What Now with Iran?

President Trump has a huge decision to make.

I’ve been paying attention to US-Iranian relations for more than four decades, going back to the fall of the Shah and the seizure of the US embassy in Teheran, which gripped the nation for 444 days. I study, write about, and teach US national security policy for a living. But I’ve resisted writing about the killing of IRGC commander Soleimani and the possible aftermath because I simply have no real idea what’s going to happen.

I follow a lot of people much more expert on the region and Iran specifically on Twitter and elsewhere. There’s nothing like a consensus on whether the Soleimani strike was wise, whether it was legal, or what consequences will follow. The only thing most agree on is that it appears President Trump made the decision without much in the way of process.

Late yesterday evening, US Eastern time, Iran responded with a missile barrage on US bases in Iraq—the site of the Soleimani strike. Based on early accounts, no Americans were hit. Most analysts think that was intentional, although some believe Iran’s missiles are insufficiently precise for their leadership to have been confident in that outcome.

Regardless, we’re now at a crossroads. Do we allow the Iranians to “get away” with the relatively bloodless retaliation as a face-saving way out of the crisis? Or do we up the ante, hitting back hard and risking all-out war?

While everyone has a guess, no one seems confident. Dan Drezner, though, is leaning toward the former.

I am increasingly of the mind that the worst of the Iran crisis might be over.

Sounds crazy, right? After all, since a U.S. drone killed Qasem Soleimani last week, the hard-working staff here has written not one but two columns expressing concern about the Trump administration’s capacity to handle this crisis. It seems increasingly clear that Donald Trump made this decision rashly, almost as if the 45th president lacks impulse control.

[…]

In a world in which Iran hawk Mike Pompeo is the voice that Trump listens to the most, the possibility for continued escalation is pretty darn high. So the fear that this crisis would escalate into a larger conflagration seems well founded.

Why, then, do I think that the worst might be over? Because Iran said it would only target military installations in response, which is exactly what happened. Along with the missiles, Iran sent some other signals: that if the United States did not retaliate to these attacks, that would be that. Iran’s foreign minister tweeted that, “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched. We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”

Zarif is trying to send a signal that this is a response and not an escalation. Why is there any reason for Trump to take the off-ramp now after blustering about war crimes and disproportionate responses over the weekend? Because bluster is one thing and a real war is something else. Iran’s retaliatory strike did not lead to any loss of American lives (Iraqis were killed, but non-Americans do not factor into Trump’s thinking). Any time the president has provoked a crisis that could lead to an actual shooting war, he has backed down. Think of an overgrown toddler who suddenly realizes that the game of make-believe has real-world consequences, and I suspect you have a sense of Trump’s mind-set at the current moment.

Trump has the opportunity to walk away now without further loss of American life, and he has powerful reasons to do so. A war with Iran is not popular and will not help Trump get reelected. Trump’s support from his base has helped to reduce the costs he faces from flip-flopping. He can spin de-escalation as a win, since Soleimani’s death is far more significant than the missile attacks. He has spun far worse outcomes as smashing victories.

There’s more but that’s the gist.

Dan’s prediction is plausible. And I hope he’s right. But there’s not much reason to be confident.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Iran
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Trump says he will make a statement later today. I suppose the best we can hope for is that he will, as you say, spin this into some glorious victory, and then forget it.

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  2. Kathy says:

    Divining Iran’s intentions seems far less pressing, and far easier, than divining Trump’s.

    For one thing, while neither act morally, we can be certain to a high degree Iran will be rational and act in their own interests. Trump might act in his own interests, but he’s also a weather vane surrounded by Iran chicken hawks who like to indulge his jingoism.

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  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Think of an overgrown toddler who suddenly realizes that the game of make-believe has real-world consequences, and I suspect you have a sense of Trump’s mind-set at the current moment.

