This article was written for the Unz Review: http://www.unz.com/tsaker/trump-presidency-first-snafus-already/
It is a rare privilege to be able to criticize a politician for actually fulfilling his campaign promises but Donald Trump is a unique President and this week he offered us exactly this opportunity with not one, but three different SNAFUs to report.
First, there was the botched raid against an alleged al-Qaeda compound in Yakla, Yemen. First, let me commit a crimethink here and remind everybody that for all the great Hollywood movies, Americans have a terrible record of doing special ops. The latest one was typical. First, it involved Navy SEALS, one of the most disaster-prone US special forces. Second, it involved special forces from the United Arab Emirates (don’t ask why, just don’t). I am pretty sure that using US Rangers alone would have yielded better results. Third, as always, they got detected early. And then they began taking casualties. This time from female al-Qaeda fighters. Finally, they botched the evacuation. They did kill some kids and, so they say, an al-Qaeda leader. More about this raid here and here. As I said, this is pretty much par for the course. But I am sure that some Hollywood movie will make it look very heroic and “tactical”. But the real world bottom line remains unchanged: Americans should give up on special ops, they just can do it right.
Second, there was the absolutely terrible press conference by General Flynn. See for yourself:
So not only did Flynn put Iran “on notice” like a high-school principal would do to a rowdy teenager, but FOX TV is already speaking about “lines in the sand”. Wait – were “lines in the sand” not one of the dumbest features of the Obama Presidency? And now, just one week in the White House, we see Trump doing exactly the same?
This also begs the question of whether a very intelligent man like Flynn seriously and sincerely believes that he can bully or otherwise scare Iran. If he does – then we are all in a lot of trouble.
There is also the troubling aspect of the language chosen. Instead of speaking about “international concern” or the will of the UN Security Council, Flynn decided to use the kind of language typical of a wannabe World Hegemon. Again, been there – done that. Do they really think that this kind of imperial hubris will work better for them than it did for the Neocons?
Lastly, the Ukronazis are apparently back on the warpath. For many months now they have been shelling the Novorussians, and they even have tried a few, rather pathetic, local attacks. This time around this is different: incoming artillery strikes are counted not by the tens, but by the thousands and the shelling is happening all along the line of contact. Of course, this is not directly Trump’s fault, but it does show that the Ukronazis in Kiev are taking their cues from the former power configuration – that is the Germans, the Neocons, and the East European cry-babies à la Poland and Lithuania. At the time of writing, there are no signs that Trump is taking the situation under control. The good news is that the Russians are still waiting, but with that level of violence there is only that much they can wait before having to give the Novorussians the green light for a counter-attack (the Novorussian forces are already engaging in strong counter-battery fire, but they have not yet pushed their forces forward).
I sure hope that this week is not a harbinger of what the rest of the Trump Presidency will look like.
Still, It is not too late to change course and return to reality-based politics.
First, the easy stuff. As I said, the Pentagon should give up on special ops. If, for political reasons and to feel good about “making American great again” the US must absolutely flex its muscle, I would recommend re-invading Grenada, provided only one of the Services is given that task. I recommend the Marines. For the rest, and especially in the Middle-East, the US should finally come to terms with the fact that they cannot and should not put any US boots on the ground. Ever.
A tad harder, but still quite manageable, Trump needs to reign in the Ukronazis. The way to do that is simple: to spend a special representative to Kiev and explain to the junta members that times have changed, that there is a new boss in the White House, and that from now on they better behave or else. The Ukronazis are used to that kind of language, they will get the message, and they will even meekly comply, provided they feel that the US means it. This, of course, is just a quick fix, a short-term solution to buy time and to work on a long-term solution to the Ukrainian debacle, but that will be a much more complex and costly exercise and will have to involve not only the US, but all of the EU and Russia as the sums of money needed to rebuilt the Ukraine will be astronomical.
The big problem right now is Iran. Well, not Iran itself, of course, but the stupid anti-Iranian rhetoric of the Trump campaign before the elections. My biggest fear is that while Trump and the people around him have apparently come to the (correct) conclusion that they cannot bully Russia into submission they have decided that they could do that with Iran. If that is really their plan, then they are headed for a major disaster.
For one thing, Iran has been living with the threat of a AngloZionst attack since 38 years, including 23 years of Neocon power in the USA. To think that right now they will be suddenly really frightening and will meekly comply with Uncle Shmuel’s demands is very naïve. The Iranians have been preparing for a war against the US and Israel for almost a quarter of a century – they are fine ready, both militarily and psychologically. Oh sure, the US can most definitely strike at Iran with cruise missile and air-strikes, but at what cost and what would that exactly achieve? In terms of achievement, it would have a beneficial psychotherapeutic effect on those Americans who feel insecure about their military size and who want to feel big and powerful again. It will also kills plenty of Iranians and destroy some unknown amount of Iranian targets, including possibility missile technology or nuclear technology related ones. But it will not change Iranian policies by even a tiny amount, nor will it prevent Iran from further pursuing nuclear or missile technologies.
