With Secretary of State Tillerson widely expected to leave the administration soon, why is President Trump reportedly considering moving CIA Director Mike Pompeo to State and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton to CIA? Pompeo is doing an excellent job at CIA, and the President needs a strong hand whom he trusts heading up that powerful agency. Senator Cotton’s senatorial term doesn’t expire until 2020. If he moves to State, Arkansas’ Republican governor can replace him with an interim Republican appointee to the Senate, but the appointee will have to face the polls in 2018, with the possibility that a Democrat wins.
A far better option would be for the President to appoint John Bolton, an experienced diplomat whose hard-line foreign policy views are close to the President, as opposed to Tillerson’s. The British newspaper Independent has speculated that the media-conscious President doesn’t like Bolton’s mustache. If that’s all that’s preventing the appointment, someone should send the former ambassador to the UN a razor. If Henry IV famously converted to Catholicism to become French king, muttering “Paris vaut bien une messe” (Paris is well worth a mass), surely the post at State is worth a shave. But the story may be apocryphal.
The more important East Asian theater
Bolton, Pompeo, and Cotton are all hard-liners on Iran. But the important action is in the Pacific. The world is awash with oil now, so Mideast oil is no longer so strategically critical to the US and Europe. The US in recent decades made matters worse by intervening in the Mideast, with its never-ending sectarian and tribal wars. This could have been avoided with smarter policies, but it’s probably too late for that now. Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, with quiet backing from the US in hardware and intelligence, should be able to balance Iran, especially if Turkey comes around — and this seems to be the logic of Trump and Tillerson’s distancing the US from the Kurds. Previous US support for the Kurds in Iraq and especially Syria greatly antagonized Turkish President Erdogan. With that difficulty out of the way, it’s hard to imagine Turkey being comfortable as a second-string player in an Iran-dominated Middle East.
Ambassador Bolton two days ago on Fox News stated that it was too late now to expect additional sanctions to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ICBM program:
“Absent some dramatic action by China, which I don’t see at the moment, we either have to decide that we’re going to use military force to destroy [North Korea’s] nuclear weapons program, or we better be prepared to live with North Korea with a capability to drop nuclear weapons on any American city that the leadership chooses. That’s going to be the choice in very short order,” Bolton added.
If the latter — a strategy of deterrence rather than prevention — the US should (1) state clearly and repeatedly that any hostile action by North Korea will be regarded as an act of war by China itself and (2) the US will meanwhile provide China neighbors, including Taiwan, the military means for protecting themselves, including