on Iraq who has argued that "we should have never been in Iraq" and that the decision to invade ultimately "destabilised" the Middle East.

On North Korea

H R McMaster was well known for contradicting Trump publicly on a range of issues, which seems to have ultimately led to his departure. 

On the North Korean file, McMaster a military man, was a strong advocate of resolving the North Korean issue through diplomacy and resorting to war as a last option. Trump, on the other hand,  has been an outspoken advocate of bombing North Korea. 

Now Trump will finally have an ally. 

Bolton penned an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal as recently as last month making the case for bombing North Korea.  

The North Korean "threat is imminent" argued Bolton and the case for "striking first" has become unquestionable. 

Bombing North Korea has been upgraded from the last resort to a first resort - at least if John Bolton has his way.

On Iran

McMaster, a three-star general, recommended that Trump should stick with the Iranian deal, much to the chagrin of the president. 

Bolton on the other hand has a long and consistent track record of advocating against the Iranian state and expressing a willingness to go to war with it if necessary. 

Earlier this year, he argued that "US policy should be to end the Islamic Republic before its 40th anniversary." 

In April 2019 Iran will celebrate 40 years of becoming an Islamic Republic.

Trump has called the Iranian nuclear agreement a "very bad deal" and on several occasions sought to end it. Along with Secretary of Defense "Mad Dog Mattis" — who has a lifelong track record of being tough on Iran— the administration may now have just enough eggs in the anti-Iran basket. 

On the UN

During his time at the UN, Bolton alienated many diplomats with his abrasive style. 

His dislike of the international body is well known, having once referred to the UN as a "twilight zone." 

He also suggested that the UN could easily lose the top 10 floors of the 39-storey building without it having any impact. 

On Kosovo

The new national security adviser will no doubt make more than a few people in Pristina uneasy with his views on Kosovo. 

In January 2008, a mere two weeks before Kosovo declared its independence, John Bolton argued that it was not in the "interest of the United States" for Kosovo to unilaterally declare independence from Serbia.

Albanian politicians will no doubt be watching how US policy may shift to the detriment of the young nation.

On Muslims

John Bolton counts the likes of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer as his close associates and friends, and even wrote a foreword for a book the two anti-Muslim activists co-authored. 

The Southern Poverty Law Centre lists Geller and Spencer under its "Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists" for being part of a propaganda network aimed at spreading hatred or false information on Muslims. 

In all, we can expect a more hawkish approach on a range of issues from the new national security adviser. 

But, will Bolton's appointment result in a radical shift in Trump's foreign policy or will it simply reinforce pre-existing policies he wasn't able to previously execute?