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Smart and calculated
February 7, 2020
The United States operates the most powerful military in the world. Our ability to protect the good people of the world who can’t protect themselves from terror is second to none. So why have we been so shy about using it?
What I just wrote may sound like an impassioned, patriotic plea for America to be excessively hawkish regarding foreign policy. In reality, I tend to subscribe more to Theodore Roosevelt’s ideology: “speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” So-called big stick diplomacy advocated for intimidating our enemies with our superior forces and beating them into submission if they cross the line.
Iran has been a frequent line-crosser in the Middle East for decades. In 1979, their 2000-year-old monarchical system was overthrown and a Shi’a Islamic theocracy was installed in its place. Since then, the Iranian regime has made a habit of sponsoring terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and using them to harass other countries in the region. Making matters worse, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded in 2003 the Iranians were performing uranium enrichment, which is a significant step in the process of creating a nuclear bomb.
In response to this, the U.S. took a rather unorthodox approach. In 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, under which Iran would stop developing nuclear weapons in exchange for the U.S. loosening economic sanctions. It was based upon a belief held by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes that strengthening Iran’s economy would help bring an end to their terroristic ambitions.
In reality, Trump’s actions embodied the Roosevelt philosophy: we stood idly by, ready as ever for imminent attack, as Iran marched ever closer to the line. When they crossed it, we attacked them.”
They were sorely mistaken. In March 2016, Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of the U.S. Central Command, noted Obama’s wish to strengthen the Iranian economy had made them “more aggressive.” Under the leadership of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran has continued to bomb shipping routes and plunged the region further into chaos. In response to all this turmoil, President Donald Trump has taken little to no action.
The Persian Gulf conflict reached a head on Dec. 31, 2019, when Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants set fire to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. For the U.S., this was the last straw. In response, in the early hours of Jan. 3, 2020, an American airstrike killed top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
Then all hell broke loose. Or so Twitter thought. Within minutes of the strike, #WorldWarIII trended worldwide on the social network. Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice warned Americans to “brace for war.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deemed the act a “disproportionate” response, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren accused Trump of having “escalated” the situation.
In reality, Trump’s actions embodied the Roosevelt philosophy: we stood idly by, ready as ever for imminent attack, as Iran marched ever closer to the line. When they crossed it, we attacked them. And the attack made sense — Soleimani was a key figure in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces. While targeted strikes are generally frowned upon by the international community, Soleimani represented an organization guilty of killing hundreds of Americans according to Brian Hook, the U.S. Dept. of State’s special representative for Iran, and was widely suspected of planning to kill more. Just as we killed Gaddafi in Libya and bin Laden in Pakistan to avenge the death of our own citizens, killing Soleimani was perfectly justified.
After killing their terrorist leader and threatening further action should they cross another line, affairs between Iran and the U.S. are relatively peaceful, at least for now. Given the fundamental instability at the root of the Iranian regime, there’s no telling what could happen next. But if Trump’s recent actions in Iran are any indication of what future foreign policy could look like, I’ve never felt more comfortable in the safety and prosperity of the country I love.