What is John Bolton Good For?
Just in case you were starting to think I was growing soft and squishy from my previous post on feelings, we're gonna talk about something completely opposite today: war.
Specifically, John Bolton and what he's good for. Hint: absolutely nothing. Well, almost ...
Now, I wanna be absolutely clear about something right from the start. As someone who staunchly values limited government, non-violence, national sovereignty, egalitarianism, and the like, I don't want that lying, belligerent chicken-hawk John Bolton within five-hundred feet of a government position, let alone anything that might involve so-called national security. We had enough of that under Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, with "bomb, bomb, bomb Saddam," and with senile John McCaine and his saber rattling, "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."
We don't need anymore neocons in power, thank you very much.
I would have even been opposed to Bolton's appointment under President Trump had he made it at any other time within his administration.
You knew there was a "however," coming, right? There just had to be. You could just feel it, the way I low-balled you that one.
However ... this may in fact be the one and only time in history in which it actually makes strategic sense to employ someone like John Bolton for this particular task; and I'm gonna work some powerful dark magic here to try and convince you of that, or at least maybe help ease your mind that this isn't the end times and we're not actually heading for imminent World War 3 ... but in a weird way, we still want the appearance of that for diplomatic reasons.
Allow me to explain.
See, most people have this flawed notion that we live in a static universe. That people don't ever change. That societies don't ever change. That if a particular idea is good in this particular situation, it must necessarily be good in all situations always and forever. That appointments are forever. That you can't hire someone only for a limited tactical role and then remove them from office once you've placed them. Bullshit! Pure and utter nonsense, I tell you.
I'm sure John Bolton himself thinks his appointment will last forever, just as I'm sure that Trump is content to string him along and let him think that for as long as he needs him around before he'll ultimately turn around and can his mustached ass too. Bolton's just a useful idiot, really.
It always amazes me that people are surprised when this guy fires his staffers.
Newsflash, it's sort of what he's known for, and what we elected him to do.
So what is war-mongering John Bolton's actual purpose and how is Trump not completely off his rocker for setting him up in his administration?
Well, the Persuasion Filter would suggest that Trump is looking to harness that very same fire and fury, not to go to war with North Korea or Iran, but to make them think that's what we want to do. In other words, John Bolton is there to scare the shit out of our enemies. To be the bad cop in contrast to Trump being good cop.
Of course, this is not my original idea. Credit goes to Scott Adams, but I'm happy to boost it.
Contrast is an important part of persuasion and Trump has twice created a situation in where there is a high degree of contrast between himself and other members of his foreign policy team. And twice, this has (or will) prove effective in getting our enemies to shift their behavior towards what we want, which is peace.
He's controlling his opponent's options by limiting them to something they would never choose and something they'd begrudgingly choose but which is otherwise good for the U.S. The easiest thing for them to do would then be to take the path of least resistance, which because of how the situation has been framed, also happens to be the best case scenario.
You may recall last year when Trump famously said that North Korea would be met with "fire and fury," and nearly everyone proceeded to freak the fuck out and run around like the sky was falling and the god-damned apocalypse was about to commence. Clearly, that didn't happen. Not even close, and we appear to be getting further and further from it by the day; though I'll be the first to admit I might have given into such fears as well if not for the mystical utterances of a certain wizened old wizard.
And no, I'm not talking about Gandalf or Dumbledore:
Scott Adams was the first to point out that "fire and fury" were actually magic words in the realm of persuasion, combining fear of being burned alive with the vivid ability to actually picture it, a suitable level of unpredictability in President Trump such that his enemies weren't sure whether such a threat was credible - but they were forced to assume it was - and the strategic ambiguity of leaving the details of how this would be accomplished entirely to their imaginations, which would almost certainly default to the worst possible scenario.
In those days, Trump was the maniacal bad cop, invoking what Richard Nixon referred to as "the madman strategy" that worked out quite well for him, in fact. In contrast - because again, contrast is important to persuasion - Rex Tillerson was the sane, level-headed one just looking to talk it out. The options Trump was presenting to North Korea were that they could either talk to Secretary Tillerson or die in a fire.
Tough choice there.
Meanwhile, in the background, over the course of several months, the Trump administration met with the leaders of East Asia - South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, Thailand - and were well-received, in spite of everyone assuring us that Trump would be a total embarrassment to the U.S. on a global stage.
It would appear that the Negotiator-in-Chief succeeded in getting the Asian Ring, as I call them, to agree that North Korea posed a very serious problem and they would all join forces to deal with it.
We know this because several of the Chinese companies that were funding North Korea wound up suffering serious issues. South Korea captured a few ships trying to smuggle goods into the North. It didn't matter that we couldn't catch all of them, just the fact that it was known we caught some of them would send a message to others that getting caught is too costly a proposition. All around, the U.S. continued to put economic pressure on North Korea for months with the goal of completely destroying their economy, such that the Kim regime would be faced with an impossible choice of either giving into western demands or facing revolt from their own starving populations and possibly also dying in a fire.
Several of their nuclear facilities also appeared to suffer convenient accidents, which may or may not have been the result of the U.S. dropping the sky on them with the Rods of God.
