Amid reports that he is being considered by President Donald Trump to replace Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, John Bolton wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday outlining "military options for North Korea," which were immediately characterized as "dangerous" and "utter lunacy."
"John Bolton has been writing about bombing other countries for at least two decades."
—Arash Karami, Al-Monitor
Bolton begins by arguing that recent ballistic missile tests by North Korea indicate that sanctions and diplomatic initiatives are destined to fail. In their place, Bolton puts forth several options, which include a preemptive strike on "Pyongyang's known nuclear facilities" and a series of airstrikes followed by ground troops. The U.S. could also "wait until a missile is poised for launch toward America, and then destroy it," an approach Bolton concedes comes "at the cost of increased risk."
Bolton also takes aim at Iran, a nation he says poses a threat "nearly as imminent" as North Korea.
Formerly the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton has long been an advocate of aggressive military action, even when the risk of civilian casualties is enormous. Bolton was a prominent booster of the Iraq War—which he still believes was a good idea—and he has since frequently graced the pages of major newspapers calling for the U.S. to use force to solve its most pressing conflicts overseas.
In an infamous 2015 New York Times op-ed, Bolton argued that if the U.S. wishes to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, resort to military action—namely, bombing—will be necessary.
The piece was denounced as "reckless" at the time, and Bolton's recommendations for military action in North Korea were met with similar rebukes.
Critics argued that Bolton's dismissal of diplomatic alternatives that have yet to be fully explored indicates that he has learned nothing from the lessons of Iraq.
— Derek Johnson (@derekjGZ) August 3, 2017
Bolton calls for bombing North Korea and Iran. Because it's been 14 years since the Iraq war started and he's bored. https://t.co/BQMGgxps67
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) August 3, 2017
— Arash Karami (@thekarami) August 3, 2017
Bolton's op-ed comes as many are warning that military posturing between world powers could rapidly devolve into a "nuclear nightmare."
"Americans want to see diplomatic engagement with North Korea, not an escalation of tensions and the threat of nuclear war," writes Kerri Kennedy, associate general secretary for international programs at AFSC. "What we need now instead of military threats is the political will for real engagement."