Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Dan Campbell (El Salvador 1974–77)
What’s Wrong With Trump’s Approach To Iran?
by Stephen Gottlieb (Iran 1965-67)
What’s wrong with Trump’s approach to Iran? Let me count the ways.
First, Trump’s claims about stopping Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s plans make little sense. What had been planned can take place with or without him. Iranian strikes are more, not less, likely now. This is too similar to the prelude to the war in Iraq except that Trump isn’t taking the time to try to convince anyone. We just have unsubstantiable and probably false claims as a basis for very costly decisions.
Second, the timing is suspicious. War threats blew impeachment out of the news. In other words, everything is PR.
Third, Trump’s stated policy is tit for tat. But where does it end? If we need the last strike, why don’t they? Most important he has crushed any diplomatic path to peace as a way out.
Fourth, this was totally unnecessary. President Obama created a path to peace in the Middle East. Only Trump thought the Iranians weren’t obeying the nuclear agreement – those who actually went and looked agreed the deal was working. But Trump shredded the existing path to peace, revived animosities that made it useless to stay in Iraq, provoked Iran by increasing sanctions after destroying the legal basis for sanctions and is now delivering the Middle East to other foreign powers like Russia and China. Iran has been measured and restrained in response.
Fifth, the military is not united on this. He has found people in the military who will work with him while other high-ranking and responsible brass react that his missions are not properly vetted and do more harm than good. Disagreement is fine but the possibility that Trump is reshaping the Army so that it can’t threaten a Trump takeover scares me most. Then we are all in the sewers, concentration camps or gas chambers. If you think that’s not possible, that’s exactly what does make it possible. We have to stop him, not ignore him.
Sixth, it is now much more likely that we are headed for war. Trump has managed to move the Iranian people from blaming their own government for their troubles to blaming the U.S. So the political pressures in Iran are now all on the side of action again the U.S.
Seventh, Iran does have the capability to react. They are well-organized for asymmetrical or unconventional warfare. American power is based on throw weight and mass destruction; Iranian power is based on secrecy and guerilla tactics. Military conflict with Iran will be very costly, a view strongly held within the military. Taking them on militarily makes little sense when there are better ways of managing conflict.
The real problem is to find someone who behaves like an adult in the White House. That makes the impeachment process more urgent and important. And by the way, the Constitution demands a trial. Trials in America are based on testimony under oath. Trial without witnesses is an oxymoron, another way Senate leaders insist on ignoring the Constitution – because they know testimony would be very damning to Trump.
Steve Gottlieb’s (Iran 1965-67) latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Count and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, and on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.