John Bolton's Default Setting: When In Doubt, Bomb Iran

Fox News contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton has used Fox News and print media to relentlessly push for first-strike military interventions in Iran. His advocacy of force is only the latest attempt by Bolton to push for the United States to engage in military operations against various countries around the world.

Bolton Has Tirelessly Advocated Military Strikes On Iran For Years

Bolton In February 2012: “I Don't Think It's In Our Interest To Stay Out” Of A War Between Israel And Iran. From the February 3 edition of Fox News' America Live:

BOLTON: Well, I don't think we will be able to stay out, and I don't think it's in our interest to stay out. Look, the use of military force against the Iranian program is a decidedly unattractive option, there's no doubt about it. It's risky, it has potentially significant consequences. But the choice that we face is not between life as it is today compared to life after an Israeli military strike. It's life after that strike, compared to an Iran with nuclear weapons.

So if you don't like Iran as the central banker of international terrorism, prepared to conduct terrorist operations on American soil, threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, engaging in terrorist activity worldwide, imagine how much worse it gets once they get nuclear weapons. [Fox News, America Live, 2/3/12, via Media Matters]

Bolton In January 2012: “The Better Way To Prevent Iran From Getting Nuclear Weapons Is To Attack Its Nuclear Weapons Program Directly.” On the January 11 edition of America Live, Bolton dismissed the sanctions on Iran as “half-measures” that were “doomed to failure” and proposed a direct military attack on the Iranian nuclear program:

MEGYN KELLY (host): You know, the Obama administration says it's basically imposed unprecedented sanctions on Iran and has urged our allies to do the same. We've seen tensions increasing as they've threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. There's war games going on. They've sentenced an American to death in Tehran. They've threatened to block a U.S. aircraft carrier, and on it goes. It seems like things are getting more and more tense by the day. What should we be doing?

BOLTON: Well, I think all of these efforts are doomed to failure, and, in fact, the consequence of increasing the sanctions, if anything, is simply to persuade Iran to finish -- get on with the business of finishing its nuclear weapon, putting it in the position of North Korea, which we know has exploded two nuclear devices and which makes it a lot less likely -- in fact, probably makes it impossible to believe we would ever actually attack North Korea because of the fear of nuclear retaliation.

So I think this is going to a very, very difficult year, and I think, quite honestly, half-measures like assassinations or sanctions are only going to produce the crisis more quickly. The better way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is to attack its nuclear weapons program directly and break their control over the nuclear fuel cycle. [Fox News, America Live, 1/11/12, via Media Matters]

Bolton In October 2011: “The Message To Tehran Is That We Have A Weak Administration” If U.S. Doesn't “Take Down The Regime.” On the October 30, 2011, edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Bolton asserted that the Obama administration was perceived as weak by Iran, and that the U.S should be prepared to facilitate regime change in Tehran.

BOLTON: I think the message to Tehran is that we have a weak administration. I think it's a message they have unfortunately already received. That's why they're brazen enough to plot an assassination attempt against the Saudi Arabian ambassador on American territory. They think they can get away with it, they think they can get away with helping the Assad regime repress the people of Syria, and so far they're right. We are not prepared, have not been prepared, although we should be prepared to take down the regime in Tehran. [Fox News, America's News HQ, 10/30/11, via Media Matters]

Bolton In October 2011: “The Only Alternative To A Nuclear Iran Is To Break Tehran's Program Through The Targeted Use Of Military Force.” From an October 21, 2011, American Enterprise Institute article headlined “Iran's assassination plot compels a tough response”:

The unpleasant reality is that the only alternative to a nuclear Iran is to break Tehran's program through the targeted use of military force, either by Israel, the United States or both. This is, to be sure, a risky, unpleasant and unattractive option. It is, nonetheless, far preferable to the only existing-and rapidly approaching-alternative, which is Iran with nuclear weapons. Although unwilling to say so publicly, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have long privately hoped for leveling Iran's nuclear program. With the Iranian assassination plot now public, they might even smile publicly. [American Enterprise Institute, 10/21/11]

Bolton In July 2011: The Only Way To Stop Iran From Getting The Bomb “Is Pre-Emptive Military Force.” From a July 2011 interview Bolton gave to The Jerusalem Post:

BOLTON: Now that diplomacy and sanctions aren't going to work, doing nothing will simply result in Iran getting nuclear weapons. They're working away on their ballistic missile program together with the North Koreans. So that there are only two options. One is pre-emptive military force used against key aspects of the Iranian program. Or the other is in as soon as 12 months Iran has nuclear weapons and fairly soon after that a delivery capability with ballistic missiles. [The Jerusalem Post, 7/13/11]

Bolton In August 2010:“The United States Ought To Help Israel” Take Out Iranian Nuclear Reactor. On the August 17, 2010, edition of Fox News' Hannity, Bolton responded to a question from host Sean Hannity on the operational viability of a strike against Iran's nuclear assets:

HANNITY: As we look at the country of Iran though, and where their nuclear facilities are, I mean it is spread all throughout the country, the risk for the Israeli military would be enormous, because they got to be able to penetrate deep into Iran at numerous locations. They'd need to do it I would assume simultaneously, there are refueling issues that they would face. Do you think this is even operationally possible for them to pull off in terms of taking out all the facilities they'd need to take out?

BOLTON: I think it is. I think it's a very difficult, very risky mission. I wish we weren't at this point. I think frankly the United States ought to help Israel do this. We're going to get blamed for it anyway if it happens --

HANNITY: Yeah, but you don't see the Obama administration helping Israel in this, do you?

BOLTON: Of course not. Oh, absolutely not. They're pressuring Israel not to take any steps at all, I think they're prepared to live with a nuclear Iran. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/17/10, via Media Matters]

Bolton In May 2010: “There Are Only Two Options: Iran Gets Nuclear Weapons, Or Someone Uses Pre-Emptive Military Force To Break Iran's Nuclear Fuel Cycle And Paralyze Its Program.” In a May 2, 2010, Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Get Ready for a Nuclear Iran,” Bolton posited that sanctions would only marginally impede Iran's nuclear aspirations, and that pre-emptive military force was the only feasible option:

The further pursuit of sanctions is tantamount to doing nothing. Advocating such policies only benefits Iran by providing it cover for continued progress toward its nuclear objective. It creates the comforting illusion of “doing something.” Just as “diplomacy” previously afforded Iran the time and legitimacy it needed, sanctions talk now does the same.


We therefore face a stark, unattractive reality. There are only two options: Iran gets nuclear weapons, or someone uses pre-emptive military force to break Iran's nuclear fuel cycle and paralyze its program, at least temporarily.

There is no possibility the Obama administration will use force, despite its confused and ever-changing formulation about the military option always being “on the table.” That leaves Israel, which the administration is implicitly threatening not to resupply with airplanes and weapons lost in attacking Iran -- thereby rendering Israel vulnerable to potential retaliation from Hezbollah and Hamas. [The Wall Street Journal, 5/2/10]

Bolton In January 2010: “There Are Two Outcomes: One Is Iran Gets Nuclear Weapons, The Other Is Israel Or Somebody Uses Military Force To Stop It.” On the February 8, 2010, edition of America's Newsroom, Bolton laid out scenarios regarding a nuclear Iran:

GREG JARRETT (co-host): Is military force probably in the end the only answer?

BOLTON: There are two outcomes: One is Iran gets nuclear weapons, the other is Israel or somebody uses military force to stop it. That's where we are. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 1/8/10, via Media Matters]

Bolton In January 2009: On Iran, “Meaningful Efforts At Regime Change And Assisting Israel Should It Decide To Strike Iran's Nuclear Facilities Would Be Good First Steps” In a January 2, 2009, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bolton offered his advice for the incoming Obama administration on Iran, suggesting “regime change” and assisting Israel in a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would be “good first steps”:

Iran and North Korea achieved their objectives through diplomacy. Mr. Bush failed to achieve his. How can Mr. Obama do better? For starters, he could increase the pressure on China, which has real leverage over North Korea, to press Kim Jong Il's regime in ways that the six-party talks never approached. Options on Iran are more limited, but meaningful efforts at regime change and assisting Israel should it decide to strike Iran's nuclear facilities would be good first steps.

