A little over a week ago, when the first Navy ships were deployed toward Iran, I opined that it was a case of vacant saber-rattling, a bit of wag-the-dog distraction to force Trump’s ever-deepening legal troubles out of the headlines. (Generals, prepare to wag the dog 5/7/19)
It seems I may have been right. So far. Over the last couple of days, Trump has clearly tried to turn down the heat. As tensions rose rapidly, Trump informed his Acting Defense Secretary that he did not want a war with Iran. On Thursday, a reporter asked Trump if the US was going to war. “I hope not,” was his response. And today he continued his blathering. “What they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down. We can make a deal, a fair deal,” said the man who ripped up a fair deal we already had with Iran, a deal which had fulfilled its promise.
There’s another possibility, of course, beyond this being attempted distraction. Maybe Trump really is hesitant about going to war. Maybe the thought of actually ordering people into battle daunts him.
That would be an excellent trait to have in a president.
US presidents have always referred to war as the option of last resort. For Trump, threatening war is his first resort. But then he doesn’t follow through.
That was the case with North Korea, where Trump went from threatening “fire and fury” to exchanging love letters. And so too with Venezuela, where menacing hints of an invasion have evolved into … radio silence, apparently.
The problem, of course, is that Trump can’t control events when he mixes bombastic rhetoric with actual military firepower in the opponent’s backyard. This latest go-round with Iran came very close to slipping the leash. And it still might.
That said, I think it’s vital that we keep in mind that the US is already at war with Iran, engaged as it is in relentless economic warfare.
Iran’s overall economy is in steep decline and its currency value is plummeting. For average people, this means things like seeing the cost of chicken rise by nearly 60% since just last year when the sanctions were reimposed. Housing and medical costs have risen 20%, especially hurting the poor. (Six charts that show how hard US sanctions have hit Iran – BBC News)
Earlier this month, the sanctions were made even more severe when the US ended exemptions for about a dozen countries, including US allies, which had been allowed to continue purchasing oil from Iran. They will now be barred from doing so or risk getting locked out of US (read Wall Street) banks.
More economic damage. And this kind of damage is not “collateral.” It is intentional. The civilian population is the target.
Slowly immiserating the entire population of another country — intentionally and unprovoked — sounds like war to me.