The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Changing a Losing Game

Within months of entering office, Donald Trump approved an attack on Syria that launched 50-odd cruise missiles against Syrian military assets. He was condemned as a "warmonger" by the left and praised as the anti-Obama by the Right. He had promised consequences if Syria used chemical weapons and he delivered—forcefully.

Last week, Trump pulled back on an attack on Iranian military assets that was to be launched in response to the downing of an American spy drone. The left, confused by his actions and unable to squeeze them into their "warmonger" narrative, responded with their usual incoherence. The Right made illusions to the previous president's fecklessness, worrying that Trump's lack of kinetic response showed weakness.

In reality, Trump response was just about perfect. Iran, like any totalitarian regime under significant stress, is throwing a tantrum. It needs to be viewed as a victim so that crushing economic sanctions will be lifted by the Euros. It's amusing to watch the Left take Iran's side, quasi-defending a regime whose policies encompass just about everything they say the hate—from violence, to terror, to homophobia, to misogyny, to anti-Semitism (oh, wait, that's no longer a form of bigotry that disturbed the Left). But if Trump is against an entity, the Left reflexively defends it.

Walter Russell Mead dissects the current situation when he writes:
This president is first and foremost a showman. From his early real-estate days in 1970s New York through his time in reality television and into his third career in politics, Mr. Trump has understood and shrewdly deployed the power of fame. He has turned American politics into the Donald Trump Show, with the country and the world fixated on his every move, speculating feverishly about what will come next ... he is producing episodes of the most compelling reality show the world has ever seen.

Whether this helps or hurts American foreign policy is another question, but to turn intractable foreign-policy problems like North Korea’s nuclear program into fodder for the Trump publicity machine represents a triumph of marketing ingenuity if not of national strategy. Unresolved foreign-policy crises normally weigh on a president’s popularity; in Mr. Trump’s case, they become plotlines that provide drama and suspense. When Kim Jong Un gives him lemons, Mr. Trump sets up a lemonade stand.

The president’s critics continue to dismiss him as a cable-TV-obsessed, narcissistic know-nothing even as he dominates American and world politics. What they miss is that Mr. Trump not only possesses an instinctive ability to dominate media coverage; he is also a keen judge of power ...

The key to the president’s Iran policy is that his nose for power tells him Iran is weaker and the U.S. stronger than the foreign-policy establishment believes. President Obama’s nuclear deal, from Mr. Trump’s perspective, was the result of a successful Iranian con game executed by clever Islamic Republic negotiators who ran circles around John Kerry. What Mr. Trump wants is a deal with Iran that matches his sense of the relative power of the two countries.

In pursuit of this goal he is combining two sets of strategies. At the level of public diplomacy he is engaging in his standard mix of dazzle and spin, shifting from bloodcurdling threats to gentle billing and cooing as need be. And at the level of power politics he is steadily and consistently tightening the screws on Iran: arming its neighbors and assuring them of his support, tightening sanctions, and raising the psychological pressure on the regime.
Mead is correct—Iran is much weaker than the Left and their trained hamsters would have us believe, but it is still very dangerous. It operates via proxies worldwide, and those proxies' primary strategy is terror. But the notion that the United States or Donald Trump himself should shrink from confronting Iran because they are dangerous is the attitude that has allowed Iran to become even more dangerous. It's the attitude that got us a notoriously bad Iran Deal, greased by pallets of billions in midnight cash that today, continue to help the regime fund terror worldwide.

For the past 40 years, the establishment in Washington has done the same old, same old to try to reign in Iran. It hasn't worked. Donald Trump is changing a losing game. We'll see whether the results are any better, because the past approach couldn't have been much worse.


Conservative firebrand Kurt Schlichter, adds an exclamation point when he writes:
Let’s clarify some things. Iran is our enemy – the notion that we might wish to avoid being drawn into open conflict today does not mean these mullah bastards don’t deserve to be hanged from the very cranes they use to murder gays, women who refuse hijab oppression and people who like freedom. We have been at covert war with them for four decades, and they’ve murdered our people from Lebanon to Iraq and elsewhere. We are morally justified in wiping out Iran’s scummy leadership and using as much force as we choose to prevent their obtaining the bomb that Obama and his coterie of collaborators tried to hand it. Don’t confuse the fact that it is not to our advantage to openly attack Iran (or at least its rulers) right this minute with the mistaken idea that Iran is not our enemy. We have every moral right to inflict ruthless payback.
At the moment, the payback that works best is crushing economic sanctions, not kinetic warfare with Iran. Trump understands this and showed enormous courage in opposing the usual suspects (military, diplomatic and deep state) who I suspect argued for an attack. The United States can act on its own time schedule, not Iran's. There may come a time when kinetic action is required. To use an old aphorism: Revenge is a dish best tasted cold.


Because the Democrats' trained hamsters in the mainstream media NEVER report anything that might cause the public to give credit or applaud Donald Trump, the destructive cyberattack launched by the United States on Iran in the aftermath of the drone downing has gone largely under-reported. You'd think the media would dissect the attack and discuss the implications, but that would lead far too many people to say, "You know what, maybe Donald is a tough guy who actually thinks strategically and might just know what he's doing." Can't have that, can we?

David Marcus discusses the attack:
... by taking credit for the [cyber]attack, the United States is sending a clear message to Iran that it has a powerful cyber arsenal and is not afraid to use it. In fact, America might be able to inflict a cyber Pearl Harbor on Iran. Without dropping a single bomb, it may be able to unleash enormous death and destruction across wide swaths of Iranian territory. This was a very serious cyber shot across Iran’s bow that still leaves in play the eventual option of conventional attack.

Many observers seem to think that President Trump backed down by not bombing a few military installations in Iran. But this cyber attack is in many ways more insidious and dangerous for the Iranian regime. By signing our name to it, the United States is sending a clear message that it is willing and able to use this newest weapon of war, to dramatic effect.
Maybe "kinetic" will take on a new meaning when it comes to Iran.

The Mad Mullahs want to play hardball and the four constituencies shutter. We can play hardball too, and the new game may not involve bombs or missiles, planes or boots on the ground. Just 1s and 0s, organized in a way that can cripple the theocracy. Good.