Mar 24 2018

Factors that will determine Bolton’s success as NSA

Four factors will determine how effective John Bolton, the designated U.S. National Security Advisor, will be in his new position, said Dov. S. Zakheim, a former U.S. undersecretary of defence, in an article in The National Interest.

First, Bolton will need to find a way to get along with his new colleagues. When he was at the State department, Bolton acquired a reputation for being difficult. However, he was never fired, indicating he knew where the red lines lay and how to stay on the right side of them. In his new role, says Zakheim, “his job will be to provide the president with alternatives based on the different views of the executive agencies and the men and women who lead them. If he is to succeed, he will have to get along to go along.”

Second, Bolton will also need to retain a capable staff around him at the National Security Council. He will inherit a professional team from his predecessor H.H. McMaster and will need to keep as many of them on board as possible.

Third, his relationship with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will be crucial. Kushner’s reputation has been tarnished, with questions asked about his financial dealings and his management abilities. Yet despite having his security clearance downgraded, he remains an influential figure in the White House. For Bolton to succeed he will need to find a way to work around and to accommodate Kushner.

Finally, says Zakheim, Bolton will have to work with a narcissistic President Trump who will inevitably, probably sooner rather than later, reverse policies that Bolton himself has recommended. At this point Bolton, whose integrity cannot be doubted even by those who disagree with his hawkish outlook, will stand up to President Trump and, if previous events are anything to go by, will get fired.