Thankfully, Trump’s foolhardiness with Iran did not result in loss of life among our troops. When even Senator Mike Lee (R) Utah called the Trump administration’s intel briefing on the Soleimani assassination the worst he’d ever seen before Fox cut him off, you know that criticism of Trump’s conduct is about national security, not partisanship.
GOP Sen. Mike Lee railing on the Iran briefing just now from senior administration officials, calling it “the worst briefing I’ve had on a military issue in my nine years” in the Senate
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 8, 2020
Lee and Democrat Jeff Merkley both described the briefing as insulting and demeaning. This may be the first time since Trump took office that a Democrat and a Republican agreed on anything of substance.
So when I say that Iran won this last round, I do it with sadness and with concern for our national security. Aside from the fact that Trump’s conduct did not result in the deaths of American troops, nothing else that happened was in our favor.
Sure, Trump united previously divergent political factions. The only problem is they were Iraqis and Iranians – not Americans. That put Iraqis squarely on Iran’s side, score one for Iran. Iran called Trump’s bluff about retaliation by dropping missiles close enough to American bases to make it look like Iran was standing up to America and getting away with it. Trump, for all his bluster, backed down from threats to commit the war crime of targeting cultural sites and ended up looking hollow over his threat of consequences if Iran retaliated.
His morning address was, without question, the sort of hot mess that we’ve been reduced to expecting from this president – but the fact, is no amount of spin could remove the fact that Iran out-maneuvered Trump this time.
And Trump is so obsessed with erasing Barack Obama’s presidency that he can’t see it, even though it’s painfully obvious to everyone else.
This was supposed to be an address to the nation.
Making matters worse, it’s obvious this man cares more about appearing tough than keeping the American people safe. https://t.co/NnJVUA7nrQ
— Rep. Jimmy Gomez (@RepJimmyGomez) January 8, 2020
That obsession is Trump’s Achilles heel, and could be ours as well unless someone not named Vladimir Putin reels him in.
Throughout his presidency, Trump obsessed over ways to show Obama up – be it in his pathetic campaign to be Time Magazine’s Person of the Year (an accolade won by teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg) or more substantive matters, like debasing then erasing the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.
That Obama made a major international agreement with Iran was always a sore point for Republicans and it was always debased with lies suggesting that Obama paid Iran off. Trump took that lie to a more obscene level by saying https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/01/08/trump-claims-win-iran-he-accuses-obama-funding-its-attacks/ Obama funded Iran’s attacks.
He’s desperate, looking for an escape route from impeachment, obsessing over ways to erase the Obama presidency that will forever outshine Trump’s in every area that matters.
He probably felt good after Soleimani’s assassination, having people killed off just like would be done by the strong men he so admires.
But like so many of Trump’s power rushes, the high didn’t last. Iran all but laughed at his post-kill bluster with the appearance of retaliation. One can only imagine how many aides it will take to peel Trump off the walls when he finds out about the real retaliation, be it in the form of cyber warfare, or perhaps Iran will have its Wikileaks moment by outing Trump’s tax returns.
The point is we came out of this chapter without our troops getting hurt but with less influence than before. Trump can insult and yell at our traditional allies all he wants, but the odds of NATO intervening in the Middle East to save Trump’s backside are virtually nil. In short, he has cost us influence around the globe with old allies and with foes. All are laughing at the president’s “best words” that don’t even fool or impress congressional Republicans anymore.
The America Barack Obama led understood why taking out Soleimani was a bad idea, and we understood that getting people talking is the first real step toward achieving foreign policy goals. They understood that taking out Soleimani amounted to a declaration of war – as did everyone else.
Trump, being the narcissist he is, was certain that Iran would jump to his whims simply because he is Donald Trump. Iran proved him wrong and presented itself as the rational actor by comparison. Iran talked about responding in a proportionate and lawful manner.
Some will point to the fact that Trump did back down as an indication that he actually does know what he’s doing. The thing is, he didn’t back down because he read the tea leaves and recognized that Iran’s symbolic retaliation was an attempt to turn the temperature down.
Trump saw that he was standing alone and that his support among Republicans in Congress is symbolically softer than usual. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to result in Republican support for the House war powers resolution https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/08/politics/house-democrats-finalizing-details-iran-war-powers-resolution/index.html that’s scheduled for a vote on Thursday.
One reality is painfully clear: Congressional Republicans are as much a part of the problem as Trump is, because in their cowardice, they enable him. Anytime anyone shows even the slightest amount of pushback, Trump backs down. Speaker Pelosi proved this time and again over the past year and now, so has Iran.