‘A Reckless Advocate of Military Force’: Demands for John Bolton’s Dismissal After Reports He Asked Pentagon for Options to Strike Iran

Yves here. I am surprised that Bolton has lasted this long. Bolton has two defining personal qualities that are not conducive to long-term survival with Trump: having a huge ego and being way too obvious about not caring about Trump’s agenda (even with the difficulties of having it change all the time). Bolton is out for himself in far too obvious a manner.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

Reminding the world that he is, as one critic put it, “a reckless advocate of military force,” the Wall Street Journal revealed on Sunday that President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton “asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year, generating concern at the Pentagon and State Department.”

“It definitely rattled people,” a former U.S. official said of the request, which Bolton supposedly made after militants aligned with Iran fired mortars into the diplomatic quarter of Baghdad, Iraq that contains the U.S. Embassy in early September. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

“The Pentagon complied with the National Security Council’s request to develop options for striking Iran,” the Journal reported, citing unnamed officials. “But it isn’t clear if the proposals were provided to the White House, whether Mr. Trump knew of the request, or whether serious plans for a U.S. strike against Iran took shape at that time.”

The Journal‘s report, which comes just days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered an “arrogant tirade” of a speech vilifying Iran, sparked immediate alarm among critics of the Trump administration’s biggest warmongers—who, over the past several months, have been accused of fomenting unrest in Iran and laying the groundwork for war.

Daniel W. Drezner, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, called the news “a reminder that when it comes to Iran, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are batshit insane.”

Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), tweeted, “Make no mistake: Bolton is the greatest threat to the security of the United States!” Parsi, an expert on U.S.-Iranian relations and longtime critic of Bolton, called for his immediate ouster over the request detailed in Journal‘s report.

“This administration takes an expansive view of war authorities and is leaning into confrontation with Iran at a time when there are numerous tripwires for conflict across the region,” NIAC president Jamal Abdi warned in a statement. “It is imperative that this Congress investigate Bolton’s request for war options and pass legislation placing additional legal and political constraints on the administration’s ability to start a new war of choice with Iran that could haunt America and the region for generations.”

In a series of moves that have elicited concern from members of Congress, political experts, other world leaders, and peace activists, since May the Trump administration has ditched the Iran nuclear deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—and reimposed economic sanctions.

NIAC, in November, urged the new Congress that convened at the beginning of the year to challenge the administration’s hawkish moves and restore U.S. standing on the world stage by passing measures to block the sanctions re-imposed in August and November, and reverse Trump’s decision to breach the deal—which European and Iranian diplomats have been trying to salvage.

Iran continues to comply with the terms of JCPOA, according to the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s nuclear chief, told state television on Sunday that “preliminary activities for designing modern 20 percent (enriched uranium) fuel have begun.” While Iran has maintained that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, the nation would still have to withdraw from the deal if it resumed enrichment at the level.

As Iran signals that it is considering withdrawing from the JCPOA, the Journal report has critics worried that Bolton and Pompeo have the administration on a war path—with Bolton, just last week, insisting without any evidence that Iranian leadership is committed to pursuing nuclear weapons. Some have compared that claim to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s infamous lie in 2002, to bolster support for the U.S. invasion, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

“John Bolton and fellow Iran hawks believe they have two years left to collapse the Iran nuclear deal and trigger a disastrous war that the American people want no part of,” Abdi concluded. “We know that Bolton and other administration officials preferred an Iran war to negotiations prior to serving Trump. Now there is confirmation that they are still seeking out opportunities to fulfill their war agenda.”

As the Journal noted, “Alongside the requests in regards to Iran, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria as well.”

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  1. The Rev Kev

    So Bolton wants war with Iran? Pretty tall talk from a man who during the war in ‘Nam ducked into the Maryland Army National Guard because he had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy as he considered the war in Vietnam already lost. His words, not mine. The Iranian military will not be the push over the Iraq army was. They are much better equipped and motivated and have a healthy stock of missiles. They even have the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missile system up and running.
    Once you start a war, you never know where it will go. Suppose the Iranians consider – probably correctly – that it is Israel’s influences that led to the attack and so launch a few missiles at them. What happens next? Will Hezbollah take action against them as well. If the US attacks Iran, then there is no reason whatsoever for Iran not to attack the various US contingents scattered around the Middle East in places like Syria. What if the Russians send in their Aerospace Forces to help stop an attack. Will they be attacked as well? Is the US prepared to lose a carrier?
    And how will the war end? The country is mountainous like Afghanistan so cannot be occupied unless the entire complete total of all US forces are shipped over there. This is just lunacy squared and surely even Trump must realize that if the whole thing is another Bay of Pigs, it will be his name all over it in the history books and so sinking his chances for a 2020 re-election. And if the justification for the whole thing is a coupla mortars on a car park, how will he justify any American loses? At this point I am waiting for Bolton to finish each one of his speeches and tweets with the phrase-

    “Parthia delenda est!”