Sadly, the chances Mr. Obama will adopt these policies are far less than the steadily dwindling possibility that the Bush administration might yet come back to reality. Mr. Obama's handling of the rogue states will -- at best -- continue the Bush policies, which failed to stop nuclear proliferation. Get ready for a dangerous ride. [The Wall Street Journal, 1/2/09]

Bolton In July 2008: “Before, During, And After A Strike On Iran,” The U.S Should “Facilitate [Israel's] Efforts Where We Can.” In a July 15, 2008, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bolton advocated for robust U.S. involvement in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran:

Thus, instead of debating how much longer to continue five years of failed diplomacy, we should be intensively considering what cooperation the U.S. will extend to Israel before, during and after a strike on Iran. We will be blamed for the strike anyway, and certainly feel whatever negative consequences result, so there is compelling logic to make it as successful as possible. At a minimum, we should place no obstacles in Israel's path, and facilitate its efforts where we can.

These subjects are decidedly unpleasant. A nuclear Iran is more so. [The Wall Street Journal, 7/15/08]

Bolton Has Also Encouraged Military Interventions In Other Countries

Bolton Advocated For Possible U.S. Military Intervention In Somalia. On the April 13, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends, in a response to growing piracy in Somalia, Bolton argued for military redress to a “deteriorated situation”:

PETER JOHNSON JR. (co-host): Well, ambassador, if you were serving in this administration, would it be your recommendation that they go into -- militarily with air strikes and or boots on the ground -- into these so-called feral cities, where these pirates are taking hold? Should we go in and take those people out, and take their installations out, now, militarily? Is that what you're suggesting?

BOLTON: Yes, I think obviously we need to plan this prudently. There are a variety of different ways to go, we may have allies on the ground there as well. But the fact is this is a very profitable business, and until we make it clear that the cost of doing business is potentially the loss of the pirates' lives, certainly the loss of their boats and their base camps, I don't think anything is going to change. This is a deteriorated situation in Somalia. There is no effective government. There's nobody else on the ground there that's going to do it. And unless we go in and really end this problem once and for all, we will simply see it grow over time. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/13/09, via Media Matters]

Bolton Pushed For “Overthrow” Of Syrian Government. On the June 13, 2011, edition of Your World With Neil Cavuto, Bolton remarked to host Neil Cavuto that the U.S. had missed an opportunity to overthrow the regime in Syria:

CAVUTO: I always think when I look at this definition of why we would want to get involved in this case in Syria, they're always very decent. You know, we want to stop a bloodshed, and folks from getting butchered and murdered. But by that definition you could say the same with

should we do so in Darfur, you know, should we go on and do the same in Lebanon and Algeria -- even in the Philippines where there's been civil disruptions and the like. To what end, how far do we go, what is our litmus test?

BOLTON: Well, I think our litmus test is when there are significant American interests involved. And I do think that it would be in our interest to overthrow this regime in Syria. The best time to have done it would be right after we overthrew Saddam Hussein when we had hundreds of thousands of American troops in Iraq. [Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 6/13/11, via ThinkProgress]

In 1998, Bolton Advocated Possible Military Intervention In Iraq. From a letter to former President Bill Clinton co-signed by Bolton:

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War. In your upcoming State of the Union Address, you have an opportunity to chart a clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power. We stand ready to offer our full support in this difficult but necessary endeavor.


Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.


We urge you to act decisively. If you act now to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. or its allies, you will be acting in the most fundamental national security interests of the country. If we accept a course of weakness and drift, we put our interests and our future at risk. [Project For The New American Century, 1/26/98]

As A Bush Administration Official, In 2002 Bolton Also Pushed For The Overthrow Of Saddam Hussein. On August 27, 2002, Bolton gave an interview with Japanese television Fuji-TV in which he advocated for regime change in Iraq. From the transcript:

U/S Bolton: Well, the policy of the Bush administration is that for the good of the people of Iraq and in the interest of peace and stability in the region, that there should be a change of regime in Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator. He has oppressed his own people. He has used chemical weapons against his own citizens. He's used chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war. He has a long history of aggression against his neighbors, including the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and he has been aggressively pursuing and quite likely obtaining weapons of mass destruction. He's been after a nuclear chemical and biological warfare capability, and he's been seeking to acquire new kinds of ballistic missile technology to deliver those weapons. All of that makes him a real threat, and therefore it's, I think, a very prudent and logical conclusion that he needs to be replaced, and the people of Iraq need to be given the chance to have a representative government elected. [, 8/27/02]