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Assault on America, Day 133: The best way to guarantee a 2020 loss for Trump is go to war

Trump on Venezuela Maduro
Four years into the ever-evolving experiment that is the political career of lifelong real estate tycoon, celebrity and all-around tabloid sensation Donald Trump, it’s clear he’s earned a dedicated following among conservatives, Republicans and even (some) former doubters in the GOP establishment.

Liberals marvel at his apparent strength with backers and the fervor they exhibit whenever he holds a rally or otherwise calls for public displays of affirmation. Trump himself once commented that he could shoot someone and he wouldn’t lose any voters over it -- clearly hyperbole -- but he’s right about the approximate level of fondness. The president has exhibited a rare confidence over his ability to maintain the support and affection from those who favor him.

Which begs the question: is there any one thing Trump could do to throw it all away? Some are starting to believe so, and it might be right around the corner if he’s not careful. Steven Nelson wrote at The Washington Examiner, “President Trump would destabilize his reelection coalition if he attacks Iran or Venezuela, supporters and outside observers say, as key administration officials threaten war.

“Trump is nearly alone inside the West Wing as the voice for military restraint following a phase-out of grassroots backers, five former White House aides say, leaving the often mercurial president with advisers pushing in one direction.

“Wars often rally the public around a president, but a Trump-led intervention might hurt him.”

It’s true; for a president who’s been remarkably proficient about sticking to his campaign promises, if Trump broke his pledge to stay out of unnecessary wars it would be viewed as a deal-breaker for the outsider president. Everyone knows Trump’s been forced to bend on a number of his headline campaign vows -- such as ensuring he’d deport every single illegal alien and build a big beautiful wall that Mexico paid for -- but the no-war thing just feels different.

Why? Because Congress has a lot to do with most matters of policy -- if legislation isn’t passed there’re a host of potential scapegoats left holding the proverbial bag. But if Iran or Venezuela is bombed and assaulted, that’s a decision that comes straight from the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk. Nancy Pelosi or creepy “Chucky” Schumer can’t authorize military strikes on their own. Congress can declare war, but it’s the executive who calls up the troops.

It’s true that Trump’s surrounded himself with hawkish national security and foreign policy advisors but he’s also tight with non-interventionists such as Senator Rand Paul -- so maybe the “stay out” side is well represented after all. Trump separated himself from most of the 2016 GOP primary field by openly voicing opposition to Bush-ian foreign policy, its thousands of U.S. war dead and trillions in wasted money. For what? Do the folks “over there” love us now?

To reverse course would suggest Trump wasn’t serious about his prior pledges and commitments. That’s bad news, even for someone as solid as the president. Simply put, any sizeable military commitment against either Iran or Venezuela would be a disaster. It’s the one thing Trump could do to blow the whole thing. He should realize it.

In saying so we’re not talking about the potential virtues of militarily engaging the dictatorial human rights squelching leaders of either of these countries. There is no doubt many reputable conservatives who’d argue it’s essential to throw American weight around to keep the world’s bad guys wary of crossing the proverbial line. Don’t mess with Uncle Sam or you’ll find your nose bloodied -- or perhaps even blown off.

In the months following 9/11/01, for example, Saddam Hussein had the temerity to poke his fingers in the eyes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and then found himself running for his life (and ultimately pulled out of a rat role and summarily executed after a trial). In hindsight it appears the former Iraqi regime possessed no weapons of mass destruction, but there’s little question whether Saddam -- the tyrant of Iraq -- merited his ultimate fate.

Hussein was human slime of the highest order, a man who suppressed human rights, tortured his friends and enemies alike and stole his country’s oil wealth to live lavishly, a devil in human form with no redeeming qualities. But he also kept the Middle East’s balance of power in place -- primarily as a check against Iran. Once Saddam was eliminated all hell broke loose.

The mess the Iraq War (and the larger so-called “War on Terror”) created led directly to a steep decline in Bush’s popularity and his second term’s abysmal approval ratings contributed to the near-certain victory of Barack Obama in 2008.

Would history repeat itself in Iran and/or Venezuela? Sure, there’s the possibility of quick victory with limited commitments but the more likely scenario is drawn-out conflicts with no discernible path to peace and stability. Capturing the enemy’s capital doesn’t equate to a “win” any longer. This isn’t a Napoleonic war. Guerrilla groups materialize and the fighting gets ugly -- and costly. It’s not enough to beat the opponent’s army if the ideology behind their cause still lives on.

Let’s not fool ourselves. Fighting Iran would be neither quick nor cheap. And what would come after the Mullahs were dispatched? Is there any guarantee of democracy and western-style secular cooperation? Hardly. Look next door at Iraq…and Afghanistan to the east.

As far as Venezuela goes, most Americans probably don’t know anything more about the country than the fact it’s represented on a “Risk” board as the territory you must hold if you’re to maintain dominance of the South American continent (and earn your extra two armies at the beginning of every turn). Conservative media’s done a good job of telling Americans just how bad it is for the people “down there,” but where’s the value added in sending Yankee guys and gals to depose communist dictator Nicolas Maduro?

Is there a sufficient American interest to justify the cost in blood and treasure? How many more graves will be added to Arlington cemetery to assure Venezuelans are properly fed, clothed and provided electricity? And does the miniscule Russian, Cuban and Iranian presence there really threaten U.S. national security?

All things to think about. Donald Trump is no political novice; he realizes there’s a cost/benefit analysis here and the costs greatly outweigh the potential benefits -- and we’re not just talking about politics. There’re just too many things that can go wrong, and what would be gained by installing a new military dictatorship (even if temporary) in either country? Not much.

Needless to say, many conservatives see intervention as a disaster waiting to happen. Patrick J. Buchanan wrote at The American Conservative, “In 1973, when President Nixon rescued Israel in the Yom Kippur War, the OPEC Arabs imposed an oil embargo. Gas prices spiked so high Nixon considered taking a train to Florida for Christmas vacation. The gas price surge so damaged Nixon’s standing with the public that it became a contributing factor in the drive for impeachment.

“Today, Trump’s approval rating in the Gallup Poll has reached an all-time high, 46 percent, a level surely related to the astonishing performance of the U.S. economy following Trump’s tax cuts and sweeping deregulation.

“While a Gulf war with Iran might be popular at the outset, what would it do for the U.S. economy or our ability to exit the forever war of the Middle East, as Trump has pledged to do?”

Any war with Iran looks to be a long-term loser. Even if Trump won reelection in 2020 his second term would be bogged down with the problems associated with waging a military campaign that has little connection to U.S. interests -- in the region or the American homeland. George W. Bush’s presidency serves as a pathetic reminder of what’s likely to happen. What’s the best we could hope for, to oust the Mullahs and install democracy? What then?

Didn’t that take place in Iraq (regime change)? How is it working now? How would Trump ultimately be remembered, as the president who turned the American economy around or as the one who went back on his no-war promise?

Donald Trump’s shown a remarkable ability to manage his political affairs in such a way to accomplish great things, shore up his base level of support and give himself a very good chance at reelection. How could it all change on a dime? How about being ensnared in another war. Don’t do it, Mr. President.

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