Soleimani: Cooler Heads, Measured Takes, and Abject Panic

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Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    I understand what you’re feeling. I can’t celebrate someone’s death, because t’s a death, although I can be grateful to the extent that it makes the world safer. I don’t know enough to guess its net effect, short- or long-term. No one does (although that uncertainty doesn’t mean it was a bad call).

    The take that always bothers me the most is “he did it to distract the public from…”. In this particular moment, there’s nothing for Trump to distract us from. And it doesn’t take much to distract us – have you noticed the things that distract people? Next to nobody is going to be distracted by this anyway. Some isolationist Trump supporters will be dismayed, but otherwise his supporters and detractors are likely to stay the same. He might win some people over, but that’s different from distraction. Most people seem to be seeing this through partisan-colored glasses, and it’s only going to add to their list of reasons to support or oppose Trump. No one’s cancelling an impeachment trial over this.

    But there’s even more that I hate about the “distraction” take. It assumes that you can mind-read the president, AND you understand all the factors that would go into the decision, AND not a single one of them could explain the decision better than the distraction theory. Maybe dumbest of all: the assumption that this particular moment is key. To believe that at every given moment is to be so messed up by the hype machine that you really have no perspective at all. I was willing to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt with the air strikes in 1998, and as it turned out that, whatever other motivations he had, al-Queda was a serious threat. I don’t think Clinton and Trump are honorable guys. But I’m not going to pretend to know everything.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Lovers of the West Wing remember the show very fondly.

    Report

  3. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    Who are our enemies, and why?
    Why is Iran our enemy, and not, say, the Saudi Kingdom?

    You might say as George did, because they attack our embassies. But that is in response to our overthrow of their legitimate government, and support for the dictator the Shah who killed and tortured his own people.

    Because of their hostility to Israel? The Saudis have been exporting the violent Wahabbist ideology for decades.

    Because they are a dictatorship? Please.

    Because they are trying to become a regional hegemon? Again, the Saudis are first in line for that.

    Our definitions of “Enemy” vs “Ally” or “Freedom Fighter” vs “Terrorist” are arbitrary and almost always conveniently aligned with current government policy.

    I think as citizens we should be a bit more skeptical and thoughtful than to just swallow the government line uncritically.Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      Soleimani. In this case, Soleimani was our enemy. He enjoyed finding new and ever more bloody ways to maim and kill American service members and his own people. This is not the “government line.” This is what happened. Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Em Carpenter
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        says:

        He was, objectively, a general serving his country, following the orders given to him.

        Finding every more bloody ways to kill the enemy is what soldiers do.

        I notice that when we protest our government’s killing and “collateral damage” we are given the Col. Jessup speech about how war is a dirty business and we can’t handle the truth.

        But when we are on the receiving end, we hear about the pain and suffering of war.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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          says:

          Did you know that “Just Following Orders” has a wiki page dedicated to it?

          Well, it does.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            You know that “following orders” is literally what we demand our soldiers do?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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              says:

              Yes, it is.

              But pointing out that enemy officers (including the highly ranked ones) are “just following orders” has a history. Enough of one to have a wiki page.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                This is where you would point out the war crimes that Soleimani committed, that make him any different than the Syrian, Turkish, Iraqi or Saudi military and intelligence officers.

                Otherwise, its just “hey look over there!”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Em (and *NOT* Kristin) links to Elissa Slotkin in her post who discusses Soleimani history.

                And if you want something from before this last week, here’s an article from The New York Post from 2014.Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I’m extremely flattered to be confused with Kristin.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Em Carpenter
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                says:

                Oh, jeez. I’m an idiot. Please forgive me for making that mistake that would have been rectified by something as simple as me scrolling up and reading.

                (I was still within the edit countdown. I fixed it.)Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Totally forgiven. I was serious, being confused with Kristin is flattering because she is awesome.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Did anyone here read that Post article?

                I did, and everything Soleimani did was just spy vs spy stuff; He was carrying out the Iranian government’s mission to partner with Syria and Hezbollah, and support Nouri Al Maliki the Iraqi PM (who the US also supported), with the strategic goal of blocking Sunni insurgency and strengthening the Shia alliances.

                It all involved complex international money and arms transfers, clandestine commando operations and targeted assassinations.

                In other words, the sort of stuff we make movies about starring George Clooney and Ben Affleck.

                Oh, but this part made me laugh out loud:
                ““Iran wants chaos. They want to generate anti-American anger, radicalize the rebels, and maintain a climate of war,” a former Iranian intelligence chief for Western Europe told me. …They want to damage the reputation of the United States as a freedom-loving country in the eyes of the Arabs.”

                Oh, not our reputation as a freedom-loving country in the eyes of the Arabs!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Here is what you requested:

                “This is where you would point out the war crimes that Soleimani committed, that make him any different than the Syrian, Turkish, Iraqi or Saudi military and intelligence officers.”

                And, again, I point to Em’s links in her essay but, for the NYPost excerpt, I’d point to this:

                In fact, my Iranian sources said, their orders were to kidnap or kill the US ambassador to Libya, to send a message to the United States that they could act against them at will anywhere and at any time in the Middle East.
                But, as they were getting ready to set the plan in motion, the resident Quds Force team in Benghazi learned from its own intercepts of the Annex tactical coms that the Red Crescent cover had been blown and the CIA was onto them.
                So they decided to take the entire group off the streets — stage a kidnapping — in order to convince the chief of base that the danger was over.
                “The team in operational command in Benghazi were Qassem Suleymani’s people,” the former Baghdad deputy chief of station, John Maguire, told me. “They were a mature, experienced, operational element from Iran. These guys are the first-string varsity squad.” And they were playing for keeps.

                (That tabloid voice is so very purple. I imagine it sells papers, though.)Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Yes, spy vs spy stuff.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Now use that same line of reasoning about German generals in WW-II, and the country’s objections to the Versailles Treaty, and see where you end up. 🙂

                Some lines of argument are so broad that their consistent application reaches bad conclusions.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
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                says:

                It’s a three bears thing, though. Some lines of argument are too wide, others are too narrow. There’s only one which is just right. 🙂

                To Chip’s point, no one in the Arab world views the US as a freedom-loving people. Hell, I’m an American and I don’t view us that way. I’ve *been* to history school bro.