But this has never been about nuclear or missile technology, of course. That is all nonsense, “informational prolefeed” so to speak.
In reality this was always about only one thing: Israel wanted to be THE regional superpower in the Middle-East and Iran was to be prevented from threatening this monopoly status by any means. In other words, if an Islamic country is mismanaged and run by incompetent fanatics, this is great. But when an Islamic country is run by a wise and extremely capable leadership which cannot be overthrown due to the fact that it has popular support, then this Islamic country becomes an absolutely unacceptable precedent. And Iran, with its advanced technologies, powerful military, strong economy and generally successful political and social model is an immense affront to the racist delusions of the Zionist regime in Palestine. Add to this that Iran dares to *openly* defy the United States and you immediately will see the real reasons for all the saber-rattling and constant threats. The problem for Trump is exactly the same as the problem for Obama, Dubya or Clinton: the US cannot win a war against Iran. Why?
Because a war has to have some political objective, a definition of what “victory” means. In the case of Iran, there is no possible victory. Even of the US launches 1000-2000 missile strikes against Iran, and all of them are successful, this will not be a “victory”.
Many years ago I wrote an article entitled “Iran’s Asymmetrical Response Options”. It is dated now, a lot as happened since 2007, but the fundamental conclusions are still valid: the USA cannot win and Iran has plenty of asymmetrical options ranging from riding out the attack to attacking CENTCOM targets all over the Middle-East. But the biggest change since 2007 has been the civil war in Iraq and Syria and Trump’s promises to eradicate Daesh. This is crucial.
There is simply no way, none at all, to eradicate Daesh without putting boots on the ground. I think that we can all agree that these boots won’t be American. They won’t be Russian either. Obama’s approach was to use a mix of Iraqi, Kurdish and Turkish boots, with the threat of Saudi and other Gulf State’s boots thrown in for good measure. We all know how that worked: it didn’t. And it won’t. So here is the ugly secret that everybody knows or, at least, ought to know: the only boots on the ground to defeat Daesh have been, still are and will be, Iranian boots. That is a fact of life, sorry. The Turks are out, after the attempted coup against Erdogan and the subsequent purges the Turkish military is only a shadow of what it used to be. The Kurds have no desire whatsoever to be used as cannon fodder in a dangerous and difficult war against Daesh. The Saudis and the rest of them are a joke, barely capable of terrorizing civilians, but they will be instantly defeated by Daesh in the first skirmish. So unless the Canadians, the Brits, the Poles, the Lithuanians and, say, the Georgians want to lead the struggle against Daesh (just kidding!), the only country which can make Trump’s campaign promise happen is Iran (and Hezbollah, of course).
Furthermore, I submit that Iran is powerful enough to prevent *any* policy of being successful in the Middle-East unless Iran at least passively okays it. In a way, Iran’s position in the Middle-East is similar to the Russian position in the “near abroad” (the former Soviet Union): while Iran/Russia cannot impose anything against everybody, Iran/Russia can veto/prevent any policy or outcome it does not want.
The main consequence of this is that even if Iran decided to completely renounce any kind of retaliatory counter-attack against the US or Israel, Iran could *painfully* retaliate against such a strike by simply telling Trump “we will make darn sure that you fail everywhere, in Iraq, in Syria, in Pakistan, and Yemen and everywhere else in the Middle-East”. And that won’t be an empty threat: the Iranians absolutely can deliver on it.
Furthermore, a US attack on Iran is also going to send the US-Russian relationship into a tailspin. How much of a disaster this will be will depend on how bad the attack on Iran is, but while Russia will not militarily intervene in a US-Iranian conflict, Russia will not allow the US to get away with it either and the main political cost will be that an attack on Iran will further reinforce the Russian-Iranian-Chinese triangle.
Do I need to spell out here how an attack on Iran will be perceived in Beijing?
If it happens, the US attack on Iran will look very much like the 2006 Israel war on Hezbollah, and it will achieve the same results, only on a bigger scale. To put it simply – it will be a total disaster and it will mark the failure of the Trump presidency.
Right now Trump still has an immense political capital. It’s not like the world truly trusts him, it is way too early for that, but there is a lot of hope out there that Trump’s America will be a different one, a civilized one which will act as a responsible and rational international actor. Not like an Obama 2.0. But listening to Flynn’s condescending and, worse, empty (not to mention wholly illegal) threats against Iran, I am left wondering whether the US can mend its ways and be meaningfully reformed or whether it will take a cataclysmic collapse (military or economic) to finally see the end of the wannabe World Hegemon.
PS: for whatever this is worth, the first statement by the US rep at the UNSC just reinforces my worst fears, see for yourself: