foreign policy

Note to John Bolton: ‘Three Stooges of Socialism’ Is Not a Terrifying Allusion

Are you scared yet? Photo: John Springer Collection/Corbis via Getty Images

As his contribution to the Trump administration/GOP Red Scare of 2019–2020, White House national security adviser John Bolton gave a fiery speech to a group of aging Cuban-American veterans of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, and brought back many memories of those wonderful days of the Cold War. Some of his lines were a bit jarring, truth be told, as Politico’s report indicates:

The Trump administration’s aggressive positioning in the Western Hemisphere was made clear by the national security adviser, who said Wednesday: “We proudly proclaim for all to hear: The Monroe Doctrine is alive and well” — a reference to a policy used in the past to justify interventions in Latin America. 

The whole idea of the Monroe Doctrine, of course, was for the United States to resist Eastern Hemisphere (originally Western European) interference with Latin America, a concept that was made ideological when Cuba was a Soviet client state and the Russkies were fomenting revolution elsewhere. Yes, today’s Russia supports Venezuela’s Maduro, Nicaragua’s Ortega, and (not so warmly any more) Cuba’s Díaz-Canel, perhaps for old time’s sake. But it’s not as though it does so as the representative of any sinister (much less Marxist) scheme to subvert the hemisphere, unless neo-Tsarism has a future here, in which case Bolsonaro’s Brazil (which Bolton has lavishly praised) and his friend Trump’s USA are the most likely prospects.

In any event, rattling the old Cold War hobgoblins fits in with the administration’s foreign policy and domestic politics, so Bolton was given free rein to twist and shout: “In all, Bolton announced seven crackdowns and sanctions targeting the governments in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua,” reported Politico.

He also brought back some contemptuous lines about Maduro, Ortega, and Díaz-Canel as the “troika of tyranny” that he deployed in an earlier South Florida speech last year. “Troika” has a nice Russian ring to it, but seemed a bit derivative of George W. Bush’s famous “axis of evil” (referring to that era’s Republican demon-figures of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea). But another nickname he had for the three leaders is palpably counterproductive: “the three stooges of socialism.”

Someone needs to explain to Bolton and/or his speechwriter that “the Three Stooges” is not an allusion likely to strike fear into the hearts of good patriotic Americans fearing the theft of their priceless heritage of freedom. Perhaps if he wants to make fun of the three leaders, he could compare them to Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe, but the comedians were by no means a “troika of tyranny.”

Rhetorical logic aside, Bolton and his boss are in danger of arousing expectations about Latin America that they may not be willing to meet:

One of the Bay of Pigs veterans who attended Bolton’s speech, Frank de Varona, said he and other Cuban-Americans have liked what they’ve seen from Trump, which is why they backed him in 2016 and will again in 2020. But he wants to see more, starting with Venezuela.

“If Trump doesn’t get rid of Maduro somehow by 2020, he’s going to lose a lot of support,” said de Varona, who favors U.S.-led airstrikes in Venezuela in combination with ground troops sent by Colombia and Brazil.

I’m not sure how reviving the specter of yanqui imperialism comports with Trump’s America (meaning strictly God’s Country, the USA) First posture with its noninterventionist subtext. But apparently if it’s useful in keeping Florida in Trump’s column in 2020, the ends justifies the means.

Bolton’s ‘Three Stooges of Socialism’ Not Very Terrifying