Some wars are necessary and unavoidable. A U.S. war against Iran doesn't even remotely qualify as a just cause. President Donald Trump's hawkish advisers are trying hard to manipulate him into launching yet another Persian Gulf war, one whose consequences would make the eight-year war in Iraq pale in comparison.
As with all things Trump, his massive ego plays a big role in the steps he now contemplates following Iran's downing of a U.S. military drone. Would he actually immerse the United States in yet another debilitating and unwinnable war simply to assuage his own ego? Of course he would. Does his newly launched bid for reelection in 2020 influence his decision-making? Of course it does. The president is not rational. And that's why this situation is so dangerous.
Iranian and U.S. leaders spent Thursday arguing over whether the drone was in neutral territory or had violated Iran's airspace. So far, it appears Iran was in the wrong — just as the United States was in the wrong in 1988 when the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian passenger jet inside Iran's territorial airspace, killing all 290 aboard. Iran exercised uncharacteristic restraint then, as the United States should now.
Both sides have major grievances that previously might have warranted military confrontation. The CIA engineered a coup in 1953 that ousted Iran's democratically elected prime minister. Iran engineered multiple kidnappings of U.S. hostages in Beirut during the 1980s. Iran's heavily armed proxy militias are deployed in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, wreaking havoc.
If Trump decides to escalate this confrontation, those same militias have the ability to ignite a regional conflagration. In other words, catastrophe lurks at every turn.
Trump ominously tweeted Thursday that "Iran made a very big mistake." But he also has made big mistakes. His first was naming John Bolton as his national security adviser. Bolton was a chief architect behind the erroneous "weapons of mass destruction" argument that led to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. No such weapons were found, but more than 4,000 American service members lost their lives in the prolonged occupation prompted by Bolton's blunder.
Another Trump mistake was unilaterally canceling the multinational accord that suspended Iran's uranium-enrichment program. Even though Trump heavily criticized the accord throughout his 2016 campaign, he now is using Iran's resumption of enrichment to argue that it has violated the accord — thus another provocation for U.S. military retaliation.
A president who campaigned on extricating America from its multiple military policing roles in the region, and who insisted in December that "the United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world," appears poised to take a swan dive into a Persian Gulf hornet's nest — for all the wrong reasons.
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