2 Things We Learn from How John Bolton’s Views Have “Evolved” on Syria

After the brief bombing raid on Syria, the media reminds us that John Bolton’s views have changed.

There’s been a lot of talk about how John Bolton’s views might have affected Trump on Syria. It might be worth remembering that back in 2013 John Bolton’s views on bombing Syria as a punishment for the (alleged) use of chemical weapons seem different from his views now. Though Barach Obama wanted to strike Syria as punishment, Bolton thought it was ill-advised.

Bolton seemed to only want a bigger attack. It will be interesting to see how long he stays with Donald Trump since Trump has already declared “mission accomplished.”

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Futhermore, John Bolton’s views seem more about Russian and Iranian influence rather than the evil of chemical weapons being used in Syria. If someone wanted to build a case that the allegations about a chemical attack were a convenient excuse for Bolton, he could start with the story below:

McClatchy reports, “Bolton, key Trump adviser, has evolved his views on Syria.

When President Barack Obama contemplated a military strike in Syria after its leader’s use of chemical weapons five years ago, the pugnacious former U.N. ambassador John Bolton argued against intervention.

“I don’t think it is in America’s interest,” Bolton said in a FOX interview in 2013. “I don’t think we should in effect take sides in the Syrian conflict.”

Yet for the last week, Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, has been pushing for a more aggressive approach to Syria, illustrating his views in the region have changed dramatically as he has become more alarmed about the rise of influence by Russia and Iran, key allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Ultimately, he views the Syrian crisis through the lens of Iran and Iran’s potential dominance in the region,” said Mark Groombridge, a former Bolton aide at the State Department whom he brought as an adviser in 2005 when he became ambassador.

When the United States — along with France and Britain — launched military strikes on sites designed to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons program in Syria on Friday, critics blamed Bolton.


U.S. defense officials said the strikes could be repeated if Assad uses chemical weapons again.

But former colleagues say Bolton, now one of the most influential foreign policy voices in Trump’s administration, is focusing less on the use of chemical weapons than on broader geopolitical issues in the Middle East that have evolved in the past half-decade.


James Jeffrey, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey and deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration, said Bolton was wrong to say that the United States shouldn’t take sides in the civil war, but he said that was also before Russia got involved.

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About the author

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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