My response on John Bolton’s latest memoir

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July 7, 2020

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By Ararat Kostanian

Memoirs written by prominent figures and professionals, often appear on the lists of best-selling books, due to the great interest of the readers that seek comprehensive understanding of issues not found in academic or theoretic publications that are mainly concentrated on pure facts and evidences. In this case, John Bolton’s latest book “The Room Where It Happened” became one of the best-selling memoirs in truly short period. Grasped the attention of the international media, remarks came from John Bolton himself and high US officials such as President Trump and secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Interestingly, both have criticized John Bolton for not covering the truth; President Trump has called him stupid, and Mike Pompeo have mentioned that John Bolton is a liar. It is evident that there are many controversies regarding John Bolton’s latest memoir; specially among the politicians close to Trump administration and the commentators who often appear on Fox TV Channel. Thus, this article will bring forward my response in terms of analysis of the important aspects that have been taken place in global politics. I will cover issues related to the Middle East, Russia, and the growing impact of China. Hence, this article should not be considered merely a book-review.

The Conservative hawk that seems has never changed

John Bolton, is known for many decades as one of the harshest politicians when it comes to issues such as Iraq, Syria, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, North Korea and China and he continues to believe that those countries are considered as threats to the United States. In his memoir, John Bolton often tries to persuade President Trump to take tough actions such as military interventions and regime changes in Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea. On Russia and China, the US administration have chosen the strategy of economic sanctions to balance the growing global influence of Russia and China; the two superpowers that have been deteriorating the world hegemony of the United States in global arena. It will be crystal clear for the memoir readers, that John Bolton as an expert, hasn’t developed and learnt about the new circumstances have taken place in global politics and his ideology-strategy looks the same as it was during the George W.Bush administration, as the United Stated had invaded Afghanistan, Iraq and called several countries as “Axis of evil”.

America’s old song and outdated lyrics VS Russian and Chinese new melodies

In my opinion, the Trump administration in general and John Bolton in particular, have shown lack of understanding of the changes have been taken place in global politics starting from the financial crisis that hit the United States in 2008. Meanwhile, China has used the chance and put all its attention on building effective social system and economic reforms, gradually developed its economy which resulted to the revelation of the “One Belt One Road Initiative” that is known today as a strategy to become from a regional actor to global superpower. Parallel to China’s economic advancements, the current situation in the Syrian war has shifted the balance of power in Middle East towards Iran and Russia. Currently, Russia and Iran considered as one of the most advanced countries in terms of its military and sophisticated defense systems. Particularly, Russia is the key military actor in Eurasia and Iran is the ballistic missiles champion in middle East.

As a consequence, such outcomes have been the pillars of the emergence of the multilateral world where the unilateral hegemony of the United States started to erode in such regions which are not under the influence of the Western orbit; the Middle East, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America (Venezuela-Cuba). Although, the United Stated is still considered a superpower, but its influence shifted from global into local (specific spots). In other worlds, in all above mentioned regions, the United States has local allies with limited power of influence, and other emerging countries have started to play bigger role. For instance, Israel and the Kurds with no national country are the key allies of the United States in Middle East, whereas its adversary countries have been making alliances and presented in one anti-American faction; such as Iran, Syria, the resistance bloc in Lebanon, Shia militants in Iraq, Hamas in Palestine.

The current situation in Middle East shows that Israel is under constant threat and out of fear willing to annex the West Bank. As it is mentioned in the memoir, Israel does not have the capabilities and the chances to defend itself from any sudden attack orchestrated by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. On the other side, Kurds are totally abandoned by their allies and left alone under the control of the Turkish invaded troops in Northers Syria. Thus, even localized allies of the United States seem incapable to shift the balance of power to their side, let alone their ambitions to defend American interests in the region. As a proof, Trump often used harsh language regarding Bashar al Assad, Nicolas Maduro and Kim Jong-un in John Bolton’s memoir during meetings with his administration members; such as “ kill Maduro” or “Assad is an Animal”, but in reality those words stayed only as an expressions and most of the time he wanted to have a meeting and solve problems through negotiations. Moreover, Trump’s harsh tweets and silent actions shows the inability of the United States of taking tough measures against its enemies. This means, the United States today, is very different from what have been during George W.Bush administration, where words very quick became into military actions.

As for “One Belt One Road Initiative” plan, international experts in general have been emphasizing its economic importance and the positive outcomes that the trade route could bring to the world from Asia to Europe; taking into consideration the high quality of some of the Chinese products and services specially in technology and robotics and its eligible price compared to its American products and services. Moreover, I should stress that the “One belt One Road Initiative” is more than simply a trade route. As it was during the Old Silk Road, people to people relations brought countless cultural, linguistic, and philosophical exchanges among the people who had been in interactions due to the trade. For Example, a Chinese dress with a dragon appeared in Armenia that time and a statue of Armenian man holding a cup of wine. The word (ma) in Chinese mandarin have appeared in Armenian (mi) that to this day it is used as a question mark. Today, China’s modern political and social system interests many people around the world, and that became evident after China won over the pandemic and have been able to reach for help to countries both with medical equipment and medicines and by online seminars linking doctors, academics and diplomats from all over the world. China’s model needs further exploration and know-how implementation specially for developing countries. On the Other hand, the United States in on the top of the countries who failed to combat the Coronavirus epidemic and for many years it represented itself as the most advanced, civilized, and powerful nation on earth. At last, to my surprise, John Bolton, in his 500 pages long memoir, blamed China for its communist regime, without mentioning China’s success in combatting the Coronavirus Pandemic.

John Bolton’s memoir is an interesting book for those who are interested in knowing the personal interactions in Trump administration, how decisions are made regarding US foreign and national policy and how American politicians see and evaluate the world. In terms of John Bolton’s writing style, the memoir was full of detailed facts, but lacks philosophy. At the same time too boring to read till the end. It cannot be compared with the memoirs of Henry Kissinger or Barack Obama.

Ararat Kostanian, Junior research fellow, Oriental Studies Institute, National Academy of Science of Armenia. Areas of specialty: Middle East current affairs, Turkish foreign policy, International politics.

7 July 2020

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