                I mean, maybe we used to be. Back when we worked to establish free market democracy in Germany and Japan after WWII, or curtail Soviet expansion into the peninsula in the early 1950s. But not anymore. Hell, Trump and apparently about half the voting public sides with Putin’s Russia over Germany nowadays. You gotta pick a side, I guess.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                “No one in the Arab world” s a bit far. Iranians are posting pics of their celebration cakes with notes thanking Trump for killing Soleimani. Many Iraqi protesters were likewise celebrating his death. Not only did he continually stir the Shia militias into attacking Sunnis, or any Shias who weren’t with the program, he’d met with the Shia-dominated Iraqi government to advise them on using brutal ways to put down the recent protests against widespread government corruption.

                In the people’s fight against “the man”, he was the man. He was the one that sent Quds thugs on motorcycles to beat Iranians during their protests that Obama ignored, which most considered a big mistake on our part. As Iranians more openly questioned religious rule, analysts thought a likely logical path for the country was a brutal military dictatorship under Soleimani, almost a mirror of Iraq under Saddam. Assad would likely have fallen if not for Hezbollah support sent or approved by Sulleimani, who funds Hezbollah, and indeed he was returning from Syria when he stopped off in Baghdad.

                And as an aside, it’s Trump whose slamming Germany for getting too close to Putin. He’s working to stop yet another attempt at a natural gas deal that would make them, and much of Europe, utterly dependent on Russia for energy.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
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                says:

                “No one in the Arab world” s a bit far.

                “Hey, I saw a guy on Twitter with a bio that says he’s Iranian who looooved that the US killed Suleimani!”Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                He must be that guy who was protesting the Iranian government last month, chanting “Death to Khamenei!” Fortunately he was the only guy doing it, so it wasn’t like it made international news, or caused Iran to shut down their Internet and cell service for a week, or cause analysts to wonder if the protest would topple the regime, or anything like that.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
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                says:

                I hear ya. If the US actually supported those people we wouldn’t be where we’re at, right? Killing a person who kills Americans doesn’t support those people. But tell me more about these freedom-loving goals of regime change in Iran. I’m curious. It just might work.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Em Carpenter
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        says:

        In this case, Soleimani was our enemy. He enjoyed finding new and ever more bloody ways to maim and kill American service members

        This presumes that US service members have a legitimate right to be where they are, doing what they do, though, doesn’t it? Or is it just a territorial pissing sorta thing?

        One argument I can’t get on board with is that retaliation for US service members deaths constitutes a coherent foreign policy.

        Adding: It just struck me that my views on US policy in the ME are similar to my views on unions: I support them in principle but not so much in practice. Which is to say, I don’t reject (all apriori-like) that the US *could* play a beneficial role in the ME….Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      Our definitions of “Enemy” vs “Ally” or “Freedom Fighter” vs “Terrorist” are arbitrary and almost always conveniently aligned with current government policy.

      Our opposition to the Iranian government isn’t simply a matter of current policy. It’s been the case for more than 40 years. If anything, we suffer from the opposite problem, one of path dependency. Saudi Arabia and Iran are both oil-rich potential hegemons with awful human rights records. We’re wedded to the Saudis, which is unfortunate. That makes us opposed to any expansion of Iranian influence. But Iranian influence is something we should oppose anyway. They do export terrorism, something that Soleimani was probably engaged in at the time of the attack.

      I think that strategically, we’re better off opposing Iran more directly and trying to coax Saudi Arabia toward civilization. Iran has a big population who have had a taste of the West and are likely hungry for secular democracy. Saudi Arabia is a desert kingdom with oil and holy sites. It doesn’t have a population so much as a guest worker program. There’s no obvious path toward liberalism.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        Maybe I’m misreading the implication here but I don’t see how our belligerence towards Iran does anything to coax liberal strains in the culture. More likely it bolsters internal support of the government. There’s no better excuse for a domestic crackdown than an external threat.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to InMD
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          says:

          Suleimani’s funeral apparently took place in Baghdad and was attended by the Iraqi PM. I don’t know enough (of course!) but it appears we pissed off not only the Iranians but the Iraqis as well.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater
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            says:

            I don’t follow these things as closely as I once did but that doesn’t surprise me. My understanding is that the Shia opposition to the Sunni dominated Baathist government we overthrew was always Iranian-aligned for sectarian reasons. There’s a real argument that the government we replaced Saddam’s with is actually more hostile to us than his was, which for all its internal brutality, had no long term or ideological beef with America.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        Iranian opposition to the American government isn’t simply current policy; It goes back to 1953 when we overthrew their government and installed a vassal regime with an awful human rights record.

        I went to college with Iranians in 1979, who told me of the fear they had of SAVAK, and the horrific things they would do to opponents of the regime.

        Did anyone think they would forget, or not notice who installed that regime?

        We never have any problem finding peace with other dictatorial regimes when it suits our purpose to do so. I don’t know why Iran must be different.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
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          says:

          “We never have any problem finding peace with other dictatorial regimes when it suits our purpose to do so. I don’t know why Iran must be different.”

          I’m not sure what point you’re making. It seems to me that we make peace with dictators only when we’re trying to outmaneuver a bigger threat. Who’s worse than Iran in the region? The House of Saud has members who fund some people who promote horrifically bad things, but it’s not the stated policy of the Saudi government to directly assist terrorism.

          Actually, I’m not sure what point you’re making with the rest of that comment, either. Structurally, I think it’s a response to my earlier comment about US policy toward the Iranian government. I wouldn’t disagree with anything you said. Was it a refutation of a point I made or an expansion on the same theme?Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
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            says:

            I was responding to:
            “We’re wedded to the Saudis, which is unfortunate. That makes us opposed to any expansion of Iranian influence.”

            Why must this be? We aren’t able to choose our enemies, but must reflexively oppose whoever the Saudis oppose?

            Imagine a Mideast where Iran was as powerful as the Saudis, and were America was neutral between both.
            Buying oil from both, conducting trade to both.

