The sudden resurgence of what appear to be early-2000s neoconservative talking points among the political elite in the wake of the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani should disturb every American.
It ought to disturb Donald Trump’s supporters especially. The president has been very clear: he seeks—or once sought—an end to forever war in the Middle East. Thursday’s attack on the Iranian general outside the Baghdad airport, by every early indication, makes this goal even more difficult to achieve than it already was.
For those of us who lived through the Bush-era, Thursday night felt like a blast to the past. Ari Fleischer, President Bush’s press secretary from 2001 to 2003, was on Fox News (with Karl Rove!) arguing that Iranians would celebrate Soleimani’s death.
We will be greeted as liberators. Sure.
Ben Shapiro, writing in the Daily Wire, called Soleimani a “terror leader” and noted he was behind the death of “17 [percent] of American service members in Iraq.” Yet, I ask: how many terror attacks did Soleimani and the Quds Force carry out on American soil? In fact, how many terror attacks on American soil have ever been carried out by Iranians generally? By Shiite Muslims as a whole?
Decades of U.S. Meddling for What?
America simply does not face an existential threat from the Iranian regime. Every instance an Iranian attack against the United States came in places where America interfered in the messy internecine politics of the Middle East.
The seizure of the American embassy in 1979 might resonate as a grave insult to the Baby Boomers who lived through it. But the rest of us should be more circumspect.
It is worth remembering that the American government, through the CIA, helped install the reviled Shah. Operation Ajax and the 1953 coup d’etat that removed Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, a democratically elected leader, was almost certainly a mistake. Secretary of State Madeline Albright admitted as much in 2000.
Iran might have ordered Hezbollah to conduct the 1983 Beirut Barracks bombing that killed 241 American Marines. But what were the Marines doing in Lebanon in the first place? Can anyone in the American political establishment explain why it was necessary for securing American rights to send “peacekeeping” troops to support the Israeli invasion of Lebanon? How did ensuring an American and Israeli toady, Amine Gemayel, could secure rule over that country help us?
The same argument applies to the allegation of Iranian terror in Iraq against U.S. troops. No serious commentator on foreign policy still defends the 2003 invasion. Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. His connections to al-Qaeda were tenuous at best. He was not a new Hitler trying to dominate the world.
In other words, the Bush Administration destabilized, without cause, an authoritarian but secular (if brutal) regime in Iraq which led to sectarian civil war and the rise of radical Sunni Islamist terror groups like ISIS.
It is not surprising that the Iranian government wanted the United States out of its part of the world, especially after Iran, and General Soleimani in particular, offered to help the United States fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan but were rebuffed in the aftermath of 9/11 when President Bush declared Iran a part of the “axis of evil” in early 2002.
A Needless and Tragic Distraction
President Trump in 2014 and 2016 was absolutely correct: the war in Iraq was a disaster. America needs an end to the forever wars in the Middle East. Trump’s gut instinct to finally get us out of these quagmires was exactly right.
But Trump hasn’t followed through. He’s listened to “the generals” and to a foreign policy establishment that hates him.
Killing Soleimani simply entrenches us further in the region. The most likely danger is not, as some hysterical liberals have claimed, that the Soleimani killing is a “Franz Ferdinand” moment that will lead to full-scale war with Iran or even to World War III. More credible is that these ongoing tensions with Iran ensure we stay in Iraq and Afghanistan for the foreseeable future—at least to the end of Trump’s presidency.
Instead of focusing on domestic issues that actually affect everyday Americans, the Soleimani killing redirects attention to the Middle East.
Tucker Carlson is one of the only voices on the mainstream American Right who understands how this really works. As he correctly pointed out on his show in the wake of the strike, the movement of illegal immigrants into the United States is a much bigger threat than the Iranian regime. To take another example, drug trafficking in America by Mexican and Chinese nationals and mendacious pharmaceutical players like the Sackler family kill Americans on a scale no Islamic terrorist group could even dream of achieving.
Trump killed Soleimani because a group he allegedly controlled attacked and vandalized the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The militia occupied the embassy because of an airstrike that allegedly killed their footsoldiers. The airstrike happened because the militia allegedly killed an American contractor (whose name has yet to be released).
The byzantine workings of Middle Eastern power politics are always like this. Everything is insinuation and allegation layered in thousands of years of tribal and religious politics. Alliances are murky. Experts, to say nothing of everyday citizens, have very little idea of what is actually going on.
By staying in the Middle East the endless loop of “so-and-so killed Americans therefore we need to send in more Americans to fight and die to go kill him” will continue.
This kind of forever war is bad for the American people but tremendous for the military contractors and intelligence agencies that thrive in the chaos. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan turned on spigots of billions of dollars of American taxpayer money into the region. That is to say nothing of the benefits to other regional powers like Israel and Saudi Arabia from American conflict with Iran.
Americans should ask: who really benefits here?
Is it you?
The answer is clear. Trump should trust his original gut instinct. He should unilaterally withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. The American people do not benefit from more war. We never have.