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John Bolton, Trump’s New War Consigliere, Dodged The ‘Already Lost’ Vietnam War
“I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy… I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.”
— John Bolton, 1995
The funny thing about relentlessly pressing for more war in America is that a lot of the most zealous warhawking politicians and pundits over the years — left and right — leaned on their privileges to avoid being touched personally by war. Dick Cheney never met an oil-rich Middle Eastern nation whose ground he didn’t want to siphon, but he had “other priorities” when Vietnam rolled around. Bill Clinton — the comparative “dove” who still managed to deploy U.S. power to the Balkans, the Horn of Africa, Haiti, and Sudan — also pulled strings to sidestep the ’Nam draft, as did current POTUS Donald Trump, whose bone spurs may have precluded wartime service, but not weaponized tweeting.
In this pantheon of chickenhawking old guys with money and power, few hawk harder than John Bolton, the incoming national security adviser, whose appointment is freaking out even level-headed wonks with a high tolerance for overseas power projection. Bolton’s politics gel with those of a lot of military hard-chargers: He believes dearly that blood makes the grass grow. First-strike on North Korea? Do it. First-strike on Iran? Do it now. Do it brusquely, with straight talk!
The distinction is, unlike the troops whose deployments he’ll have enormous sway over, John Bolton won’t brook the idea of his blood gurgling on any battlefield, especially in a losing effort. Bolton, it turns out, is known for bolting when the gun bolts start cycling.
Bolton said nuts to that, later writing in a memoir that he “wasn’t going to waste time on a futile struggle” in Vietnam. (The memoir’s title, by the way, is Surrender Is Not An Option.)
The Yale Daily News reported more than a decade ago how Bolton articulated his “war for thee, but not for me” values to his classmates when their 25th reunion came around in 1995:
Though Bolton supported the Vietnam War, he declined to enter combat duty, instead enlisting in the National Guard and attending law school after his 1970 graduation. “I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy,” Bolton wrote of his decision in the 25th reunion book. “I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.”
A lot of people considered the the Vietnam War already lost in 1970 — including a lot of Americans who, you know, actually had to serve there. But Bolton is a special case: He’d spent his time in college literally cheerleading for moar war. “The conservative underground is alive and well here,” he reportedly said as a student in a public campus debate over Vietnam; “if we do not make our influence felt, rest assured we will in the real world.”
When the real world came knocking? Bolton said nuts to that, later writing in a memoir that he “wasn’t going to waste time on a futile struggle” in Vietnam. (The memoir’s title, by the way, is Surrender Is Not An Option.)
Now, joining the Guard isn’t nothing, especially not today, when OCONUS deployments are ever more common for weekend warriors. But in the Vietnam era, it was a time-tested means of avoiding wartime deployment, popular among the well-connected, and Bolton understood this well; he admits this was his calculus for joining in his memoir: “Dying for your country was one thing, but dying to gain territory that antiwar forces in Congress would simply return to the enemy seemed ludicrous to me.”
Shorter John Bolton: I totally would’ve gone to fight the war I publicly advocated, but it was going to be lost anyway, and I didn’t want to die, like the 9,500-plus Americans who went in my stead and died between 1970 and the fall of Saigon. Now buy my book, Surrender Is Not An Option, which explains why we need war with Iran and North Korea.
With hawks like these, it’s amazing we haven’t lost more wars. But with Bolton coordinating White House security strategy, there are likely to be plenty of new chances to lose. Not for him, obviously; just for the troops he supports so dearly, at a safe remove.
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
Green Beret with terminal cancer meets Trump to rally support for military medical malpractice reform
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.
Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.
The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?