            Also “terrorism” is a tactic not a goal;
            The Saudis have a policy of actively promoting the killing and oppression of innocent people such as the Yemenis; They don’t do it with car bombs because they have F-15s and the diplomatic cover to use them, which does the job much better.
            Iran uses cars to send bombs because they lack the diplomatic cover to just send a jet to accomplish the same goal.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Chip Daniels
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              says:

              Yeah we don’t have to be “wedded” to the Saudi’s. They have effective lobbyists which push back loudly if we don’t do their bidding. Note: Obama got plenty of crap from the usual suspects for not doing whatever the Saudi’s want. The current admin is fully buddy buddy with MBS. Kush and MBS are BFF’s. But gosh help us if there is any push back on that.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        Just a few years ago we signed, with help of an international diplomatic coalition, a strong nuke arms control treaty with Iran. That was the opening to keep trying to improve relations with them. It was a start. People, many on here were completely opposed to that agreement. They said Iran was terrible and never to be trusted. The Saudi’s hated the idea since they don’t like Iran and don’t want to see us normalize relations with them. Some of us pointed out how the Iranian populace is in general more western then SA and that SA exports plenty of war/terror.

        At the national level lots of R’s hated the idea and have consistently ramped up the hate and fed the hawks about Iran. Trump got in and flushed the agreement with Iran, which they had been following, done the toilet. Not only that but he loudly put back economic sanctions which have been hurting Iran. This has been in the news we have been putting the economic sqeeze on them to get them to fall. As a side note some Iranian backed groups sided with us against ISIS which we were fine with.

        The last couple days are the fruit of war mongers who have fought any sort of rapprochement with Iran. This is what they wanted and in some cases actively campaigned for. We had the start of an improvement with Iran. A hostile relationship wasn’t set in stone. This is a choice the Trump admin made. There is a dismembered Wapo journalist, a bunch of beheaded people and some freedom wanting women in jail in SA to see how well we are liberalizing them.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to greginak
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          says:

          I agree that it’s probably a fool’s errand to try to liberalize Saudi Arabia. I said I didn’t see any path for it to happen. I’d rather see us put more pressure on them, but even then I don’t think it’ll work.

          I’m not persuaded that Iran was complying with the nuclear treaty, or that it would have slowed down their nuclear progress much if they did.

          Economic sanctions are always a toughie. They build resentment toward the government, but also toward the county that’s imposing them. There’s no good formula for calculating the net impact. Why did they harden Cuba and soften South Africa? Or did they have no impact on either?Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Pinky
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            says:

            All the actual inspectors said they were complying with the agreement. It completely stopped anything they were doing. The sanctions were hard on Iranians whether they were pro or anti gov. But after the Iranians had come to the table and made an agreement Trump said FU and have some sanctions. They weakened/screwed the moderating forces in Iran and made us completely untrustworthy. Every Iranian or North Korean for that matter, who thinks we will F them the first chance we get and can’t be trusted have the best proof ever.

            Cuba had the backing of the Soviets and was run by a dictator. SA was a western country then wanted a high standard of living (for whites) but made it vulnerable to pressure from countries and people similar to them. They also had something of a democracy and open press in a racial caste system that was extremely hard to rationalize in the last 20th century.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        “I think that strategically, we’re better off opposing Iran more directly and trying to coax Saudi Arabia toward civilization. Iran has a big population who have had a taste of the West and are likely hungry for secular democracy. Saudi Arabia is a desert kingdom with oil and holy sites. It doesn’t have a population so much as a guest worker program. There’s no obvious path toward liberalism.”

        Honestly, wouldn’t your train of thought imply that a better gamble would be trying to coax Iran, which, and I quote, “has a big population who have had a taste of the West and are likely hungry for secular democracy.”

        Now, I don’t think that this whole “taste for democracy” thing is worth a bucket of spit… but if we did think it was worth spit, wouldn’t a pivot to Iran make much more sense? Why not isolate a brutal, tiny, kleptocracy masquerading as a Monarchy for a large oil rich regional power?

        Sure, we’ve got 40-years of bad blood stemming from the Hostage Crisis… but nations don’t hold grudges… and 40-yrs down the road, if the Hostage Crisis (which was peaceably resolved) is the Ur event underpinning our “Strategic” interests… then what exactly is our grudge?

        That we’ve also backed Saudi Arabia (which I’m telling you right now is a bet about to go bad) and are a guarantor of the Israeli state are indeed things that have to be accounted for… but we should always be taking offers for better client states, if only to keep our current clients good clients – which I am very sad to relate they are not.

        On the terrorism front, see above about the bet going bad. Saudi Arabia is the source of the worst sort of Islamic jingoism. Shiite radicalism is mostly irredentist in nature compared to wahabbist eschatological radicalism.

        If I were to ask you to rethink some of your assumptions that are based mostly on inertia in light of what I’ve posted above, would you?Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Marchmaine
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          says:

          I want to give myself some time to think about your comment. But let me just clarify the distinction between the Iranian government and the Iranian people. The Iranian people have a habit of voting for the most moderate candidate – from the ones the government permits them to vote for. There seems to be a genuine difference between the government’s vision and the people’s. In such a case, supporting the government can lose you the people.Report

          • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Pinky
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            says:

            We’ve been hearing the same thing since the Shah fell. Someday the voice of the Iranian people will be heard and the theocracy will end. Still waiting.Report

  4. Avatar Stillwater
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    says:

    This is interesting:

    To get a sense of just how complicated/idiosyncratic the diplomatic and legal questions are here, note that Soleimani's funeral was in *Iraq,* attended by, inter alia, the Iraqi prime minister.@just_security https://t.co/9XWnBWcDeh— Marty Lederman (@marty_lederman) January 4, 2020

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsReport

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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      says:

      Interesting. One of the things that I had forgotten (and I suspect that I am not alone in this) is that Iraq was majority Shia and Saddam was Sunni and he populated the positions of power with people who were also Sunni.

      So the majority of people in Iraq had areas in which they had more in common with Iran’s people than they had with their own (now former) government.

      And now that government has been away for a while. And we see what flowers are now poking their heads out of the well-fertilized soil.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Co-sign. IIRC, at the time of the Invasion Iraq was a 70% Shia country. All of this was predicted before Bush Cheney decided to pull the trigger.

