Bolton is undoubtedly telling Trump the Russians won't retaliate and Mattis that it's a chance he's not willing to take
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Trump tweeted recently that he never said when strikes at Syria would be coming, only that they would, and the reason is he can’t make up his mind what exactly to do.
Defense Secretary Mattis yesterday told the Senate his big worry about the strikes Trump wants is how to keep them from “escalating out of control”:
Asked what worries him most about possible military action in Syria, Mattis said: “On a strategic level, it’s how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if you catch my drift on that.”
Later it was reported that Trump has again put off making a decision on Syria strikes (when and how big) and that Mattis and arch-war-goon Bolton had clashed over the issue.
It is not difficult to imagine what their respective positions were. I don’t think the generals, Mattis and Dunford are necessarily opposed to the strikes (why would they be, it’s a make-work program for them), but they’re worried about the very real possibility of blowback against their troops. They’re almost certainly arguing for much more limited strikes that would be mostly cleared with the Russians in advance.
The National Security Bolton is likely telling Trump to ignore the general’s fear and simply assume the Russians will go back on their word and won’t hit back even if some of their men are put into danger or even killed. Whether Bolton actually believes this or would actually welcome Russians hitting back so he can have an even larger war is something only he knows.
Again it has to be pointed out the US military men are not the worst in this instance (they rarely are, except the Air Force and the Special Forces). It is the chickenhawk Bolton, and his ilk in the think-tanks and the State Department (traditionally) who are the most extreme.