How to retaliate against foreign adversaries

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

Maybe Trump’s threat to attack cultural sites was not meant literally, but rather as a brash reminder that his retaliatory actions will not be constrained by world opinion, international law or the views of American elites. If so, such a signal, to be effective, has to harm the Iranian regime. Trump’s message shows that he doesn’t understand the calculus of retaliation very well.

Assassinating a military leader by drone, by contrast, is something the U.S. can do but the Iranian government cannot, at least not easily or without provoking even greater retaliation. That makes such a policy an effective deterrent in the short run, as it hurts the actual decision maker, and indeed that is what Trump chose to do.

By mentioning cultural sites, he in essence has decided to follow a very strong signal of action with a much weaker signal of words. If you are a hawk, you should understand that Trump’s talk of cultural sites is weakening his core message that retaliation will be effective. It is usually better game theory to follow up a highly impactful action with relative silence, but silence never has been Trump’s strong suit.

There is much more to the argument at the link.

Comments

I think the biggest problem with Trump's threat (from a tactical perspective) is that it treats the Iranian people as a whole, rather than their radical regime, as the enemy.

A large portion of Iranians do not support their leaders' radicalism, and we should want to maintain goodwill among that group. Attacking cultural sites would tend to unite everyone against us.

Bingo. Target symbols of the regime; leave the nation in peace. A state can be defeated; an independent nation with a strong sense of national identity has never in history been enduringly subdued.

Japan? Seemed to work pretty well.

That's what the neocons said. Quite literally. They saw Iraq as a manipulable whole because Germany and Japan were. The region is not so unified.

That's supposed to be a lesson learned at this point.

Yup. Germany and Japan are the go to examples for the US policy of regime change and nation-building, just as Munich is the eternal example for interventionism generally. They are not good examples.

As the 17th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq approaches and the Iraqis are now calling for the US to get out, perhaps it is time to get out.

Ask all the soldiers who came back from Iraq missing limbs if a cultural site was more sacred than their leg was!

Good point. Reflecting on soldiers who lost a limb in Vietnam, maybe it's time to pile back in there and finish the job.

If I were the director of the Smithsonian I'd be worried.

The key difference is that Japan and Germany started World War II and everyone including in those countries knew it. In the Middle East, the US is the aggressor. Iran has never attacked the US. Iran is more like the Soviet Union or China, which resisted until the end despite the Axis killing tens of millions of them in wars of Axis aggression.

Iran has never attacked the US.

Yeah this isn’t even remotely true. Our Iran policy is terrible but come on.

You’re ignoring the Beirut barracks bombing, several embassy bombings from 1980s to current, and about 2500 American dead from EFP factories run, sourced, and delivered by the IRGC, as well as around 10,000 + injured.

Attacking American troops abroad is not the same as attacking America. In World War II, the US didn't consider the Japanese attack on the USS Panay, a US military vessel in China, an act of war, it was only the attack on Pearl Harbor on US soil that was considered an act of war.

Iran invaded the US Embassy in 1979 and held diplomats as hostages for over 400 days.

There is your attack on America.

CIA. Mossadegh?

We materially supported Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war. Remember the Vincennes? In Lebanon we took sides in a civil war making us combatants, then were surprised when we got attacked. We have pretty much been at war, low level, with Iran since 1953. They kill some of us, we kill some of them.

Steve

And then Reagan murdered 300 Iranians by shooting down a commercial airliner.

If you swallowed that, by the same token, you have to say attacking an Iranian general overseas from Iran (e.g. in Iraq) is also not an act of war....

I think Zaua's point is basically right. No, I wouldn't summarize the situation in the middle east as "the U.S. is the aggressor". But it's complex and muddy enough that the U.S. can be easily blamed. Certainly, if we took major action in an attempt to "subdue" Iran, we would be widely viewed as the aggressor, both in Iran and around the world. It would be seen as a disproportionate response to Iran's actions, at best.

It does seem that national recognition that they were at fault, and regret at the direction that they had taken, were key to Japan and Germany quickly becoming peaceful, prosperous members of the world community.

Iran is a PIA to everyone in the ME. If we took action, no one would shed a tear. It would be nice no to need to though.

The Japanese still have a shrine where war criminals are buried and they are far from being consumed by national war guilt (unlike Germans, where the feeling is omnipresent, especially among intelligentsia). They mostly decided to be silent about the whole face-losing fiasco and thats it.

Skeptical (not sure I got right line here),

There you go again, showing off your ignorance. Lebanon's Hezbollah is allied with Iran and supported by Iran, but it is not Iran. Iran did not attack the US embassy in Beirut.

As it is, the last time iran attacked a neighbor without having already been attacked (as in the Iran-Iraq war) was in the 1820s. Check it out.

So much commentary on Iran in the US right now is just massively deluded almost to the point of insanity.

Prof Rosser,

So your contention then is that Hezbollah bombed the barracks in Beirut without an official order from Tehran?

That’s not how this works. Hezbollah doesn’t attack world superpowers without the express order from the Ayatollah.

Hezbollah is not “an ally.” Kaitab Hezbollah is not “an ally.”

They are functionally arms of the IRGC.

Let me guess, you also think the “Ukrainian separatists” are not functionally an arm of the FSB?

You’re smarter than this. Take the blinders off.

And you know this how, Whoah? Iran has provided lots of funds and arms and advice to Lebanon's Hezbollah. But I am unaware of any evidence that Iran "ordered" the bombing of the Beirut barracks, although I have certainly seen claims that Iran approved of it.

Oh, and Whoah, FSB is the domestic arm of Russian intel. They do not run the separatists in eastern Ukraine. That would be other Russian agencies. As it is, the separatists in eastern Ukraine are more the flunkies of Putin than Lebanon's Hezbollah has been that of Solemainw, who, btw, was a nobody back in 1983 when the Beirut barracks bombing happened. Whatever the precise role of Iran in that bombing (and there was some message sent to the Iran ambassador in Beirut that "something dramatic should be done" hardly a direct order from IGRC to Hezbolllah, Solemaini was not at all involved with it.

Indeed, what Trump's action did was rally the Iranian people behind Iran's leadership. As for game theory, the idea that Trump is capable of applying game theory to decision-making is preposterous. Trump is impulsive; indeed, he brags that he makes decisions according to his "gut", which he says is smarter than all of his advisors combined. Does Trump have any regrets for his impulsive decision to kill Suleimani and ignite another war in the region? No, for it focuses attention on Trump, which is what the man-child wants. Cowen can't believe that Trump is actually capable of game theory. I hope he can't. I assume Cowen is referring to Trump's advisors. The problem is that Pompeo, Trump's main advisor, has been itching for war with Iran for years. And Pompeo is ambitious, and sees himself as Trump's successor in the White House. So we have a man-child being advised by Macbeth. What could go wrong.

