‘Keep friends close, enemies closer’: Why Donald Trump works with bloodthirsty Neocons

[Note: This article was sent to press just prior to the news that Donald Trump had requested the resignation of his National Security Advisor, John Bolton. Since that decision does not alter the argument made in this article, it is being presented here in its original form].

Trump supporters suffered a collective convulsion when foreign policy hawks, like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Elliott Abrams, were brought screeching into his administration. How could the US president be sincere about rolling back US military activities abroad, they asked, when the neocons had a hotline to his ear?

Yet here we are, almost three years later, and we’ve yet to witness Armageddon, although we do have a spectacular trade war raging with China. Mere mortals would view the cessation of US-driven hostilities as a positive development. For the US deep state, however, which depends upon military expansion and war for its very survival, it is an unspeakable disaster. In that sense, if Trump is really serious about draining the Swamp, abstaining from global aggression would be one of the most effective ways of achieving that goal.

Had Hillary Clinton squeaked out a victory in 2016, we’d all be handwringing once again, attempting to make sense of yet another killing field – this time in Syria – reminiscent of the former Secretary of State’s “We came, we saw, he died” psycho scenario that played out in both Iraq and Libya. The closest the Trump administration got to full-blown warfare came in April 2017 when it launched missiles at a Syrian air base purported to have been involved in a chemical attack on civilians. Since that moment, which made the carnivorous media cheerleaders giddy from the promise of bloodshed, it has been relatively quiet on the Western front. So quiet in fact that John Bolton is probably wondering why Trump chose him as his security advisor in the first place.

Indeed, not only has Washington not invaded a foreign country since Trump entered the Oval Office, it looks like Bolton may be remembered as the White House National Security Advisor who was sent home without a head of some foreign leader to place above the fireplace. And certainly not for lack of trying.

The belligerent Bush-era hawk who once spoke out in favor of preemptive strikes against both Iran and North Korea, Bolton also failed, thus far, to drive Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro out of Caracas. In fact, Maduro has claimed, without providing any evidence, that Bolton was personally responsible for organizing an attempt on his life.


The setbacks for the hawks continues in Afghanistan, where Trump has expressed a willingness to cut a deal with the Taliban that will allow him to draw down US troops and declare a foreign policy victory ahead of 2020 elections. Yet conspicuously missing from those peace talks is John Bolton, who reportedly has been blacklisted for peace talks later this month.

According to a report in the Washington Post, quoting an anonymous source, “Bolton asked for a copy of the draft agreement the United States is trying to strike with the Taliban. But the U.S. envoy leading the negotiations, Zalmay Khalilzad, denied the request, saying Bolton could read the agreement in the presence of a senior official but not leave with it in hand…”

Most shocking of all, however, as far as the deep state is concerned, is Trump’s recent suggestion that he would be willing to sit down with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at UN headquarters later this month.

Trump made the comments after he was essentially ambushed during the G7summit in Biarritz, France last month. At the secret invitation of French President Immanuel Macron, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise visit to the meeting, to discuss possible ways of ending the standoff with Washington after the Trump administration pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal last year.


According to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, US sanctions are an effort to reduce Tehran’s oil exports—which provide some 40 percent of its revenue—to “zero.” Washington’s allies, however, fear that crushing the Iranian economy will eventually force Tehran into some sort of response, potentially a violent one, thereby giving the US a possible pretext for war.

“Iran’s strategy at this time is reducing its commitments under the nuclear deal,” Mehdi Mahmoudi, an Iranian journalist based in Tehran, told The Media Line. “Indeed, this tactic is successful because the European Union is now trying to do more and more work to appease Iran.”

Trump’s great gambit

In an effort to understand Trump and his balancing act between a government loaded with hawks, and a geopolitical chess game rigged to dynamite, there are at least three dynamics at play – ‘3D chess’ if you like.

First, Trump the relentless businessman, whose talents are to be found in the boardroom as opposed to the battlefield, understands the need for strong-arm tactics in order to get the best possible deal. This he hopes to accomplish by putting notorious Neocons like Bolton, Pompeo and Abrams on the government payroll. Their mere presence sends an unmistakable message to Trump’s opponents: Cut a deal with me or I will remove the leash from these warmongers, who will be only too happy to do the bidding of the deep state. Thus far the nerve-rattling strategy, despite the unfathomable risks involved, has worked like magic against North Korea.

Next, by keeping snarling Neocons on the payroll, Trump gives the deep state the ‘false security,’ as it were, that another regime change operation is just one false flag attack away. Despite the string of chemical attacks in Syria, and the attack on foreign vessels blamed on Tehran, thus far Trump has managed to avoid a full-blown military scenario in places like Syria and Iran. Of course all that could change in a millisecond, but for now a very tense ‘peace regime’ is in place.

Finally, by keeping some of the most prominent members of the deep state under his wing, Trump not only works towards his own self-preservation, but facilitates his campaign pledge to drain the swamp. The importance of a ruler keeping his enemies close was laid out millennia ago by Sun Tsu, the Chinese military strategist. The question at this time is whether Trump is sincere, or still up to the task, of carrying out his incredibly ambitious plan.

Considering the untold humiliations he has suffered since entering the White House, at the hands of a media that has been completely co-opted by the deep state, it seems doubtful Trump will forego his house-cleaning campaign. In that event, the likes of Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams and other Neocon officials will be less useful against foreign adversaries than they will be against battling the D.C. swamp creatures, even if they, the neocons – Trump’s eternal enemies that he has deemed to keep close as the sage Chinese strategist advised – are wholly unaware of the contributions they will make to the main event.

Strategic Culture

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