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Assault on America, Day 261: Trump knows what he’s doing on Iran. Let’s all be thankful

Trump on Iran
Sometimes a political dilemma appears more complicated than it really is. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the question of whether or not to go to war with Iran in response to the rogue nation's erratic and dangerous behavior of late is one of those easily solvable conundrums.

We shouldn’t do it. President Donald Trump knows this and that’s the reason why he’s treated the subject with such careful and deliberate consideration -- very un-Trumpian in style. Pundits and experts on both sides of the argument work overtime to push their views on the persuadable lot, oftentimes insinuating that their opponents are flat out wrong, blinded to reality, or both.

But staying out of unnecessary wars (i.e. those that don’t absolutely need to be fought) is really a simple calculation and history backs it up in nearly every case. War exists on the horizon of everyone’s mind and it rarely turns out the way it’s first presented by the aggressors. Wars get people hot but inevitably become unpopular because citizens soon forget or become wary of what they were waged for in the first place. And presidents who instigate hostilities have a very difficult time getting reelected.

Of course there are exceptions. Abraham Lincoln took on a big war (thanks to the newborn Confederacy’s firing first on Fort Sumter) and never looked back despite domestic turmoil (draft riots), a cabinet full of vipers who all wanted his job and a public that was never quite sold on the need to subjugate their southern brethren. And yes, Honest Abe did win reelection in 1864. But people forget that the “North” almost lost, too -- mostly because the Yankees won and controlled the history narrative after the fact.

Donald Trump understands this dynamic -- and that’s why America won’t be sending its sons and daughters to the Middle East -- again -- to fight an enemy that’s not easily defined or identifiable on sight. Trump is clearly weighing the alternatives and buying time. He’s even ramping up the economic pressure on the longtime American foe. Tom Howell Jr. reported at The Washington Times, “President Trump said … he will tighten the economic screws on Iran, as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia coordinate a response to drone strikes on the kingdom’s oil fields.

“’I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!’ Mr. Trump tweeted from California, where he is on a fundraising swing.

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is meeting … with Saudi leaders to discuss the Saturday drone strikes that disrupted the global oil supply. The Iran-backed Houthi movement in Yemen has claimed the attack, though Saudi officials say they’ll offer proof … that Iran directly blitzed its Aramco oil fields. Some defense hawks in the U.S. want Mr. Trump to send a more forceful message.”

Of course they do. Sending “forceful” messages is what the United States does, right? If there’s an earthly conflict somewhere involving some outlaw regime beating their chests, making threats, mistreating their own people, antagonizing their neighbors or just generally doing mean and unjust things to kittens and other furry animals then the neocons always say it’s up to Joe and Jane GI to go in, blow stuff up, kill the perpetrators and everything will turn out hunky-dory in the minds of the world population.

Or not. Things are rarely cut and dried and certainly not now on the other side of the world. The balance of power in the Middle East is constantly in flux, a grand game played by two sides of a thousand-plus year-old religious schism among Muslims. Add in Christians and Jews and the fact that a few modern nations contain the holy sites of three of the world’s dominant faiths and there’s going to be disagreement. Fanatics on all sides are willing to die for the liberation cause but the rest of the people just want to live with the incongruities at hand and try to get along.

Israel has an absolute right to defend itself against all threats to its territory and existence. We know who the “good guys” are and therefore it’s easy to bolster their defenses. As for the rest, it sounds like a hippy’s pipedream to say it, but maybe it’s time to let the players play and keep Americans as far away from the fighting as possible.

It’s not a question of non-intervention, disengagement, or leaving the world’s problems to someone else. From a political standpoint, the public simply won’t tolerate American casualties and hundreds of billions more dollars devoted to saving the political skins of ethically challenged leaders halfway around the globe. While it’s true the world economy will suffer from temporary cuts in oil production in places like Saudi Arabia, it’s not sufficient justification for U.S. military forces to intervene and control the situation.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Saudis were seen as almost as culpable in the mess as the Iranians or other regional adversaries. The Saudi-led OPEC oil embargo in the seventies produced endless gas lines and other hardships for Americans just trying to lead normal lives. The Saudis have been holding the world over a barrel -- of oil -- for decades. They’re useful now, not because they continue to pump black gold at a furious pace, but because they serve as a counterbalance against Iran.