Good point. Or President Trump is saying to those who would hear, "I know by gut, or divine revelation, what to do and will do it if the Deep State and Enemies of the People don't perfidiously prevent me, whereas those pointy-headed Coastal elite high IQ Harvard game- theorists with all their arrogant intellectualizing and misplaced moralizing about "culture" haven't gotten the "job" done. Just look at those rag-heads still thumbing their noses at the Greatest Country. Why don't they love us?
Personally, I don't necessarily agree with those POV but I suspect some do.

As I've mentioned, I think he's going with "don't mess with me, I'm crazy!" That's well known game theory too.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madman_theory

But, as I've also mentioned, that places all the burden for "rational actor" on the other side.

It only works if they are.

I don’t think so, he didn’t react after the drone was shot down. Or the oil facilities attacked. He didn’t react until Americans were killed and the embassy attacked.

Same thing happened with the would-be deal with the Taliban.

And, Skeptical, Solemaini was allied with the militias and aided them. But he did not command them. He commanded the Quds force in Iran. Heck, we are supplying assistance to the Saudis who are slaughtering civiilans in Yemen. Would that justify some Yemeni assassinating Trump?

BTW, somehow it is being forgotten that the US has worked with Solemaini several times, including very recently. They sided with us after 9/11 and assisted in our invasion of Afghanistan oand overthrow of the Taliban back then. his people and allied militias have been crucial in defeating and batttling ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, especially in Iraq. That onground alliance is now dead and the US essentially withdrawn from that activity now, thanks to this incredibly stupid and illegal action by Trump.

I disagree with Skeptical, there’s no method to Trump’s madness. If anything he saw something on Fox, got angry, and hours later thought an order against Soleimani was placing an order for a Salami sandwich and reflexively said yes.

That said, your take is completely incorrect. The Shia “militias” are completely controlled by the IRGC (with the exception of Houthis, which are a long-standing local ethnoreligious group playing up Twelverism for military support). Your assessment flies in the face of every piece of intelligence we have.

It’s more akin to the Afghan Local Police being an arm of ISAF/GIRoA. But even then the analogy fails, the ALP has much more autonomy than the Afghan Hazara army brigade currently slugging it out in Syria for their Iranian overlords, even though they neither speak the language nor have any real understanding of the Syrian war. They’re cannon fodder on the payroll of Iran, trained by Iran, and directed into battle by Iran.

Naive.

Regardless, the answer is to pull troops out, re-commit to the JCPOA, and act as mediator between Sunni and Shia if asked.

The only red lines we should have are nuclear weapons, disrupting international trade, and targeting Americans. Obama was 100% right here.

Sorry, Whoah, but you have clearly not studied this matter in any depth. There are varying degrees of allegiance to the IGRC by various supposedly pro-Iran militias in Iraq. Some of these have been indeed closely allied with the IGRC, including the Kat'b Hezbollah. But the claim that all these militias simply follow orders from Iran is an exaggeration. Indeed, right now a serious concern is precisely many of these groups are not under Iranian control and may continue to attack US troops, even if Iran now wants to cool it if Trump makes peaceful noises in a few hours.

I think you do not know what you are talking about and are just repeating a lot of propaganda spewing all over the US media.

Heck, Whoah, you are so ignorant you think that FSB runs the Ukrainian separatists, which is a bunch of silly nonsense.

If the US had some five-star swanning around the Middle East personally meeting with guerilla clients to directly inspire attacks against the Iranian military, like some low level figure, and then taunted Iran in public that "You can't do anything", no one would either a) call it a war crime if Iran killed the guy or b) have the least sympathy for their stupidity if the guy got killed.

US figures are not safe by virtue of some Iranian "fair play" insistence on adhering to rules (of war) but because the US is not colossally stupid and arrogant, however much it is, on the level of the Iranians to put these people directly in circumstances when they can be killed and it would be obviously useful to kill them, and obviously justified by self defence to kill them.

In the past, perhaps Soleimani was able to get away with this really stupid shit, placing himself effectively in the front lines because he was often worth more alive than dead to the US (against ISIS, in Afghanistan, for Obama's deal). But unfortunately for him and Iran, the calculation changes, and it is hubris to go on as if it hadn't ...

It is not clear that killing Souleimani rallied the Iranian people against us. It was an action that clearly targeted the radical regime. Yes, it certainly fired up the regime's base, which already hates us--but "Death to America" rallies in Iran are nothing new. They shouldn't be taken to represent the views of all Iranians.

Targeting cultural sites, however, would destroy something that the nation as a whole values. This plays right into the regime's goal of making the killing an attack on everyone and using it to unite the nation. Trump should be doing the opposite, saying "This was not an attack on the Iranian people. It was an attack on your radical leaders, who do not represent the people and are the ones doing real harm to your nation."

Isn't it also a signal to the Iranian regime that the costs of retaliating against the United states for the Souleimani killing, and that Trump will not allow them to wage asymmetric warfare against the US? That seems pretty obvious to me. Not sure what the rest of you are on about.

Actually, I think the best way to think about this is a signal to the Iranians that though they may be tempted to respond disproportionately to the killing of one of their generals (ie, escalate), Trump is signalling that this will be met with further escalation on the part of the US, ergo, a disproportionate response is not in Iran's interest. I have no idea why Tyler writes "If so, such a signal, to be effective, has to harm the Iranian regime." Signals don't harm anybody; they're just signals. This column misses the mark, in my opinion. But I suppose every pundit has to do their best Machiavelli impression in circumstances like these.

dan111,

"Not clear"? Watching too much Fox News are you?

Iran has now seen the largest crowds and demonstrations in its entire history. Yes, I know Pompeo is claiming that those millions in the streets were coerced. That is about as believable as his claim that Solemaini was in Iraq planning an "imminent" major attack on Americans.

An Iranian activist writes in the Washington Post that the government used coercion to increase the crowds mourning Soleimani. This is based on numerous reports she has received from in the country: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/01/06/dont-believe-iranian-propaganda-about-mourning-soleimani/

Even aside from that, Iran has a population of more than 80 million, and the regime has a base of support that adheres to their radical, anti-Western ideology. The fact that several million people protested the killing doesn't prove that public opinion has shifted.

Just days ago, Iran was in the middle of the biggest anti-regime protests since 1979, and many of these people were angry about Soleimani's foreign adventures (and the cost to the domestic economy of funding them).

dan1111,

The last major anti-government demos in Iran were on Nov. 16 after the last price hikes. There have been some since, but they have been minor. Do keep in mind that these price hikes have been a result of the massive impact on the Iran economy of the illegal US economic sanctions put on Iran, which massively increased the power of the hardliners in Iran. Are you one of these idiots who thinks it was a good idea for the US to withdraw from the nuclear deal and place these extreme economic sanctions on Iran?

