The appointment of John Bolton just made the possibility of your son, brother, father, uncle or cousin more likely to be conscripted into the United States armed forces. But wait a moment, the country has a volunteer armed forces doesn’t it? True enough, however with military troops involved in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq/Syria and Afghanistan, 67,000 troops in South Korea and Japan, 53,000 military forces in Germany and various smaller deployments in dozens of other countries around the world, in many respects the United States’ majority of conventional military resources are overstretched, underfunded, and in many cases employ outdated and mechanically broken equipment. Enter John Bolton who gave us the Iraq War.
Bolton is an intelligent, persistent and persuasive advocate for pre-emptive military action. He and Vice President Dick Cheney, another war hawk, (I prefer to call them “chicken-hawks” since they both dodged the draft when their country called), convinced President George W. Bush that a pre-emptive military action should be taken because of the “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction held by the Hussain regime in Iraq. A rationale for war that proved false after the fact.
Nonetheless, according to the The Congressional Research Service’s Report to Congress from 2004 to 2009 (the height of the Iraq War) 142,480 boots-on-the ground was the monthly average fighting in Iraq. That was more than 5.5 times more troops (26,600 monthly average) than were engaged in Afghanistan during the same period. For the sake of this post’s argument, keep these military force figures in mind.
Pre-emptive Strike Against North Korea
In a March 23, 2018 article in the Guardian, Secretary of Defense, James Mattis and then Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson opined in the Wall Street Journal regarding North Korea “The object of our peaceful pressure campaign is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea’s course of action.” To which Bolton strongly disagreed speaking on FOX News “Time is not a neutral factor here. Time is an asset for the proliferator. More negotiation with North Korea? I think they’d say bring it on. More time to increase the size and scope of their ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities.”
Bolton went on to make his case for pre-emptive military action against North Korea in a March 1, 2018 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing, “The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times. Given the gaps in US intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation. It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first.”
Pre-emptive Strike Against Iran
Bolton’s attitude toward Iran sounds like the same North Korea song, second verse. He has continuously been critical of the Iran nuclear agreement officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. He argued that the agreement worked out by former United States Secretary of State, John Kerry and the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Germany and the European Union was a bad deal and would not prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, allegedly, from North Korea. However, he has never offered any proof of this allegation, preferring instead to opt for classic jingoism. To be precise, Bolton is a person who professes his patriotism loudly and excessively, favoring vigilant military preparedness for war and an aggressive and belligerent foreign policy.
The answer to the bad Iran deal according to Bolton is to tear it up and withdraw the United States from the JCPOA. In another Bolton op-ed piece in the March 26, 2015 New York Times, the headline read “to stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.” That piece proclaimed the ultimate goal of Bolton’s agenda – regime change in Iran. If that sounds familiar, it is. That is what he advocated with regard to the strike on Iraq and unconditionally wants for North Korea. Regime change is the bottom line for Bolton for the primary goal of our foreign policy with respect to our adversaries real or imagined.
Colin Kahl and Wolfsthal writing in Foreign Policy March 23, 2018, sums up John Bolton and the threat he poses to the foreign policy of the United States: “Bolton’s views on Iraq, North Korea, Iran, and other issues reveal a general pattern of thought: a tendency toward worst-case thinking; a pattern of warping and misusing intelligence to build the case for war with rogue states; a disdain for allies and multilateral institutions; a blind faith in U.S. military power and the benefits of regime change; and a tendency to see the ends as justifying the means, however horrific. Bolton also has a long and documented history of stifling views that differ from his own and even punishing subordinates who disagree with him. While this style may make him a good fit with Trump, it will compound the ongoing demoralization of the intelligence community, career civil servants, and National Security Council staff and contribute to the further dysfunction of an already broken national security process.”
Bolton’s False Thesis
Bolton vigorously defends his thesis of pre-emptive military action with the ultimate goal of regime change. He has been consistent with this proposition since early in this century. Bolton’s far-right wing views and behavior are chronicled in this article by Zack Beauchamp in Vox News, March 22, 2018. However, in the end, Bolton is simply a theorist. He immerses himself in postulations with other neo-conservative think tank wonks developing assumptions which have no basis of proof or evidence. How can he possibly know what the result of a pre-emptive strike on Iran or North Korea would be or why the United States would be successful in such an endeavor? He can’t. Iraq proved his thesis wrong. Yes, there was regime change, but no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. Is Iraq and the Middle East a better and safer place today? Not hardly. All of which make John Bolton a very dangerous person as President Trump’s national security advisor. A president who doesn’t read anything, has no sense of history or military engagement, is impulsive and has no vision of a strategic foreign policy.
What All This Means Going Forward
While there is no question we live in a nuclear age, numerous countries are capable of severely damaging or even destroying the planet, the actual possibility of this is remote. Any attempt of a pre-emptive military action would certainly be met with a response. Therefore, a nuclear pre-emptive strike would be unthinkable given the essential economic and power dynamics of the major world powers. It is more likely that any pre-emptive strike would take the form of conventional warfare. That is where Bolton’s strategy is not only flawed, but his tactics would be absurd as well.
Any pre-emptive military action, especially by the United States, would involve conventional military resources. Resources that are already stretched too thin to meet the response of Iran or North Korea. Both countries are listed in the top 25 military forces in world, not including nuclear weapons. The question then becomes can the United States effectively employ military forces to meet the response of these two nations and/or the intervention of China on North Korea’s behalf or Russia, who currently acts as both an economic partner and a military benefactor, has a vested in Iran. Probably not.
In order to meet any counter response, the United States would have to increase its ground, air and sea forces. A voluntary conventional force would not seem to be sufficient. Would this lead to reinstituting draft to insure adequate military manpower? It could if, the president claims a crisis has occurred which requires more troops than the volunteer military can supply, essentially authorizing a draft. Congress would then pass legislation and the President would sign the legislation which revises the Military Selective Service Act to initiate a draft for military manpower. The draft would be held according to a lottery system mandated by the Military Selective Service Act. This act was created to make a draft for conscription into the military of young men. It was designed to provide transparency by holding the lottery in public and on television. It was also designed to be more fair and equitable by limiting postponements, deferments, and exemptions, which favored young men of upper middle class and wealthy families.
The idea that a draft of 18-25-year-old men will never happen again because the country moved to an all-volunteer military force is false. It could very well be necessary if the country decides to continue a strategic foreign policy of regime change with the initial tactic being a pre-emptive military strike. Most of the voices of moderation and diplomacy in solving difficult foreign affairs have left the White House building. It will not be long before John Bolton has pressured, bullied, and intimated anyone who disagrees with him. And the president of the United States will be isolated whose only voice he will hear is that of John Bolton. That should be an extremely alarming and dangerous for the country. Hopefully there will be a change in Congress this Fall. If the Democrats are successful in taking back the House of Representatives, they could essentially provide a block to any legislation calling for the renewal of the draft which would make young men the pawns of those who talk tough and advocate pre-emptive military action to bring about a regime change(s). It is especially disgusting when there are those who never saw a battlefield or served when their country called.