As the week progressed, I knew my subject this week had to be on the Iranian crisis. I waited until the last minute to write it because it was all developing so fast. At the time this column went to press on Wednesday, a lot happened.
The U.S. and Iran had just apparently stepped back from the brink of possible war. President Donald Trump had just indicated in a speech to the nation that he would not respond militarily after no one was harmed in Iran’s missile strikes on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. Certainly, by the time you read this, a lot may have changed again.
In fact, I would expect that there will be more attacks, probably by surrogates, or clandestine cyber attacks. But I would be surprised if Iran decides to directly call Trump’s bluff. I know I wouldn’t. I don’t think he is bluffing.
My initial reaction when the news first broke of the targeted killing last week of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, hasn’t changed. I thought it was a bold move, but I supported it. He needed to respond to an attack on our embassy. History has proven that.
I have often been critical of Trump’s tweets and demeanor in office, despite a tendency to agree with him politically on a lot of issues. Nobody knows how this will all turn out, but when Democrats in Congress began criticizing immediately, I felt that was a mistake on their part and still do. Not surprisingly, the mainstream media jumped in with them, as they always do, and I thought that looked bad as well. Certainly, they would not have reacted that way if President Obama had been the one that issued the strike.
I was very upset when then President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not respond strongly when our embassy in Benghazi, Libya was attacked in 2012. That attack was much worse even than the one in Baghdad. It resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith. Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. An associated mortar attack against a CIA annex one mile away also killed CIA contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty and wounded ten others.
At the time, I was shocked when, instead of responding appropriately, the Obama administration placed the blame on a video. When that proved to be a coverup, Clinton compounded her mistake by famously telling Congress, “At this point, what difference does it make?”
That incident cost her dearly. She would likely be president right now instead of Trump had she and Obama handled it differently. That’s why I am so surprised how quickly Democrats and their allies in the media seem to have forgotten. They did not, at least initially, give the president the benefit of the doubt in this crisis and I think that they should have. Certainly it is way too early to know how it will all play out, but Democrats may once again have did Trump a big favor.
I say this because I believe that Trump is trying to get the U.S. out of the Middle East, not get more involved. On that goal, I support him and so do the majority of Americans. Certainly, his gamble could backfire, but if I were the Democrats, I would have held my tongue a little longer. If Trump is successful in achieving “peace through strength,” he may indeed be very hard to beat in the presidential election. And once again, he would have the Democrats to thank for it.
His gambit could still backfire badly. We could get drawn into a war nobody wants. But in that case, his re-election would be doomed anyway. To me, the Democrats should have not responded so harshly so quickly and instead been more circumspect.
Specifically, the Democrats knee-jerk reaction demanding that they should have been notified in advance seems ludicrous to me. Like most military strikes do, this one required the element of surprise. Immediately criticizing Trump on that basis makes them look naive. Déjà vu.
That’s my take, what’s yours? The Post weekly online poll question asks: “Do you believe that Trump’s strike killing Iranian General Soleimani will be proven right or wrong?”