There is nothing holy about UN Cultural Sites. They are ruins that are and were in the past legitimate war objects. However, if you ask me, Cyrus' tomb should be respected: "Passer-by, I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians an empire, and was king of Asia. Grudge me not therefore this monument."

Silly point. Attacking a castle 1000 years ago is different from attacking a 1000 year old castle, which is now a site of historical and cultural significance with no military value.

If there is nothing holy about the physical patrimony of mankind, then the word "holy" has no meaning.

I agree, but I think many would argue that physicalness and holiness are inherently incompatible, and that holiness can only apply to immaterial principles, rituals, thoughts, etc.

Ask the crusaders if they agree.

Iran is full of "Holy Cities" and holy whatever. As Victor Hanson Davies says, only after a total humiliation of the enemy it can internalize that it has lost, and a durable peace can be established. Half measures only prolong the agony.

Which certainly explains how we created a durable peace in Germany and Japan - the firebombings of Heidelberg and Kyoto were a small price to pay.

Even more oddly, nobody seems to remember how the Nazis destroyed Paris and Rome.

Any American citizen defending the barbarity of attacking or destroying cultural sites should at least join an organization with a proud heritage of destroying historic sites - the Taliban is undoubtedly still recruiting, as is Daesh.

Rome erased Carthage. Moses erased Sihon and Og. Effete (post-)moderns worry about destroying cultural sites.

Rome went on to be rebuild Carthage as a Roman city- it had an excellent harbor. It was the Caliphate which finally ended Carthage by the expedient of filling in the harbor.

Yeah, the total domination of Saddam's Iraq really brought lasting peace didn't it?

While I wouldn't hold up the crusaders as good exemplars of the Christian faith, they were certainly motivated by a form of Christian belief system. Christianity definitely does not hold that "physicalness and holiness are inherently incompatible".

This is basically a Calvinist point of view and is not widely held in global terms.

Hobby Lobby's customer base don't seem particularly lowbrow to me, though it wouldn't surprise me if the NPR-Slate-Salon-Colbert crowd was able to rationalize considering them lowbrow. Similarly Home Depot's customer base, or history buffs, or cooking buffs, or gardening buffs, or photo buffs, or book clubs, or some strains of music and movie and art buffs. - 2014

I'm less convinced that Trump's many boasts and threats are, in general, a strategically harmful "weak signal".

Empty talk is seen as weak, but if you prove that you are willing to take action, then your talk is not empty. The Iranian regime may not be impressed by Trump's talk, but they still aren't going to forget the action that he took. And when Trump makes similar threats toward other actors, they may be effective because he was willing to take action in the past.

This is not to say I support any of Trump's actions on these matters...

Quite. Remember Obama's "red lines" in Syria!?

I think that may be looked back on as a world-historical moment, when western geopolitical hegemony passed its peak and started the long descent.

No, that moment was the Iraq war.

+1. Worst.Decision.Ever. It happened right in front of all of our eyes.

More specifically, the ill advised (by everyone) pull out.

More accurately, the war itself was the worst decision ever. Can't pull out of it if it doesn't happen. And you wanting us to stay there forever is almost as stupid.

War crimes? Really? Is this where TDS leads us?

The Iranian government is a theocratic madhouse that makes a public spectacle out of murdering gays. There are people inside of Iran not happy with the tyranny of the mad mullahs. Whacking an evil general is relatively harmless to the sane people who suffer under this regime. I bet they actually like it. Don't underestimate the power of a surgical drone strike on a high level perp. They are not going to get away with sending underlings out onto the battlefield to be sacrificed to pay for their crimes. We can reach the guilty. Let them think about that. It's called credible deterrence and it is in our long term interest.

Your "credible deterrence" theory is bullsh*t. They assassinate each other all the time in the Middle East but nothing changes. All it does is bring America down to an extreme level of tit-for-tat pettiness that the ME region is known for. We should have left a long time ago if we knew our long term interest.

"Tit-for-tat pettiness" is, according to science and simulations, the optimal strategy. Well done, President Trump!

Not exactly. The best move is to not play.

Only a fool would think that the current Iranian regime would leave "the Great Satan" alone.

I'm really tired of Westerners treating Middle Easterners like they're not people. Trump showed the Iranians that he can kill any of them that he wants. If someone kept slapping you and you pulled out a gun and shot them in the head, you're going to find that less people will try slapping you in the future. Humans will act in their own self-interest, and Iranians are humans.

Yes, people will be less likely to slap you. But in a rule of law society, you will be sent to prison and, in a lawless society, you will be jumped and lynched by your victim's siblings, parents, cousins and friends.

Google the Hatfields and McCoys sometime. Or Northern Ireland. Or WWI.

Except the US is not the Hatfields, and Iran isn't the McCoys. the US is the world power, and Iran is a middle eastern dictatorship. We have 11 aircraft carriers, they have a leaky submarine. We have maintained standing armies in multiple continents for decades, they are currently training volunteer militias to fight their wars. We can kill the entirety of their leadership in one day, they can fire missiles at our bases in Iraq. The only thing that stands in the way of total victory is people like you that would rather wring their hands and whine about how "violence spreads violence" than respond to attacks on American assets and people.

Keyboard warrior and armchair military strategist rolled into one. Cool, bro. When are you enlisting?

Whenever the Space Force starts taking applications. Most people I've spoken to don't think my command of "basic facts" is the same thing as military brilliance, but I'm really glad you were able to pick up on my skill in military strategy. I wouldn't be able to know that America would defeat Iran (and that there is an enormous power imbalance) if I wasn't such a military mastermind.

So you are advocating mass extermination and genocide of the Iranian population? Oh, I know, just the evil leadership. That is all.

Are you aware that this assassination of Solemaini has brought out the largest demonstrations in Iran's history? Offhand, you look like a war criminal in the making.

Afghanistan is much poorer with a much worse military than Iran. I bet if we ever invaded there the war would be over in 15 minutes by your logic. Stop playing computer games and reads some military history. Here is a start. How did things go in Vietnam?

Steve

Assassination? He was a combatant. Combatants are not assassinated. He chose to commit mass racial / religious murder. He’s responsible for hundreds of thousands of innocent people dying.

He’s also worked tirelessly for 17 years to murder Americans that had no conflict with Iran. The Democrat party policy with Iran apparently means the great man Soleimani is now a martyr. Shame ! Say Trump is unfit but also Soleimani had to die. Easy!

Interesting to see from Twitter, a mass murderer Soleimani is being iconified as a anti fascist USA resistor. He’s a Bernie apparently to most Democrats.

IRGC as tee-shirt?

Your claim that Solemaini was responsible for "hundreds of thousands of innocent people dying" is completely off the wall and insane. You have zero credibility.