    1. Tomonthebeach

      Bolton: Chickenhawk-in-Chief

      Great point. None of my fellow comrades who actually participated in firefights (not just drove trucks behind the lines) are eager to be led into battle by National Guard and bone-spur deferrals, much less student deferral draft dodgers.

      Calling Bolton on Pompeo “batshit crazy” cries out for revisions in the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

    2. JerryDenim

      “The country is mountainous like Afghanistan so cannot be occupied unless the entire complete total of all US forces are shipped over there.”

      Not only that, but the Iranians have extensively fortified and tunneled those mountains in the years since 2003. Our wildly successful, lighting quick invasion of Iraq in 2003 really scared the Iranians. For a brief moment in time, before the Iraqi resistance kicked in ruining the US occupation plans, the Iranians were convinced they were the next target on the Bush/Cheney Axis of evil hit list. They immediately went to work digging tunnels and hardening their existing military structures. Whatever nuclear capability the Iranians are working on, or have already, you better believe it is miles below the earth’s surface, well out of reach of US airpower and ‘bunker-busting’ missiles. Same story for the rest of their critical war fighting machinery.

      A US victory in Iran, if possible at all, would be Pyrrhic at best. There’s thousands of different much-worse scenarios where a US attack on Iran rapidly cascades into WW3 involving multiple nuclear powers.

      Bolton is a fool.

      1. Plenue

        Assuming WW3 doesn’t start over it, an invasion with Iran will ultimately end in complete US defeat, and probably be the death knell of the US empire. The formal, army vs army war probably won’t last all that long. Iran spent about 20 billion on its military last year. That’s roughly 1/32 of our spending. They have no navy to speak of, and their most advanced aircraft are a handful of upgraded 1970s vintage Northrop F-5s (aside from a supposed stealth plane which almost certainly doesn’t actually exist). They do have ballistic missiles and modern AA systems, and would probably wreak havoc on oil processing and shipping for a while. But at worst the US would bring two supercarrier battle groups to bear, rather than just one. We can easily manage that; we have about a dozen of the stupid things.

        It would be any attempt to occupy and hold the country that would break us. Iran has more than 3x the population of Iraq in 2003, and far more cultural coherence. The insurgency would be instantaneous and robust. Even peak Vietnam-era troop deployments wouldn’t be enough to police the country and our rule would have absolutely no long term future because no possible government we could put together would have the slightest bit of legitimacy.

        1. SpartaTodd

          Iran is not stupid in the way Iraq was. They have advanced AA missiles but even more importantly they have Russian anti-ship missiles that would destroy any US Navy vessel in the Persian Gulf. They would shut it down for a while and we could get hurt in ways we would never imagine. It would be the worst big military thinking vs. well-prepared, smart asymmetric warfare. All of our enemies are completely out thinking us while our crony capitalist military state gorges on overpriced and ineffective weapons systems (F35, Carriers, Nuclear Subs). Our enemies have hypersonic missiles, super quiet electric/diesel subs, cheap and mobile mach 5 anti-ship missiles, the status 6/Poseidon massive, fast nuclear torpedo, etc. It’s almost like they know they cannot beat us in a straight up fight and are being clever.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          Iran plans to torch Saudi Arabia’s oilfields and block the Strait of Hormuz. The Millennium Challenge wargames of 2002 showed how vulnerable aircraft carrier are. And more important, tankers are not going to risk being hit since a convoy is useless. Iran can target them with land-based missiles.

          1. SpartaTodd

            I was thinking of that exact exercise! LtG Paul Van Riper showed exactly the tactics we would face and we were unable to learn the lesson. Our leadership is hopelessly drunk on their own koolaid, both military and civilian.

    3. Barbara Commins

      Not so sure about it affecting Trump in 2020.
      We did re-elect Bush jr. after his ‘invasion’ of Iraq.

  2. Ignim Brites

    Why did Trump appoint Bolton? A saying of LBJ, I believe attributed to Sam Rayburn, might illuminate. “It is better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

    1. Edward

      I think Bolton is a sop to Sheldon Aldelson. He may be playing a similar role to “The Mooch”, I hope.

      1. Allegorio

        Likewise, Pompeo is the Koch brother’s man. Both authoritarian billionaires trying to guarantee their investment in Trump. You see the US is being run like a business, or is that like a feudal fiefdom?

        1. Edward

          I feel like the U.S. is an occupied country, invaded by corporate lobbyists. We have the kind of crap government you get from occupations.

    2. Carolinian

      Why did Trump appoint Bolton?

      Not to be a broken record but should we blame the Dems? Arguably Trump’s “out there” gestures to the right are because he has to keep the Repubs on his side given the constant threat of impeachment from the other side. Extremes beget extremes. There’s also the Adelson factor.

      Of course this theory may be incorrect and he and Bolton are ideological soul mates, but Trump’s ideology doesn’t appear to go much beyond a constant diet of Fox News. He seems quite capable of pragmatic gestures which are then denounced by a horrified press.

      1. Lou Mannheim

        “Not to be a broken record but should we blame the Dems?”

        No. Despite Trump’s wishes the buck stops with him.

          1. ChiGal in Carolina

            The point might be, sure the Dems as part of the duopoly created the context within which Trump now acts as president. Nonetheless there is a direct linear responsibility for his actions that rests with him.

            Unless you consider him so impaired as not to be responsible for his actions ;-)

            1. Carolinian

              So will the buck stop with Obama/Hillary for destroying LIbya, the half million dead in Syria, the covert support for the Saudis in Yemen which started under Obama, the coup in Honduras, the deterioration in US/Russia relations to the point where nuclear war has once again started to become thinkable? By these standards Trump’s wrecking ball is quite tiny.

              1. Andre Mittag

                That’s a bit disingenuous, no? US/Russia takes two to tango… and that’s one bad partner. Libya is mostly on Europe (not entirely though) and the rest is fairly Obama/Hillary’s fault. Not a great track record, but that’s 8 years.

                Trump’s been in 2 and is dissolving our real power before our eyes: Alliances(military and economic) and what’s left of our institutions.

          2. neo-realist

            It’s not like the Obama administration and the EU didn’t strike a nuclear deal with Iran to freeze nuclear capable production and allow for lifting of sanctions—how could they have gone further? How could its deal be worse then the saber rattling of Trump/Bolton? Not saying this as a fan of the Obama administration in general.

          3. Ptolemy Philopater

            It is conventional wisdom that Trump was Hillary Clinton’s preferred opponent. I believe it is the other way around. Hillary Clinton was the only opponent that Trump could beat. Trump was chosen by the oligarchy every bit as much as George W. Bush was, another playboy handled by neo-cons. All the Trump resistance is a convenient cover for complicity. Remember $4 billion in free TV time. Even now it is Trump Trump all the time, not war crimes tribunals and prosecution of crimes against humanity, like the great mortgage fraud of 2008, or institutionalizing debt free money funding social programs for the rest of us. Instead of pursuing the legitimate interests of the American people, it is Trump Trump Trump 24/7.

            1. Nota conspiracy theorist

              Maybe the Trump Regime purposely creates all of this attention just to keep the press and all government opponents focused on his idiocy rather than finding and reporting and dealing with real issues. Dealing with all of that would surely bring down his empire and that of his colluders.

            2. Bill Smith

              Pied Piper Memo. It’s up in Wikileaks.

              Clinton campaign laid out a strategy to help Trump along so he would be their opponent. They bet that he was too far out there for the general public to vote him in as president.

            3. Yves Smith Post author

              Conspiracy theories are not on here. You’ve got zero evidence for your assertion. Everyone including Trump was shocked he won. He has made an only partly successful hostile takeover of the Republican party. The fact that he got only at best the second string, and mainly the fourth string, to work in his Administration, Trump’s repudiation of international institutions and his trade war with China are all evidence that he was chosen by anyone, much the less a cabal you create out of thin air called “the oligarchy”

              As Frank Herbert said in Dune, the most enduring principles in the universe are accident and error. Trump did not want to win. This was a brand-enhancing stunt for him that got out of control.

              1. RMO

                The best outcome for Trump would have been the mirror of what actually happened. If he had won the popular vote but lost the electoral college he could have spent these years boasting about how much the American people wanted him and viciously criticized everything Hillary did glorifying himself and keeping him in the public eye while leaving him free of any need to actually do anything. I think the best indication that he didn’t really want the presidency and wasn’t ready to win is how ineffectual he’s been in some ways. An authoritarian who was hell bent on winning and wielding power would have managed to put their own puppets in all the important places and would have had the government terrified of him and dancing to his tune. Trump hasn’t managed this. In many ways we can be thankful this. I think there’s a good possibility that the next Republican president may well be that sort of person though. A combination of Trump’s carnival barker appeal to the crowd and Dick Cheney’s precision ruthlessness. That scares the hell out of me.

                1. Harry

                  All the money was on Trump TV replacing Fox TV. Same recipe – even down to Ailes – but with full time access to the great man himself the Big D. Think of the blondes, the ranting, the same arguments and twitter. It would have been perfect. And think of how the porn star payoffs would have worked for him? Melania was apparently livid when he ended up winning the thing after he told her there was no chance of it.

                  Still, we all failed to appreciate how unelectable HRC was.

                  Ah well, what might have been for all of us.

                1. RMO

                  When I come across someone in a comment section (not political sites but general interest ones) saying that it was stupidity that got Trump elected I sometimes respond by saying I agree, and give them this quote as the prime example of that stupidity:

                  “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”

                  1. Yves Smith Post author

                    Trump had the same problem psychologically that Sanders had (I heard this from insiders): Sanders didn’t start his campaign wanting to win but at a certain point he decided he didn’t want to lose.

                    Trump as we know has an ego like the outdoors. A close loss was what would have been his sweet spot, to say he took on the Clinton machine with her reputation and all that money and nearly beat her

                    Recall that Brexit is the result of another political stunt that got out of hand. BoJo didn’t want Brexit to win. Brexit was just an intra-Tory party power play.

                2. Yves Smith Post author

                  I agree. That was why she tried the coronation route, staying wrapped in tissues and doing only small events which rich and/or star-struck people. She doesn’t like ordinary people and is terrible at hiding it.

          4. Lambert Strether

            > Reputedly Trump was even the opponent Hillary wanted to run against.

            It’s not “reputed” or “conventional wisdom” at all. It’s right there in the Podesta emails (hat tip Wikileaks); the Clinton campaign deliberately elevated Trump. (This was not completely crazy, assuming you’re not going to run on anything substantive, because Claire McCaskill successfully used an identical strategy against Todd Akin in 2012, but it seems to have an more downside than the Clinton brains trust bargained for….)

  3. KLG

    Something for our would be Croesus and his minions: If you go to war with Persia, you will destroy a mighty empire…OK, not so mighty, but an empire nevertheless.

    1. SufferinSuccotash

      You have to have read some books to figure out the story about Croesus and the mighty empire. That pretty much excludes Bolton & Co..

  4. Ben Wolf

    Reminiscent of John Kerry and Susan Rice publicly demanding bombing of Syria in 2015 after Obama had taken that option off the table.

  5. Mark James

    The US has previously run multiple conventual war simulations and in all cases the US lost against Iran, only when the US used its nuclear option did the US prevail.

    The implications of a nuclear strike and how the Russian Federation will react, to having yet another one of its allies attacked is unknown?

    1. Bill Smith

      Really, in all cases? Seems unlikely.

      What did these conventional war simulations cover? What was the definition of wining and losing?

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Really — who cares? Any claim of ‘all’ is difficult to support under the best of circumstances and unwise. Besides, suppose we could ‘prevail’ in a war with Iran — why should or would we want to? Are you OK with a little war with Iran if a couple of conventional war simulations suggest we could win?

    2. Procopius

      Do you have a link? The stories I’ve read the U.S. only loses the war games against Iran when they don’t stack the deck and impose unrealistic rules on the “red” forces to force the win. Most of the war games the Pentagon plays now are rigged to “prove” some favored tactic or expensive piece of shit equipment is good. Even the widely publicized case, Millennium Challenge 2002, was quickly turned around and the Red side restricted to losing after virtually destroying the invading forces.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The war simulations may not have been war games but scenarios.

        War games now are significantly not physical too. Lots of simulations + human action.

  6. johnnygl

    Couple of quick points…

    1) i really hope jim webb gets the def sec job. That would be a strong signal.

    2) if the TDS infected bi-partisan consensus wants to impeach. They can build on this. I suspect they won’t though.

    3) Keep in mind Trump like some trash talk. Pompeo seems here to stay. Not sure about Bolton. But, as we saw with N. Korea, sometimes the crazy gets dialed up to 11, right before things get calmed down.

  7. a different chris

    I agree with the above in general but I have to point out a problem:

    MAKE NO MISTAKE: Bolton is the greatest threat to the security of the United States!

    No. There is no extant threat to the security of the US unless there is some invasion from Betelgeuse on the way that we do not know of. We can’t actually win a war but we can cocoon here between the oceans for another generation at least. We could turn Iran into another ruined state and pay nothing.

    And this is the problem. Most of us have no skin in the game at all. Want to save the world from the Boltons? Bring back the volunteer Army.

      1. ex-PFC chuck roast

        Indeed, bring back the universal draft. Moreover, ban voluntary enlistment in the lower ranks.
        This would get the immediate attention of both the comfortable youth of America (they might even cease staring at their hands for a moment) and the parental bourgewazee.
        As an added bonus, this might spark the creation of an actual peace party…not gonna happen!

        1. Procopius

          I agree absolutely. Furthermore, restore the 93 Division Army (what we had at the end of World War II). Seriously, it’s the only way we’re ever going to win again, absent the Red Army killing most of the enemy troops for us. The U.S. Army is too averse to taking casualties, too poorly trained and not motivated. As Bernard Fall pointed out in Street of Tears, “It doesn’t matter if you have three soldiers to your enemy’s one, if that one is willing to die for his cause and your three are not.”

  8. Roger

    I guarantee you that the Pentagon has detailed plans drawn up for a strike against Iran. This is completely routine for a military such as the US has. They have plans to strike everybody.
    As for the Iranian govt., sod them, a nastier bunch of medieval swine could hardly be imagined. The USA needs to do everything it can to help the Iranian people throw out the priests and join the modern world. If that takes a few explosions then so be it.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Because that worked so well in the Balkans and Iraq and Libya, etc, etc etc. The world is not what you think it is. Let us compare Iran as a country with America’s loyal ally Saudi Arabia as an example. Would you believe that Iran has a Jewish population that feel safe there and have no interest in moving to Israel? In Saudi Arabia, if you renounce Islam that is a death sentence. Women have careers in Iran and drive cars. Woman have burkas in Saudi Arabia and have very few freedoms. Iran has taken in refugees from the recent wars. Saudi Arabia has taken virtually none from Syria. Iran wants to have their own country and work out their own problems as they are a multicultural country. Saudi Arabia is a medieval monarchy that has been exporting the most extremist view of Islam around the world using their oil money. Ideologically, all those jihadists the past few decades can be traced to Wahhabi teachings. Now tell me that if you had a choice, which country sounds more attractive to live in?

      1. Redlife2013

        Having been to Iran, it is an amazing place and they are the most welcoming of people. One of the few places I have seen female taxi drivers, too. Women are very self-assured there – they will blow past men to get to what they want to do. Lots of people don’t like the Islamic government (and they will note that to you), but as you mentioned, they are NOT medieval. The government praises science and technology in roadside ads up and down the country. The ads, by the way, are almost always in Farsi and English, as English is the 2nd language of the country. And I’d like to add that they love Americans. It didn’t matter what town I was in and we went to some small towns. I literally had people yelling “We love America” and asking for my autograph. And no – I am not famous. They are the most generous, gregarious people I have ever met in my life.

        I have odd memories of my trip like being in a taxi going into Tehran listening to a instrument only version of Madonna’s La Isla Bonita (they really like Madonna). And going to beautiful mosques which are filled with mirrors and coloured light so it’s almost like a disco (mirrors and water are ancient pre-Islamic symbols). And the gardens – in odd places like underpasses that happen to have a bit of opening to light and rain. Where ever they can stick a garden they will do it.

        Iran is a hodgepodge of so many thoughts, peoples, and currents. One thing they are though – is fiercely loyal to Iran. Not the government, but to their homeland, to their people. There is no way we would win. Due to geography and due to the losses they would be willing to sustain we would be destroyed. We would lose so badly that it would look like the First Anglo-Afghan War where only one Brit got back after the entire army was destroyed. We tussle with them on their own land at our peril.

        1. cat sick

          Excellent comment

          I for one am hoping a bit of rational thinking can save the situation over Iran, Tulsi Gabbard seems to be the candidate that has the neocons in a cold sweat, served in Iraq and knows what she is talking about !

      2. Roger

        Saudi Arabia is America’s loyal ally! You mean the SA that financed, planned, and manned the 9/11 attacks?
        Because SA is a bigger shithole than Iran is no argument. What does need to be faced is that SA has a lock on American politics through its financial control of Washington DC swamp dwellers.
        The Balkans is quiet now. Iraq became a mess when Paul Bremer snatched defeat from near total victory.
        Libya, Syria and Ukraine are the victims of malevolent US meddling (as was Vietnam). I am hoping that President Trump can reverse course and create a foreign policy that puts the interests of people first, particularly the interests of the people of the USA. Forlorn hope perhaps.
        I would not want to live in either of them.

        1. pjay

          “I am hoping that President Trump can reverse course and create a foreign policy that puts the interests of people first, particularly the interests of the people of the USA.”

          Could you explain what you mean here? By “reverse course,” do you mean reverse our interventionist policies in the ME? If so, then how does war with Iran fit with this, and (especially) how is this in “the interests of the people of the USA” (or anywhere else for that matter)?

          I am confused by your comments. You condemn our “malevolent” meddling in some places, yet you seem to see Iraq as justified. I find it humorous that you think the “maverick” Bremer lost us Iraq. Do you think he was acting on his own against the wishes of the Cheyney/Bush administration? It’s not as if the neocons had been drawing up plans to balkanize the ME into sectarian conflict for a decade or more.

          In short, your comments are a puzzle. I’m wondering how they fit together.

    2. Partyless Poster

      I think the world would be a better place if the U.S didn’t try to “help” other countries so much.
      If our present government actually cared about the people in other countries we would have a completely different foreign policy.

    3. Keith Howard

      How about we throw the Ayatollah Pence and the rest of his contemptible ilk out of our own government first?

      1. Tony Wright

        Well said. All religious fundamentalists are dangerous because they believe they are the “chosen ones” and therefore superior to “non-believers”, whose lives are less important and therefore expendable if and when they feel so inclined.

        1. witters

          “All religious fundamentalists are dangerous because they believe they are the “chosen ones” and therefore superior to “non-believers”, whose lives are less important and therefore expendable if and when they feel so inclined.”

          -Whereas the question of chosenness is, of course, properly determined by the secular market.

          1. Tony Wright

            Nobody is ” chosen”. That is the point.
            To believe oneself “chosen” is chauvinistic and arrogant.

