Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Trump/Suleimani: The Strike Was Justified, But Trump's Rhetoric Is Insane

Pretty much par for the course, IMO:
   But most important, we don’t live in a vacuum. And perhaps you’ve noticed that since the news of this assassination broke, the president has sounded out of his mind.
   He has returned to his idea of vandalism, blasphemy, and outrage as strategy. Contradicting his own secretary of state, Trump promised that the United States would respond to further Iranian provocation by deliberately bombing cultural sites in Iran. “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way.”
   This disgusting threat is in many ways worse than his promises of “fire and fury” in North Korea. The punishment would fall not on the government, or on the military that tortures and maims, but on the whole Iranian people — and really all of humanity that has an interest in the preservation of great treasures of antiquity, of which there are many in Iran. These are jewels of ancient civilization that ought to outlast Iran’s current government, and that deserve a better custodian than the mullahs. That aside, the threat carries zero strategic value for us while offering infinite propaganda value for the Iranian regime.
   Trump wasn’t done. “These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” the president tweeted. In this, he reveals he has heard about language of proportionality but doesn’t understand its place in just-war theory. Proportionality is not about returning an equal or ever-so-slightly more forceful slap to someone who slapped you. Proportionality is about using the appropriate amount of force to achieve the desired end.
   This unhinged rhetoric is not just dangerous in itself, it’s unproductive. NATO members put out statements supporting America’s decision to strike at Soleimani, statements that read as if a stage director had scrawled the word “cringe” in the margins. They are tempered precisely because the publics of our various European allies find Trump’s rhetoric crazy, and unlike Americans, they are not inclined to lower their standards of sanity to accommodate his. They may also remember that the last two expansions of American hostilities in the Middle East created the refugee crisis and a wave of terrorism headed their way.

   I can't believe that it has become necessary to say--repeatedly--that what the President of the United States says matters. This's been basically my biggest concern all along: imagine him unleashing this kind of unhinged, intemperate rhetoric in a dust-up with Russia...


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