Was he involved in military activities with people dying as a result, with some of those being US troops in Iraq? Yes. But keep in mind that he was an official of the Iranian government. Terrorists are properly speaking non-state actors. If Solemaini "chose to commit mass racial/religious murder" then so has Trump through arming and supporting the Saudis in their killing of thousands of civilians in Yemen using our bombs and intel support. Note that none of these killings were actually carried out by the body that Solemaine actually commanded, the Quds force of the IGRC. These have all been done by these various groups that Quds supports, not it itself.

The Iranians, depending on how thin one considers proxies as an excuse, have demonstrated they can sink ships with missiles, and take out Saudi oil facilities.

Ever wonder what happens if they actually get serious? The US Navy certainly has. Or maybe you don't remember the Tanker Wars, which shows the potential of that style of conflict, while also being like using the Spanish Civil War to predict what WWII strategic bombing would look like a few years later.

Oh, you mean the Tanker Wars where Iran DIDN'T close the Strait of Hormuz because the Americans would have wiped them out? Those Tanker Wars?

Fine. Google The American War For Independence then.

"A great empire and small minds go ill together." - Burke

The American Revolution is irrelevant to warfare in the modern age. At least reference the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, something where logistics is more analogous to the situation we have now. And even if the military realities were the same, we aren't trying to maintain control of Iran, we're just trying to keep them contained and/or topple them entirely. That's a much easier task to perform, they're the ones trying to maintain control and all we have to do is disrupt them.

It's plenty relevant, but fine, use the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as your template. Just as stupid and counterproductive as the Iraq War.

Couple historical facts.

After the Iranian Revolution, Iraq (headed by Baathist, anti-Shia Hussein) invaded Iran, with help from America. Long and horrific war, but in the end, the Iranians drove Iraq out.

We invaded Iraq in 2003, a voluntary non-necessary war on flimsy pretenses, ostensibly to bring democracy to this benighted land.

Even if we succeeded, we knew Iraq was something like 70% Shia, so democracy implies a high likelihood of aligning with Iran. Well, that's where we are now. Time to GTFO instead of compounding past errors.

I for one am tired of doing the bidding of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and earning the hatred of the whole region in the process. The Saudis are the guys who produced the 9/11 terrorists, ISIS, etc. How did we end up on their side?

BD,

A great irony here is that reportedly Solemaini was bringing a peace offer for Saudi Arabia to present to Iraqi PM Abdul-Mahdi who has been acting as an interlocuter between the two nations, with apparently the Trump regime giving an OK, for this, which means they knew what he was doing when he landed in Baghdad, attempting to bring about peace, or at least less war, between Iran and KSA. That Pompeo/Trump encouraged this and then used it to take out Somemaini is war criminal.

Although Netanyahu publicly praised this action, he has also been going out of his way to distance Israel from it and ordering aides not to discuss it. Also, while reportedly the Saudis have in the past plotted to kill Solemaini (such are the methods of our "ally," bone-saw MbS), they also have lain low and apparently said nothing about this at all, probably being a bit frustrated at having their negotiations with iran cut short by this "wag the hippo" move by Trump, who is clearly doing it to distract from the impeachment process.

Oh, and I saw Nikki Haley on Fox going on about how nobody has come out for Iran on this. But, guess what, aside from Netanyahu's statement, nobody has realy come out for the US. Some NATO leaders have expressed "understanding" regarding the strike, but virtually the entire world is telling both us and Iran to cool it and avoid a war.

I'm sure the Saudis are delighted, whatever they say publicly. Not holding my breath in anticipation of any rapproachment between Iran and Saudi Arabia, whether Solemaini is alive or not.

Not at all oabvious, BD, given that Solemaini was involved in a peace negotiation with them when he was killed. They did not like him, and even reportedly plotted to kill him themselves. But this could end up with serious damage to them.

ca,

We have succeeded in toppling them or containing them? Just how far out of your mind are you, ca?

"The Iranian government is a theocratic madhouse that makes a public spectacle out of murdering gays."
As opposed to our good Saudi friends, who sponsor terrorism, run an absolute monarchy and are not exactly friendly to gays, women rights and ... Cristians and Jews? Seriously, you fascists have not sense of decency left.

In fairness, that doesn't redeem the Iranian regime. It deserves to be destroyed. So does the Saudi-Arabian one. So does the Trumpland one. The only good thing about all the evil people is that they kill each other.

Trump is the one leading the U.S. to threatening to commit crimes that even the Nazis were unable to go through in the case of Paris.

There is a clear dividing line between civilized and barbaric, but no one can be surprised that the Hail Trump crowd cannot recognize it.

Iran has little intention of direct battlefield confrontation with the U.S. It will do what it always has and engage in terrorism and hit-and-run attacks against American citizens and interests.

As for deterrence, it's obviously an empirical question as to how willing the Iranian leadership is to die. This isn't something American pundits and politicians have a good track record estimating in other contexts. Most recently, the Taliban don't seem worn down by 18 years of a war of attrition and targeted strikes.

Destroying cultural sites on purpose would indeed be a war crime. Saying "I may destroy cultural sites" is not a war crime, it is just *saying a stupidity*, which happens every other time a politician open his/her mouth (thee quarters of the time when it is Trump). In fact, Trump has not said this : to be precise he said that sites "at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture" will be targeted in case of new attacks by Iran. This is more ambiguous (a culturally important site may be a target because it is also a military important site, in which case destroying it will be very regrettable but not a war crime), but still a very stupid thing to say. Fortunately, the Pentagon has clarified that the US Air Force will not target cultural sites.

I agree with those who sees in overcommenting this point yet another example of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Assassinating Soleimani is not the issue (a severe but totally “within bounds” action). Threatening to destroy cultural sites is appropriate if your intent is to wipe out the entire race (think Cultural Revolution...) For many reasons he should have threatened economic/military strategic assets e.g. refineries instead. He signaled hatred and a cruel desire to annihilate... where is the “way out” for them??? He’ll fix it I expect, I love Trump but this was a bad blunder.

Trump is teaching people that it's open season on anybody wearing a uniform.

But it is the soldiers that Cadet Bone Spurs is commanding that are targets. The Iranian government has apparently declared all U.S. military personnel terrorists, and we all know that the Iranians are able to sponsor attacks that destroy modern warships.

I would guess it is similar in to burning down the Old Summer Palace in preference to bombing civilians. Whether that works, I can't say, but there are reasons leaders would consider it... Certainly blowing up the sort of thing ISIS would blow up (pre-Islamic, "infidel", irreplaceable) seems pointless but a few modern galleries and universities might be in question, should it ever come to a question of that or civilians (and I see no reason why bombing civilians should ever become necessary, or indeed any extensive bombing anyway).

"not as bad as bombing civilians" is the new standard we should use for everything in life!

In the end, total victory awaits.

No, but it seems like you should at least use it in war, should that happen... (Where bombing civilians is, y'know, an option on the table).

