Bolton In, McMaster Out

Americans who voted for Donald Trump believing he would be disinclined to start new wars should be puzzled by his decision to tap John Bolton as his third national security adviser. The rest of us should be concerned.

Bolton has been one of the most reliably hawkish voices in American politics in recent memory. In 2015, he openly called for launching a war against Iran. Earlier this year, he argued that the United States should initiate a war against North Korea. His faith in the utility of force, and his general disdain for diplomacy, is legendary – and apparently hasn’t been shaken by the wars of the recent past.

Most Americans – 67 percent in a recent poll – believe that the Iraq war failed to advance – or, worse, undermined – American security. Bolton appears to agree with the mere 22 percent of Americans who think that that war made things better. 

Back in 2013, Donald Trump tweeted: 

(H/T Vox’s Dara Lind)

One has to wonder: what changed his mind?

In fairness, H.R. McMaster was no dove. He appears to have been a decisive voice in convincing President Trump to reverse himself on Afghanistan. But McMaster’s cerebral nature simply doesn’t compare to Bolton’s made-for-Fox News bellicosity – which may explain why Trump tired of the three-star general. 

The circle of men and women who advise a president on foreign policy is never large. With Mike Pompeo replacing Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State (pending Senate confirmation, which isn’t assured), Secretary of Defense James Mattis may be the only person with the stature to counteract the vocal and growing chorus who can be expected to feed President Trump’s worst instincts.