    This x 1000.
    It’s flippin’ unbelievable that between Iran and the US, Iran is the one acting with strategic fore-thought and restraint.
    Launching into a full-on war with us would only push Europeans and others back towards us…while right now the US is isolated. Even Netanyahoo wants no part of this nonsense.
    As to the title of this post…What Now?
    The death of Soleimani will be spun as a win, although there is an entire Kuds force waiting to step into his place.
    And if past is prologue Trump will negotiate a deal that looks amazingly like the JPCOA, and declare it the best deal ever negotiated.
    And we will be left with what is essentially the status quo.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy: @Daryl and his brother Darryl: As I respondeds to Dan on Twitter, “This presumes Trump is a rational actor.”

    We always ask ourselves whether the regime in Iran (or North Korea) is rational. But, yes, they’re more obviously rational than Trump, in that we can determine what their long-term strategic priorities are and predict, within reason, their actions.

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  5. mattbernius says:

    We always ask ourselves whether the regime in Iran (or North Korea) is rational. But, yes, they’re more obviously rational than Trump, in that we can determine what their long-term strategic priorities are and predict, within reason, their actions.

    Sadly this (though I don’t want to be counted among the “we” who ask ourselves if those regimes are rational).

    All we can do is read the President’s tweet-leaves. The ones from last night leave me cautiously optimistic in that there was no immediate threatening of a response.

    If Trump and the administrations is serious in their rhetoric about deescalation, they will allow this largely symbolic attack to close the current chapter. And for that, at least, they will deserve some kudos.*

    * — I am still well aware that is was a chapter that they initiated. Still any restraint from them is welcome.

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  6. rachel says:

    @Kathy:

    Trump might act in his own interests,

    but we can’t be sure he’s able to figure out what they are.

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  7. CSK says:

    Trump’s statement will be at 11 a.m.

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @mattbernius:

    I am still well aware that is was a chapter that they initiated.

    This is what I fear will get lost. Certainly when Trump addresses the nation at 11:00 he will not portray this as something he started and now Iran has ended. Certainly he will not admit that this episode has made him look irrational, and given Iran credibility as a rational actor.
    And god knows the sycophants will be up on this forum at any minute explaining how brilliant their Dear Leader is…and how he has done something no other President has been able to.

    To me the lesson Iran taught us last night is; “look….we can do you a boat load of harm IF we choose to. Best not to fuq with us again.”
    They have left the door open for Diplomacy…the Trump administration has no one capable of Diplomacy.
    The only thing I’ll be looking at from Trump today at 11:00 is if there is any humility. If he comes out full of bluster, then he is incapable of learning.

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  9. rodney dill says:

    Rather than any direct retaliation we should sponsor another funeral for Soleimani.

    That seemed to be an effective method to kill Iranians that are unfriendly to the US.

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  10. mattbernius says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    To me the lesson Iran taught us last night is; “look….we can do you a boat load of harm IF we choose to. Best not to fuq with us again.”

    Honestly, that really isn’t true. At least on a conventional level.

    Any expert will tell you that Iran doesn’t have the capability to engage in any form of conventional conflict with the US. At best, they could do something spectacular that disrupts things. But the physical harm from that will be temporary.

    Which gets back to the rationality thing — they needed to respond in a way that saved face but, hopefully didn’t spark conventional war. That was what they did.

    Honestly, the reality is that probably their next long term step — learning from North Korea — is to develop a nuclear arsenal. Which gets to a different point…

    In defending Trump’s North Korea policy, his supports blame past administrations for letting NK develop nukes. I would be deeply interested to see how they reconcile that with the actions the Trump has taken to essentially accelerate Iran’s nuclear ambitions. PoTUS left the agreement because, in part, Iran could potential develop nukes in 15 years. Everything he’s done since has more or less guarentee that they will be working their hardest to get them far sooner as a rational, existential defense tool.

  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @mattbernius:

    Any expert will tell you that Iran doesn’t have the capability to engage in any form of conventional conflict with the US. At best, they could do something spectacular that disrupts things. But the physical harm from that will be temporary.