    4. pjay

      Re “the Iranian people”:

      (1) Echoing other responses, I suggest we ask the “Iranian people” if they would like the U.S. to help them into modernity. Given our track record in Iran and other ME nations, I’m not sure they would welcome our assistance, particularly if it involved “a few explosions” or so.

      (2) It is “the people” that are always hurt first, and the most, in such interventions, not the government.

      I wasn’t sure if this was a serious comment or one meant to provoke. It did provoke me to make an earlier response. I thank the moderators for blocking it (sincerely – not being sarcastic).

      1. Adams

        Bah, who cares about a little collateral damage. The Iranian people obviously don’t know what’s good for them. We just need to bring back Wolfowitz to make sure they are on hand to lay down palm fronds before the US forces as they enter Baghdad after we nuke it into rubble. Speaking of sociopaths, I am sure Darth Vader would make himself available to advise from Wyoming. Where the hell is Elliot Abrams when you need him. What’s Rumsfeld doing these days? How great would it be to get the old gang together again, under the maniacal leadership of Bolton. Maybe Dubya would be willing to do the “mission accomplished” as the smoke clears over the whole MENA region. What a great bunch of guys.

    5. Eureka Springs

      You’re a regular humanitarian bomber. Reminds me of “Assad must go” and the fact ‘we’ never bombed him but all the people, all around the nation of the ilk you pretend to want to help by doing the same thing in Iran.

      At best, you are speaking a bunch of hooey without thinking. Oh, and last I heard Iran has not invaded another country for something like 400 years. Look in your mirror.

    6. Edward

      Are the Iranian people asking us to invade their country? In the U.S. there seems to be this bizarre nonchalance about war, which used to be considered a terrible scourge. After the recent disasters in Libya, Ukraine, and Iraq, “regime change” should be discredited. The U.S. has caused nothing but misery in the third world. We should focus on our own human rights and democracy problems. If we want to do something abroad I favor ending our support for Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

    7. Jeremy Grimm

      Strange, I haven’t noticed any of your comments before this odd comment about Iran.

      Just out of curiosity — since you call the present Iranian government a nasty bunch of medieval swine — how do you feel about the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, and the Shah, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, installed to replace him?

    8. Procopius

      Minor quibble: I think the rulers of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are a nastier bunch of medieval swine. “A few explosions” is hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children torn to bloody shreds, by the way.

    9. Lambert Strether

      > The USA needs to do everything it can to help the Iranian people throw out the priests and join the modern world. If that takes a few explosions then so be it.

      Maybe if we and the Iranians get really lucky we can reboot slavery in Teheran, just as we did in Libya!

      This American exceptionalism/humanitarian intervention” virtue signaling with guns really needs to stop. It’s never our real motive, we’re not any good at it, and it nets out negative for the very people we are putatively trying to help (examples too numerous to mention). Kill it with fire.

    1. Tony Wright

      Gotta keep the military industrial complex well fed.
      George Orwell was right, sadly; constant state of military alert and occasionally shifting loose alliances between three competing major military powers.
      What a waste of human resources.

  9. Off The Street

    IMHO, Bolton serves two roles in the Trump Administration.

    1. As a symbol for the hawkier folks in Congress and the media
    2. As a foil to Trump in a good cop-bad cop, or bad cop-worse cop role, if you prefer

    The first provides air cover and the second forestalls ground action. The air cover says see what we could do, and the ground action blusters to draw attention by the media thereby serving to defuse any escalationist tendencies pushed by neo-cons.

    Bolton is a price of admission, and will not have much of a purpose as the effects of the Iran sanctions become more evident and that regime becomes more pliable. The people on the ground in Iran seem to want de-escalation and more normal lives, like so many around the world and at home.

  10. John

    Trump is interested in what is good for Trump. Why he thinks Bolton at his side is good for him is a mystery. Rather a hand grenade with the pin pulled in your pocket than Bolton. Much the same can be said of Pompeo.

    I have never understood the lust for war with Iran it looks entirely irrational to me. The Iranian government may not be to your taste and pursue policies you dislike in the extreme,but is this a reason to gin up a war. I could never support such a conflict and would do whatever I could to thwart it.

  11. L

    This is not news and while concerning is not fundamental.

    Bolton was hired precisely because of his uberhawk obsession with Iran. That is in fact the central credential that he brought to the table and as such there should be zero surprise in this. Indeed the only real shocker is that he asked for plans rather than pulling them out of his own fevered mind as he usually does.

    And as others have noted the Pentagon draws up plans like this all the time. This kind of speculative planning is a big part of what the Pentagon does and somewhere no doubt is someone who is paid to prepare for the “inevitable” war in Jamaca.

    The question really is whether we will act upon these plans, or some others, and from what I read of this article that is no more likely than it was a few months ago. Scary yes but no scarier than it already was.

