Three O'Clock in the Morning with John Bolton

Three O'Clock in the Morning with John Bolton

Last Friday, Willis offered some initial takes on the replacement of H.R. McMaster with John Bolton as national security adviser. Here are a few more thoughts on the elevation of a man who advocates US-backed regime change in Iran and North Korea, still stands by the decision to invade Iraq, sees the EU as a drag on US power, and never met an alliance or multilateral institution he wouldn’t use as a doormat:


Trump’s foreign policy team is now much more uniformly hawkish and aligned with Trump’s own impulses, particularly his disdain for alliances and constraints on American power. With Mike Pompeo at the State Department and Bolton as national security adviser, what Trump feels viscerally about foreign policy issues that he largely doesn’t understand will now be corroborated intellectually by the men around him who do. Only in this group could a mad dog be considered a dove.

It’s worth remembering that the national security adviser’s job is to filter and interpret for the president the vast amounts of information that come from the various national security bureaucracies. It’s a job best suited to a careful listener without overt ideological passions. That’s not a description of John Bolton.

Bolton’s shares Trump’s unilateralist disposition, but… his strong support for regime change and pre-emptive war places him in the Dick Cheney school of ass-kicking interventionism, rather than the nationalistic isolationism of his one-time strategist Steve Bannon. That’s a subtle but steady shift for Trump now, whose 2016 campaign, you may recall, painted HER as the warmongering threat to world peace and American interests. How Trump’s base interprets Bolton’s influence on his foreign policy will be interesting to watch.

There is a certain high-stakes logic to picking an unabashed militarist like Bolton. Walking into a negotiation with him as your national security adviser is like placing a gun on the table before the chit-chat even starts. Adversaries will now understand that the threat of US military action is realer than at any previous point in their dealings with Washington. That may give Trump room to play the role of the reasonable dealmaker with his killers at bay. The trouble is, as every playwright knows: if you introduce a gun in the first act, it has to go off before the final curtain. If the Iranians or North Koreans do call Trump’s Bolton bluff, what happens next?

Lastly, I’d worry more about the 3am phone call than the 6am tweet now. If a domestic or international security crisis happens on Bolton’s watch, that wee-hours phone call is coming from, or going to, Bolton. Trump is notoriously impressed by the last person he’s spoken with before making a critical decision. In the event of a massive terrorist attack, a military accident in the skies over Syria or Korea, or some other unforeseen crisis… that person will now be John Bolton.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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