President Trump called off a planned retaliatory strike against Iranian forces about ten minutes before it was supposed to begin. The reason ought to make everyone following this story pay attention. The American President thought that it was wrong to kill 150 people over the loss of an unmanned drone.
Fox News ran a piece on this, as did CNN, who oddly enough, reported this accurately. In fact, CNN’s piece actually hit it out of the park, at least with this section of their piece:
Trump’s own dilemma was met by a near unanimous national security team who felt the US should retaliate for a downed drone by striking Iranian targets. For the President, though, the answer was far from obvious — ultimately he pulled the plug on military strikes, minutes before the point of no return.But a senior US official said throughout the process, Trump was very invested and very serious. He very much understood that the military could not predict for him what the Iranian response to a US strike might be and it remains a significant administration concern not to start a wider war.Military officials are pleased Trump didn’t order the strike because of this uncertainty. At the end of the day, many said they believe these Iranian attacks on tankers and the drone are basically a message that Iran wants to talk and they have been telling the President this.
President Trump revealed a remarkable level of detail Friday about the tense moments leading up to his split-second decision to call off a retaliatory strike on Iran for the downing of a U.S. drone — saying he was worried about the casualties and “didn’t think it was proportionate.”
“I didn’t like it,” he said in an interview with NBC.
The president said he quizzed his generals before the planes would have taken off on how many people would be killed, and was told approximately 150 Iranians could die.
“I thought about it for a second and said: You know what? They shot down an unmanned drone…and here we are sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within half an hour after I said go ahead,” he said.
The interview came hours after he tweeted at length about Thursday’s decision-making, saying the U.S. was “cocked & loaded to retaliate” with plans to hit three sites, but he reversed course after asking military leaders about how many would be killed.
“… I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not … proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world,” Trump said.
Of course, the usual hawks in Congress were unable to get past their own programming, for want of a better word, insisting that a response like this would make America appear indecisive or weak. From Fox:
Trump’s strike nix generated mixed reaction on the Hill, with hawkish Republicans expressing concern that a lack of response could make the U.S. look weak.
“To shoot down a $200 million plane the size of an airliner that could have easily had 35 people on it, there needs to be a response. Am I disappointed today? Yes,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told Fox News.
“Ultimately it will be ‘is there a reaction?’ And if there is I think that’s fine. But if there’s not a reaction and we think we can negotiate then I think it will be a bad move,” he said.
Asked if he feared the president could look weak, he said: “I think there’s certainly a risk, yes.”
However, this is simply the same point of view that got the US forces mired down in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, fighting wars with one hand or both hands tied behind their backs, unable to win, and with no clear objective about why we would fight in the first place. President Trump used his brain. What could have been was not important. The drone was unmanned. Maybe an appropriate response would be to send the Iranians a bill for the cost of the drone, but not much more.
Further, the whole scope of Iran’s recent bellicose rhetoric is to try to force some sort of change in the bind that country is in.
Iran is apparently feeling the brunt of very tough sanctions, brought about by the US because of the behavior of the Iranian government even when the flawed JCPoA was in force. The US withdrew from this agreement, claiming that it gives Iran everything it wants, just a bit more slowly, and is no real vehicle to peace. Iran’s reaction to this was bellicose rhetoric, which is seen in some circles as proof that the US point of view was actually correct. After all, a nation truly interested in peace would not make threats under such a circumstance.
While there is no express sign the Iranians are interested in talking, there are signs that indirectly show that something may be getting ready to dislodge:
- Iran tried to threaten all of the other signatories of its JCPoA to pressure the US to back off the sanctions, by saying it will exceed its nuclear feel allowance in just a few days from now
- Iran conducted a strike on the unmanned US drone, but Al-Jazeera notes that they also admitted to deciding not to strike a manned aircraft in the vicinity of the drone.
- Iran has not done anything since the drone strike except posture
The restraint that is shown by the Iranian leadership, despite its rhetoric, suggests that they are looking for a way to look strong but at the same time, to find a way out of the bind they are in.
In this regard, certainly, many people can debate about whether or not the sanctions and the US overall treatment of Iran is right or wrong in the first place. But there is a point where reality comes ahead of anybody’s notions of justice, because those notions sometimes cause more problems than they fix.
It would appear that both Iran’s leaders and the US president see this, because both sides have exercised restraint.
President Trump’s attitude and response is probably about the best any American president’s could be in such a situation. Sure, we can strike if we have to, and if we do, look out – you will lose. But we know that, you know that, so let’s not do it. This seems to be the message that President Trump is offering to the Iranians.
Many media outlets are still trying to play up the “tension” between the two countries, but the reality may actually be quite different. Tensions? Sure. But there is nothing worth going to war over, and it appears at this time like both sides see this.
This may be overly optimistic, but perhaps the real news is not how close we are to a war, but how close we are to a real breakthrough. The significance of President Trump’s decision not to strike back is major news, and it is probable that it may in fact be one of the biggest stories regarding US foreign policy in recent history.