Why were there six Rev. Guard high ranking generals — six; let that sink in — also killed along with Qassim Suleimani in Iraq. Golf junket?

I’ll bet the mullahs are revising their corporate travel policy to limit the number on one flight.

Rich. you credit them with too much sense. The ayatollahs are Medieval clergy, not rational businessmen.

Not to mention an Iraqi general - let that sink in.

The Iraqis certainly have - America out now! America out now! America out now!

What that means is that there were 7 Iranian generals, 1 of whom was posing as a member of the Iraqi military. Traitors aren't something to worry yourself over.

You are right, of course. We should have killed Jamal Ja'far Muhammad Ali Al Ibrahim when he was fighting against Saddam Hussein.

Nah, I think we should have killed him in 1983 after he helped terrorists bomb Kuwait. You hear yourself right? You're literally defending a terrorist because you hate the idea of America using its power.

Fascinating to see how pointing out that an Iraqi serving what he felt was Iraq's interests turns into, in your mind at least, a defense of a terrorist.

By this definition, there are probably several million Iraqis running around free in Iraq who are terrorists. Have any plans for them you would wish to share? Invading Iraq is off the table, however - we already did that, and it appears to have made no difference.

So you started your argument by saying that Iraqis want the US out because the fact that an Iraqi general was killed has sunk in for them. I tell you that he's always been an ally of Iran (since 1979, to be exact) and that his death is justifiable, and you suggest sarcastically that we should have killed him when he was fighting Saddam Hussein, as if somehow fighting against a bad person automatically makes you a good person.

Then I point out that he should have been killed after killing Americans in the embassy bombings, and ask you how you can defend a terrorist, and your response is that you weren't actually making an argument, you were just "pointing out" that an Iraqi was just serving Iraqi interests. First off, that's just not true, you're arguing the point that we shouldn't have killed him, and you're providing justification of his actions based on the fact they were to "serve Iraqi interests". Those are statements that are in defense of a terrorist, whether you want to accept that or not.

If an Iraqi wants to serve his/her country's interests by actually doing something useful (serving in the military, working in business, becoming a public servant) then they should be given the opportunity to do so. If an Iraqi feels that serving his/her country's interests can be done by blowing up American embassies or working with the Iranians to stir up chaos and undermine the nation, then they should be met with deadly force. These are very simple concepts, I think you're overthinking them and missing the point.

ca,

Are you aware that al-Muhandis was one of the major allies of the US in battling ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Iraq? Are you aware that a major factor in his popularity and that of Solemaini (yes, he was popular, see millions on streets mourning him) was based on this? Are you aware that this joint effort against that evil group has now come to an end thanks to this illegal and very stupid attack by Trump/Pompeo?

Oh,. and if these militia attacks that have killed an American contractor are "terrorism," what is our active support of Saudi bombing in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and hit hospitals and other such places? Do Trump and Pompeo deserve assassination for this?

Just how big of a hypocrite are you?

Leaving aside the ever present trolling that happens here, it is possible you are not aware that no Iranian (Persians specifically, but it applies to just about everyone that considers themselves citizens of Iran) would ever consider themselves to be Arabs?

Arabs are the sort of people who lack education and any respect for higher culture, at least in Iranian eyes.

Okay? That's an irrelevant factoid and not an argument.

Too subtle, it seems. Jamal Ja'far Muhammad Ali Al Ibrahim was never an Iranian general posing as an Iraqi.

Iran’s most powerful military representative in Iraq, according to senior Iraqi officials. So, you are correct, he was not posing as an Iraqi.

Except not all Iraqis are Arabs? And Jamal Ja'far Muhammad Ali Al Ibrahim had an Iraqi father? And the PMF is Iraqi state sponsored? You're just talking in circles.

Wow! Political assassinations! Politics is so interesting these days thanks to Trump. I can cancel my Netflix. Can't wait to see what Trump does next!

"but the logic of drone assassinations — if you accept it — argues for going after higher-value targets. "

Not quite. Obama chose stateless terrorist organizations while Trump chose members of a national military. Each high value in their own way (high level Al-Qaeda vs high level generals) but each have different consequences whether they have state backing. That's why Bush and Obama stood down earlier requests on the Iranian general.

For the record, you also left out Bush in the list of drone strike culpables who really first opened Pandora's Box as you put it.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/05/america-first-drone-strike-afghanistan/394463/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_strikes_in_Pakistan

It's clear there is no long term strategy here. It is just day-to-day reacting to events as they come. The Middle East has a multi thousand year history of revenge attacks and look where it brought them to this day. It's hard to build anything of lasting value in an environment like that. Unlike Asia from Japan to Vietnam, where once the war stops, the rebuilding begins, the Middle East is always in a perpetual state of low grade warfare and terrorism.

How about somebody drops a nuke in the middle of a desert? That sends the best message.

What message would it send? "We are Americans and we rule the world?" Expect some pushback in that.

And note Iran, Russia, and China (!) doing joint naval maneuvers right now.

The Chinese are fully aware of just how much oil is shipped past Iran's coast, and have no problems with the idea of war for oil.

No need to use an exclamation mark for one of the basic realities of modern conflict fully understood by any industrialized military.

It is not Mao's China anymore.

If I understand you correctly, you want the whole nation to go "Madman Theory" so that "they all understand."

I'd give that a firm no.

You didn't understand me - of course the Chinese have a direct interest in ensuring the continuing flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. It is zero surprise that the Chinese would be interested in working with the Iranians.

And since China is a potential adversary of the U.S., it is also no surprise that the Chinese would be interested in how Iran plans to strangle the flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf, or otherwise attack American naval or strategic assets.

The sad thing is, America's military professionals are at least as competent as the Russians, Chinese, or Iranians in this area.

Shame about their commander in chief.

It should be kept in mind that both Russia and China were signatories on the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, also signed by UK, France, Germany, and the EU, with the support of the UNSC, which agreement Iran was obeying when Trump arbitrarily withdrew from it.

He then broke international law and committed an act of war by imposing extremely severe economic sanctions on Iran, unsupported by any of those signatories, although by a few local neighbors. Pompeo then has the nerve to get all huffy that nobody in Europe is rushing forward to support this latest violation of international law.

Oh, let us be clear. The key on this is this matter of "imminent attacks." International law does allow such assassinations in the case the assassinated party is indeed planning an imminent attack, this being supposedly a matter of self-defense.

But, guess what, no US official has been willing to say what those are or were. Some who have seen the supposed intelligence, say there is nothing there. When Pompeo was challenged, he brought up the death of the American contractor awhile ago, something carried out by an Irani-allied Iraqi militia, not the Quds force commanded by Solemaini. Given the long record of Trump administration lying, and the apparentl likelihood that this intelligence record of an imminent attack seems to be just made up, this is even worse.

