Opinion: John Bolton: The squawking of a chickenhawk

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To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: There he goes again.

In Wednesday’s Opinion pages, former U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton weighs in on the war in Afghanistanand President Obama’s pledge to begin withdrawing U.S. troops in July.

Not surprisingly, Bolton is critical.

For the nation, the president’s best course would be to protect and capitalize on the progress we have made by maintaining troop levels and offensive operations in Afghanistan until the job is done, whenever that is. There should be no mistake that a politically driven withdrawal of substantial U.S. forces will squander the victories won in Afghanistan since the 2009 surge. It will signal to the Taliban and Al Qaeda that their long travail is nearing an end. And it will signal to radicals in Pakistan and elsewhere that they too can act against the U.S. ultimately with impunity. All of these results will endanger not just the United States but peace and security worldwide.


I have four words for Bolton: ‘Vietnam War’ and ‘shut up.’

Bolton was at Yale during Vietnam. Unlike almost everyone there, he supported the war. As did fellow Yalie George W. Bush. And like Bush, when it came time to back up his tough talk, he walked -– joining the National Guard.

‘I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy,’ Bolton wrote of his decision in his Yale 25th reunion book. ‘I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.’

Which is fine; everyone made choices then. What’s the point in rehashing it?

There’s just one caveat: Bolton’s choice -– like the ones made by Bush and by Dick Cheney -- should disqualify him and others like him from ever sending other young men and women to die in similar circumstances. Or from offering an opinion on the subject.

Bolton had his chance to fight, and die, for his country in a cause he believed in. He passed. So spare us the outrage, John. Spare us the talk of Obama endangering the United States.

The president should maintain ‘troop levels and offensive operations in Afghanistan until the job is done, whenever that is’? Oh, please. Does Bolton own stock in a defense contractor, or a company that makes body bags?

Here’s my test for when U.S. troops should go into combat: Is the cause worth my son’s life? Is it worth the life of my neighbor’s son, or daughter, or husband or wife?


Because in the end, for all of Bolton’s lofty talk about ‘peace and security worldwide,’ that’s what it boils down to: Someone’s going to die -– someone’s son, or daughter, or husband or wife.

Bolton and others like him chose law school when duty called in Vietnam. But more than 55,000 Americans weren’t so fortunate. And more than 4,500 Americans have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If the relatives of one of those who fell want to write about what we should do in Afghanistan, I’ll listen.

But John Bolton should just shut up.


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--Paul Whitefield