Political Thoughts by Richard Bleil
On January 3, President Trump ordered an Iranian general be killed on Iraqi soil, an order that the US military apparently executed using drones. This action also caused the death of several others, including Iraqi generals. The reason, according to his statements, is because this Iranian general was actively planning attacks on American citizens and interests, and he has asked that we trust this statement without proof.
The fact is, I don’t know if this is true or not. As the president, he has access to information that I do not, so it very well may be true. Unfortunately, he is famous for his lies. His fabrications and exaggerations have occurred at a pace that is so excessive that it has become something of a running joke, with regular “scores” of his misstatements and “fact checking” analyses inundating the news. So now, how can we trust him when, frankly, we need to? The problem is that there is more to trust than just “should we have”, but also, “were there alternatives”? Unfortunately, in my opinion, he has also demonstrated a distinct lack of political savvy.
It’s said that war is a failure of politicians. He felt it necessary to take out a recognized general of Iran in an assassination. Was there truly no other alternative? For example, it seems as if he was a general of the country, why couldn’t we take the discussion to his political leaders? There is a distinct difference between a first strike, and opening discussions with a nation to assure them that if any of these general’s actions were to be attempted, successful or not, the US would respond to Iran. That would have put the onus on Iran to avoid retaliation. Instead, with the actions we took, the US is now perceived to be the “bad guy”, and retaliations will be viewed by many, possibly including some of our own allies, as justified.
And there will be retaliations. Make no mistake about it. But, let’s be real; many of these actions (in fact, I suspect it will be most) will not be from Iran. This action has inflamed anti-American sentiment, angered those who believe this action to have been against the Muslim religion, and will reinvigorate terrorist organizations across the region. We won’t see Iranian troops marching on US soil. They know they don’t have the strength to directly challenge the sovereignty of the United States, so when they strike it will be smaller. It will be against American interests, citizens, vulnerable troops overseas and it will be from many directions. Unfortunately, Trump’s apparent lack of diplomatic finesse has weakened our influence in the region and will reverse anti-terrorism progress.
Loss of US influence includes several actions. Withdraw of troops from Syria has allowed the Soviet Union and Turkey to press the advantage against those who were our allies, actions that resulted in the release of ISIS prisoners. Iraq has voted to expel US forces from their country that were there in support of the Iraqi fight against ISIS further weakening that struggle. Anti-American sentiment can also be expected to increase the number of people volunteering for ISIS and other terrorist organizations, such as the al-Shabab arm of al-Qaeda that attacked an American base in Kenya. Whether or not this was in response to the assassination, or if it was emboldened by it, is not known (or at least not been made clear as of the writing of this opinion), but as terrorist organizations are sure to become further emboldened, the strength to fight back against them is weakening.
Because of Trump’s action.
Again, you don’t have to agree. If you disagree and are still reading, I truly admire that. But I doubt that anything could be said to change my mind (although I am open to the possibility that I am wrong). Recently, Trump further displayed his lack of diplomatic finesse in his response to the criticism and actions against the assassination. He argued that the action was to prevent war, not start one which clearly shows that he realizes the danger of the responses. Then he went on to state that the US has a list of fifty-two specific targets should Iran try to respond at all. This response, in and of itself, shows not only a proclivity of terrorist thinking on his part, but also a lack of understanding of international law.
I say terrorist thinking for a couple of reasons. First of all, the number fifty-two is symbolic of each of the fifty-two Americans taken hostage by Iran in 1979. The leader at the time was the Ayatollah Kkomeini, who died in 1989. These hostages were taken over forty years ago. Holding onto anger over this event shows the kind of grudge logic that is used by terrorist organizations, and often used for recruitment by them. Secondly, he made it clear that among these targets are non-military sites, including targets of cultural significance.
The fact is that targeting culturally significant sites is a violation of the Geneva Convention. I find it interesting that even Iran’s current leaders have pointed this fact out when Trump himself seems to be acting as if he is unaware of it. Should his plan to target culturally significant targets be carried out, then our president would quite literally be a war criminal by international law.
Trump carried the election for two reasons. First, he was clever enough to know which electoral college votes to target as opposed to going after the entire nation. Yes, I give him credit for figuring this out, but also remember that he did not win the majority of votes of the American people, and I believe that it would do well for his supporters to remember they are a minority in this nation as well. Second, he ran as a political outsider, gaining support from many people precisely because he was not a politician. This translates to lack of diplomatic skill. He walked out of the Iranian deal with a promise to negotiate a better one that never occurred resulting in a partial rollback of the Iranian promises to restrict their research which has now become a complete rollback. His sanctions against North Korea imposed in 2017 has caused the nation to renew full-scale research effort to develop not only a nuclear warhead, but intercontinental ballistic missiles as well. The world is far more dangerous today than it was in 2016, and I personally believe this is because of President Trump’s rash actions and lack of diplomatic skills.