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An On V Quick Reaction to...Everything?

I’d love to bill myself (Michael C) as a calm moderate. A person who looks at each issue, and makes my mind up independently about the merits of each one. Alas, I can’t honestly say that anymore. Most of my positions are clearly lined up with the Democratic party, though the best economic summary of my position comes from Luigi Zingales, “I’m pro-market, not pro-business”. (There’s a difference and many don’t understand that.)

So when I open up the Sunday opinion page--not that it actually exists anymore--and when I see articles by Max Boot, David Frum, Jennifer Rubin, and George Will agreeing with me on a strongly held opinion, well, I take notice. That opinion is this:

John Bolton is a terrible choice for National Security Advisor.

And it’s not like they are the only ones. Name a liberal commentator and they probably decried his nomination. So did the moderates. And, like I just mentioned, even some of the conservatives. When 90% of the populace--or in this case the opinion class--believes something, it is probably justified. (We’d put all the links, but you know where to find them.)

So we have some quick, unique thoughts. And since this news broke, it also made the mourning for H.R. McMaster go that much quicker. It also bumped Trump’s news that he wants to sit down with North Korea off the front page. Oh, and people are talking about Iran again along with more tariffs.


Quick Thought 1 - National Security Advisors Should Require Senate Confirmation

After the disaster that was General Michael Flynn’s nomination, I saw some people write this idea. At the time, when Flynn was appointed, I agreed with a recommendation that the position of National Security Advisor should have to pass the Senate. (Quick question: why is it spelled with an “o” not an “e”?) But after his brief tenure, we basically forgot about this idea. Bolton should make us reconsider.

Basically, the whole point of having the Senate approve cabinet posts is to have the Senate provide a check against unqualified or dangerous people in positions of real power. The National Security Advisor is a work around against the cabinet anyways, but has become hugely influential.

It should require Senate approval.

Quick Thought 2 - On H.R. McMaster...

The low point of McMaster’s tenure was when President Trump made him go out in front of the cameras and, essentially, read a lie. This occured in May of 2017--and was so long ago I had to look it up to get the details right--after Trump had revealed sensitive intelligence to the Russians. McMaster went out to say this didn’t happen, even though it did.

This brings us to the main question with McMaster: for a person who wrote literally wrote a book condemning the generals who led us into Vietnam, will he be remembered for restraining Trump from going to war as long as he did, or for caving to Trump’s worst impulses as often as he did? Will he get credit for keeping NATO alliances intact or for failing to change Trump’s mind on Iran? I really don’t know, but suspect he won’t be covered in glory for joining the Trump administration.

The one hope would be that he writes an amazingly trenchant book about his time and what he learned. This book wouldn’t be a gossip tell-all like Michael Wolff’s, but deep dive on his time observing Trump, including how Trump thinks and makes decisions. Yet, Trump made all his White House staff sign “non-disclosure agreements” preventing them from ever speaking or writing outside of the White House. Let’s hope Congress (in January 2019) corrects this.

Quick Thought 3 - This makes war(s) more likely.

At the start of his administration, we wrote a post on the likeliest countries Trump could go to war with. We’re probably going to update that list in the near future. Know that Iran and North Korea are now on the top of the list.

The most common defense of Bolton--if there is one--is that he can’t go to war by himself. But I think the Iran example shows how easy it would be to set it in motion. He tells Trump they should get out of the Iran deal. Trump already agrees since it would make Obama look bad. (Though it would devastate American credibility, which formerly Republicans cared quite a bit about.)

So then Trump has to decide how. This is where Bolton could have his biggest influence. Instead of the mildest withdrawal, he could recommend the strongest. Michael Wilner had a good explainer in FiveThirtyEight, but if Bolton pushed option 3 “America renounces the deal and re-imposes all sanctions”, the world would be in crisis. At this point, Iran could decide to restart its nuclear project. At which point, Bolton advocates strikes. Which descend into full blown war.

And to steal a point from Vox, leaving the Iran deal makes North Korean negotiations that much harder. Why would North Korea sit down with the US when they just reneged on a previous agreement? So Bolton could again lay out a case for war with North Korea in addition to Iran. I haven’t even gotten to Syria or Yemen or Somalia and you can see how a man who sees war as an option will see a lot of uses for it.

Quick Thought 4 - David French’s reaction has a key war-mongering paragraph on Iran

David French writes occasionally about how dangerous war would be--and he is both an Iraq veteran and staunch supporter of endless Benghazi investigations--but he also lays out the case for war repeatedly. (He was the most prominent pro-Bolton voice I read, writing in a prominent non-Murdoch controlled media outlet.) Basically, French is the type of conservative who ramps up fear of inaction so much it leads to wars like Iraq. I could write a whole post on his piece alone.

Instead I want to focus on the fun game On Violence loves to play. Take a description of Iran, and replace it with Saudi Arabia! Here it is, explaining why Iran/Saudi Arabia is so dangerous:

Saudi Arabia continues to export jihad, work to kill Shiites, and ally with America to engineer a bloodbath in Yemen.”

Yikes! Saudi Arabia sounds terrible.

Quick Thought 5 - The hypocrisy of the sit down with North Korea

This point will be simple: if Obama had said we should sit down with North Korea--given that we got something in return for that--the conservative right on Fox News would have been outraged. Given that Trump said it, they support it. (Indeed, most liberal commentators pointed out that he should have gotten something for the sitdown, but aren’t opposed to sitting down with North Korea on its face.)

I get it, hypocrisy is par for the course in Washington. But can’t we at least try to pretend not to switch our positions when only a single variable--party in power--changes?

Quick Thoughts 6 - Tariffs are bad

And we’re out of time! More on this in the future.