Trump’s Folly

Reading time – 3:23  .  .  .

With impeachment on his doorstep driving further mental instability, Trump needs a new and powerful distraction. That’s paired with his need to appear to be the always-wins tough guy. That’s a very dangerous combination.

I have warned about Trump doing a “wag the dog” (here, here, here and elsewhere) in order to help ensure his reelection. After all, there’s nothing like war to get Americans to forget about a current scandal and to line up in support of a leader, regardless of how wrong-headed he is. Think: George W. Bush and his war in Iraq. And his war in Afghanistan, where the goal posts kept getting moved further away.

Now in a major act of chest thumping, Trump has assassinated Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and killed others, too. These aren’t just acts of war, but are face slaps to the Iranians as well, and Iran is vowing retaliation. When they act, Trump is sure to hit back harder and draw us ever deeper into a prolonged conflict.

Recall the Powell Doctrine, forged from lessons learned from the pain of the war in Vietnam. According to Secretary (formerly General) Colin Powell, all of these questions must be answered in the affirmative before military action is taken:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

Decide for yourself if you think we have eight YES answers for dealing with Iran by using our military power. I count only one.

Don’t imagine that this conflict with Iran won’t eventually include the use of nuclear weapons, because Trump has threatened to use them repeatedly. He will claim that nukes are required in order to stop Iran from building its own nuclear bombs. These are the very bombs Iran was not building before Trump pulled the U.S. out of the JCPOA (the “Iran nuclear deal”) and the very ones Iran has vowed to resume building now that we’ve killed Suleimani. He will tell us that Iran plans to use their nuclear bombs on New York and in the “heartland” or some other allusion to Trump country.

After we nuke Iran, you don’t suppose that Iranian survivors will want revenge, do you? Or that they would use a bomb on us if they had one?  Or that we might become the world’s most reviled nation?

Meanwhile, in the face of the Suleimani assassination and the conflict escalation it promises, Congress has yet again fallen pitifully into its standard partisan divide that is self-neutering. There is no bi-partisan movement to re-assert Congressional control of war making and stop executive branch overreach. There is no adult in the aggregate of the Capitol building.

He was always an extreme bad guy, but there were solid reasons why neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama assassinated Suleimani. Those facts haven’t changed, but Trump, in his standard transactional behavior, pulled the trigger. Having done that won’t stop or even slow any planned attacks by Iranian surrogates, because if these plans exist, they’re already in progress. Neither will it interfere with Iranian military hierarchy, as Suleimani was replaced within a day. What it has done is to change the focus in this country from impeachment to hostilities in the middle-east. Wag the dog.

There are millions of Americans, especially Evangelicals, looking forward to Armageddon. Trump’s wag the dog folly could get them there – and all the rest of us, too.


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