On the evening of Tuesday, 1 September, SIA’s Dr. John Bruni joined the United States Studies Centre (USSC) Webinar with special guest Ambassador John Bolton, former National Security Adviser to the Trump administration.
Contrary to any preconceived bias against Bolton for his handling of national security under the Bush administration – in regard to Iraq and Afghanistan – Bolton handled himself well.
Distancing himself from his former boss President Trump was easy to an audience who may well have been Trump sceptics.
Among Bolton’s key talking points was China and the current US administration’s failure to come to grips with the nature of the threat Beijing poses to the international community. Interestingly, Bolton mentioned that in the eventuality of a second Trump term, all of the angst and Sino-American hostility may quickly vanish if the US president manages to strike a deal with Xi Jinping over trade. In the eventuality of a second Trump term, should an entente between Trump and Xi come about, it is likely that the Uyghur, Tibetan and Hong Kong causes would quickly lose traction in the White House and among the American public, the American people being far more concerned about COVID19, the economy and racial tensions than foreign policy & the plight of others.
Bolton stressed the American president’s mercurial nature and his inability to focus on policy unless it directly benefited his polling or his reelection prospects. Another observation was that Trump successfully changed the way of American foreign policy in that it was all about striking personal relationships with heads-of-state rather than sticking with long-standing country-to-country relations and protocols.
For allies concerned about American abandonment in the eventuality of a second Trump term, Bolton suggested that allies reinvigorate existing lobbies with Congress and flatter the president in order to develop strong personal relations with him.
In conclusion Bolton seemed confident that a one-term Trump presidency would not derail the United States and its diplomacy. That whatever perceived damage Trump has done to the office of the president is reversible. However, if he does manage to get reelected, allies will have to hunker down and wait it out since, according to Bolton, Trump is an anomaly in American politics, not the norm.