        Add: I also remember those NYT stories detailing high level meetings where the PNAC guys intent on War with Iraq expressed complete ignorance about the differences between and even existence of Sunnis and Shias. Man, those were some good times.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        What’s playing out across the Middle East is largely a Shia/ Sunni war, overlain by the various tribal and sectarian sub-battles, with some further complications of internal power struggles and of course fueled by trillions of petro dollars.

        The 2003 decision to overthrow Saddam and stick our dick into a hornet’s nest has got to be the single biggest debacle in American foreign policy, surpassing even Vietnam.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels
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          says:

          The 2003 decision to overthrow Saddam and stick our dick into a hornet’s nest has got to be the single biggest debacle in American foreign policy, surpassing even Vietnam.

          I’ve said this before, but Trump calling the Iraq War a disaster and the worst mistake in US foreign policy history was the main reason he won the GOP primary. All of his other policy positions were framed around that one incontrovertibly true yet consistently denied claim.Report

  5. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    says:

    The thing to remember, as terrible as the things he did were, was that he was carrying out policy on behalf of his government. I harbor little impression that that policy will change because of his death. They will find someone else to do the same job, in roughly the same way. Maybe the replacement will be worse at it, maybe better.

    As a “you can’t mess with us this way” sort of move in response to demonstrations and attacks in Iraq’s Green Zone it might make sense. Were US citizens/soldiers harmed in these attacks? I’m having trouble figuring that out.

    But there’s no sense in which I see this shifting Iran’s policy on this kind of thing one bit. Though, I see that some rockets/missiles hit the Green Zone about an hour ago. So probably more innocent people will die.

    I think Hercule Poirot said it first: The most important thing are the innocent people. That’s why he was a detective. It might feel good to take out someone who hurt us, and Soleimani did do that. But the first priority should be to keep innocent people from getting hurt. People like Trump don’t like that, they think it ties their hands. It does, but that’s a good thing, not a bad one.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Doctor Jay
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      says:

      Well, this brings up the kind of question that historians write books about for decades after a conflict. “Who was actually driving the decisions we’re writing about?” Which generals are just executing policy because it’s their job, and which generals are driving policy because they have a vision?

      At some point you have to concede that Napoleon wasn’t just executing government policy, he was making policy, as were a slew of later German and Japanese generals who were in the “inner circle”. Our concept of strict civilian control of the military is by no means universal, which is why we usually don’t find ourselves arguing the finer points of who has the more ethical military dictatorship.

      So we have to ask how much of Iran’s belligerence is due to religious scholars with their nose in the Koran, which is certainly some of it, and how much was due to one or more ambitious generals who saw themselves as mighty conquerors of the infidels, ones who will establish the true caliphate, slay Israel and defeat the US, and make Iran into a regional hegemon and world power under their firm control.

      So what we accomplished depends on what real role General Soleimani played in the Iranian inner circle. If nothing else we’ve certainly altered the power dynamics of the people sitting at the table. Did we kill a competent general, but one who is easily replaced, or did we kill a Genghis, Tamerlane, Attila, Napoleon, Himmler, Bin Laden, or Baghdadi?Report

  6. Avatar JoeSal
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    says:

    This is a excellent post Em. I don’t much care for centerist or Aristotle’s mean applied to all, but what you are doing is looking at the available parameters and weighing them in a reasonably objective manner.Report

  7. Avatar Douglas Hayden
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    says:

    First time commenting, though I’ve followed a fair bit of OTers on Twitter and read the site from time to time.

    These are the thoughts that have been in my mind the most over the past forty some hours now:

    The biggest consequence that I’ve seen rarely mentioned is that the strike has all but cemented Iran’s path towards going nuclear. There’s no going back now. You can celebrate the JCPOA being dead and buried, but my counter-question is now how do you stop Iran from getting the bomb? I’m pretty sure I know some answers, but…

    Iran is not 2003 Iraq or even 1991 Iraq. They’re big. They’re relatively prosperous. They’re far more well armed than they were at the end of the Iran-Iraq war. And they’ve been preparing for this for over forty years now. The biggest tell was that for all of Netanyahu’s bluster and the IDF’s track record, Israel’s response to the strike was “Don’t look at us, man.”

    “But we’re America!” Yeah, and we’re also eighteen years into a forever war on top of several years of military budget constraints. I’ve read about the Fitzgerald, the McCain, and VMFA-242. There are questions about our current state of military readiness, I’m not sure if we’re ready to have those answered by the IRGC or the Iranian military proper. And who even knows what a cyberwar would look like.

    Soleimani is dead and the world is better off without him. I’m just not sure if there were smarter options to removing him, or if the world is better off with the path we’ve now set the Middle East onto.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Douglas Hayden
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      says:

      I dig this take. I think that the best option we have right now is to quickly declare victory and pull the heck out. Forever war is now over. Declare the AUMF complete and, therefore, null and void and if Future President wants to do something, make Congress agree first.

      “But that’s not a good option!”

      I didn’t say it was a good option. I said it was the best option.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Here’s another take. Trump thinks the game is about shaming, that killing Suleimani is an insult to Iran, and he’s expecting Iran to take the bait and retaliate. In Trump’s mind that will lead to an escalation which Trump thinks Iran doesn’t want to engage in. But what if Iran doesn’t retaliate and instead, rather than trying to avenge an insult, starts chugging along with nuclear development for real? I mean, from Iran’s pov, the writing’s on the wall: either get a nuke or be subject to slapping by an idiot wanna-be king.

        Is there anything the US can do after this to prevent Iran from getting the bomb? Economic partnerships are off the table, as is any other deal Trump could conceivably strike since he’s been outed as an unfaithful negotiating partner. This is now about pure power concepts, a game which Trump thinks favors the US but which also pretty much necessitates Iran to get a weapon sufficient to take straight [power concepts off the table.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater
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          says:

          One thing we’ve learned (because Arabs keep telling us) is that Arabs bet on the strong horse, and shun and disrespect the weak horse. Part of that is religious, because the strong horse can only be the strong horse with Allah’s will, whereas the weak horse must be weak because of Allah’s will. Europeans used to think like that, too, since it’s a logical consequence of thinking a supreme being is determining events.

