July 23, 2019 | 67° F

SURIANO: Hawks seem to be in isolationist hen house

Opinions Column: A RINO's View


President Donald J. Trump announced in a tweet that former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) John Bolton would replace General H.R McMaster as his National Security Advisor (NSA). The tweet hit me like a ton of bricks, but not in the usual way a tweet from the president hits me. Usually I feel confusion and a slight sense of nausea when the president tweets. But, after reading this one I was excited and in complete agreement with it. I was so excited, because the selection could portend Trump turning his back on his isolationist tendency and the return to a serious foreign policy not seen from the U.S. since former President George W. Bush.

On the face of it, Bolton seems like an odd choice for NSA considering Trump has been very critical of U.S. interventionism. Bolton on the other hand is an unapologetic hawk who was and still is in favor of the Iraq War, has argued for military strikes against Iran and just last month argued for the legality of a first strike against North Korea. So why the contradiction? Hopefully after more than a year in office the president has realized the world is a dangerous place and that American security cannot be separated from the security of the world. The United States is currently the most powerful nation on Earth — we cannot exit the world stage, as this would allow countries with nefarious motives to seize the vacuum. What worried me most about the proposed policies of Trump was always his isolationism and anti-NATO stances. So if Bolton means Trump is turning away from that rhetoric, then I am all for this appointment.

Bolton is perhaps more hawkish than me but in general a hawkish position is better than what we had under former President Barack Obama and what Trump promised on the campaign trail. Of course, war should never be the first option and should never be taken lightly. But it is a sad reality that the use of military force is necessary to maintain U.S. national security and maintain global security. As the saying goes, "si vis pacem, para bellum." When entering negotiations with hostile nations the threat of force must be kept on the table. Otherwise, the other side will have more leeway to ignore calls to change or feel emboldened to agree to terms but cheat. We cannot forget that military force can be a better option than peace. When, for example, you have evil dictators such as President Bashar al-Assad gassing children, military intervention becomes the only moral option left. What good is peace if it means the United States has to allow crimes against humanity to stand across the world unchecked. Interventionist policy can make the world a safer place.

Bolton is also right about the North Korea issue. The United States simply cannot allow North Korea to acquire nuclear technology capable of striking the 50 states. If negotiations fail, military force must be used to prevent it. Otherwise, it would signal to any two-bit dictator around the world that the U.S. will not prevent them from getting the bomb. Also, if we accept North Korea as a nuclear nation then U.S. national security would be in constant peril. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the USSR were both protected by the mutually assured destruction doctrine (MAD), but North Korea’s saber rattling shows we cannot trust them not to strike first even knowing it would mean their destruction. So a military strike against North Korea would be necessary if negotiations and sanctions fail.

Some have grave concerns about bringing on Bolton, but I believe other forces in the Trump administration will serve as a check on him if necessary. As I have noted, Trump seems naturally inclined toward isolationism, and he ultimately makes the decisions, so Bolton would have to change Trump’s mind before any military action. This would be an uphill fight. Also, going against Bolton is Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Mattis seems to have taken up a more dovish position in the administration. This is a good scenario, two men on both ends of the spectrum providing counsel to POTUS on foreign policy matters. But that is really the rub of the Trump administration, it ultimately comes down to Trump's decision. So I hope Bolton as NSA means the foreign policy of the United States will move in a more hawkish direction for the sake of national security. Best of luck Mr. Bolton, Godspeed. 

Robert Suriano is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in history. His column, "A RINO's View," runs on alternate Mondays.


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Robert Suriano

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