President Trump has stated repeatedly that he doesn’t want war. He has said this about North Korea, Syria, Nicaragua, and other possible foes. All of this seems to indicate that he is listening to some sensible aides. The view from the White House would have any observer conclude that the United States is not going to start, or get suckered into, a shooting war with any other nation.
If that’s all true, the question has to be asked: How did John Bolton get appointed to be U.S. national security adviser?
John Bolton has always been a warmonger, an advocate of armed conflict that always leads to larger government, even world government. This is the policy of the powerful segment of Washington luminaries known as “neoconservatives.” Most of them are Republicans masquerading as solid believers in the Constitution. But they aren’t even close to being supporters of what most thinking Americans want — which is strict adherence to a mind-your-own-business foreign policy that keeps our military forces away from unnecessary adventures and unwanted harm.
Bolton is a disciple of Dick Cheney, the former secretary of defense under President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) and Vice President to President George W. Bush (2001-2009). Cheney, a leading neoconservative, helped to launch in 1997 the now-defunct Project for the New American Century (PNAC). As an early member of this neoconservative group, Bolton (also a member of the world-government-favoring Council on Foreign Relations), signed on to promote such PNAC goals as increased military spending to enable the United States to “carry out our global responsibilities” and support the U.S. government’s role in the formation of “an international order.” The PNAC further distinguished itself by initiating a call for a second attack on Iraq in order to achieve goals not won during the 1991 Desert Storm conflict. The new attack on Iraq would, according to the PNAC, succeed in replacing Saddam Hussein with someone more in tune with PNAC desires.
Almost immediately after its 1997 formation, PNAC leaders sent a letter to President Clinton urging the second attack on Iraq. Bolton signed the letter along with more than a dozen others. When Clinton didn’t perform as requested (probably because his impeachment problem was all he could handle at the time), the PNAC crowd sent separate letters to House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott seeking the removal of Saddam Hussein and the placement of “a strong U.S. military presence in the region.” In other words, military action. The neocon blueprint for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the reintroduction of U.S. forces into that beleaguered country had been spelled out. Then came the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack costing thousands of American lives. Immediately, PNAC sent a letter to President George W. Bush signed by three dozen of its members (including Bolton) urging an immediate second invasion of Iraq “even if evidence does not link Iraq” to the horrific loss of life via terrorism.
U.S. forces did return to Iraq in 2003. They captured Saddam Hussein (who was later tried and executed) and created additional havoc in the already wounded nation. No evidence has ever been discovered pointing to Saddam Hussein having any responsibility for 9/11. This second invasion of Iraq is now looked upon by many of its former promoters as an unmitigated disaster. But not by John Bolton.
Bolton originally served the George W. Bush administration as undersecretary of state for arms control. In this post, he campaigned for attacks not only on Iraq, but also on Iran and North Korea. He later won appointment by President Bush as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Never confirmed by the U.S. Senate after several tries, he nevertheless served as interim ambassador from August 2005 to December 2006. No longer a government official after that brief service, he still promoted war in his writing, speaking, and interviews. He held no other government post until early 2018 when Donald Trump named him as national security adviser. Immediately, he pushed for a preemptive military strike against North Korea.
If John Bolton gets his way, the United States will again be at war — and to this prominent neoconservative advocate of conflict, it doesn't seem to matter where. Sadly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo largely shares the Bolton modus operandi.
Approximately 200 years ago, John Quincy Adams, our nation’s sixth president, had a markedly different view of the goal of U.S. foreign policy. He stated: “America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Wouldn’t that be a welcome attitude today! Therefore, we find ourselves looking for an answer to the question: “Why is John Bolton serving as U.S. national security adviser?”
John F. McManus is president emeritus of The John Birch Society.