          One thing Trump has been doing over the past year is changing Iran’s timetable by either not retaliating as they anticipated, or retaliating in ways they obviously didn’t expect. Essentially, we’re trying to make them use our timetable instead of their own so that events don’t go their way.

          As for Iran’s nuclear program, they’ve been chugging on it for quite a while, with absolutely no intention of stopping. But they also know that one or two nukes in a silo in Iran isn’t sufficient. They need lots of nukes, with perhaps forward bases in Syria and perhaps Yemen. They need sufficient control of Iraq to keep their supply lines to Syria open. And of course they want the US to be the bad guy so that international pressure builds to force the US to drop our sanctions, which are strangling their economy and their military build up.

          The fallback position for the US and its regional allies, which is a nightmare, is to equip Iran’s neighbors and regional enemies with their own nuclear missiles and let MAD take hold or let nature take its course. I don’t think anyone wants to see that happen, because there will be mushrooms clouds over cities that are potentially anywhere, but it might be better than letting Iran have a large nuclear monopoly that would just keep growing until there were mushroom clouds over lots and lots of cities.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
            Ignored
            says:

            One thing Trump has been doing over the past year is changing Iran’s timetable by either not retaliating as they anticipated, or retaliating in ways they obviously didn’t expect

            Nonsense. Trump rejected the JCPOA because it was an Obama policy. That’s it. He hasn’t done shit to create a new policy. He’s an incompetent idiot who effectively cut Iran loose, relying on people like you to spin his ignorant incompetence as intelligence.Report

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater
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              says:

              Ah, so nobody said really harsh things about the JCPOA? There weren’t thousands of articles on how bad the agreement was, both in the Western and Middle Eastern press? Netanyahu wasn’t giving speeches to Congress on how bad it was, and that it greenlights an Iranian nuclear arsenal?

              Trump just rejected the agreement out of the blue as a dig at Obama, and Iranian leaders are just venting about Trump’s policy without realizing that it’s all a figment of their imagination because he has no policy.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
                Ignored
                says:

                Here’s yer boy’s idea of policy, tweeted a few minutes ago:

                Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!

                He’s an idiot with a gun.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        To Douglas, I think Iran’s path toward going nuclear has long been cemented. There’s no other reason they’d be building long range missiles (IRBMs and working toward ICBMs) and nuclear centrifuges and the like. And of course they brag about it in between denials of it.

        The path only ends in either success, likely followed by Iran nuking lots of places within a decade, or in major military strikes to derail Iran’s program, or in regime change. The sanctions seems to be working toward making their current path very painful, economically, and that’s generating lots of unrest. Hopefully Soleimani’s death with alter their calculus of costs and benefits, and perhaps let moderates or even liberal reformers make some progress.

        Jaybird: Until Iran changes its behavior, and various bad other actors like ISIS fade, I think we’re stuck with being somewhat involved, even if that involvement is a recurring bit part. Iran is intent on attacking Israel, destabilizing Lebanon (via Hezbollah), and playing a major role in Syria. Israel is already militarily involved with Iranian forces launching missiles from Syria, which is being used as a forward base to strike Israel. Iran also helped destabilized Yemen, creating a huge mess, and as we’ve seen, are willing to use Yemenis as proxies to strike Saudi Arabia and US ships.

        Toppling and likely taking over in Saudi Arabia has always been a key goal for them, as part of the Shia/Sunni struggle, and the control of Mecca and Medina would be the huge prize. Control of the rest of the petro states on the peninsula would likely be an inevitable consequence, which would give Iran de facto control the bulk of Middle Eastern oil, and thus give them a big lever to set the price of oil to whatever they want. That would lead to an ultra-rich apocalyptic caliphate with a vast nuclear arsenal and a martyrdom complex, and I think the rest of the world would find that completely unacceptable.

        Their high stakes game of Risk is going to continue whether we’re there or not, but without us they have a much better chance of expanding and winning it. So we may have to take periodic actions to at least prevent the really bad outcomes, much as we did when Saddam invaded Kuwait. That may not mean we need many boots on the ground, except to guard various US installations and infrastructure in places like Kuwait and the UAE. And of course the region periodically produces events (invasions, 9/11, ISIS, etc) that compel us to put some boots in, or compels the world to ask us to put some boots in.

        Positive regime change in Iran, and perhaps later in Syria, would probably be the best bet for our long term withdrawal, because if the Iranians are our friends (as in the days of the Shah) and the Saudis are are friends, and the Egyptians are our friends, and the Soviet Union isn’t looking for warm water ports in the Gulf (a big cold war fear), and a bunch of crazed maniacs aren’t seeking to nuke Israel, then we have no real interests in anything in the region.

        One long term hope for many moderates in the region is that most Muslims, having tried Islamic fundamentalism, will get sick of it, and the various jihadist or strict Islamic movements will just peter out, returning the Middle East to more of what it was in the 1950’s, but hopefully with more democracy, whisky, and sexy.

        The more pessimistic view is that insurgent Islam will continue to be a major force, the next big world conflict that will last for centuries, and that much of Europe might as well be written off to Muslim conquest. Some have good reason to think that giving up, and not fighting for our values in the Middle East, is ceding victory to the Islamists. Others point out that we’re not really fighting for our values, and often seem loathe to even bring them up. That gets into the question of whether we’re trying to use the wrong tool set (military and diplomatic means) to fight a war of ideas that is taking place on a theological and eschatological plane, such that even our military victories are actually losses in the greater war.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
          Ignored
          says:

          Positive regime change in Iran, and perhaps later in Syria, would probably be the best bet for our long term withdrawal

          Here we go!!!!Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to George Turner
          Ignored
          says:

          George I have to give it to you, you’ve either totally outdown yourself or you were actually able to channel Charles Krauthammer’s ghost for a guest comment. Kudos.Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to InMD
            Ignored
            says:

            Well thank you! It’s not that hard to come off like a good political-affairs panelist when discussing Middle Eastern geo-politics, along with making predictions about the future course of events in the region, if you do your homework over a long span of time. Some do it for a living, and everyone else in the Middle East does it for free.

