It could take some time before we are able to tell whether President Trump should get acclaim or blame for the slaying of one of the most prominent Iranian generals, a man well known for terror and trouble in the region. We know that the decision to kill Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, chief of the Iranian paramilitary forces in the Middle East, may not have been well thought out, given Trump as the initiator. He doesn’t think much about anything, we have been told. He just moves on impulses. This time his impulse may bring us right to the door step of what he claimed he never wanted, another war in a sandy place preceded by some as yet unknown act of terror aimed at the United States or its citizens or soldiers and Marines overseas. To be sure, the general deserved some determined killing given his track record. But that’s not the topic of conversation in the wake of the drone strike that took the man and some associates out. The question is what will Ayatolah Ali Khamenei do in response. Unfortunately, he can’t let this go. He can only be happy the drone wasn’t targeting him.
We live these days in muddled times, with the big muddle here being a question about whether President Trump is just trying to draw attention away from his looming impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. There is nothing elegant about the way we killed this general. It was a brutal, explosive attack near the airport in Baghdad. But it certainly changed the subject and gave the president’s backers something to cheer about. In muddled times, loud noises draw attention, and this is most certainly a loud noise in a muddled time.
Why Trump decided to do it when his two predecessors, each of them with more than enough equipment to blast away a general who was a very public character, passed because of the risk, I don’t know. It makes us look foolish and flighty about the question of consequences. Trump may well believe we have the wherewithal to turn Iraq into a desert of glass, and to be sure we could. But the Russians are just over the horizon in this region of the world, and there’s no telling how they would take that.
It’s time to worry, if you have time to worry.