Now I’m worried.
Correction: Scared out of my shoes.
A guy who is so bellicose in his pronouncements that he couldn’t get a Republican Senate’s approval to be Union Nations Ambassador, a mere spokesperson role, is going to be National Security Advisor, the person most responsible for formulating and implementing our foreign policy.
John Bolton is the kind of one-dimensional Dickensian fool who makes great confrontational TV, but dangerously ignorant policy.
Bolton has in the past expressed a desire to bomb North Korea and Iran. He fully supported the Iraq War from day one until today, even after it was revealed that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or no ties to Al Qaida. He famously has opposed the International Criminal Court and the Biological Weapons Convention. He fully buys into the idea of a worldwide cultural war between the West and Islam. But like Trump, he doesn’t really like any other country. Correction, Trump does seem to harbor a fondness for totalitarian regimes, and Russia in particular.
If Bolton gets his way, thousands of American soldiers will die fighting major wars with Iran and North Korea, and tens of thousands more will have their lives ruined by physical injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of Koreans and Iranians will die, be injured or have their lives uprooted, most of whom will be innocent civilians. We will waste trillions of dollars that could go to infrastructure improvement, alternative fuel development and commercialization, education and help for the poor and elderly. Even worse, if nuclear weapons are detonated, it will poison our entire biosphere, leading to cancers and birth defects all over the world for decades, if not longer. It could also perhaps trigger the use of nuclear weapons against us by allies of Iran or North Korea.
At the very least, Bolton will encourage Trump to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, which will further isolate the United States from the rest of the world. The new tariffs on foreign goods, leaving the Paris Accord, not joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trump’s desire to renegotiate NAFTA and his constant rhetoric already have compelled the rest of the world to start cutting deals that cut America out. The result of the “America First” policy will be a slow, then faster shrinking of our economy.
Bolton plays to all of Donald Trump’s worst instincts and most pernicious beliefs. Trump has expressed the idea that only a war can bring the United States together. My take on that comment is that he means that a war behind which everyone unifies is the only way to retain his current job in 2020, and perhaps the only way to avoid legislative disaster in 2018. Perhaps a war could serve as an excuse for suspending elections or declaring Martial Law, or for censoring the press or rounding up scores of innocent Muslims for a new round of detention camps run primarily by private prison companies.
Unfortunately, in weighing whether to follow Bolton’s counsel and go to war, Trump will not think about the financial costs, because he’s used to going bankrupt and leaving investors holding an empty bag.
He won’t think of the death and destruction a war will bring because he doesn’t think of other people’s suffering ever, except the suffering of adversaries, which he gleefully reveals in seeing.
He won’t consider that the likely outcome of a war against North Korea or Iran will not be a western-style democracy pliantly under America’s hegemony, but increased regional instability, decades of civil war, the creation of millions of refugees, an explosion of terrorism worldwide and the possible bombing of U.S. territories or territory. He’s far too enamored of the tough-guy persona and the us-versus-them narrative to consider the past in predicting a war’s outcome.
He certainly won’t consider how much progress has been made to address the world’s problems following the principles of multilateralism and economic sanctions because he prefers the disproven myths of his 1950’s childhood to facts and scientific analysis.
No, he will only consider one factor: Will it help him?
And in his distorted, self-centered, corrupt and mean-spirited universe, the answer could be that war will help Trumpty-Dumpty.
And it might in the short-term. The First Iraq War and our three-day farce in Grenada demonstrate that Americans like short wars that we win. The public even liked the Second Iraq War at first, despite the fact-filled arguments of those opposed to it. But the longer any war goes on, the less Americans like it. After 15 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have grown especially cynical. The public’s attention span for everything has shortened considerably—something that Trump’s speaking style takes advantage of—and is probably much shorter when it comes to suffering warfare than ever before. In other words, declaring war on Iran, North Korea, both or another imaginary bogeyman may backfire or may give Trump a very temporary lift. Unless, of course, he uses a major conflagration to grab authoritarian power.
Before now, the craven and unethical way that the GOP has tolerated Trump instead of working with Democrats to replace him has irritated but not concerned me. I—like many—have depended on the Democrats to take power in 2018 and use the results of the Mueller probe to rid us of the cancer that is Donald Trump. The current administration has already inflicted tremendous damage to our economy, our reputation around the world, our security, the environment and immigrants and other individuals, most of the harm could be quickly reversed, except for that done to individuals.
But a major war, especially one that could go nuclear or serve as an excuse to for an executive takeover, would be catastrophic. Replacing McMaster with Bolton and Tillerson with Pompeo brings us closer to both a nuclear war and an authoritarian regime at home
That’s why I’m scared. Very scared.