No one should doubt it: John Bolton would like to start a war. That’s just who he is. Nobody in American public life today more deserves the sobriquet “war monger” than Bolton. Iran has been in his crosshairs ever since he helped Bush/Cheney score their smashing success in Iraq. North Korea is a more recent but no less salivating target.
Will he have his way? There’s good reason to worry that he might. He now takes up the position of the single most influential adviser to a simple-minded and highly suggestible commander in chief. Influential not only because of the proximity and access of the national security adviser to the president, but because of the natural personal chemistry between Trump and Bolton. They’re soul mates. Quite apart from his love for war, Bolton appears to be a genuinely nasty human being: bullying, vindictive, petty and intolerant of disagreement. Sound familiar? Do you wonder why Trump likes him? (Also, he’s seen him on Fox.)
Especially when we consider the Bolton appointment alongside the replacement of Rex Tillerson with uber hawk Mike Pompeo, it’s fair to say that the Trump administration now poses a clear threat to world peace. What comes next? The only fairly confident prediction that I would make is that the US will leave the Iran nuclear deal. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. Bolton will push for some kind of military action against Iran, North Korea or both. It won’t be all that easy. First, he has to convince Trump, whose instinctive truculence falls well short of Bolton’s fanaticism. Then, it’s hard to see how Trump/Bolton could do anything dramatic without Congressional authorization, which would not be a cakewalk even with the GOP in control. They could try to conjure up a Gulf of Tonkin-type pretext for a strike—more likely against North Korea than Iran. Hopefully, most of us are smarter than we were in 1964. But don’t get me wrong: I’m worried.