Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
As I watch the crisis between the United States, or shall I better say President Trump and Iran unfold, and have talked with various friends about it in person and on social media I am reminded of a couple of different definitions of patriotism. Now since I have served the United States as a military enlisted man, and officer in both the Army and Navy in Peace and War, I think that I love my country and should be considered a patriot. I am not blind to our shortcomings, nor things that have been done in the name of the United States that go against the will of our Founders, the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, and the law embodied in our Constitution. Liberal or not, I am a realist. I don’t like to us to lose unnecessary wars.
Likewise, as my favorite theologian Harry Callahan said in Magnum Force: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Our President, nor his Cult do not understand reality. Despite the comparative easy Assassination of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Qassim Suleimani, regardless of how bad of man he was, the President has opened a potentially apocalyptic Pandora’s Box which will bring about worse for the United United States, the region and the world.
None of our allies anywhere in the world, including the Israelis, who hate Iran, have officially offered us their support. The Iraqi Parliament has passed a resolution asking the government to order the United States military forces to leave the country. That may not happen, but it will place our very limited and scattered forces in Iraq at the mercy of Iraqi Militias supported by Iran, and quite possibly regular Iraqi and Iranian forces. It could be a death trap for the 5,500 or so American troops in Iraq, not to mention those in Kuwait, those based in Syria, Bahrain, and Qatar, or on ships in the Arabian/Persian Gulf.
American military power is not what it used to be and the President has not considered the second, third, fourth, fifth, or more effects of this strike. Our military readiness is not good, our ability to project power and sustain our forces is worse than it was in 2003, and now we have no allied support. Likewise there is no telling what the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, or other competitors/enemies will do.
The Iranians have announced that they will not abide by the nuclear accords reached with the West during the Obama Administration, which they abided by even after President Trump renounced that accord. Likewise they have promised vengeance against American military targets and a eulogist at Suleimani’s funeral put an 80 million dollar contract for anyone who kills President Trump.
I neither want a wider war or for that matter for the Iranians to succeed in assassinating President Trump. As much as I oppose the President’s policies and think of him as a dangerous man, his death would only serve to make things worse. He would be succeeded by Vice President Pence, and his cult would demand its own vengeance, regardless of the military, diplomatic, and economic cost.
The “Mistake” Letter
Today the situation continued to escalate as the Iraqi Parliament continued to press for the removal of American and foreign forces from Iraq, backed now by the Iraqi President. President Trump threatened to attack religious and cultural sites in Iran, in violation of treaties we have signed and if carried out would be war crimes. He was countermanded by Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defense.Trump continued to reiterate his threat about 52 targets in Iran based on the number of hostages taken by Iranians during the takeover of the American Embassy in 1979, to which the Iranian President reminded the United States of the 290 passengers lost when the USS Vincennes misidentified and shot down IR-655, an Iranian passenger plane on a scheduled flight in 1988. In response the the Iraqi Parliament vote Trump ordered the administration to draft sanctions against Iraq. During the day a draft of a withdraw letter was mistakenly released by the commander of American Forces, which was almost immediately denied as a mistake by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of Defense.
If you ask me, things seem to be spiraling out of control, and nobody seems to be at the helm of the ship of state. This is not a good position to be in.
But now the dice have been thrown, the wager has been made, and the outcome is at best an uncertain gamble. I fear for our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen in Iraq and the Gulf. The Iranians can easily shut down the Straits of Hormuz, their Yemeni allies can threaten the Bab El Mendeb, the other major maritime choke point in the region. Likewise, in defiance of Trump the Iraqis could cut off supplies from the American troops scattered across the country if they do not withdraw or some kind of accord is reached for them to stay. Likewise, the Iranians, while not the military equal of the United States do have enough power to endanger every American facility in the Persian Gulf, kill tens of thousands of Americans, and seriously disrupt the world economy, yet leaving the Russians, and Chinese greatly strengthened.
I do not know what will happen over the next few days or weeks, but the President has backed us into a corner with little room for maneuver, diplomatically or militarily. Even long term allies like the Israelis, British, and Australians have not offered support. Neither have the Saudis, the mortal Sunni enemies of the Shia Iranians. Certain pundits have, but not their governments.
