A long war of terror and attrition—

January 3, 2020 at 1:20 pm (By Amba) ()

with proxies, allies, assets, and US citizens all over the world at unpredictable risk, and potential to flare out of control at any moment—is a likelier consequence of the drone assassination of Qassem Suleiman than immediate all-out war, opines this Guardian article.

One conclusion you might draw from this is that it’s Barack Obama Trump is killing, over and over again. Someone just give him a goddamn voodoo doll.

Another is that he is, inevitably, wagging the dog. Here we go. We don’t change presidents during a war or under an elevated state of threat.

“I think they’ll probably try to hit us in other parts of the world, maybe west Africa maybe Latin America to send the message that they could get us anywhere – we should never feel safe. And I think the US is going to kind of try to spread out our assault in a similar way,” [said Kirsten Fontenrose, the former senior director for the Gulf in Trump’s national security council, now at the Atlantic Council]

“I don’t think we’re looking at a war. I think we’re looking at a series of asymmetric semi-unpredictable strikes against each other’s interests.”

[W]hile the consequences of Suleimani’s killing are unclear, what is almost certain is that Trump has not thought them through. He made the decision while on holiday at his Florida resort. He did it without the sombre presidential address to explain his actions to the nation as is customary at such pivotal junctures in the country’s history, merely tweeting out a US flag and leaving it to the Pentagon make the announcement.

Over the past three years, the national security decision-making process, by which the pros and cons of US action were once carefully weighed, has been gutted. There are few high-level policy meetings any more. The independent thinkers in Trump’s orbit have left the stage, leaving a president who ultimately trusts his gut instincts above any expert.

It is those instincts that have, more than any other single factor, led the US and Iran to this point, and in particular Trump’s visceral hatred of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and his diplomatic legacy, the 2015 nuclear deal. Destruction of the deal and the economic strangulation of Iran, became a central imperative of Trumpian foreign policy.

Those aides who remain in the president’s orbit have survived because they know how to echo his impulses, his desire to destroy all traces of Obama, and who now share the president’s focus on his own re-election.

The decision to kill Suleimani is likely to have been made with the November vote in mind – how it might play as a punchline on the campaign trail, finally eclipsing perhaps Obama’s conquest of Osama bin Laden.

But it will be a story that will almost certainly be told against a backdrop of more attacks, greater uncertainty and a deepening sense of dread.

~ Julian Borger, Washington correspondent, The Guardian


  1. tom strong said,

    I don’t disagree there’s a wag-the-dog motivation here, of course there is. But where did this idea that “we don’t change presidents in wartime” come from? Only data points I can see are Bush 43 and Nixon, both dubious arguments imo. And that ignores two recent-ish presidents, Johnson and Truman, who became so toxic due to an ongoing war that they stepped down rather than lose reelection.

  2. amba12 said,

    Um, FDR?

    Let’s hope we’re not condemned to repeat THAT.

  3. tom strong said,

    Fair point, but fundamentally different case. FDR was not shoring up his popularity, but arguing for an exception to the two-term norm. Trumpist fever dreams aside, we’re not at that point with him.

  4. amba12 said,

    Yet. 🙏🏼If his fever dreams come true we can only hope he’ll have to ARGUE for an exception. It’s McConnell who’s the true creature of my nightmares.

  5. Polly said,

    It doesn’t sound like it was a great idea, and I thought we were supposed to be staying out of useless wars. But this article tries hard to make Trump sound like a complete idiot. Which he isn’t, so I definitely have to get some other takes on this.

  6. amba12 said,

    Fixed for now—trying to get instructions for permanent fix—don’t comment in the meanwhile, as I’d probably have to change each one manually. You may have to unsubscribe and resubscribe differently. I’ll find out.

  7. wjca said,

    “we don’t change presidents in wartime”

    Um…. Truman and Korea? The way the 22nd Amendment was written, he could have served another term. But didn’t even get renominated.

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