Frederick Hall: Will Trump’s arrogance bring us down?
The media-event assassination of General Suleimani puts Trump’s unfitness to lead on full display. No one on “our” side disputes that the blood on Suleimani’s hands makes him a legitimate target.
The problem is that it shows Trump unable to assess the aftermath realistically.
Consider Trump’s proclaimed justification: to prevent serious attacks on Americans planned by Suleimani. That was his sidewalk bully coming out. Beating up on someone may work there, but nation is set against nation here. Killing the planner did nothing to prevent the attacks. Iran replaced Suleimani in one day, and rhetoric against the U.S. stepped up in the government and on the streets.
Consider also his goals for future action. One was to allow Iran to become a great nation. How schizophrenic. He clearly sees our nuclear arsenal as a cornerstone of American greatness, yet his other stated goal was to assure that Iran “never” gets a nuclear weapon. No doubt, “never” was spoken to reassure his supporters, but what can that mean in the real world? Would he use our nuclear weapons to keep Iran from getting theirs? If not, does he believe that we can maintain a long-term military occupation of Iran? Does he know that the Koran requires holy war to eject infidels from sacred Islamic soil?
How, then, do we actually engage Iran? Will anyone stand with us? Trump wasted no time correcting NATO members’ shoddy misperception. What they thought was a national commitment from the US was only an economic transaction to Trump; he will not necessarily defend members that are attacked. And Iraq—an ally despite our Shock and Awe war against them—now wants Americans out of their country. Who can blame them? Assassinating Suleimani could not possibly head off attacks on Americans but did make Iraq the immediate target of Iranian ballistic missiles.
Trump proposed international cooperation to solve the problem, saying that our allies and China and Russia need to see the wisdom of working with us toward a new agreement with Iran. Interesting. Our allies and China and Russia saw the benefit of the existing treaty and stuck with it … only Trump didn’t. His reneging did not lock the International Atomic Energy Agency out of exercising the treaty’s safeguards. All are still in place.
Now, after he assassinated an Iranian hero, what does he think new negotiations can achieve that the old treaty didn’t? And why would anyone — whether Iranian or friendly — trust Trump as a negotiating partner. His “art of the deal” is one that cannot be trusted.
Trump’s message to Iran included, of course, a threat. True, he commands the most powerful military force in all of history. But, ragged colonials — poorly-trained and poorly-equipped — prevailed in our Revolution against the world’s greatest power of the day. Now, the tables have turned, and Vietnam was the preview. B52s and Agent Orange and all that couldn’t defeat an elusive enemy that fought and then disappeared into villages and the jungle.
Iran knows it cannot “nuke it out” with us. They know, too, that they can wage a devastating asymmetrical war against us. People in every part of the world are willing to martyr themselves to kill Americans. After Trump abandoned the Kurds who once died in our cause, which of our allies will stand with us? My German friend’s report of a recent poll proves the point. Only 4% of Germans asked whether Germany should trust the U.S. said “yes” while 57% said “not at all.” Trump is no more trustworthy as ally than as negotiating partner.
We have much to fear at home — no matter the outcome with Iran. More people have been oppressed by their own countrymen with arbitrary power than by invaders. Our Constitution put processes in place to prevent anyone from wielding that power over us. But Trump, in his outrageous arrogance, displays his contempt for those safeguards with dismaying regularity. Anyone who remembers history fears greatly for the future of our great country and for the noble experiment of government by and for the people.
History’s judgment rewards great but arrogant military leaders by visiting disaster on their people. It happened to Persia — Iran’s ancestral name — in the 5th Century BCE when Xerxes waged an unnecessary war against Greece. In modern times, Napoleon failed his French Empire by invading Russia. Hitler, arrogantly believing he could one-up Napoleon, launched his attack on Russia on the same calendar day Napoleon did.
Will we, in our time, allow Trump’s arrogance to bring us down?
Frederick Hall lives in Grass Valley.
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