            What’s really hard is to be right about any of it, because almost nobody’s been able to pull that off. ^_^Report

  8. Avatar Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    Here’s a good article about MeK, an Iranian splinter group that opposes the current regime and is spreading a shit ton of cash around Washington in an attempt to buy influence.

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/11/giuliani-mek-terrorist-group-money-bolton-iran-214479

    What is fascinating is its written by a former staffer who participated in the internal Americna government debate about whether MeK was, or was not a “terrorist” organization.
    One one hand they certainly qualified, by attacking American embassies abroad and including one attack here on American soil.

    But on the other hand…they were politically useful as a tool against the current regime, and delisting them as a terrorist organization solved a political problem with them in Iraq.

    In other words, the label of “terrorist” is slippery, and as much a tool of politics as anything resembling an objective title.

    And yeah, this article and other make it clear that this group is now hated in Iran, but is positioning itself to be a government in exile, and is hoping to be installed in power like the Shah, courtesy the Americans.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      Did you ever wonder how we managed to install a monarch who, by an amazing coincidence, was already the Shah of Iran, as was his father before him, having been made Shah by Iran’s assembly (of which he was the elected prime minister) back in the 1920s? Iran was ruled by monarchs for 2,500 years, a stretch which only ended in 1979.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner
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        says:

        Obama was already the President of America!
        If the Deep State overthrows Trump in a coup, it is merely to restore the status quo, which has been in existence since 1776.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
          Ignored
          says:

          You’ve got it backwards. The head of the Iranian government was the Shah. What happened was that the prime minster, who ran the legislature, decided to take over the executive branch and gave himself the power to rule by decree. The Shah was not amused, and he checked which way the public, the clerics, and military were leaning, then came home and had the prime minister arrested. There are plenty of Wikipedia entries if you’re interested. It would be a bit like Boris Johnson deposing the British monarchy, and then everyone deciding he was nuts and tossing him out the next week, except that unlike Iran, the British monarchy long ago ceded most power to Parliament.Report

  9. Avatar Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    Juan Cole:
    “Trump Unites Iran and Iraq . . . against the United States”
    https://www.juancole.com/2020/01/unites-against-united.html

    “The youth protesters in downtown Baghdad and other cities initially broke into happy dances when they heard Soleimani had been murdered, since he was plotting to repress them. But reports on Friday suggest that they chanted against both Iranian and US presence in Iraq.

    Some religious Shiites who had come to resent Iranian influence in this Arab country likewise made an abrupt about-face. In Karbala, where the Iranian consulate was recently torched, an enormous crowd mourned Soleimani as a martyr, and no one mourns martyrdom better than Karbala’is. Trump had them chanting “Death to America” in the shrine-mosque of Imam Husain. You would really go out of your way to avoid that.”

    Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi nationalist Shiite cleric who had his differences with Soleimani, nevertheless condemned America’s imperial arrogance and pledged to reactivate his Mahdi Army militia to defend Iraq from the United States. Sadr’s Sairun Party, with 54 seats, is a kingmaker in parliament, and will work to pass legislation expelling US troops.

    Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the pro-Iran Badr Corps paramilitary, likewise called for the Shiite parties to close ranks and stage a parliamentary vote on expulsion. This can be done with 51% of seats, and between them al-Sadr and al-Amiri have 102 seats. (The Popular Mobilization Forces or Shiite militias are also a political party, Fath, with 48 seats).

    Parliament will hold some consultations today, Saturday, and the anti-American factions will attempt to hold a vote on Sunday to expel US troops. Iraq is a mess these days, and it isn’t clear whether they can get a quorum, or a majority for expulsion. The US, with its sophisticated military equipment and signals intelligence, still protects the Iraqi political elite from a resurgence of ISIL, and it isn’t clear that Iran could play the same role. Some Iraqi politicians unhappy about being recolonized by Trump may nevertheless prefer the American bear hug to the genocidal ISIL and to the bossy Khomeinists of Iran.”

    So, in one swift move…

    Iraq: Destabilized, possibly leading to our expulsion from the country and its domination by either Iran or ISIS;

    Iran: United in their hatred for us, with even foes of the government joining together and rallying to its defense.

    Israel: Facing the loss of its major protector and patron from nearby Iraq, and a resurgent radicalized Shia force.

    MAGA!Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      “Who knew foreign policy could be so hard?”Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      But the good news is trump tweeted that he has targeted 52 cultural sites in Iran. That is a war crime. It also will lead Iranians to rally together and only make even west sympathetic Iranians hate us. And of course even further alienate us from the allies we want and need.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to greginak
        Ignored
        says:

        Adam Silverman at Balloon Juice theorizes that in an asymetric move, the Iranians might target cyber warfare with the overriding goal of embarrassing Trump:

        “And this is where the embarrassment comes in. If you want to strike back at the President, you do so in a way that gets under his skin. Skin that he demonstrates daily on his Twitter feed is exceedingly thin. The President is noted for spending hours speaking to world leaders, his outside advisors and friends on an unsecured phone from the White House residence each night, or from one of his properties when he goes to Mar a Lago or plays golf at his clubs, presents a target rich environment all on his own. The Iranians have a target rich environment given the President’s well documented poor Op-Sec and Info-Sec practices. The Iranians have a target rich environment given Rudy Giuliani’s poor Op-Sec and Info-Sec practices. The Iranians have a target rich environment because Jared Kushner communicates with Muhammed bin Salman on WhatsApp, which is not secure.”

        Basically, the Iranians probably already have access to Trump’s and Rudy’s and Jared’s unsecured phones and can exploit that fact to enrage and goad Trump into doing something self destructive and stupid. Hell, they may already have his tax returns.

        I’ve already said that if every major intelligence service in the world hasn’t already turned half the guests and workers at Mar A Lago, they should be shot for malpractice.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels
          Ignored
          says:

          This is correct. The way to hit back at Trump isn’t to, oh…, kill a few Americans or close an embassey or two, but instead to make people derisively laugh at him. That’s Trump’s weakness. He can be made to look like a fool because everyone knows, especially him, that he *is* a fool. Everything he does emenates from a deep-seated insecurity about who he is and his own worth. The best histories of Trump’s presidency will be written by psychologists, not fact-finding historians.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak
        Ignored
        says:

        So much winning, tired of I am.

