John Bolton’s WWIII Dreaming
I’ve written recently about how far past its expiry date John Bolton’s warmongering crusader shtick is smelling these days. Well, apparently intending to squeeze every last drop of attention from the Trump administration’s flirtations with Bush era militarism, Bolton is continuing his siege of Fox News, first expressing disappointment that Trump’s Afghanistan speech wasn’t tough enough — on China — and now pleading with the Trump administration to leap into a preemptive war against North Korea, South Korean civilians be damned.
Let’s begin with his hopes of confrontation with China.
(The following video clip is not the one embedded in the first Right Scoop article linked above, from Sean Hannity’s show. That video no longer seems to play well, so I’ve found Bolton giving almost the identical “interview” on another Fox News program. This happily spares you Hannity’s humiliating display of pom-poms for Trump.)
To paraphrase the substance of Bolton’s comments on Trump’s Afghanistan speech:
America needs a deeper engagement in Afghanistan in order to force the Taliban to negotiate on America’s terms; but to win there requires simultaneously winning in terrorist-harboring nuclear power Pakistan. The first step in achieving a victory in Pakistan, in turn, requires demanding that China “convince” Pakistan to stop giving support to Islamic terrorists, if they (the Chinese) want good relations with the U.S. In the end, however, any hope of leaving Afghanistan for Afghans to figure out is wrongheaded, since that would be tantamount to leaving America’s national security in the hands of Afghanistan.
Notice the key terms and provisos in Bolton’s well-rehearsed spiel: “negotiate,” “convince,” “if they want good relations.” But the Taliban, as everyone knows by now, is not an enemy with whom any form of negotiation is even possible; China will not convince Pakistan to do anything they do not see as being in their own interests, as evidenced by the fact, acknowledged by Bolton himself, that they are largely responsible for Pakistan having nukes in the first place; and China, as a crypto-communist dictatorship with increasingly global aspirations, does not care about its “relations” with the U.S., except optically, or perhaps if they see an opportunity to exploit an intellectual vacuum in American leadership in the name of securing long-term strategic advantage for themselves. (Gee, what might put that idea into their heads?)
So these “diplomatic” strategies are all bound to go nowhere, which John Bolton knows very well. When men like Bolton speak of desiring negotiations and wishing to exhaust all possible “diplomatic solutions,” they merely seem to be hoping to exhaust all non-military alternatives as quickly as possible, so they can force matters to the breaking point, i.e., war.
A million years ago, I remember reading some pop music critic sarcastically describing a new song as being a pretty good imitation of Bob Dylan, “lacking only the bull***t harmonica solo.” All of Bolton’s rhetorical asides about “negotiating” and “convincing” are his version of a Bob Dylan “bull***t harmonica solo” — meaningless, predictable filler. The real point of his song is always the same: “We need a war, a big one, preferably on many fronts, gosh darn it.”
He has always wanted a war with Iran, he is now trying to will the U.S. to the point of no return with North Korea — in the Fox clip above, he is still lamenting administration attempts to avoid armed conflict in Korea — and now he is going around identifying Pakistan as “Iran and North Korea on steroids.” Is there any global trouble spot where Bolton would not like America to stage a preemptive attack? And as he says fairly directly here, with only the bare minimum of sugar-coating, the real prize he is steering toward is confrontation with China (which of course would likely also mean Russia), i.e., World War III.
As I mentioned in my previous article on this all-knowing advocate of failed global expeditions, Bolton never met a war he didn’t like — as long as no one was asking him to fight it. Having evaded Vietnam service on the almost-literally-stated grounds that he preferred that some other young American should go and die in a rice paddy rather than himself, he nevertheless hyperventilates at any opportunity to recommend putting as many Americans in harm’s way as possible, in as many catastrophic conflicts as possible. This fantasy football Patton always sounds like a big spender with other people’s limbs. Unlike even the pre-ideational Trump, he lacks the minimal common sense to show deference to the opinions and assessments of military generals who have actually seen the realities of which Bolton only talks, and studied terrain and populations which he only knows from his atlas.
And now he has taken his cavalier attitude toward other people’s lives to the next level, even better calculated to appeal to the jingoistic side of the Trump cult — the cult which, following their dear leader, pretended to hate global adventurism, but is now lapping it up with bloodthirsty enthusiasm — by playing fast and loose with the lives of mere foreigners.
Asked by a Fox News lady (who seems to be pronouncing most of her question’s words for the first time) whether the obvious main risk of a preemptive war with North Korea, namely massive civilian casualties in Seoul, is too high a price to pay, Bolton, in his usual short-sighted approximation of perfect common sense, offers this seemingly straightforward reply:
“Let me ask you this,” he says in response to the idea of millions of dead Koreans. “How do you feel about dead Americans?” He then goes on to quote FDR’s warning about crushing a rattle snake before it strikes.
“How do you feel about dead Americans?” Implication: Why fret about a million South Koreans killed because of our actions? Better them than us, right?
But wait. That kind of “better them than us” rhetoric is what you’re supposed to say about civilian deaths among your enemy’s population, not among your ally’s. Not among the population of the nation that is actually the one you are supposedly fighting over, since it is their nation, not yours, that is split asunder. And remember that we are not talking about the U.S. belittling the likelihood of South Korean casualties during a retaliatory action against a North Korean attack on, say, Guam. We are talking about the U.S. belittling the likelihood of South Korean casualties in the context of a preemptive strike against the North.
If the ROK government decides, as they may well do at some point, that the risk of massive casualties and damage in Seoul is a price they are willing to pay in order to deal with the North Korean danger now rather than later, then all bets are off. But that the U.S. should be making that decision on the ROK’s behalf, or even against their will, as the result of a made-in-America cost-benefit analysis which disregards the sacrifice a close U.S. ally would have to make to the cause, is a different matter entirely.
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. If South Korea decided it was time to strike the North on their own, and when confronted with the likelihood that the North would respond by obliterating Guam, said, “Well, that’s America’s problem, not ours,” how would Americans feel about it?
“Better them than us.” Remember Bolton’s nearly-literal explanation for his avoidance of the Vietnam draft: “Better another American dying in a rice paddy than me.” This is the type of moral reasoning that apparently qualifies as “tough talk” among armchair quarterbacks these days.
The world is in a world-class pickle, with the vast majority of it — okay, essentially all of it — now governed by progressive tyrants of the hard or soft variety, oligarchical thugs, doomsday cultists with doomsday weapons, or certifiable crackerjacks. There are no pretty solutions or easy answers. We are on a trajectory to disaster no matter how many times you shake the Magic 8 Ball to start again. Already, China has responded to America’s latest warning to North Korea to “cut out the nuclear tests or we’re gonna get really, really, mad” by saying, at the UN, that China “will not allow” war on the peninsula. In other words, they will accuse the U.S. and South Korea of starting it no matter what happens, as a pretext for jumping in to enforce their plans for the region. To which John Bolton implicitly says, “Wahoo! Bring it on!”
Bolton’s WWWIII wishes may come true. They may even be inevitable. (Chinese media outlets and military officials have been predicting an ultimate showdown with the U.S. for years.) I just wish the man didn’t show so much relish for it, and that America’s so-called conservative media wasn’t so eager to leap to their feet and applaud these dreams of death. If we are to walk the civilizational plank at last, let’s do it with our eyes open and with a rational man’s resignation, and perhaps even a tear or two, about the inescapability of great suffering, shall we?