Venezuela Exposes the Myth of John Bolton’s “Genius”
April 30 was the real April Fools’ Day in Venezuela: They proclaimed a coup and nobody came.
The fiasco of the latest obviously unsuccessful US attempt to topple twice democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro made a laughing stock of the US government throughout the world and is now exposing new splits in the Trump administration in Washington. It is also exposing a dangerous but also ridiculous myth that Washington has credulously swallowed for generations – the idea that National Security Adviser John Bolton is actually competent.
No one among the carefully trained castrated geldings of the US mainstream news media and their pseudo-liberal and libertarian outliers has ever dared to ask how able Bolton actually is. He is held in awe and even fear for his supposed brilliant intellect and for his undoubted energy and relentless determination to push the policies he supports with tunnel vision and fanatical relentlessness as hard as he can.
Yet given such undeniable “qualities” what is truly astonishing is how useless Bolton has been in pursuing his own primary foreign policy goals for more than 40 years.
He failed to prevent the first president to take him seriously, Ronald Reagan to conduct sweeping nuclear arms reductions with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and to push ahead with Gorbachev to dismantle the Cold War. These policies were anathema to Bolton who prophesied – falsely – that war and catastrophe would flow from them. But Reagan ignored him and pushed them through anyway.
Now Bolton has destroyed Reagan’s legacy of peace by convincing current President Donald Trump to scrap one of Reagan’s greatest achievement, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
He succeeded in helping provoke the US invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq under President George W. Bush in 2003 but failed to persuade even Bush, Junior and his top foreign policy adviser, National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to pull out of any arms control treaties whatsoever.
Then, the Iraq misadventure was so appallingly bungled that Bolton failed to get any traction whatsoever for his priority project of toppling the government of Iran, even if it took a full scale war to do it.
In Washington, even Bolton’s greatest critics among libertarians and paleo-conservatives have spoken for decades with awe of his supposed brilliant intellect, command of all details, endless energy and ability to read and keep track of everything. But now, the latest failed coup in Venezuela instead reveals an ignorant, simplistic rash adventurer and gambler who charges head on into dangerous situations and who relies on bullying and bluster alone to get his way.
Bolton showed none of the ruthless, devious subtlety of a Dwight D. Eisenhower in masterminding a coup and fragrant breach of international law without appearing to have anything to do with it (a skill which Ronald Reagan, though far less masterful than the revered Eisenhower also attempted in Iran-Contra).
Bolton’s fingerprints were all over the hard-charging policy of propping up ridiculous Juan Guiado as America’s cardboard cutout puppet to run Venezuela, even though he had no credibility whatsoever.
Bolton is in fact is an awesomely bad judge of choosing his own allies in other countries. His combination of recklessness and vanity means he is always a sucker for whatever smooth-talking sociopath can worm his way into his presence.
This explains how the late, unlamented Ahmed Chalabi was able to convince Bolton and his neocon friends that he (Chalabi)) would be welcomed by tens of millions of Iraqis as soon the US armed forces invaded (“liberated” was the politically approved term) his country and how Zalmay Khalizad, a catastrophic clown, was acclaimed as an infallible guru on Afghanistan.
Bolton is widely known to have no small talk, private interests, charm or social skills whatsoever. Far from confirming his “genius”, as his many worshipful courtiers claim, this only confirms his haplessness.
If Bolton played poker he would be skinned alive. He cannot read people and being an obsessive courtier and flatterer himself, he always falls flat on his face for the flattery of others. The arch-manipulator is in reality the easiest of figures to manipulate.
Once the strange miasma of worshipful myth is stripped from Bolton, all the confusions and bungles of the April 30 Coup That Never Was in Venezuela become clear.
This was Bolton’s project. He endlessly flattered, bullied, insisted, connived, met and wheedled others to get his way. But his policy was narrow, unimaginative, brutal and straightforward. He ignored all reputable intelligence that did not fit his ignorant preconceptions. His planning was superficial, sloppy and inept.
Bolton drew sweeping, cartoon-simple outline pictures of reality in his head and he truly imagined that complicated, subtle and potentially dangerous policies could be easily and instantaneously implemented by untrained, ignorant bunglers. Being a reckless bungler himself, he only loved and embraced every other one he met and recruited.
It should therefore be no surprise that Bolton has never run anything outside of obscure government offices in his life. In his own career as a manager and administrator, he has been consistently renowned for his sloppiness, generating miserable morale, arrogance, bullying, screaming tempers and treating his staffs with contempt. Why should anyone be surprised?
In appointing Bolton as his National Security Adviser, Donald Trump catastrophically ignored the sage advice of one of the greatest combat generals the Western World has ever known, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery: “Beware the energetic fool: He will bury you all.”
By Martin Sieff
Source: Strategic Culture