        In a cup-is-half-full sorta way, at least Trump hasn’t pissed off Russia yet!Report

  10. Avatar George Turner
    Ignored
    says:

    Targeting cultural sites is a very ballsy and potentially brilliant move. It’s aimed almost directly at the mullahs. If they hit something we think is important, then we hit things they hold dear, including the shrine in Qom where the 12th imam has been wandering around in a well the past 1,100 years.

    What Trump is doing is basically saying we’ll happily escalate beyond what their regime (the mullahs) can tolerate, and we’ll laugh about it. If we only struck military sites they would just write them off as part of the cost of doing business. “We’ll lose a few tanks here, a few missile batteries there, and we claim victory.” We’re dealing with people who threw away thousands of Iranian children as human mine-sweepers against Iraq. Martyrdom doesn’t bother them. Losing ancient religious shrines could be another matter entirely.

    During the Iran Iraq war, both sides apparently felt that the winner would be whichever one came up with enough air superiority or missile capability to blow up shrines or mosques in the other’s capital. Such worries might reflect their own self-understanding and cultural values.

    Each of those shrines has a fairly large group of mullahs associated with it, and they hold the real power in Iran. If, through their own reckless ambitions, they take actions that result in the destruction of those shrines, then they might face some severe and long term domestic consequences for it. So as they sit there, carefully calculating where they were going to hit some US forces, Trump has just said they lose their 52 most precious shrines – as a start.

    Now maybe they’ll hit some tankers. Maybe they’ll hit a guard post somewhere, or hurls some missiles at an airport in the middle of a desert. Maybe they kill some random accountant who’s on vacation. But whatever happens will start with an overwhelming Iranian loss, and one they can’t simply rebuild from because ancient shrines are ancient. In contrast, the US isn’t located particularly conveniently for massive retaliation, and pointedly lacks ancient shrines. To get payback, they’d have to hit us at least as hard as 9/11, and they’ve seen that when that happens, we roll in with aircraft and tanks, put top official’s faces on decks of playing cards, and take over. There’s no way for them to only get the low to moderate intensity war they want.

    So some of them will have to ask “Is striking the Americans worth it?” The answer is probably going to be no. The only bet they might have taken is that Trump wouldn’t pull the trigger on such a move, but clearly he would, because he’s crazy. Now of course some hardliners are going to argue that they must strike us anyway, but what Trump has hopefully done is give a lot of ammunition to the moderates who think Iran is on a disastrous course.

    This is where playing the idiot with a gun can actually work. Obama could never have presented that kind of threat as credible, and neither could either Bush.

    Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote a book called “The Second World Wars” which made the point that the allies bear a lot of responsibility for the war because they utterly failed to signal to Germany or Japan that they would act with overwhelming force. The Axis thought they could win because nobody was spelling things out for them. The allies just kept signalling how much they wanted peace, so the Axis powers just assumed that they wouldn’t really be attacked in return.

    What Trump is doing is disabusing the Iranian’s notion that they can actually win against us, or strike us without extremely painful and perhaps fatal consequences for them. Thus, they might be disinclined to start anything. If they do start something, they won’t be able to say we didn’t warn them.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner
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      says:

      Yes, another brilliant move.

      Rally not just the Iranians, but the entire fucking population of Muslims together against America.
      And have the rest of the civilized world recognize our war crimes, and have them rally to Iran’s side.

      Man, the winning, its so much.

      Meanwhile, the Iranian hackers can easily dump Trump’s cell phone calls and financial and tax records onto the internet, and suffer no reprisals whatsoever, since the entire world will be pointing and laughing.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
      Ignored
      says:

      Targeting cultural sites is a very ballsy and potentially brilliant move

      BREAKING: Shit thrown by petulant, impulsive three year old viewed as “brilliant” by leading sycophants!Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        Remember when I mentioned that the real war was taking place on a theological plane? What Trump is threatening is equivalent to razing Cathedrals during the European religious wars, with the full capability of doing so at no cost to us. He’s not going after the crusading knights, he’s going after the priests who send them. He’s giving the imams something to chew on.

        Normally they just intone the faithful to go out and sacrifice themselves. Trump is saying he’ll instead just flatten their super important mosques (where they probably worked twenty years to climb the leadership hierarchy) so that they have to move their services to a strip mall.

        This is an unanticipated game change.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
      Ignored
      says:

      The Axis thought they could win because nobody was spelling things out for them. The allies just kept signalling how much they wanted peace, so the Axis powers just assumed that they wouldn’t really be attacked in return.

      This is just a massive steaming pile of rank horseshit. 100% fictionalized nonsensical horseshit.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        Victor Davis Hanson wrote a well reviewed book on it. Seriously. “The Second World Wars.”

        The Japanese assumed Americans would cede the Pacific because we didn’t really have any fight in us. After all, we wouldn’t even come to Britain’s defense when London was being bombed, and they’re our cousins.

        All the German’s heard in the run up to Poland was how much the British and French wanted to avoid another war. Stalin didn’t signal anything because he was intent on dividing up Poland. The US stayed silent on the issue, and FDR said we’d stay out of any more European wars. The Germans and Japanese could do that simple bit of math. If nobody stands up to them, they win! Even at Dunkirk, Hitler halted because he figured he could negotiate a nice peace settlement with England (and to teach a lesson to his generals about who commanded the army).

        If the Allies had instead signaled that if a war started, it would end with them occupying the burned out remains of Berlin and Tokyo, and showing the math that made that outcome inevitable, the war probably wouldn’t have started.

        The point of the title, with plural “wars”, is that nobody, not even the Germans, thought a global conflict was kicking off. Everybody viewed it as a series of small regional wars. The Japanese were fighting in China and a few other places. The Fins were fighting the Russians. The Germans were reclaiming some bits of Czechoslovakia. Then Germany was dividing up Poland. Then there was an air war between Britain and Germany, which ended fairly quickly.

        These were just very brief little European border wars, and then they weren’t that at all.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
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          says:

          Counterintuitive hot-take: the Allies *caused* WWII!Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            And that got him some great interviews on places like CSPAN.

