‘Why I believe the US is now a rogue state’

On the warpath: US President Donald Trump, and his new national security adviser, John Bolton.
by Mehdi Hasan

The political editor for UK Huffington Post and a presenter for Al-Jazeera. He has also worked at the New Statesman and Channel 4, and written a biography of the former Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband.

Donald Trump rose to power partly by criticising US military interventions abroad. But as new stories emerge of chemical warfare in Syria, the president is surrounding himself with “hawks”.

Donald Trump is busy assembling the most belligerent US cabinet in living memory. His most senior appointees are not just super-hawks who like to bomb first and ask questions later; they share a sneering disdain for international law.

Let’s start with ex-CIA director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, who is now only a Senate vote away from becoming America’s top diplomat. As a member of Congress in 2014, Pompeo opposed a nuclear deal with Iran and suggested launching nearly “2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity”. An evangelical and ultra-conservative Christian, Pompeo “appears to view American foreign policy as a vehicle for holy war”, according to a profile in Slate magazine.

But perhaps most worrying of all, there’s Trump’s new national security adviser: John Bolton. One of the key architects of the catastrophic and illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, which he continues to defend, Bolton now clamours for regime change in both North Korea and Iran, regularly writing op-eds with headlines such as “The legal case for striking North Korea first” (The Wall Street Journal).

Trump, Bolton and Co seem hell-bent on having the United States join this ‘small group of rogue regimes’

He is a perfect fit with the Trump White House; the right mix of aggressive truculence and xenophobic nationalism. The president, with his neo-fascist “America First” mantra, made similar noises to Bolton throughout the election campaign — loudly and unashamedly endorsing war crimes such as waterboarding and the theft of Iraqi oil.

Since coming to office, lawless policies have matched the lawless personnel.

Trump’s US has little respect for multinational institutions. Last June, the administration announced it would be withdrawing from the landmark Paris agreement on climate change. In November, Bashar al-Assad’s Syria agreed to join. The US is now the only country in the world to reject the pact.

Or take trade. Trump scrapped the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal on his third day in office and has since threatened stiff new tariffs against imports from both China and the EU. “Trade wars are good, and easy to win,” the president tweeted last month.

Trump and his war cabinet are gearing up for military action on two fronts: against the Iranians and the North Koreans (don’t be surprised either if Bolton succeeds in nixing the president’s proposed meeting with Kim Jong-un). Despite claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, nuclear tensions with Moscow could also escalate. Once again, it seems, the US is going rogue.

Is it any wonder that approval ratings for Trump and the US are in free fall across the globe? Just 22% of those interviewed by the Pew Research Centre in 37 countries expressed confidence in Trump to do the right thing in international affairs, compared with 64% who had similar confidence in Barack Obama in his final years in office. “The share of the public with a positive view of the US,” noted Pew, “has plummeted in a diverse set of countries from Latin America, North America, Europe, Asia and Africa”.

America first; the world last.

“The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based,” declaimed the president in his speech to the UN General Assembly in September. Yet Trump, Bolton and Co seem hell-bent on having the United States join this “small group of rogue regimes”.

Welcome to an increasingly lawless presidency — at home and abroad.

This is an extract from an article published by the New Statesman. You can find the full version under Become An Expert.

You Decide

  1. Is the US becoming a rogue state?


  1. Research a war that America has fought in the last 50 years and decide whether it was successful or not.

Word Watch

The term refers to someone who advocates an aggressive foreign policy. President George W. Bush is a good example. The opposite of a hawk is a dove.
Secretary of state
The secretary of state is the American equivalent of the British foreign minister. The current acting secretary of state is John J. Sullivan following the firing of Rex Tillerson. He will serve in the role until Trump’s nominee, Mike Pompeo, can be confirmed.
Military attacks.
John Bolton
A former administration official during the era of President George W. Bush.
Iraqi oil
Many opponents of the US and UK invasions of Iraq believe the two governments were guided by a desire to control Iraq’s vast oil wealth, rather than any real wish to make Iraq a safer place by removing Saddam Hussein.
Trans-Pacific Partnership
A proposed trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States, which could not go ahead after the US pulled out.

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