Despite running for president without any experience in government or foreign policy, Donald Trump long insisted that he knew more about the country's national security than anyone else running. One of his main points, which he used effectively against both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, was his claim that he had better judgment about the Iraq invasion, as well as the later invasion in Libya. Ignoring, for a moment, that Trump's Iraq war claim was demonstrably false in the campaign, now that Trump is heading towards the presidency, he seems to be backing off on any rejection of Bush-era foreign policy or the Iraq War.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under Bush, John Bolton, is under consideration for secretary of state. Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor and Trump campaign adviser, is reportedly also under consideration.
Bolton worked in the State Department during the Bush administration, and was a proud supporter of the invasion of Iraq. He told the Washington Examiner last year that he still has "no regrets" about the decision to invade Iraq. He wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in 2015 calling for the United States to bomb Iran. From my perspective, he has been one of the most consistent hawks in the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment, advocating in 2012 to invade Syria, a position that seems at odds with Trump's views on the Syrian civil war.
Already, the possibility of Bolton has many who still feel burned by the Iraq War worried. Sen. Rand Paul, who has previously bucked national security culture in ways that have put him at odds with both parties, has said he will "do whatever it takes" to prevent Bolton from becoming secretary of state. Paul told Politico:
He’s opposed to everything Donald Trump ran on: that the Iraq war was a mistake, regime change made us less safe in the Middle East, including in Iraq. ... I don’t know how a President Trump could appoint someone who’s diametrically opposed to everything Donald Trump ran on.
Already, Trump's promise of a new administration free of the influence of the old ideas he ran against is turning out to be as true as his claims of being against the Iraq War. After Trump ran against Hillary Clinton by attacking her perceived closeness to the financial industry, his reported top pick for treasury secretary is a former Goldman Sachs banker, Steven Mnuchin, according to Politico. And now, after arguing that he knew how to fix America's foreign policy, he's staffing from among those who even he felt led America into a mistake.
Trump's presidency needs a team of experts to function well, many of whom should come from outside his circle, and many of whom should disagree with him on major issues. I would hope that Trump's secretary of state disagrees with him and keeps him in check, but from my perspective, appointing a hawk who stands by the Iraq invasion seems like going too far.