Rendezvous with reality Only Iranians can boot the mullahs
After nearly two decades of armed conflict, Americans are war-weary. Candidate Donald Trump saw this plainly in 2016. That’s why he advocated for disengagement from Afghanistan and Iraq, while insisting that the United States reset its relationship with allies and nations dependent on U.S. military forces. He was correct to do so.
We have expended much blood and treasure in recent years. Many Americans know a family who lost a loved one in combat, or a friend or relative who lives life as an amputee. The suicide rate attributed to Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) serves as a grim reminder that for some, war never ends. It mercilessly haunts our veterans.
Yet, President Trump has shown his dexterity in grasping the doubleedged
sword that is his responsibility as commander in chief of the U.S. military as well as his role as presidential promisekeeper. Once determined to withdraw U.S. forces quickly from Iraq and Afghanistan, he has come to appreciate that precipitous withdrawals — like the naively gormless actions of his predecessor — make things worse, indeed requiring the re-entry or reinforcement of U.S. ground troops to secure victory.
Unfinished combat rarely produces an efficacious result, but rather elongates the struggle. Likewise, the president has not withdrawn from vital alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or extracted U.S. forces from South Korea standing opposite a dangerous and aggressive North Korea. Moreover, the president has done impressive work in reviving, resetting and re-arming the American military. He has embraced peace through strength. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to think Mr. Trump has abandoned his promise to disengage from endless wars or reforming alliances that take our money for granted while neglecting their own obligations. Reality has settled in when it comes to the maintenance of power and the necessity to finish work with certitude. Ask ISIS if Mr. Trump has the will to keep his promises. He does.
President Trump has seen firsthand that a multi-polar world is multi-dangerous. One need look no further than our persistent rivalries with China, Russia, North Korea and Cuba along with the circumambient threat of terror that is the Middle East, to say nothing of newer ones like Venezuela. For Mr. Trump, this has been a rendezvous with reality, and he has shown that he understands that his eagerness to disengage must be moderated by the will to stay engaged. That reality is about to be dramatically played out with the almost certain military conflict hovering near and around Iran.
Mr. Trump correctly sees Iran for what it is: A terror state, committed to nuclearization and dominance of the Middle East region. It is a profound threat to our most trustworthy ally in the region, Israel. Iran is also openly hostile to Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors, desirous to assert influence in Iraq, and stubbornly rooted in Syria and Lebanon with pestilential militias actively sowing the seeds of violence and terror. Mr. Trump’s indefatigable opposition to Iran’s hostile geo-political designs — coupled with crippling sanctions he has implemented — poses an existential threat to the mullahs who rule the Persian state. Iran is now postured to lash out as their oil revenues dry up and turn to dust.
Recent news reports reveal the United States is positioning an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Gulf region amid “clear indications” Iran and its proxies may be planning an attack on our deployed forces there. The president’s action demonstrates that he has embraced another lesson of leadership; see things as they are, not as you would wish them to be.
Armed conflict with Iran looms. The conditions are ripe, and don’t be mistaken. Iran has set the stage through their aggression and support of terror in the world. When that conflict comes to a head — and it may soon — the United States must engage quickly, decisively and in a manner that makes clear to the Iranian people that our dispute isn’t with them but with the terror-mullahs who are bringing ruin on their state. Iranians are being deprived of peace and prosperity by the ayatollahs and their Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) satraps, the latter properly categorized as a terror organization by the Trump administration. It’s time for both to go.
But the Iranian people — not the United States — must overthrow their oppressors. If armed conflict is required, America’s role in that effort should be the use of crippling military force against strategic targets thereby setting the conditions for Iranians themselves to extinguish their tormentors. Nation-building is the Iranian people’s province, not ours. However, we must never grow weary of our role in fostering the conditions for justice, freedom and enduring peace. As President Harry S. Truman put it, “Our goal must be — not peace in our time — but peace for all time.” That’s a promise worth keeping, too.
But the Iranian people — not the United States — must overthrow their oppressors.
L. Scott Lingamfelter, a retired U.S, Army colonel, combat veteran and Middle East Foreign Area officer, served in the Virginia General Assembly.