The US is too powerful

US Foreign Policy: How Powerful is John Bolton?

"Is John Bolton the Most Dangerous Man in the World?" This is the title of a comment that appeared in the British newspaper "The Guardian". The author is not the only one who is suspicious of the US President's National Security Advisor.

Many international media are concerned with the question of where American foreign policy is headed. And who is actually at the helm: President Donald Trump or his security advisor John Bolton?

"Bolton has been pursuing an anti-globalist, nationalist agenda of American supremacy for many years," says Thomas Jäger, Professor of Political Science at the University of Cologne. Bolton is a hardliner who is not at all afraid to use military means.

Iran and the mullah regime have been a particular thorn in the side of the conservative politician for many years. His rhetoric makes it clear: the regime has to go, with violence if necessary.

Now the situation between Washington and Tehran actually seems to be escalating. US diplomats are being withdrawn from the Middle East country while an aircraft carrier, bomber squadron and air defense systems have been shipped from the US towards the Persian Gulf.

According to US media reports, Bolton is said to have asked the Pentagon to check whether the US could send 120,000 soldiers to the region. Trump denies that this request should ever have been made, but adds: If American troops were to be deployed, he would send more than 120,000.

Brothers in spirit

From the unjustified invasion of Iraq, which ultimately prepared the perfect breeding ground for the rise of the IS terrorist militia, to the never-ending chaos in Syria - from the point of view of many Americans, military interventions have not proven to be particularly effective in recent years.

Bolton sees it differently, says Jäger. "He would say that we have to strike much harder and much earlier, so preventively." Trump's credo, on the other hand, has so far been: No more, but less international military presence. No more "stupid wars". "America first", right?

"Trump was fundamentally misunderstood in Germany for two years," says Jäger. Contrary to what is often commented on and written, Trump has never pursued an isolationist agenda, says the political scientist. "When it comes to American supremacy, Trump and Bolton are completely in agreement."

Both are nationalists who want to widen the gap between the US and the rest of the world again. "Trump literally means 'make America great again' in foreign policy," says Jäger with certainty.

Strengthening the relative power of the USA, increasing the military budget, weakening other states economically - Trump and Bolton would pull together. "There is disagreement about the use of the military. Bolton wants to use it much more often, while Trump hesitates," says Jäger.

In the end, Trump does what he wants: threaten, abuse and then hit

"Trump is not the puppet of his advisors"

With tensions between Washington and Tehran growing, fears Bolton could prompt Trump to launch a military strike. Finally, the security advisor is also said to have given the president the decisive push to terminate the Iran deal last year. As if Trump was little more than Bolton's puppet. Or as the Los Angeles Times headlined "It's John Bolton's world. Trump is just living in it."

Thomas Jäger urges caution. "Trump is not the puppet of his advisors." The president has proven that he has his own views and, if in doubt, follows his ideas. In the case of North Korea, all signs had already been pointing to escalation, and in the end the president shook hands with the "little rocket man" with the "much larger atomic button".

"It is important for Trump to make it clear that he is the president and that the others are only his advisors," says Jäger. That is why the US head of government is very sensitive to speculation about Bolton's influence on him. He doesn't want to hear about internal power struggles in the White House.

Nevertheless, the advisory staff around Trump pose a danger that should not be underestimated, says Jäger. The problem is the homogeneity of Trump's troops. "John Bolton's assessment of a particular situation is only corroborated by someone like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo." Other perspectives and attitudes? Nothing.

There is also the great danger of an escalation in Iran. Bolton has repeatedly stressed that Iran should be careful not to get in the way of the Americans. "The fact that Iran is acting contrary to American interests and thwarting them, however, is nothing new. It has been the case all the time," says Jäger.

But Bolton's statements would have made a new perception prominent: Iran provokes, the US is threatening to bring the military into position, ready to strike at the next insolence (justified).

"With that he could actually put Trump in a situation in which the president thinks he cannot do otherwise, because otherwise he will lose face." Should the president then resort to military means in Iran, a long-cherished wish for John Bolton should come true.