Why Mattis likely called the new National Security Adviser the “devil incarnate”

Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meets with the National Security Adviser-designate of the United States John R. Bolton at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., March 29, 2018. (DoD photo by Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm)

When Defense Secretary and military legend Jim Mattis met with incoming national security adviser John Bolton at the steps of the Pentagon on Thursday, a jokey phrase caught the ears of nearby reporters:

“I heard you’re actually the devil incarnate, and I wanted to meet you.”

While the comment was no doubt uttered in jest, it raised questions about Bolton’s past, particularly his hawkish mannerisms that are well documented in both his resume and modern US history.

Who exactly is John Bolton?

Born in 1948, John R. Bolton has had a fairly eventful life. A graduate of Yale Law School, he shared classes with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and was a contemporary to Bill and Hillary Clinton, respectively.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the threat of being drafted and sent to Vietnam was very real. Opting to stay in law school, Bolton joined the Maryland Army National Guard, serving four years and two remaining years in the US Army Reserve.

“I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy, he wrote in his Yale 25th Reunion book. “I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.”

When asked to explain his comments later in life, he said he avoided combat because “by the time I was about to graduate in 1970, it was clear to me that opponents of the Vietnam War had made it certain we could not prevail, and that I had no great interest in going there to have Teddy Kennedy give it back to the people I might die to take it away from.”

Despite his lack of appetite for combat, Bolton has been historically aggressive in terms of foreign policy, which includes backing the Iraq War, the conflict in Libya, as well as previously retaliatory strikes upon Iran and North Korea, respectively.

Accused of being a “war hawk,” Bolton has openly called for military-forced regime changes in North Korea and Iran, as well as being instrumental in building upon the dubious claims that Saddam Hussein possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction- which led to the Iraq War.

According to the BBC, Mr. Bolton was accused of trying to force out two intelligence analysts who disagreed with his belief that Saddam had WMDs. He was also accused of seeking to undermine retired general and then Secretary of State Colin Powell who was opposed to the war.

Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul described Mr. Bolton last year in an op-ed as “hell-bent on repeating virtually every foreign policy mistake the US has made in the last 15 years”.

Formerly the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2005-2006, Bolton was not particularly well-liked, often described as “abrasive.”

So who is John Bolton? Based on his past impacts in history, the future National Security Advisor may be the harbinger of the next major war in an already unstable global stage- or he may be in and out of his position relatively quickly, as other Trump cabinet members have found in a largely high-turnover administration. For now, only time will tell.

However, one thing is for certain- even among many seasoned combat veterans- his resume gives many the heebie-jeebies, while others see him as an asset to “Make America Great Again.”

Either way, it would behoove one to pay attention to John Bolton, particularly in such uncertain times as these.

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