LDV’s Top Twelve of 2016: #3 John Bolton as Trump’s Secretary of State?

Over the next few days, we will be publishing our twelve most read posts of 2016. Many thanks to the 533,000 people who have visited the site over the past tumultuous 12 months. 

In 3rd place is a piece from Ciaran McGonagle criticising one of Donald Trump’s potential choices for US Secretary of State. Unfortunately, the guy who did get it, Exxon Mobii’s Rex Tillerson, is arguably even worse.


News that John Bolton is being considered for the role of Secretary of State in President-elect Trump’s administration should give liberals, multi-lateralists, indeed anyone who values human rights and the rule of law, much cause for much concern.

As you may recall, John Bolton served as both Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and, temporarily, as Permanent Representative to the United Nations under the Bush administration. His brief tenure at the United Nations was cut short as the 2006 Democratic mid-term sweep removed any realistic prospect that Bolton’s nomination would be confirmed.

With Republican majorities now in place for at least the next 2 years, it seems unlikely that Trump’s will encounter similar problems with his own appointments.

Bolton, as the United States’ chief diplomat, would represent a particular threat to the global order. Phlegmatic and staunchly nationalistic, Bolton led the United States’ opposition to the International Criminal Court, describing it as a “threat to American security interests”, removing the US as signatory before negotiating bilaterally with nations to exempt US nationals from prosecution for war crimes. Unashamedly unilateralist, as Permanent Secretary to the UN he even claimed that there was no such thing as the United Nations, with the international community ostensibly being led by the United States and, even then, only in furtherance of its own narrow self-interest.

Bolton’s appointment would mark a return to Bush-era foreign policy, reviving debates over everything from Guantanamo to water-boarding to US leadership within the United Nations itself. Trump, while taking a decidedly isolationist stance on the campaign trail, has spoken positively of water-boarding (“and worse…”) and the extra-judicial killing of, not only suspected terrorists, but of their families as well. A return to Bush-era phraseology of “enhanced interrogation” and “enemy combatants” is already creeping into Trump’s limited lexicon, with promises of “enhanced vetting” of migrants, particularly those of the Islamic faith.

From the UK’s perspective, a scaled-up, retooled and, perhaps, rebranded “War on Terror” would represent a significant foreign policy recalibration which the Government would need to adapt to. Trump is on record as claiming he would be comfortable working in concert with Putin to support Assad in Syria, a regime which has brutalized combatants and civilians and that has, in recent times, used chemical and biological weapons to subdue civil unrest. Would Theresa May’s government align itself with a Trump-Putin axis in the middle-east?

The UK’s record of complicity in extra-judicial rendition of terrorist suspects en route to Guantanamo is well documented. Would this government cooperate with Trump in engaging in extra-judicial killings, rendition and torture, whether upon or directed from UK territory? Would UK assets be used? Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in discussing the use of UK-manufactured weapons by Saudi Arabia during bombing raids in Yemen, has betrayed complete indifference as to the implication of UK arm sales into conflicts where fundamental abuses of human rights and breaches of international norms are committed on an almost daily basis.

Even if the UK government doesn’t succeed in its long standing policy objective of repealing the Human Rights Act, the Prime Minister’s recent denunciation of liberalism demonstrates a clear direction of travel.

In little over 6 months, it is conceivable that the permanent members of the UN Security council could be represented by Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinpeng, Marie Le Pen and Theresa May. Should this frightening prospect come to fruition, I have little faith that the current UK government could act as any kind of a bulwark against the most troubling excesses of what may one day come to be known as a modern-day “Axis of Evil”.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in From the LDV Archive.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • William Francis
    @Steve Trevethan "Might our party offer a real alternative by espousing the practical realities of Modern Monetary Theory?" What realties are those? MMT h...
  • Andy Boddington
    @James Pugh. Your argument would have been correct if it had been written fifty years ago. The Welsh Marches and Brecon and Radnorshire have changed. The Welsh ...
  • Nonconformistradical
    @Jeff Wytch Farm is a conventional oilfield where liquid oil and gas have been trapped underground below impermeable rocks. The oil and gas are accessed by dri...
  • expats
    This morning I watched Laura Kuenssberg's 'grilling' of Kwasi Kwarteng... Unsurprisingly she didn;t ask him about his 'Britannia Unchained' claims.. 1) "...
  • expats
    Jeff 25th Sep '22 - 2:03pm....That came much later, in 1976, after two years of Labour government… Labour came to power in 1974 when the UK was in the midd...