Jim Geraghty over at National Review has an interesting post up today about yesterday’s surgical strike in Baghdad that killed Qasem Soleimani, the man in charge of Iran’s terrorist Quds Force. In it, he notes the typical caterwauling of the Left whenever Donald Trump does something that makes him look like a tough and decisive President–basically anything that contradicts their Orange Man Bad narrative–citing the Democrat talking points memo that must surely be circulating among newsrooms this morning:
Last night you could see the conventional wisdom response assembling itself in real time on Twitter. It was darkly amusing to see the number of supposedly serious foreign-policy thinkers and lawmakers who skipped over the pro forma, “Make no mistake, Suleimani was a bad guy who killed a lot of Americans, but . . .” Within a few hours, that conventional wisdom had concealed: “Sure, Suleimani was a bad guy with a lot of innocent blood on his hands, but what’s the endgame?”
“What’s the endgame here?” There is none, and there never is one. Foreign policy is never “fixed,” and things never get tied up in a neat little bow, particularly in the Middle East. You manage the situations as best you can and try to adapt as best you can.
In other words, the Middle East is basically a game of whack-a-mole, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. There’s a lot of wisdom in this–not least because we’ve already seen the folly of trying to nation build in that part of the world, as demonstrated by our excursions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Eighteen years, thousands of lives and over $1 trillion later, the place is as big of a mess as it ever was–also with no end in sight. To my mind, if we’re constantly going to be cutting the head off the latest snake over there, we might as well be using drones and sanctions rather than putting American troops in the line of fire. The killing of Soleimani is a good roadmap for that kind of strategy–certainly a lot better than sending Iran pallets piled with cash, like Barack Obama did, in the hopes that the mad mullahs would keep the bloodshed to a minimum.
Toward that end, a lot of people are crediting Trump’s withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement for giving him the flexibility he needed to punch the Iranians so hard for their sponsored attack on the American embassy in Iraq earlier this week. Obama, who had tried to realign America’s interests in the region and curry favor with the Iranian regime, dared not make such a move for fear of derailing the agreement, which he considered a signature foreign policy achievement of his presidency. He therefore gave Iran free rein to do whatever it wanted–which included Soleimani’s efforts to consolidate Iranian influence in Syria and Lebanon via its Hezbollah proxies, not to mention their support of Bashar al-Assad and his wholesale slaughter of his own people. But Soleimani had been terrorizing the region for a long time before Obama and his policy of appeasement came along. In fact, his Quds Force had been arming the Iraqi insurgency and killing American soldiers throughout the entirety of the Second Gulf War, all under George W. Bush’s watch. Surely, there must have been opportunities to kill Soleimani during that time–not to mention plenty of justification for doing so. Why didn’t we do it?
The answer, I believe, is quite simple: Oil. Bush knew that escalating a conflict with Iran by taking out one of their senior leaders would most likely lead to serious disruptions with the flow of oil coming out of the Middle East. If Iran attacked tankers in the Strait of Hormuz or, God forbid, attacked the oil fields in Saudi Arabia, it could have dealt a crippling blow not only to America’s economy, but also to the entire world. We were therefore left with a balance of terror, in which we permitted a certain amount of Iranian malfeasance in exchange for them not seriously hampering the oil supply.
So what changed? Since that time, America has become the world’s largest supplier of oil and natural gas. As a result, we were are no longer at the mercy of crazy theocratic regimes in a part of the world where a large chunk of the population thinks of America as the Great Satan. And exactly how did this miraculous transformation come about?
Yes, fracking–that bane of the Left’s existence, which every single Democrat presidential candidate (with the possible exception of Tusi Gabbard) has made Target Numero Uno for banning should they be elected. Simply put, fracking has not only allowed us more options in how to deal with terrorist states like Iran, it has also weakened another geopolitical foe, Russia, because so much of their economy depends upon oil and gas prices. Not being dependent on the Middle East to keep those prices stable gives us so much more flexibility in how we conduct our foreign policy there–which not only includes the long-overdue killing of a terrorist mastermind, but also reducing the need for costly military interventions.
Voters should keep that in mind whenever Democrats talk about doing away with the most powerful national security tool in our arsenal.
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