    1. Mattski

      Well, what do they want us to think? Of course this is predictable–even SOP–for Bolton. But someone in the Pentagon is offering some pushback, or wants to suggest there is resistance. Or someone in the CIA. Some of these people prefer wars to quagmires, especially after an exhausting 20 years. And climbing into bed with the Saudis and Israelis to fight Iran may not appeal to everyone.

      Some may even see that Iran is a much more promising place for consumer and capital growth, and implementation of bourgeois democracy, than Saudi Arabia. But Mr. Bolton might say that that’s the point.

    2. nippersdad

      I agree, both on why Bolton was tapped and the likelihood of Bolton getting what he wants. Trump has had a thing for Iran since long before he ran for the Presidency. He has consistently railed about them for years now. It makes for good ratings.

      Trump’s hiring of Bolton must have a lot to do with who he surrounds himself with, because I don’t think the man, himself, is actually smart enough to have an ideology that much reaches beyond his wallet. Pence and Kushner, on the other hand, now they all have an actual ideological axe to grind, and it was probably they who turned him onto hiring him. As with Bush, if Trump’s largest political constituency is made up of evangelicals then rationales for the recycling of Bush’s worst hand me down wrt Iran, even if only meant as a rhetorical gesture, then makes a lot more sense. It makes for great theater to rally the base.

      The bullies will bray, but even Trump will see what a poor mess would likely be made of any attempt to actually go through with such a stupid plan. Ratings, ratings, always the ratings with this guy.

    3. Darthbobber

      I think Bolton was hired because he’s been on TV a lot and had more “celebrity points” than competitors, and probably more experience than anybody else willing to join the Trump administration at that point.

  12. Ashburn

    I think we may be closer to war with Iran than most of us care to think. Trump is under siege from multiple investigations with no room to run, the Democrats now have the House and will only intensify the pressure, Pompeo and Bolton–both Iran hawks–are now in charge of our foreign policy, and a former Boeing executive (with stock options?) is in charge of the Pentagon, Trump is also being pushed into war by Saudi Arabia and Israel–his two closest buddies–and probably the two most malign influences on US policy, and finally, our economy is beginning to look shakey, and the normal functions of government are now in shutdown. Shock doctrine holds that now is the time to act.

    1. Tony Wright

      Yes, Ashburn, Thatcher was dead in the water electorally before she ordered the British navy to sink the Belgrano off the Falklands ( it was steaming away at the time.)
      She then harnessed the ensuing jingoism for a decade of electoral success.
      In other words your suggested MO has (sadly) form.
      Iran blocking the Straits of Hormuz may be a deterrent though.

      1. Roger

        Are you suggesting that Margaret Thatcher gave the go-ahead to attack the Belgrano for electoral reasons?
        If so you are in urgent need of psychiatric help.

          1. Tony Wright

            In which case an accusation of youthful gullibility would be more appropriate than questioning my sanity.

      2. Darthbobber

        Odd, this, as the Falklands war was in full swing before the Belgrano was torpedoed.

        Success in the endeavor as a whole gave Thatcher a boost, but it was not her doing that caused the Argentine govt to provide the pretext, and the whole thing could have turned into a fiasco for the UK govt.

        Nor do even successful ventures of this sort reliably pay such dividends. Mr Bush’s gulf war cakewalk didn’t leave enough afterglow to get him reelected.

        1. Harry

          So its not really controversial to say Thatcher had the Argies to thank for reelection. It is quite controversial to claim she had the Belgrano sank to ensure the war was fought. Still I wouldnt put it past the old sea monster. She hid the South Yorks police unlawful killing of Liverpool footie fans with far less at stake politically. I pick that episode because it is now settled history.

  13. Harry

    Was chatting to a someone who was a junior official in the GWB administration. He suggested the first thing Bolton does when he joins an administration is request these plans. If you didnt, you wouldnt be able to take advantage of any interesting events to bomb Iran. Besides, he hasnt actually implemented them yet!

    Amusingly its standard bureaucratic form to ensure you have plans on file. Otherwise when asked to list the options, how would you make sure your plan for covert opps, or democracy subsidizing/subverting payments appeared to be the most reasonable plan on the table?

    Bolton is the same paleoconservative he ever was. And in that sense he is refreshing. One gets tired of seeing Israelis and Saudis make proposals for spending American lives on countless critically important projects.

  14. Mattski

    There’s also word that the US and Bolton have been giving quiet encouragement, with the new President in Brazil, for a Venezuela intervention.

    I think it’s important, though, not to simply characterize these people as monsters but to finger the system behind them. There was word before the election that Ms. Clinton has become chummy with Bolton and some of the other neocons; we might be looking at much the same if she had been elected.

    Also, Kissinger bombed Cambodia and set off a genocide. Bolton is awful, but nothing whatsoever will make me yearn for Mr. K. I have a friend who’s still unhappy with me because I turned down an invite to dine with him long ago, but I was just too frightened of what I might say in his presence.

    1. Harry

      They are nuts. Not that the Venezuelans people will fight – well maybe not. But rather because of the standard “you break it you buy it clause”.

      Its not as if Brazil is so easily governed itself. And frankly, the military in Venezuela are among the few regular beneficiaries of the Chavista. The Venezuelan generals do have skin in the game. Do the Brazilian generals?

      1. Mattski

        We can take it for granted that they are nuts–but nuttiness is like monstrousness, not always so useful as explanation. They’re also operating out of the logic of a contradictory and decaying system. The neocons are the ideological successors of the neoliberals (who liked to follow with the velvet fist rather than lead with it, but hardly eschewed it). . . the culmination of much of the same logic. Egalite and fraternite trail far behind these days.

  15. Chauncey Gardiner

    I agree with author Nicholas Taleb’s view of the military interventionists, who include Bolton, that have repeatedly urged that we “intervene in foreign countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria — whose governments did not meet their abstract standards of political acceptability.” Besides the losses suffered by our troops and economy, as Taleb observed each of those interventions “made conditions significantly worse in the country being ‘saved’. Yet the interventionists pay no price themselves for wrecking the lives of millions. Instead they keep appearing on CNN and PBS as ‘experts’ who should guide us in choosing what country to bomb next.” Now, after imposing economic sanctions on Iran, they’re evidently again seeking war.

    The National Security Advisor is a senior official in the executive branch. Who placed these people in charge of our nation’s foreign policy and to act in our name?

    There is no threat to the United States involved here. I don’t recall being given the opportunity to vote on them or the policies they represent and push. It’s past time these individuals be removed from positions of power and influence and for American soft power and diplomacy to be restored to preeminence. I want this country to stand for peace, freedom, equal opportunity and hope; not war, chaos, fear and death.

    1. Roy G

      Thank you for bringing up Taleb. In his last book, Antifragile, he stressed the importance for people to have ‘skin in the game’ in whatever they are promoting or selling. The US MIC is a case study validating this theory 100% It really is bizarre when you have people like Bolton, Pompeo, Petraeus, Cheney, etc. etc. etc. who’s assertions have been proven wrong time and again over the last 18 years yet they have suffered zero repercussions and continue to surface zombie-like again and again and continue to be taken seriously by the Establishment.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    We the little people here can still demand the firing of Bolton.

    In China, a general recently talked about sinking US aircraft carriers to kill a certain number of Americans. Is it possible for the peaceniks in China to demand his firing? Have there been calls within the Middle Kingdom to do that?

    1. Mattski

      Curious what this says about whether you think that because one can complain one shouldn’t complain. . . I see this meme from time to time but other than seeing it as a vague complaint against people who are troubled by crazies like Bolton, I confess I don’t quite get it. Respectfully yrs.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I think we should complain whether we can or not.

        And if we can complain, not to complain when we should would be wasting a good opportunity.

  17. Mattski

    Maybe “the establishment” is in fact in general agreement with their aims, and finds them useful? Again, if Bolton had Hillary Clinton’s ear too, then we might be tempted to conclude that “the Establishment” is more unified in its aims than the warring tribes it stirs the p**p among below.

  18. RBHoughton

    I think I can trace the infection in the American body politic right back to those first merchants who chose to do anything for a dollar. They built astonishing fortunes out of the fur trade, the opium trade and arms sales in Dominica and South America. They made the choice of money over morality and that required they condition their families to maintain the political influence their wealth had won them. I believe that’s why today we still find their descendants flourishing in the corridors of power. If anyone can protect the predatory system, its them.

  19. VietnamVet

    Israel and Saudi Arabia both can’t fight a war with Iran by themselves, so they are trying to get the USA to do it for them

    John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are certifiably insane. There isn’t the manpower or the tanks in place for a drive to Tehran. An Iranian American conflict will either become a trench war like the Iraq Iran War last century or it will go nuclear.

    The US Army missed its 2018 recruitment goal by 6,500 soldiers. This is even with the addition of women to the pool. American demographics are going south. Stable healthy families are unaffordable. Obesity and despair are as deadly as a plague. Mid-America is now an extraction colony for global corporations. The blindness of both political parties to this is extraordinary. It is just like Emmanuel Macron and the French Yellow Vest unrest. Market authoritarian ideology has no room for human cultures or emotions except greed.

    The strangest episode so far is the Trump Administration’s glee that federal workers are off the job and not being paid. All this to barricade the southern US border which will only work if there is a draft to man it. As with earlier mass armies, a healthy population is needed to staff it. The Elite must pay for it. Unlikely, but the world is turning upside down. Perhaps, soon, the American middle class to rise to the occasion and restore the US Constitution and good governance.

  20. Lambert Strether

    The source for the WSJ story is “current and former U.S. officials.”

    One wonders whether any of those officials work in the White House, and have decided to throw Bolton under the bus, his usefulness being at an end.

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