While it’s important not to draw any stern conclusions about our current conflict with Iran, it sure appears as if President Trump has won the first round.
His order last week to kill Iranian general Qasem Soleimani (a man responsible for countless deaths, unimaginable human suffering, and the recent attack on our embassy in Iraq) was not only militarily and legally justified, but arguably long overdue. And it now seems likely that Iran’s retaliatory missile attack (on two American-staffed bases in Iraq) was done mostly for show — a face-saving tactic designed to avoid U.S. casualties.
Again, it’s way too early for a victory dance, but there’s reason for cautious optimism that Trump’s bold hit on Soleimani might (at least temporarily) tamp down Iranian aggression in the region. And that would be a good thing for both America and Iraq; Iran too, for that matter.
Predictably, many on the political left immediately jumped to worst-case conclusions, framing Trump’s decisive action as the start of “World War 3.” Some insisted that the president had ordered the hit to distract the American public from his impeachment, and a few even appeared to revel in the news of Iran’s countermeasure:
Trump wagged the dog.
Now the dog is wagging Trump.
— Lawrence O’Donnell (@Lawrence) January 8, 2020
Again, such political rancor was to be expected. And if it were Obama who’d made the call, these same people assuredly would have framed the decision as a brave demonstration of American leadership.
Reactions on the political right have been a bit more fascinating.
While Trump’s foreign policy actions have been all over the board since he took office, ranging from targeted military strikes to embarrassing flattery-offensives against brutal dictators, the president’s defenders (including media-conservatives) have mostly latched onto his nationalist, non-interventionist rhetoric (especially when it comes to the Middle East). I’m talking about the former hawks who’ve since adopted Code Pink’s (and Trump’s) anti-war oratory about “neo-cons” and “ending endless wars.”
This crowd has rarely missed an opportunity in recent years to lecture the “establishment types” about their war-mongering ways, yet the second Trump pulls a “cowboy diplomacy” page straight out of George W. Bush’s playbook, these same folks are among the first to shout, “yee-haw!”:
2020…so far, so good. pic.twitter.com/7rXhfayUEG
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) January 3, 2020
The intellectual flexibility is amazing.
You also have to marvel at members of the Trump administration now disparaging those who are questioning the credibility and reliability of our intelligence agencies, when Trump himself has been the main prosecutor of that effort for past three years.
But thankfully, when it comes to Iran, Trump’s action is speaking louder than the words of the punditry class on both the left and right (and even his own often unhelpful rhetoric). Setting the hyperbole and hypocrisy aside for a moment, this was a tough, consequential call by the president…and there’s a good chance that it was the right one.
That’s important…and let’s hope his decision is validated by history.