“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” Shakespeare, Henry IV
Oh, should it be. But somehow we circle back into the past. “Mission Accomplished.” Spider hole as part of the national dialogue. COIN. IEDs. The dismissal of the Iraqi Army. The looting. The statue, toppling, disintegrating so much like the Iraqi state.
The failures of our misadventure in Iraq haunted those responsible. Even George W. Bush admitted his regret over the war (albeit, piecemeal). Moreso, we sent a generation of soldiers, seamen, airmen, Marines, diplomats, and civilians over to break against that which we never understood. And after it all, we thought the hawks plumage plucked.
But Bolton has crawled from his lair in the American Enterprise Institute. Trump’s “drained swamp” has come to look far more like the redux of 2003. Chickenhawks, glorifying the military only as a tool, a sword to be handled with little thought that both sides can cut, are hunting for the next meal. North Korea? Venezuela? Iran? Where can we spend our blood and treasure next?
It’s so easy to declare your support for the troops. To call them “heroic” and bleat about “sacrifice” from afar, and do so without thought. Divorcing oneself from the meanings of the words. What does it mean to actually lead, to actually carry the weight of sending men and women to die? Or is it simply more fun to wield the sword and crown, like an aged Joffrey, thinking oneself invincible?
The neocons were a dangerous group, and their realignment of world power was exposed in the brutal deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. Bolton’s dismissal of the United Nations decried an inflexibility incompatible with the real world (despite very real criticisms of effectiveness). His tenure as National Security Adviser will be the whisperings of Iago into Trump’s ear. Fear. Revenge. Attack.
I cannot know the mind of General McMaster under Trump. Did he take the position out of some sense of duty, to try to coax the President to avoid the very pitfalls he wrote of in “Dereliction of Duty?” Were those little lies told simply to stay in the graces of a vainglorious man, to help recognize the weight of the crown? Or was he a true believer in Trump World? Can one live so long next to darkness without embracing the shadow? No matter now, McMaster will be gone, and the crows calling for flesh will caw louder.
Henry IV took power through betrayal and died sickly. Those surrounding him in life were a mixture of sycophants and true leaders. He was beset by rebellions and haunted by the rumors of Richard II, the prior king and once childhood friend whom Henry starved to death in prison. It was a different, more violent time. Yet, so was the Iraq Insurgency, caused by a series of mistakes and foolish gambits by men and women straining to ignore reality. It was a time of wolves and hawks. It was the time of John Bolton.
Now it seems his time has come again.