Fifteen years ago this month, the United States began its war in Iraq. John Bolton was an undersecretary of state then, and he strongly backed the bombing and invasion.
At that time, many experts, and a wide majority of Americans, did, too.
What’s so alarming about Bolton, who President Donald Trump named as his third national security adviser on Thursday, is that he still thinks the Iraq War was a good idea. These days most people, including Trump, understand it was a mistake that killed thousands of Americans and far more Iraqis, destabilized the country and seeded the region for the rise of the Islamic State.
Bolton, who replaces Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, is tough and knowledgeable. Trump will be the fourth president he has served but their views haven’t always aligned. Bolton supports the mission of NATO and understands that Vladimir Putin is a threat.
But Bolton’s attraction to war as a first resort, and his inability to learn from mistakes, are worrisome. He has argued for pre-emptive military strikes against both North Korea and Iran. He supports tearing up the nuclear deal with Iran, but has never offered an alternative to peacefully stem that nation’s aggressive ambitions. He has made a forceful case for bombing North Korea to prevent the newly nuclear power from getting the jump on the United States and South Korea. But he’s been mum on how to prevent the many casualties from a counterattack, which would likely include members of the United States military stationed in South Korea.
Bolton now joins the also-hawkish Mike Pompeo, who will be secretary of state. Both must understand Americans don’t want new, massive military conflicts overseas.
We have enough of those going on already, 15 years after supporters like Bolton promised we’d see quick victories, welcoming populaces and strong democracies.
— The editorial board