White House National Security Adviser John Bolton’s preference is to “take on the whole world at one time,” President Trump said in an interview with NBC News as he defended having both foreign policy “hawks” and “doves” advising him as military tensions with Iran escalate.
Following his decision last week to scrap retaliatory airstrikes on Iran after the country shot down a U.S. drone, Mr. Trump said he listened to advisers on both sides of the debate. Mr. Bolton, the president said, is the unquestioned leader of the hawk caucus.
“John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him he’d take on the whole world at one time,” the president said in an interview recorded last week and aired in full on Sunday morning.
Mr. Trump’s comments confirm that Mr. Bolton was the loudest voice advocating for the U.S. to strike back militarily against Iran. The president ultimately decided against the idea, saying the estimated death toll of 150 Iranians was too high.
Mr. Bolton’s hawkish foreign policy views are no secret. The former United Nations ambassador has taken hard-line positions on Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and other hot spots around the world.
On Iran specifically, some retired military officials fear Mr. Bolton is pushing the president toward war.
“It appears that we’re certainly headed in that direction. Certainly John Bolton has that reputation, he’s been hawkish forever and very focused on regime change in Iran,” retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “My biggest concern is the president is running out of room, running out of options and while rhetoric goes back and forth on how close we came to hitting Iran just the other day, that this thing could spin out of control.”