WASHINGTON - US new NSA designate John Bolton hardline views and advocacy of military power, including pre-emptive strikes against adversaries, has long been public.
He is ferociously opposed to Iran, wants punitive strikes against North Korea , and is leery even about India.
In the time he was the US ambassador to UN during the Bush years, he worked actively with his Chinese counterpart to thwart New Delhi’s bid for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council, clashing frequently with India’s then UN ambassador Nirupam Sen over a range of issues.
But it is his recent stand on North Korea, Russia, Iran and free trade — and his walrus mustache — that has the Washington commentariat wondering how long he will last in the Trump White House.
In fact, the walrus mustache was what held up his appointment in the first place, with President Trump reportedly expressing disapproval of whiskers that he thought were out of place for a senior aide.
Eventually, the president has had to endure the facial hair after he dispensed with a bald NSA whose cerebral presentations were reportedly beyond his bandwidth.
Not that this relationship is going to be smooth sailing. Some of Bolton’s positions are distinctly different from Trump’s — for instance, he is a hawk on Russia, while Trump is deferential to Moscow; he is also a votary of free trade; Trump isn’t.
They both agree on the Iran nuclear agreement is a “bad deal”. However, it is Bolton’s views on North Korea that is coming up for increased scrutiny against the backdrop of a proposed summit meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un.
“It is perfectly legitimate for the US to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” Bolton wrote in a Wall Street Journal in February this year, a stand made by a country that is 6,800 miles away and armed with nuclear weapons, but one that is terrifying South Korea and Japan, which are next door to North Korea and a short missile strike away. The conservative American media though celebrated Bolton’s appointment.