Finally, even if such plans have been afoot, there is no evidence that offing Solemaini will stop them. He has been replaced by a dedicated deputy. They would still be able to go forward.

After all, what is the record so far? Trump said exiting the JCPOA and imposing sanctions would bring the Iranian regime to the negotiation to get a better deal than Obama got, after much effort. Instead, we have Iran not only avoiding the table, with hardliners fully in control there, we have them removing themselves from the agreement and restarting their higher rates of uranium enrichment. This has become an utterly failed policy.

Spare us the legal drivel about alleged violations of international law. Every major power violates it when it is deemed to be in its self-interest, especially Iran, Russia, and China. If you were consistent you should be demanding every day that Obama be tried as a war criminal for "assassinating" bin Laden in Pakistan, drone attacks, etc. But that would be just as stupid as denouncing Trump.

Osama bin Laden was directly responsible for the deaths of nearly 3000 Americans on US soil on 9/11 and was not a state actor. He was a genuine terrorist. Tell me exactly how many Americans have been actually killed by either Russia, China, or Iran. Oh, China, sure, during the Korean War. But since then? Zero? Oh, and please do not tell us that it was Solemaini who killed the contractor in Iraq that led to all this illegal assassination. This was carried out by a group supported by Solemaini's al Quds force, which he commended, not by the al Quds force itself. I am unaware of a single American ever being killed by that group ever, although that rather important point somehow does not get recognized in most US media discussions.

So, Anon7, sorry, there is no comparison. It was fully legal for the US to kill bin Laden, although the Pakistanis were unhappy about us violating their airspace in doing so.

By throwing out cultural sites, Trump has expanded the number of targets the mullahs have to worry about. For example, he just put the fear of Allah in all the clerics who have nice digs in Qom.

No he didn't - the Iranians have always thought their enemies capable of barbaric acts.

They remember this, for example - "The Amiriyah shelter bombing was an aerial attack that killed at least 408 civilians on 13 February 1991 during the Persian Gulf War, when an air-raid shelter ("Public Shelter No. 25"), in the Amiriyah neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, was destroyed by the U.S. Air Force with two laser-guided "smart bombs".

The shelter was used in the Iran–Iraq War and the Persian Gulf War by hundreds of civilians" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amiriyah_shelter_bombing

Then there was Iran Air Flight 655.

Trump's mindless boasting will have no real effect on the Iranians, who already consider the U.S. evil, but it has made bare to our allies that the U.S. is currently led by someone who has no respect for Western ideals.

Someone has a bad case of the Mondays on Tuesday. BTW, it’s spelled Heidelberg.

I am deeply ashamed that a president of our country can boast (more than a serious threat) that he has the option to destroy the cultural treasures of another country. Tyler, you are thinking too much on this....his boasts are a disgrace.

Not just a disgrace, they are disgusting, as anyone who claims to be civilized already knows.

And thanks for letting us know there is no reason to read the column.

Everything Trump has done (killing Soleimani, threatening cultural sites) has communicated very clearly to the Iranians that we hold absolute power over their entire nation. The Iranian leadership are now being forced to realize that anything they can do to us (bombing Iraqi bases, starting up militias, burning down our embassies) will be responded to with in unexpected ways, up to, but not limited to, killing every single one of them. Do you honestly think that whiny Westerners from the CFR are going to make Trump avoid doing something controversial? If you aren't immediately sure of your answer, then the threat has worked.

Nice Straights of Hormuz you have there - shame if a couple of tankers just happened to wreck there and block it to navigation. Along with the following revocation of shipping insurance due to extreme risk.

At which point, we will all rejoice in the fact that Saudi America is able to meet a multiple millons of barrels of oil day shortfall.

Nice to have proven Huthi allies with modern anti ship missiles - at least from an Iranian perspective.

It’s spelled “straits”.

Thanks to fracking, the USA is a net exporter of oil. Close the straits and it’s no skin off our nose.

The U.S still imports crude oil, roughly one million barrels a day.
https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_nus_ep00_im0_mbbl_m.htm

This is a bit older than October 2019, but still relevant enough as an explanation, and also from the EIA - 'In 2018, the United States imported about 9.94 million barrels per day (MMb/d) of petroleum from nearly 90 countries. Petroleum includes crude oil, hydrocarbon gas liquids, refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel, and biofuels including ethanol and biodiesel. Crude oil accounted for about 78% of U.S. gross petroleum imports in 2018, and non-crude oil petroleum accounted for about 22% of gross petroleum imports.

In 2018, the United States exported about 7.60 MMb/d of petroleum to about 190 countries and 4 U.S. territories, of which about 27% was crude oil and 73% was non-crude oil petroleum. The resulting net imports (imports minus exports) of petroleum were about 2.34 MMb/d.' You are welcome to point out that the EIA definition of 'petroleum' is bizarre, even though the crude imports numbers are quite precise in comparison.

So, just so I'm getting it right, you think that Iran will shut down the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off access to 85% of their imports, eliminating 80% of their government's revenue, enraging the entire world (including China and India, the main recipients of shipments from Hormuz), and certainly giving the US justification for regime change, all so that Trump won't win in 2020. And this is given the fact that the US receive less than 10% of its total oil from the Strait and the US is a net oil exporter. Trump and Pompeo are probably hoping the Iranians are that stupid.

The Iranians would never, ever, think of cutting off the complete flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. Just like they would never, ever sink an UAE warship, successfully attack Saudi oil facilities, or be involved in seizing tankers or sinking ships in foreign harbors.

Perish the very thought of the Iranians ever doing that. Why, it would mean the very end of the Iranian regime.

Shame about that multiple tanker collision shutting down the Strait for a few weeks, but that was simply due to the Iranian love of the environment, and not to tank the stock market. If the Iranians were really clever, they would blame American economic sanctions for the slow pace of the salvage operations.

And for the record, the U.S. is not an oil exporter. Anybody ignorant enough to believe that probably doesn't even know what the EIA does with their tax money. Or what the letters actually stand for.

The possibility of closure or even a threat to close the Straits provides leverage.

Actually doing it removes the leverage. It causes pain but invites pain in return.

You're counting on the fact that Iran can simply escalate without additional costs to themselves, and that the rest of the world will simply allow a spoiled child to throw tantrums without end. If Iran shuts down Hormuz, they lose over 80% of the goods they import from around and around 80% of their oil revenue overnight. Not only that, but they would seriously damage the Saudi supply chain, and crimp the supply of oil to China. You know, one of the few allies they might have in an actual conflict. So in summation, if they do decide to close the strait, they will be left with drastically reduced access to resources of all kinds, they will have made themselves even more of an international pariah, and most importantly, will have given Trump the excuse he needs to utterly destroy the Iranian government. I hope they do it.

