In light of the attacks on Syria, I thought it might be good to remind the community of a couple things.
The first is one you’re less likely to remember, though it is important: Two years ago, during the campaign, Trump was asked by Mika Brzezinski on the MSNBC show Morning Joe about the source of his foreign policy advice, given that there were so many difficult issues active in 2016.
I listen to myself and speaking with myself, number one, because I have very good brain and have said a lot of things, so I would listen to myself. … My primary consultant is Myself.”
You can check out the tape yourself:
So Trump wasn’t going to give a lot of credence to any particular foreign policy adviser, since he consults himself first. (And why not? He certainly has said a lot of things.) But we’ve been told over and over that “honorable” people serving under Trump are doing their best to restrain his damaging impulses … which I assume would include launching missiles at people.
But that’s why the second reminder is so important: John Bolton is a man so enamored of war there’s never come a day when he has so much as hinted at regret for US actions (which he strongly, stridently advocated) killing hundreds of thousands in Iraq to topple Saddam, then “DeBaathify” the military, putting thousands of men with weapons and military training out of work so that they would soon become ISIS, and then withdraw, leaving a power vacuum that led directly to the civil war and greater regional ISIS conflict. John Bolton is also the man who was recently named National Security Adviser to President Trump.
Many, many people warned that Bolton’s appointment might very well lead to more war. He started work on Monday, on Friday the US launched missiles at Syria.
I’m seeing a lot of talk about how Trump might be using conflict, fire-bright weapons, and mass death to distract from Cohen’s legal troubles and the potential impact those might have on Trump himself. What I’m not seeing, oddly since it was so heavily predicted that Bolton would make the administration more violent, is commentary that there’s good reason to think that this isn’t an immediate response to a temporary problem. Shooting missiles off at least monthly, and possibly more often, could easily be the new normal under a Trump with violent impulses no longer being held back by underlings, but actually guided by options and plans put forward by someone with the intention to initiate wars.
It is important to note that with a president as ignorant as Trump, he could easily say, “I want to hit Syria. How can we hit them hard?” and receive a response similar to, “Well, I’m not sure Mr. President, but we could move a missile destroyer into the area, that would take a few days. Then we could look at intelligence on where the possible moving targets are once we’re in range.” Not that I’m saying that routinely does happen, but it could. It would be a trivial exercise for an “honorable” service member to delay an unwise action until it becomes less of a priority for a president like Trump. Trump simply does not have the knowledge required to make his orders specific – and therefore unignorable.
The problem is that Bolton, as horrible as he is, does not share Trump’s ignorance. Bolton has the ability to craft a plan of action that details specific units to use specific weapons against specific targets, and under our constitutional system, if Trump points at the plan and says, “Do that,” the officers responsible must either do exactly that or resign.
I greatly fear that Bolton’s presence won’t merely make planned wars more likely. I fear that even if those who speculate that Trump wanted this attack as a distraction for the press, he would have been less able to command the launch of those missiles without Bolton in the NSA’s office. Maybe Bolton is starting a war. Maybe Trump was telling us something like the truth when he announced that his mission was accomplished, and there are no long term plans to escalate military attacks.
But even in that case, Bolton’s presence could be very, very bad: for Syrians, for those in the US, and for everyone else across the globe.
As terrible as things have become, they may very well be getting significantly worse.