This is a watershed moment, things that Americans and the world trusted to remain as they were will no longer be the same, and we will not be the better for it. Things will not get better and they will very likely get worse and very possibly bring about the Armageddon that many of Trump’s followers, as well as certain groups of Sunni and Shia Muslims, and others fervently pray for.
3 responses to “A Man’s Got to Know His Strategic Limitations: President Trump and the Current Middle Eastern Crisis”
I read earlier today that both Israeli and Saudi Arabian officials urged their governments to stay out of this confrontation between Iran and the U.S. If that sentiment holds, Trump will be on his own. Boris Johnson’s administration in the U.K. has offered some lukewarm support, but I doubt they want to get involved either. This is an incredibly dangerous situation.
I dislike making this point—because I believe President Trump is an idiot and is psychologically unfit to be President—but we really need to stop using “Trump” when what we are speaking or writing of is the United States of America and its policies.
Like it or not, We The People (WTP) are just as responsible for our government as the citizens of any other country. A nation gets the government its people want; in our case, we could not be bothered to correct a dangerous elitist bias in the Constitution of the United States of America that permitted a small body of wealthy men to subvert the Democratically expressed will of the people. Thus we got George W. Bush—in actuality, Dick Cheney—and then Trump, when in both cases, those candidates were not elected by the People.
WTP also allowed our Congress to become a weak body of politicians professionally being reelected—men and women who’s **primary** goal is their own re-election, supported by an entrenched Party that thrives on that loopback system; once elected, the Party provides support to **cooperative** incumbents, in the form of money firstly, and local support, mostly by discouraging Primary challenges, secondly. The Party benefits by having loyal followers, the member benefits by having a supremely cushy job—by far, the easiest job in the world, with the greatest pay and benefits of any job in any time, Monarchs and despots included—and WTP “benefit” by having our thinking done for us through a corrupt and venal Paid-Press.
When the goal is re-election for a person who is barely known in their own district—how many people reading this blog actually know who their US Representative is, much less their State and Local reps?—then maintaining that anonymity is a serious personal interest. As long as a Representative is not required to take any controversial votes, they will not garner news attention locally or nationally, and that is a good thing for most seats. The incumbent is reelected almost all the time, because talented **and** charismatic leaders—say, John S. McCain III, or Anastasia Ocasio-Cortez—simply don’t run for office. When they do, they are unbeatable (ask some one you’ve never heard of called Steny Hoyer). But they are **constantly** under attack by the Party machine (both halves).
As long as WTP continue to prove ourselves supremely uninterested in who governs us, we will continue to have a government of inept lawyers and accountants who strive to be reelected and remain “below the waterline”—Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, Chuck Schumer, Jerold Nadler, and so forth. They are exactly who and what we wanted them to be—bumbling self-interested, and dishonest, and entirely lacking in the skills of governance in a Democratic Republic. The lone exception happens to be Nancy Pelosi, which makes her, more than any of the others, an object of “controversy”; she had the temerity to **do something** that wasn’t strictly Party. Now people have to make **choices**, though the Senate is doing it’s level best to keep that from happening.
The same admonishment applies to other Senators, especially to those in the majority—whichever majority. They are really only good at getting themselves re-elected. The Republicans, shamed by the supposed “Leader” of their Party, want to let WTP know that they abhor all the Bad Things about President Trump—without saying what those things are—but will not risk losing the support of the Party by saying so out loud, or by voting so.
This isn’t new, and again, it isn’t Party R’s sole prerogative. It was Party R’s bad luck that their “outsider” happened to be psychologically unfit to be President, and they didn’t really believe it would be a problem; now they are caught in a vice of their own making, and the interests of the Nation have been so long neglected—by two generations of politicians—that they don’t recognise that the time for Party has long since passed.
Because WTP just don’t care. I write my Congressperson and my Senators enough that I get a reply from an actual upper-tier minion; some one who gets to talk directly to the Congressperson/Senator for a few minutes every once in a while. This is pure self-interest on their part; I clearly care and vote, so it’s worth it to them ti make sure I get more than the form-email response.
How many of you have written anyone? Do you call, as well? When you write (or email), do you explain why you believe or feel as you do? Do you write about more than the moment’s headlines? Or at least, **every** moment’s headlines?
