To say the Trump administration is unusual is an understatement. Ever since Donald Trump entered the White House as US president, his top aides have been caught in what looks like a revolving door. Exits are usually announced by him on Twitter. So too with John Bolton, America’s hawkish national security adviser who was fired on Tuesday. It’s well known that Trump had strong disagreements with Bolton on North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and various other global issues. Yet, the timing has been a source of wonder. After all, it was Bolton who was reported to consider the Taliban unworthy of talks, and Trump seems to have veered around to that view after the group carried out a bombing in Afghanistan in brazen defiance of US calls for a ceasefire on their part.
Observers trace the differences between the two back to the time Trump tried to make a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea, whose intentions Bolton has been sceptical of. Relations are thought to have worsened over Iran, which Bolton wanted dealt with militarily. The adviser was said to have been opposed to Trump’s snap decision to call off an attack on Iran earlier this year in retaliation to the latter’s downing of a US drone. In general, Bolton has a record of mincing no words in advocating the unilateral application of U.S power. Under the George W. Bush administration, he was a stout supporter of Iraq’s invasion.
However, it’s unclear what earned Bolton the president’s sudden disfavour in recent days. Trump was keen on talks with the Taliban, scheduled for Camp David, and once the latter took to violence, the president had to retreat. Might Bolton have gloated? Who knows? It doesn’t matter, now that he’s gone.