If Stanley Kubrick were making his classic dark comedy “Dr. Strangelove” today, the part of Strangelove himself would be modeled not on a German scientist but on an all-American type, born in Baltimore, educated at Yale University and with no ominous physical tics — like a barely repressed Nazi salute. Instead, he would have a shoe-brush mustache and the steady glare of a true believer. John Bolton gets the part, hands down.
Bolton is now President Trump’s national security adviser. He sits at Trump’s elbow. Bolton has restructured the National Security Council to match his views. He has laid out strategies to eliminate North Korea’s missile capacity and its nuclear program, including a preemptive strike. Bolton thinks North Korea inevitably lies. North Korea thinks Bolton is “human scum and a bloodsucker.”
I think it’s time to worry.
It’s virtually impossible to put yourself in the shoes of Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader. Who is this guy? What accounts for that haircut? Did he really have his uncle killed ? Has he used antiaircraft weapons to execute his own government officials? Does he believe what he says?
The last question is likely to be answered by most Americans in the negative. How could anyone believe that the United States, the nicest of nations, would strike North Korea unprovoked? But Bolton has suggested there are ways to do that. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece in August, Bolton outlined various military approaches, starting with a preemptive “strike at Pyongyang’s known nuclear facilities, ballistic missile factories and launch sites, and submarine bases.” In other words, war.
Bolton recognizes what would happen to South Korea as a result — and he’s sorry for that. But elsewhere he has written that the United States has to do what the United States has to do and cannot be constrained even by an ally. With Seoul within range of North Korean artillery — and the likelihood of taking out all its nuclear armed missiles uncertain — we are talking about huge casualties and immense devastation. Such a consequence ought to be out of the question.
Bolton’s plans for North Korea have an underlying theme: The regime is illegitimate. Even his most benign plan, the wish that China end the North’s misery and