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January 13, 2020

Appeasement Doesn’t Work

Somehow those who agree with me that it was a good idea to kill both Osama bin Laden and ISIS leader Abu al-Baghdadi are now saying it was wrong to kill Qassem Soleimani:

  • Iran may retaliate. Al-Qaeda and ISIS also vowed revenge after their leaders were killed. Bad guys have followers and supporters. Nevertheless, you either fight them or surrender. That was one of the great lessons of the twentieth century. Appeasement doesn’t work; it led the Second World War. We have already lost the Third World War if we are afraid to take lethal action against someone actively killing Americans.

 So far Iran has only made a cautious token response and has managed to kill hundreds of its own people in funeral riots and the panicky shooting down of a civilian plane full of Iranians and Canadians of Iranian descent. President Trump has been uncharacteristically diplomatic in accepting the Iranian “de-escalation”. Of course, there could still be a descent into war; but what would have happened if Soleimani has lived to continue his jihad against America? Iranian leaders are now less likely to miscalculate American determination when they realize that their own skins are at risk – not just the foot-soldiers of their Iraqi, Yemeni, or Lebanese proxies.

  • Ordering the attack on Soleimani was illegal under international and/or US law. It’s hard to take this argument seriously from anyone who didn’t object to killing bin Laden and al-Baghdadi far from any battlefield, without consulting Congress, and without the permission of the countries which were harboring them. Neither of these two bad guys was a threat any longer.

The argument amounts to saying that you can only take out someone who kills Americans once their career is over and they are in hiding.  Think how many more people would be alive today if we’d been able to kill bin Laden and al-Baghdadi before their forced retirements. Our timing was better with Soleimani. Would’ve been even better to get him earlier but we chose not to.

Trump muddied this argument with the unnecessary claim that we specifically knew Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat. His death was justified based on what he had already done and his rush from Syria to Iraq to talk with the Iraqi leader of the siege of the US embassy was clearly dangerous for Americans there. Perhaps he and the Iraqi were still discussing how “imminent” the threat should be.  It was good discussion for us to terminate.


  • We’ve unified the people of Iran and Iraq against us. Last week we saw huge anti-American marches in Iran. These marches were evidence of nothing since Iran is a totalitarian state and kills its citizens for going to the wrong rally. This week the people who were risking their lives to protest against the Ayatollah before we killed Soleimani are again risking their lives to protest against leaders who are both incompetent enough to shoot down a plane which had been cleared by their own air traffic control and dishonest enough to deny they had done so for three days.

The Iraqi Parliament did vote to advise the Prime Minister to request the withdrawal of our troops. But the Parliament didn’t have a quorum because the Sunni and Kurdish members defied the threats of the Iranian-backed militias and boycotted the session.

The Iraqis who were demonstrating against Iranian influence two weeks ago (and whom Soleimani ordered the militias to slaughter) are back demonstrating for independence again. Some want us gone, as well; fair enough. The first demonstrations Al Jazeera showed on the night of Soleimani’s death were in Baghdad and were celebrations by those who were protesting Iran’s influence.

  • Soleimani was a high-ranking official of the government of a real country, not just the leader of a self-proclaimed caliphate. Does that give him immunity to kill Americans? Is his excuse that he was just giving orders, not carrying them out? His position just makes him that much more dangerous. We cannot tolerate terrorist behavior from anyone. For much too long, we have allowed Iran and Soleimani to pursue asymmetric warfare against Americans and others, mostly through their proxies. The life of an Iranian general is certainly worth no more than the lives of the many, including Americans, he has killed.

I’m afraid, really afraid, that many Americans including my friends are opposing this very just and timely action because they are afraid that, if Donald Trump gets credit for doing anything right, he’ll be reelected.

I would also like to be able to vote for someone else. It would have been great to see one of the Democratic candidates distinguish her or himself by praising an action which was clearly, I think, in America’s interest.

The isolationist-wing of conservatives (especially on Fox News) have been even more vitriolic in attacking Trump for ordering Soleimani’s removal than the left. This is eerily reminiscent of the time after the German-Soviet nonaggression pact when both the left and America-first right opposed America taking sides in World War 2. They were both wrong then and they are both wrong now.

We owe it to ourselves and our diplomats and troops in harm’s way to ignore politics and oppose appeasement.

See also “We’ve got your back” beats “Thank you for your service”

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