Tensions are rising in the waters off the coast of Iran, and onlookers are concerned that the U.S. could be on a collision course with the Islamic Republic. Though President Trump campaigned as a man who thought America’s adventures in the Middle East were colossal mistakes, he has at his side a national security adviser who believes that interventionism is still the name of the game. His name is John Bolton, and some of Trump’s most fervent supporters are worried that Bolton will pull the trigger on another costly American war.
Last week, top military advisers reportedly met with President Trump to lay out possible steps the administration could take against Iran. With threats emerging from the region, it only makes sense that Trump would want the pieces in place to retaliate if Iran took preemptive military action. The U.S.’s decision to bring non-emergency personnel home from Iran this week was another indication of how seriously the president is taking the threat.
Asked directly about a report that had Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recommending a deployment of 120,000 troops to the region, President Trump dismissed it as inaccurate.
“Hopefully we’re not going to have a plan for that,” he said. “And if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”
But, knowing that Trump is a firm believer in playing his cards close to the vest when it comes to military action, his response provided little solace to supporters who see war on the horizon. On his program Tuesday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said that Bolton and the mainstream media were rattling the drums of conflict.
“More than anything in the world, national security advisor John Bolton would love to have a war with Iran. It will be like Christmas, Thanksgiving, his birthday wrapped into one,” Carlson said. “Mercifully, John Bolton does not control the military. How is a war with Iran in America’s interest in any way?”
“The people agitating for it right now, MSNBC, CNN, Max Boot, Bill Kristol — the usual suspects,” Carlson said later. “None of whom have the country’s interest at heart I would argue. I mean, it is chilling.”
Make no mistake, regime change in Iran would almost certainly be a welcome development. But that regime change should come, if at all possible, through a democratic uprising in the country itself. And even then, we learned from the Arab Spring that when dictatorial governments are removed from power, they are often replaced by…well, worse versions of the same thing. And that’s only if prolonged, terrorist-riddled sectarian violence doesn’t overtake the country.
If Iran launches an attack against U.S. forces that can’t be ignored, then Trump will have to do what he has to do. But until and unless that moment comes, he needs to keep Bolton and any other war-agitators in the administration on a tight leash.