            Perhaps the closest analogy is some teen punk picking a fight with some random person in a biker bar. He’s poking at some random victims, talking smack, and all the big bikers just kind of look at him, like he’s some entertainment.

            He asks one “What are you lookin’ at?!” and the biker says “Nothin’ man. I’m must chillin’.”

            The punk gets bolder and bolder because he doesn’t think any of them are going to intervene, and thinks they’re all just bluster, with no real will to fight. Finally he takes a swing at one of the bikers, thinking he’ll just stun the guy into submission, but instead they all jump in and beat him to a pulp, totally fed up with his antics and his attitude.

            Are the bikers responsible for starting the fight? Or more accurately, are they in part responsible for letting the punk’s actions escalate to the point where they had to beat him up? If they’d have issued a stern warning as soon as he started, with six of them standing up and glaring, the punk probably would’ve backed down and discovered a renewed fascination with the beer he just ordered.

            The punk wasn’t prepared for a fight with an entire biker gang, just as Germany, Japan, and Italy weren’t remotely prepared to fight WW-II, even though they’re the ones that started it, because they had been given no reason to believe it would explode into a global and total war.

            Hitler’s greatest fear was having to fight a two-front war, and had he known that he’d inevitably face a two front war, he probably would’ve limited his ambitions, perhaps just stopping with France. But the US gave no impression that we might ship troops to England to open up a second front, and if not for Pearl Harbor, the US might have stayed out of the war almost entirely, restricting itself to supplying some weapons. Hitler declared war on the US because he figured we’d be tied up in the Pacific. So he signed his country’s death warrant.

            In the Pacific, Japan had a non-aggression pact with Russia, and it held until the war in Europe was over, when the Russians finally moved against them. The British were tied up in Europe and the Med, so it looked like all they had to do was strike our fleet and listen to us negotiate for peace.

            They never had to look at production capacity, shipping capacity, and available military personnel because they never thought the allies would bring all that to bear against them. This failure of signaling is how weaker powers start wars they can’t possibly win.

            Trump is not making that mistake. He’s making it clear to Iran that they will lose a conflict with the US. They will lose a small conflict, and they will lose a large conflict. If they start it, he will finish it.

            And they know they can’t win a large conflict against us. During the Iraq war, when asked if Iran would intervene on Iraq’s behalf, the Iranian president said it would be suicide. But we were giving them room to think they could win a small conflict, carving out parts of the region because we wouldn’t act to protect interests we didn’t regard as vital.

            That’s what they’ve been pushing for with some of the tit-for-tat attacks, hoping to bring just enough pressure to bear to make us drop our sanctions. They cause a little trouble here and a little trouble there, and wouldn’t it be much easier us to sign off on a more limited nuclear program? If we’re seeking to avoid conflict, then they can keep pushing us back by threatening conflict. That seemed to be working pretty well for them, to the extent that we signed an agreement where, buy law, we have to buy Persian rugs and Iranian condiments, and have to sell them new Boeing airliners. Why would they change a policy that was working so well?

            And then Trump came into office and he decided we were losing that game, so he came up with a new game, Wack the Iranian. Under the new rules, we always win. They’re not liking that game. Perhaps they should take their ball and go home.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        Somewhat related, the Russian government has recently been sending out disinformation regarding the Molotov/ Ribbentrop pact and its part in starting WWII.
        https://www.balloon-juice.com/2019/12/31/moving-into-the-new-year-with-molotov-and-ribbentrop/

        It appears to be some sort of ratfuckery to blame the various European nations for starting the war, in an attempt to sow division within NATO and absolve the Stalin regime of complicity with the Nazis.

        I’m keeping an eye on the right wing sites to see if or when this line of bullshit will begin to be amplified by them.

        As for this post, it has been a staple of rightwing thought since WWII that the only possible foreign policy is maximum bellicosity at maximum volume 24/7.
        In their minds, its always 1939 and all Democrats are always Chamberlains, and all Republicans are Churchillian.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels
          Ignored
          says:

          Dang, that is interesting. Thanks for the link.The Russians are really good at negative propaganda right now, which is sort of amazing all on its own.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            Oh, like White Supremacists haven’t been writing school curricula for decades. The first time someone comes up with a “you know what? Maybe there are other people who have a perspective on something”, these same White Supremacists start yelling “THAT’S NEGATIVE PROPAGANDA!”

            Maybe the whole “The US is the only good country in the whole world” was a lie in 1945 too, Stillwater.

            Anyway, it’s not that they’re “really good”. It’s that the tinder is really dry.Report

  11. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    Today Trump tweeted about how we should bomb 52 sites in retaliation for the hostage crisis of 40 years ago. At what point can we say this is not a rational hombre without bad-faith trolling because the urge to own the libs outweighs decency, reason and ration?Report

  12. Avatar greginak
    Ignored
    says:

    Breaking news that will need a post of it’s own. We are saying that we will withdraw our troops from Iraq.

    1- I’ll bet that in one month we won’t be withdrawing and we’ll have more troops there then now.
    2- We certainly seem to sending a lot of troops there now. Sure that could be for force protection while we withdraw. But i’ll stick with my prediction.Report

  13. Avatar Truth
    Ignored
    says:

    In this case Suleimani was on a diplomatic errand. He was INVITED to Iraq by the Iraqi government. He was carrying in his hands a letter from the head of the Iranian government, to be passed through the Iraqi government, to the Saudi government.

    Imagine if Mike Pence was assassinated while traveling to Britain or Germany, at their express invitation, with an official diplomatic letter to be passed to Russia by their governments.

    That’s what occurred here. That’s the lawless nature of what Trump did.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Truth
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      says:

      And while he was there he attacked a US embassy. He reportedly was also working on the overthrow of elements of the Iraqi government, and had just returned from Syria, where he was coordinating either attacks on Turkey, Israel, the Kurds, or Sunnis and Christians in general. Hitler also went to a lot of diplomatic meetings as he carved up Europe, so would it have been “lawless” to take him out, too?

      Meanwhile, the Iranian protesters are showing far more respect for the US flag than most Democrats. Will Nancy vote to send in troops to defend the ayatollah and Quds operatives from outraged Iranians? We shall have to wait and see.Report

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