Editorial: It’s bad news that John Bolton now has Trump’s ear

The Orange County Register
Guest Editorial

President Trump’s selection of John Bolton as national security advisor should concern all Americans tired of squandering American resources on perpetual war abroad.

Bolton, an unabashed war hawk and cheerleader for any and every opportunity for American military intervention, will have the ear of the president at a critical time for American foreign policy.

The North Koreans have opened up to more dialogue. The Iran deal, which has by all indications kept Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, remains on uncertain footing. And war rages on in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Bolton’s appointment, just as the United States should be concluding its numerous conflicts abroad could, very generously, be seen as a test of the “madman theory,” in which the appointment of Bolton is part of an deliberate attempt by Trump to frighten other countries into bending to America’s will.

Or, more plausibly, Trump, like his Republican predecessor George W. Bush, just happens to like Bolton’s simplistic jingoism. If the latter is true, then Americans should be troubled by the thought of what advice Bolton might give as Trump navigates complex foreign-policy problems.

Even the most cursory review of Bolton’s record makes apparent how off-base and dangerous his worldview is.

For instance, while Trump has rightly and consistently condemned the Iraq war, recently calling it “the single worst decision ever made,” Bolton was one of its staunchest defenders from the beginning and has continued to defend it. “I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct,” he told the Washington Examiner in 2015. To make that conclusion after a war that led to hundreds of thousands of casualties, cost American taxpayers $1 trillion — or more, depending on how you calculate it — and a decade later contributed to the rise of ISIS is not the insight of someone who should be anywhere near the White House.

Over the years Bolton has also called for, among other things, preemptive attacks on Iran and North Korea and regime change in Libya, Syria and Venezuela. While we share concerns about the authoritarian governments those countries have had, the idea that military conflict and regime change are the best paths forward are inconsistent with what we’ve actually seen.

As we’ve witnessed in Libya and Syria, American efforts to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya only produced greater instability and a hotbed of extremism, while support for rebels in Syria produced a brutal civil war and also facilitated the rise of extremist groups. Additionally, Bolton’s longstanding advocacy for attacks on Iran and North Korea threaten to undermine the progress that has been made toward peace and stability.

The appointment of Bolton as national security advisor is an important reminder of the fact that Congress has ceded considerable war-making authority to the executive branch. Vaguely defined Authorizations for Use of Military Force passed in 2001 and 2002 have empowered the executive branch to recklessly involve American military resources abroad.

We call on Congress to live up to its responsibilities, repeal the AUMFs and limit the damage a Bolton-advised president could possibly do abroad.

— The Orange County Register, March 27