Bolton Appointment Looms Large, But Actual Policy Impact Still Unclear

Hawks see Bolton's history as a boost for various wars

Newly appointed National Security Adviser John Bolton is a hawk’s hawk, and his appointment on Thursday fairly quickly led to a wild array of speculations about what administration policy impacts he may have. CNN reported Bolton promised not to “start any wars,” but it’s not clear what else he brings to the table but advocating wars.

John Bolton

The immediate concern is the impact on North Korea diplomacy. Bolton has clearly not favored diplomacy in general, and has publicly advocated US attacks on North Korea within the past month. North Korea is just one of many angles analysts are looking at the appointment from.

President Trump’s existing acrimony toward Iran is seen to be boosted quite a bit by Bolton, who has been calling for a US invasion of Iran for decades, This has the Israeli right cheering him, even if the White House denies Bolton’s opposition to an independent Palestine will become official US policy

Oil prices are already rising in part due to Bolton’s appointment, and analysts are predicting a new round of US threats against Venezuela, against based on Bolton’s previous comments on the matter. How much will he be driving policy though? That’s much less clear.

The National Security Adviser post, after all, isn’t one with a very tightly defined set of roles, and different advisers have wielded wildly different amounts of power throughout history. Bolton is trying to position himself as an “honest broker” for Trump, someone trying to clarify the list of options Trump has open to him, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be heavily impacting the final choices Trump makes.

Bolton as policymaker would clearly be a disaster, but as Trump’s third National Security Adviser, he may well just be the latest going through the revolving door. He’ll likely make some of his typical pro-war comments in public along the way, but may not be making enough decisions to start even half of the wars he’d be inclined to.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.