Thursday, July 23, 2020

The tl;dr version...

Just now finishing up a curiosity reading of Bolton's alleged tell-all, The Room Where it Happened. Unless all your political news consumption comes from a single-viewpoint source...and a shallow one at that...the book contains very little in the way of surprises.

Bolton writes coherently and understandably, but he's no author. The book is organized, such as it is, more by issue than chronologically. So you start off with the activities that led to Bolton's appointment to his gig, and then you follow a single topic chronologically...say, North Korea or Iran...from Bolton's arrival until resignation, before picking up another thread.

This is not how you write an engrossing page-turner. As a matter of fact, it's a bit of a slog.

Like most people who feel compelled to write a memoir, Bolton's the hero of his own story. He's distinctly not a fan of Mattis, personally or politically, and can't resist being snide any time their agendas crossed, which was frequently.

His opinions on Pompeo are more ambiguous; ideologically they were on the same side of most issues, but career bureaucrat Bolton occasionally feels the need to dunk on Pompeo, who he sees as a politician with ambitions and who views the Sec State gig as a stepping stone to further offices.

Trump, in Bolton's view, is portrayed as a dude completely in over his head on matters of national security and foreign policy.

While Bolton is definitely a hawkish interventionist on security matters, with no qualms about a little regime change if he thinks it will further American security and interests, he's not a fan of nation building. In the book he calls it out for being based on a flawed and fundamentally Marxist proposition: The idea that if a people have stable lives and jobs, they will be too happy and busy to be mean ol' terr'rists and hate America.

I think if one wants a complete library of the current political era, it's definitely worthy of a place in it, but if you're expecting a spicy and titillating page turner of a tell-all, shop elsewhere.