You realize that America is a net oil exporting country? If the Iranians decided to take out the Strait of Hormuz (thereby also crippling the industry they are most reliant on) we would maintain full operational effectiveness, and at worst, oil prices would go up. Of course if they did that, we would kill literally all of their leadership, and would completely eradicate the theocratic government that currently controls Iran. The question isn't "can they hurt us," the question is "Who will be the last one standing". The Iranians have been counting on our fear because that is literally all that they have. They're not going to destroy their carefully assembled kleptocracy and sign their own death warrants just to send a message.

You undoubtedly also realize anybody stupid enough to believe the U.S. is a net crude oil exporter is stupid enough to believe anything.

Check out the net imports at the end of this link - https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_wkly_dc_NUS-Z00_mbblpd_w.htm

Still, the US is not dependent on Middle Eastern oil. In the event the supply was constrained we would suffer some economic consequences since prices would go up everywhere but there would be no repeat of 70s gas lines.

Nixon tried this same strategy against the Vietnamese Communists in 1969 and it didn't work then. Trump is even worse at it because he has explicitly said he wants the U.S. out of the Middle East. His message is muddled and there is no reason to think Iran can't take airstrikes and targeted strikes as the price of fulfilling its ambition of being a regional powerbroker, which Trump's America First rhetoric can only be encouraging.

Except Nixon was dealing with Vietnam during a time when there were two superpowers, instead of just the one we have now. Iran may be able to handle losing Soleimani, but what happens when the Supreme Leader, the President and the Guardian Council are all taken out? This situation is different because we don't have a credible military opponent breathing down our necks and threatening nuclear war, and because we now have the technology to win a war without a single boot hitting the ground. Iran cannot become a regional power if we keep them in a box and kill their expansionist leaders, and Iran cannot prevent us from keeping them in a box and killing their leaders. That's what Soleimani proved, that they are not safe. If they're smart they'll take the hint.

I actually think the other major actors — China and Russia — would be fine with Iran focussing on simply “making Persia great again” without being a regional imperialist fomenting wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and meddling in Lebanon.

Trump's threats to bomb Iranian cultural sites may have been aimed, primarily, at a domestic audience. The threat appeals to Trump's base, outrages most everyone else, and further polarizes and agitates the electorate. It was such a provocative comment that it took impeachment out of the news for a short time.

Not sure whether that was Trump's motivation. I can't jump into his head. But domestic considerations may have driven the threats as much as foreign policy concerns.

Thread winner.

Such barbaric boasting was certainly not aimed at any American allies.

And is actively destructive in getting those allies to cooperate with the U.S.

Of course Cadet Bone Spurs did not think of such considerations at all.

Threatening cultural sites is a sure way to unite a population.

What if a US historical site were destroyed or damaged?

Do you think a dovish Senator would be able to challenge over the top retaliation?

Trump is the Uniter In Chief--

Of the Iranians.

If someone destroyed a huge symbol of American economic might, in the middle of its largest city, the US might: start two decades of endless wars, invade two different countries, slaughter tens of thousands of civilians, and abandon all of its moral principles in the process.

This essay is fine. It certainly says things I regard as true.

But of course I think another thing to think about is how *we* got *here*.

What mistakes did *we* make, and how can we correct them?

Answer: Anyone not actively supporting impeachment at this point is not neutral, not centrist, you are defending *this* as your status quo.

We have a responsibility.

He’s already impeached, so that’s over and done with.

Was taking out Suleimani a high crime and misdemeanor? He is being impeached for specific corrupt actions, not for incompetence. Support for impeachment should be based on whether one thinks he is guilty of the allegations, and that they are serious enough to remove him from office.

Using impeachment to remove a president who is merely incompetent wouldn't be a good development. The proper way to remove an incompetent president is coming soon enough.

You jumble a few questions there, but to cut to the chase:

When a bad president has committed a number of crimes, just pick one.

BTW, Obstruction of Justice would be both true and set a positive precedent.

We don't want future presidents to fire future FBI directors because they are getting too close.

But Soleimani has nothing to do with the alleged corrupt actions, so what are you even on about ?

Also last I checked, the house refused to transmit the impeachment articles for trial in the Senate.

Think more.

Al Capone, taxes.

"But of course I think another thing to think about is how *we* got *here*."

Asked and answered. Late 2002, Bush and Cheney relentlessly propagandized the citizenry with selective CIA BS intelligence and Congress caved (mostly GOP, but they needed and got Dems in both Houses). Colin Powell, who really should have known better, got on board, fast forward 17 years, and Bob's your uncle.

That definitely started the cascade, but it may not be the only war of presidential choice in this timeline.

How we got here. We had an idiot CIC who left Iraq too abruptly and too early (yes, debate whether we should have been there at all). Who then got into an agreement with Iran in a last desperate attempt to have a foreign policy win before he left office. Who sent billions of dollars to a terrorist regime and got nothing in return. It's too late to impeach Obama unfortunately, but we can try to undo his mistakes.

lol. Dude, we still have thousands of troops in Iraq. Today. 17 years later.

lol. Dude, today is not 2008. Things were going well, and we pulled out everyone besides some troops to maintain a token presence.

When you say things were going well, are you thinking of US soldiers killed?

https://www.statista.com/statistics/263798/american-soldiers-killed-in-iraq/

Or maybe Iraqi civilians killed?

https://www.statista.com/statistics/269729/documented-civilian-deaths-in-iraq-war-since-2003/

Simple question: For what?

Well after the surge I remember even Obama thought it was going well enough to try to take credit, headlines in the paper that there were more murders in a Chicago weekend than Iraq. Had the troops stayed longer and withdrawn slower JV ISIS wouldn't have got the hold it did in the region.

"We had an idiot CIC who left Iraq too abruptly and too early"

The Iraqis seem to disagree.

"Who sent billions of dollars to a terrorist regime and got nothing in return."

The one which killed 3,000 Americans in 9-11? Oh, apparently that one is actually good: shorturl.at/kzL04
How it happened? We are being ruled by literal Nazis whomare engaging in terrorist attacks against high officials of a regime we are not at war with.

Iranian propaganda, in my Marginal Revolution?

"(yes, debate whether we should have been there at all)"

So, there's a debate now? Clown shoes.

Of course there can be a debate. What, are a child you can't do a cost benefit analysis? Why are all the diehard anti-Bushers too eager to go back to when Iraqis were being thrown into wood chippers. Fewer Iraqis were dying during the war than before it. That's got to count for something.

...to know the 2003 Iraq war was a colossal geopolitical mistake. You do have to be a partisan idiot to try to defend it though. We get it TMC, everything Obama ever did was terrible and everything Bush ever did was great. Talk about childishness...

The ironic thing is that if the US actually bombed a cultural site, the cultural value of that site would probably increase in value as a reminder of the dangers of having a global empire that able to impoverish and bomb any other country at will, much as the Chinese Summer Palace is more famous and culturally important as a ruin than it would be had it not been destroyed by invaders.

