President Donald Trump gives a statement to the press on Iran on Wednesday. (Screen capture via YouTube)
We are in precarious times with a president who is uninformed and unwilling to learn. He could have just blundered us into a war. I favor a robust American foreign policy with the United States assuming its fair share of responsibility for protecting our interests and those of our allies. We must defend human rights and speak out for decent people around the world. There are times we must intervene in a foreign crisis.
What we cannot abide is a president who is so reckless as to act without any idea of what the consequences could be and no knowledgeable advisers he listens to who can help him navigate what is to come from his recklessness. The first result came on Sunday when the Iraqi Parliament passed “legislation that threads a fine needle: While using strong language demanding that the government ‘end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil and prevent the use of Iraqi airspace, soil and water for any reason’ by foreign forces, it gives no timetable for doing so.” Then Iran announced it would no longer stick to the uranium enrichment restrictions of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Democratic primary candidates are divided on how to respond to Trump’s killing of Soleimani and divided on how to conduct a robust foreign policy. While I haven’t endorsed a candidate for president, the Democrat whose statement made the most sense to me after Trump ordered the killing came from Joe Biden. He said, “No American will mourn Qassem Soleimani’s passing. He deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region. … President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad. … We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East. I hope the administration has thought through the second- and third-order consequences of the path they have chosen.”
Some have tried to compare Trump’s foray into Iraq and killing Soleimani with President Clinton’s foray into Iraq in 1998. Republicans at the time said Clinton was doing it to delay impeachment proceedings against him. Trump tweeted in November 2011 that Obama was contemplating attacking Iraq to win re-election. The 1998 bombing of Iraq (code-named Operation Desert Fox) was a major four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets. It lasted from Dec. 16-19 and while it may have delayed impeachment by a day or two, Clinton was impeached on Dec. 19, 1998. Trump is presumably aware of that. One major difference behind the actions of Presidents Clinton and Trump is that in Desert Fox one of our major allies, Britain, participated with us in the bombing; we did not go it all alone. The reason given at the time and accepted by many was Iraq didn’t comply with United Nations resolutions and interfered with United Nations Special Commission inspectors. Today, Trump has yet to detail what immediate threat Soleimani posed.
The world has changed since 1998 and it is notable why Trump is clearly having the U.S. go this route alone. He is fighting with all our allies and has been attacking NATO and recently abandoned our allies the Kurds. Instead he has lavished praise on our enemies including dictators in North Korea and Russia. Frightening are recent reports that “China, Russia and Iran began a four-day joint military exercise in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman on Friday amid ongoing friction in the economically important region between Tehran and Washington.”
We are seeing Trump’s foreign policy lead to the rise of China and Russia as superpowers with much more influence in the Middle East than the United States. That could lead to dire consequences as yet unknown.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.