Facts indicate Saudi Arabia has purchased billions’ worth of United States military technology and equipment and therefore should be more than capable of responding to threats to its own interests. In the 80’s the Iranians fought Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to a standstill. Nothing was gained by either side. Would it be so different today if the Arabs fought the Persians again?

Here’s thinking they won’t, no matter how damaging the economic sanctions or other measures to contain the various belligerents end up being. There is no easily identified favorite in this impending conflict, which is one reason why the Saudis will repair their oil fields, leaders will talk a lot (but do nothing) and the standoff will go on and on and on indefinitely until the world doesn’t need to think about oil supplies any longer (another call for energy independence?).

Meanwhile, Trump has much bigger fish to fry in preparing to fight for his political soul. Trump campaigned in 2016 against the Bush-ian neoconservative vision of spreading democracy all over the planet, a utopian fantasy that simply can’t -- and won’t -- be realized at the working end of an American rifle. In doing so, Trump effectively set himself apart from the “war party” old guard and got voters’ attention, good people who were tired of sending their sons and daughters across the world to fight for people who didn’t appreciate them or even want them around.

Look at Iraq. After Saddam Hussein was ripped from power, were there parades of adoring people thanking the U.S. forces for all they’d done for them? Hardly. The civil war endured and then ISIS sprouted up when Obama and Joe Biden prematurely pulled the Americans from the country.

The same thing would likely happen again if the balance of power is haphazardly fractured in the Middle East. Trump wouldn’t be reelected under such circumstances. And since the war can never completely be “won,” it won’t ever stop. Democrats who’d promise peace no-matter-what would easily overcome Trump’s arguments for continuing to fight. And the rest of the tragedy would play out, only the victims are… us.

The best way to avoid the ugly unanticipated consequences of wars is not to get in them. President Trump knows this -- and that’s why the Saudis are going to have to do their own dirty work if they want revenge against Iran.

Much has been written about former National Security Advisor John Bolton leaving the administration over his disagreements with Trump. Some saw it as a good thing, others are not so sure. Bobby Jindal wrote at National Review, “Traditional conservatives once worried whether Trump would negotiate away their core values on domestic issues when dealing with Schumer and Pelosi, and they have been pleasantly surprised time and again with Trump’s fealty and effectiveness in pursuing their policy interests and judicial appointments. These same conservatives worry about Trump’s personality-based approach to foreign affairs but are now more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“Many have noted that the president has the right to choose his advisers. Yes, and grass is green and the sky is blue. The question is not whether he has the right to get rid of Bolton, but rather whether it was the right move. The president’s aversion to war and his willingness to meet with our nation’s adversaries is a strength. John Bolton’s willingness to be honest with the American people about the true intentions of our adversaries is also a strength and a necessity.

“Who will do that now?”

Arguably, no one. And Trump won’t be better off for it. But the relationship between the two men and their vastly opposite worldviews was clearly at a crossroads and only one of them is president, accountable to the people at the ballot box.

If the former national security advisor had talked Trump into directly striking Iran or intervening in Venezuela or taking a more forceful approach with North Korea (and hence increasing tensions) it wouldn’t be Bolton’s rear over a flame. The guy in the football press box calling the defensive plays isn’t blamed for the team’s failure to stop its opponent’s offense. But the head coach will face the music.

Jindal’s right about one thing -- it's true that Trump needs someone close by to offer him counsel he might not get from his shrinking inner circle, but the president is pretty sharp politically. Sending the United States military marching into circumstances where there is no discernible victory is the ticket to electoral disaster. And ultimately there’s only one person who’s responsible. George W. Bush might’ve left the Oval Office on better terms if he’d listened to those who pleaded with him to stay out of the Middle East.

It’s a mistake Trump won’t repeat. The president knows history and he’s seen what happens to American leaders who insist on assuming the role of the world’s policeman and food distributor. Sometimes it’s best just to stay out. Thank God Trump appears to have learned this lesson -- and he’ll hold firm against the rest.

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