Though pre-1989, it was apparently most famous as a site symbolizing, to China such as it was, the decadence of the old feudal regime (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30810596 - "Indeed in the communist-led Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, says historian Vera Schwarcz, "some remnants of the Summer Palace were literally slashed with knives by Red Guards". They hated reminders of the imperial past.".)

(And some of that probably survives today, where it seems to be more of a idea that the feudal regime got some of the deserts it, if not deserved, was due for its backwardness - https://twitter.com/chenchenzh/status/1177895312331030529 - "Thinking about how history is taught in China. We learn the destruction of Yuanming Yuan (old summer palace) by British and French forces, the occupation of Beijing by the Eight-Nation Alliance, concessions and territorial loss, massacres. Then what is repeatedly taught is “the backwards will be beaten”... But we were not told that it was wrong.)

Anyway, the point is that although fallen, destroyed cultural monuments will mean something, what they will mean is not always "Some powerful symbol that runs contrary to what the person destroying them intends, and inspires rebellion and resistance". (Analogously, it's not for certain that leveling all statues across the Southern States of the USA of Confederate generals would simply cause an opposite reaction to what the levelers intended! It might do *exactly* what they wanted it to achieve!).

If Iranian cultural sites were destroyed, it would probably depend much on how much subsequent generations contextualized that as the aftermath of conflict caused by a theocratic and tyrannical regime which they rejected, and as a symbol of its hubris, or if they really claimed those sites as their own.

Who now mourns wrecked Soviet monuments?

I'm saying obvious stuff here, but it's obviously mood affiliation to decide that anything the US does in this regard will necessarily "come home to roost" (regardless of whether its the best option). No one immediately leaps to the idea that the Uyghurs will rise ten times as strong and committed, every time the Chinese state levels on of their graveyards or cultural landmarks by sending in the bulldozers.

Isn't this the epitome of a Green Zone political economy? It is so safe inside my bubble that I can be horrified at the possibility of a war destroying something valuable.

An ambassador, a few Marines and embassy personnel. $3.

Persian antiquities. Priceless.

I guess the World Trade Center meant nothing to you?

But your current heroine said that was ...
“just a bunch of guys who did something.”

It certainly meant nothing to YOU.

Just to drop a truth bomb here,

if more of you had understood what Trump represents, and been vocal about it, we would not be here today.

If you had not let a bunch of phony centrists tell you that any and all criticism was "TDS" we would not be on this precipice .. with a madman playing a madman in global demonstration of game theory.

Yeah an economics blog’s commenters calling out your conspiracy theories is why Trump is the president.

You nailed it.

>with a madman playing a madman...

Psst.... you are the living, breathing example of TDS in human form.

Also psst.... we are "here today" because an old drunk lady refused to set foot in Michigan and Wisconsin and other places, believing that the Presidency of the United States should simply be handed to her, just because she used to menstruate. And you voted for her.

You deserve the hatred too, TC. You've always been a hypocrite with your selective comment deletions. All the calls for human rights violations and worsening political norms, always implicitly condoned by you while you cut voices out from people who object. If you think you're not worth hating too, you're full of shit.

But the deeper question is how America got itself into a situation where the best retaliatory idea is still pretty bad, especially in the longer run. The point of retaliation is to protect your long-term interests.

To the US, long-term interests extend to the middle of next month or perhaps the next election campaign.

In his column today, Douthat frames the question with regard to Iran thus: what would a Great Man do, from Hamilton to Jefferson to Jackson to Wilson. What Douthat omits, strangely, is What Would Jesus Do, Douthat himself being a Jesusonian (or something). From Jesusonian to Hamiltonian to Jeffersonian to Jacksonian to Wilsonian, Game Theory is fully covered.

I liked that piece. Team Hamiltonian.

Hamilton supported conquering the Americas as an earlier (more robust) version of the Monroe doctrine, and latter day "Hamiltonians" are worried about lobbing a few bombs on Iranian generals and cultural sites?

If non-military cultural sites are fair targets, are the Republicans now saying that September 11th was a justified attack?

I came here today to see the meme repetition and partisan talking points and the commentariat did not disappoint!! Well done lads and lasses. Long live the mood affiliation. Prior would be proud.

One of my very favorite things: when lefty academics suddenly believe they are military strategy experts, simply because the President is Republican, and therefore must be shown to be wrong!

Eight years of continuous area-bombing by Droney McPeacePrize? Not a peep out of folks like Ty. Trump takes out the #1 terrorist general on Earth? Gotta crank out that chin-stroking piece STAT!!!!

Yes, that is the bottom line.

Thread winner.

Some of us crriticized Obama for his drone murders. You two are just hypocrites spouting garbage.

EdR and IPA are thread losers.

The Twin Towers were attacked precisely because they were symbols of American economic power.

Attacking them, as I recall, did not bring America to its knees nor did it cause the regime to fall.

Why should we expect different results elsewhere ?

#notmypresident

Norms protect national heritage sites,

So when a President decides to break norms or call them into question,

He is in effect inviting terrorists to attack your national heritage sites, as it is now not a norm.

Have a good vacation.

Our President has said it's all right to attack heritage sites. Good for goose, good for gander, to hell with international law and norms.

When have international norms prevented terrorists or Iran from violating them?

Nations are different.

Iran's regime, like the other remaining member of the Axis of Evil, is different.

I was informed by the elitists on PBS that President Trump had started WWIII by droning the top leadership cadre of Iran’s external terror network.

Now another elitist is telling me that POTUS has united mighty Iran by ... gasp ... the mere mention of ‘cultural sites’.

How dare he?

He should be impeached by the House and then swiftly given a show trial and removed from office by the United States Senate.

That was FoxNews, not PBS.

If you think it is PBS, then you are telling those who read your comment that you are delusional.

If you maintain your statement is true, post below the date, time, and person who made these comments. You can review past programs on there website.

Dare you.

It's sad that the mention of "holy sites" brings more outrage than you know, actually killing people. I think Trump is doing what Trump does, which is start a position at an outrageous extreme so he can work backwards towards what he really wants. I find it surprising that people still get surprised by it.

When is a mosque a mosque and when is it a weapons depot?

To keep the weapons depot protected, it’s going to have to be holding services only filled with women and children 24/7.

Or include men dressed as women.

"...(Trump's) retaliatory actions will not be constrained by world opinion, international law or the views of American elites. Tyler perhaps nailed this one. This will not end well.

Did the Bloomberg column include a dozen Iranian missiles striking American air bases in Iraq?

Sent two signals. 1. If there's a fight, it will be gloves off. 2. It cause Iran to proclaim they were for "rule of law" and so constrained their actions to ones that would be approved of. He set the Iranian mindset.

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