It’s worth repeating that an ironically ominous political scenario would be Trump supporters having to say: “Yeah, he was my guy. Damn right. He hated what I hate, grabbed what I grab and sounded like my drinking buddies. I was with him every step of the way right up until …” Fill in the foreboding blank. We may have reached that menacing point.
It happens when you assassinate an iconic official, however heinous, of another country in a de facto declaration of war. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was no Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, stateless terrorists. The Baghdad Airport assassination of this general, the second-most important person in Iran, is an act of war. As a result, the U.S. also created a rally-around martyr that is unifying a country–one that had been unraveling domestically–against America.
Now we face the fraught reality of the Muddled East with its ballistics and bluster, an impulsive imposter as U.S. president and a necessarily go-it-alone strategy sans allies that returns us to terror alert. And now we are sending 4,500 more Army troops into harm’s way into Iranian–and Iranian-proxy–cross hairs.
The impetus was President Donald Trump unconscionably withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal. Yes, it was imperfect; but it was perfectly counterproductive to opt out unilaterally. Trump never liked it principally because his predecessor, Barack Obama, signed on. But so did Iran, England, France, Germany, the European Union–as well as China and Russia. The 2015 deal also had the approval of the United Nations Security Council, NATO and the International Atomic Energy Agency. But Trump wanted the U.S. out; hell, he had campaigned on it along with getting out of the Climate Control accord. Can’t disappoint the base, even if it makes the U.S. and the rest of the world worse off. What ramifications of recklessness?
For those speculating that part of the Trump strategy was a diversion from impeachment and to look like a tough guy, well, Iran does diversions and tough-guy theatrics as well. They had been enduring sanction-induced turmoil and bloodshed in their streets with plenty of animus directed at their own. Now this. Game-changer. Iran rallies around a “martyr” against the “infidel” and “God is great; America is evil” chants are back as daily optics. Thanks again, Mr. President, and, oh yeah, Iran has now exited the nuclear deal and the Parliament of Iraq, where so much American blood has been spilled, has officially told the U.S. to get the hell out.
Retaliation and escalation, including cyber attacks, are givens; as are impulsive, chaotic responses, including American threats to target Iranian cultural sites. Collateral damage, likely asymmetrical, is coming. But American lives will be lost. Again.
One other thing. Go back to America’s Vietnam experience. We were the French Indo-China and domino-defending aggressor napalming another country. Over time, many Americans expressed outrage. But supposing, say, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had been assassinated by the Vietcong. No, it’s not a precise analogy to Suleimani, but could have been, however perverse, rally on.