Either way, since all that began, Korea made a huge spectacle of normalizing reunification during the Olympics, with North and South standing side by side during the opening ceremony in a profound visual display:
Kim Jung Un has recently called for denuclearization, giving himself an out by saying it was the dream of his father - which is probably a lie, but lets him save face. Many skeptics view this as just another stunt, that North Korea will not actually agree to such a deal, much like they have in the past; but several things are different this time. We've never had a Negotiator-in-Chief before who was willing to play his hand so close to the chest while making credible-sounding bluffs. We've not gone to the same lengths as before in crippling their economy. We've not had a situation where the Asian Ring was unanimously on our side. And our military tech is that much better.
Those who think Trump's saber-rattling will inevitably lead to nuclear war likely don't understand human psychology.
For starters, we've already survived the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, so the world is well-aware of what mutually assured destruction means. No one wants that. There is no incentive for us to attack North Korea, and Donald Trump even said so during his speech at the U.N., that we would only do such a thing if attacked first.
Likewise, both sides know full well that North Korea doesn't have the means to win a military war against the United States and its allies. At best, they could take out a handful of major East Asian cities, which would be tragic, but it would also result in their own total annihilation, much like Bolton is threatening. There's a difference between acknowledging it as a fact, in puffing your chest out, and in actually following through. Those are three different things, and both sides know how the situation will play out.
Both sides know we will blow North Korea back to the Stone Age if even one city gets nuked. So why would either of them instigate that? They wouldn't.
Again, the U.S. is not interested in shooting first because we frankly don't give a shit about their country apart from them threatening us and our friends, and the North Koreans are not interested in firing first because they value their own survival. Each is only posturing to gain respect of the other in order to force a peaceful negotiation; and, for the first time in history, it seems both sides finally understand each other's intentions clearly enough that they're willing to take a leap of faith and talk it out.
Saul Alinsky's first of the Rules for Radicals is that power is not just what you have, it's what your enemies think you have. In other words, how well you can bluff and use weapons-grade persuasion.
Donald Trump talks often about peace through strength.
What that actually means is, when people believe you to be credibly capable of doing them harm, they will tend not to mess with you. It also means you don't actually have to enact violence if people understand that you're willing and able to do so, should the need arise.
As terrible as the strike on Syria was, we haven't seen any sort of major military action by the Trump administration apart from going after ISIL, which most people would agree is a good thing. I would argue the strike on Syria served as a warning shot to the world. A statement of just how credible Trump really was, and how decisively (and possibly even borderline irrationally) he would resort to using violence on his enemies.
That message was heard by Syria, Russia, China, Iran, the Saudis, North Korea, and everyone else.
Once they got the message, he didn't have to send another one; and consequently, most of Trump's visits around the world have been a resounding success, moving the world closer towards peace. Saudi Arabia is becoming more moderate, Israel loves us, Russia appears to be behaving, and we'll see what becomes of Iran and Korea.
Within a short time of North Korea's call for denuclearization, old T-Rex got fired and in comes John Bolton. Now the roles are reversed. Remember that, before, Trump was the bad cop and Tillerson the good cop. I believe that Trump is now setting himself up to be the good cop with Bolton as the bad cop who will rain down with fire and fury if the Kim regime doesn't agree to talk with Donald Trump.
Again, tough choice for the Kim regime. Something else to keep in mind is that John Bolton owes this position to Donald Trump. Regardless of what you think of him, Trump is a businessman first and foremost. He's good at theatrics, at selling, at branding, at looking tough, and he's especially good at firing people, both of which play to his core strengths in this case. Bolton is there to do a job, so it's unlikely he will go rogue and act outside the dictates of his boss.
He still might. Always have to acknowledge that as a possibility, but it doesn't seem likely to me.
Again, if Trump had made this appointment at any other time prior - without first having set the table for peace talks with North Korea - I would have been right there with you and called this an insane, bellicose, and even dangerous, anti-liberty decision.
But hopefully, I've made a compelling enough case that this time is different and these are unique circumstances we find ourselves in.
The only question then comes down to whether or not you trust Donald Trump to know what he is doing and to make effective, moral decisions. That's the crux of the difference between his supporters and his detractors, and I guess we'll see which side history comes down on; but for my money, and given his track record thus far, I'm willing to trust him on this. To me, it is more likely than not he is acting knowingly, willfully, and strategically using Bolton to play up his enemies' fears in the hopes of forcing them to the bargaining table to talk peace.
Unfortunately, most of the populace are not trained to use the Persuasion Filter, and so they can't see what people like me, Scott Adams, Styxhexenhammer, and others in that circle see. So they are all just as afraid.
To those of you still afraid this appointment will lead to war, let me simply ask: why? Yes, he says scary things, but that's not meant for you. It's meant to help protect you from even scarier forces.
Apart from Syria and ISIL, which we already talked about, what evidence has Trump given you thus far that he's interested in military intervention? If anything, all his rhetoric and actions seem to lead to the exact opposite conclusion. So just take a deep breath, calm down for a second, and try to think. Forget about what he says. What has he done that would lead you to that conclusion?
By this point in his administration, George Bush had already launched the war in Iraq. Contrast!
Actions speak louder than words, and at the end of the day, my position is, I don't care what Trump says. I care about what he does. He can say whatever he wants, so long as he works to #MAGA.
So far, he's done enough for me to justify renewing my faith in him with this. But like anything else in life, I guess we'll see who's right. We don't live in a static world, and anything can happen. If I'm wrong, well, you get to say I told you so and I'll freely admit it, as I've always been willing to do since he took office; but if I'm right, this could lead to an unprecedented #GoldenAge of peace between the Koreas, and it'll be really hard for you to continue clinging to your hatred of the man after that.
Are you prepared to accept that possibility?