ALL of these ills make a perfect storm that created Donal Trump—and Chuck Schumer, Jerry Nadler, and Mitch McConnell. They are the self-interested and self-indulgent result of Congressional malfeasance unpunished by the electorate. Congress long ago—in the wake of the Tonkin Gulf incident—abrogated its responsibility to WTP, and WTP signalled our assent as we always do; by doing nothing. When we finally bestirred ourselves, the Congress passed the War Powers Act, which it then promptly ignored while Presidents R and D went on military adventures, each more reckless than the last.
Donald Trump is the President of the United States. By the tenants of the Constitution, he is charged with establishing and carrying out the foreign policy of the nation. Because the Congress is filled with mendacious and cowardly politicians who fear for their “job”—just as any of us would—in the backlash of an ignorant and easily manipulated electorate, the power to establish and carry out foreign policy has become the defacto power to rule the United States and control its military forces.
Donald Trump didn’t invent that. We did. What we depended upon is the soporific drug of normalcy and ignorance; we are told only what we want to hear, by politicians who only want to tell us what we want to hear; which means that the people who matter are the ones who figure out what it is we want to hear.
It is extremely dangerous to our Republic and our lives to treat Donald Trump as if he were an aberration, as if he some how didn’t speak for the US. He is the President of the United States. One elected by an archaic, elitist system, true. One who disregards the expected conventions of normalcy, true. But duly and legally elected.
That makes “Trump’s foreign policy” the same as “US foreign policy”. **WTP** assassinated General Suleimani, however one chooses to spell his name in Roman characters. We allowed it by not caring enough to inconvenience ourselves. By not rousing ourselves to defend insitutions we took for granted as immutable, even when Presidents were mutating them into something antithetical to a free Republic (see the Patriot Act and its evolutions).
We permitted the abrogation of the will of We The People, by ignoring and leaving unaddressed an institutional disability crippling the democratic principal of universal suffrage—one person, one vote—for **fifteen years** after it first helped subvert an election (though W’s brother in Florida was the human actor that could be dismissed in that instance). So we got Donald Trump. Instead of a normally corrupt and bought politician like all the rest, we got a psychologically damaged moron so terrified of his own inadequacies that he **should** be a bad joke about men and their fear of having a small penis.
Let us therefore understand that we will all suffer the effects of electing—or allowing the election of—Donald Trump. And let us understand that the policies he implements are therefore our Nation’s policies; that by failing to invigorate our Democratic Republic and ensure we do our duty to it, not just on Voting Day but on every day, we created this dysfunctional form of governance.
The only way out of this mess is to take action to reinvigorate our Democratic Republic. To force a fair and just impeachment of a President **not** elected by the will of the people but by elite fiat. To have a full disclosure of the facts. To hold directly and personally accountable each and every Senator and Representative, not by their loyalty to Party R or D, but by their adherence to their Oath to the Constitution.
And to abide by the results thereof, whether we find them to our liking, or not. Even if it is decided that the evidence and the crime are not sufficient to remove and disable Donald Trump—that is a part of the Impeachment, after all—we must understand that by forcing a single vote, Up or Down, we have to live with it.
If our Senator’s fail us, and vote according to Party but try to excuse themselves, we must vote them out of office. If they take money from out-of-state organisations—who by definition do not have the interest of our State in mind—then we must force them to refuse it or be rejected.
The “buck” stops with us, The People. No one else. There is no politician who can save us from the work of freedom, no pastor or priest who can free our conscience from the burden of our own responsibilities as citizens. We must carry our own water, and live with those choices.
That is a lesson killing other human beings—either directly by shooting them, or indirectly by making command decisions that get one’s guys killed—burns into the soul. It seems a great pity to me that it requires so much pain to teach a simple lesson—you are responsible for what you do, even if it is nothing at all.
I was pointing out to an Australian military friend yesterday and earlier today that the U.S. Congress has abrogated its responsibility to declare war since it last did in WWII, and that this is the fault of the American people who do not insist that Congress do its job and surrender to the will of the Executive Branch regardless of the party. In this case the culprit is Trump because he did not consult Congress before ordering the strike. He did it on the sly without consultation, except announcing to his followers at Mar El Largo that he was about to do something to Iran. One can reasonably presume that the House would have objected, maybe even some GOP Senators might might oppose him, especially since one of his biggest cheerleaders on Fox, Tucker Carlson has come out against this. But his cult will cheer him on and probably another 1/3 of the population will say nothing until shit gets completely out of control.