    Not in a conventional sense, no. No war in the ME is ever going to be strictly conventional warfare. We got sucked into Iraq, on a conventional basis…and looked how that turned out. To massage my point…the lesson of last night was that, if they wanted to, by doing a boat load of harm, Iran would have easily sucked our infantile and capricious President into another quagmire of epic proportions; a conflict that would make the last 17 years look pedestrian.

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  12. mattbernius says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Again, you need to define what you mean by a “boatload of harm” and explain how they would be able to do that without triggering an invasion and a total loss of power.

    That’s the key thing here — they responded but didn’t escalate. And that was a fundamentally rational move on their part. That’s the exact opposite of demonstrating they can do a boatload of direct harm.

    Yes, I agree that invading Iran would be another quagmire of epic proportions. But from a rational Iranian government POV it’s also a death sentence for them. And they are, despite commentary, not a suicidal government.

    This wasn’t a demonstration of power. It was a face saving maneuver that can easily be internally spun (w/in Iran to be a demonstration of power).

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    In a duel one party sometimes deliberately discharges their weapon into the dirt then stands there coolly awaiting he bullet. That’s what Iran has done.

    Iran has us trapped in a lose-lose. If we escalate it’s war, which would be seen as entirely our fault and devolve into yet another quagmire. Or we stand down, leaving the Iranians free to advance work on nukes and exploit the damage done to our position in Iraq, while still hitting us covertly. Having not seen Trump’s speech yet, I’ll bet he backs down, which is the effective end of ‘regime change.’

    Dummy got played.

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  14. Andy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    To massage my point…the lesson of last night was that, if they wanted to, by doing a boat load of harm, Iran would have easily sucked our infantile and capricious President into another quagmire of epic proportions; a conflict that would make the last 17 years look pedestrian.

    There’s no doubt Iran could have done much more and actually killed a bunch of Americans. They have a variety of precision weapons they could have used, as well as ample targeting information. But Iran understands that doing that would invite a response that would see Iran on the losing end. They understand that would trigger a war with Iran would lose. We don’t need to invade Iran, we can destroy it’s Navy, Airforce, and economy without an invasion. Iran understands this which is why its retribution appears specifically designed not to elicit that kind of response while saving face.

    @James Joyner:

    We always ask ourselves whether the regime in Iran (or North Korea) is rational. But, yes, they’re more obviously rational than Trump, in that we can determine what their long-term strategic priorities are and predict, within reason, their actions.

    I’m frankly amazed that after three years you still can’t see the patterns. Trump is only “irrational” to those who’ve failed to properly assess his mindset and motivations. He is never going to be the process-oriented, standard politician that we were used to so one needs to evaluate his actions in light of who he is, not against some template of what we think an American President should be.

    I think there is a lot of mirror-imaging going on when it comes to Trump. I posted this over at Dave’s place in a different context, but it applies equally to Trump as any foreign leader:

    To see the options faced by foreign leaders as these leaders see them, one must understand their values and assumptions and even their misperceptions and misunderstandings. Without such insight, interpreting foreign leaders’ decisions or forecasting future decisions is often nothing more than partially informed speculation. Too frequently, foreign behavior appears “irrational” or “not in their own best interest.” Such conclusions often indicate analysts have projected American values and conceptual frameworks onto the foreign leaders and societies, rather than understanding the logic of the situation as it appears to them.

    That’s from Richard Heuer, one of the founders of modern intelligence analysis. And it’s a common mistake. We thought Saddam wasn’t rational but it turns out he was. People keep claiming the “mullahs” in Iran are irrational zealots despite all evidence to the contrary (including this latest response). Same with North Korea – there is nothing irrational about what they are doing once one has a grasp of their strategic position and objectives. One can still be rational and miscalculate.

    And the same goes for Trump who is essentially considered a “foreign” leader by those stuck inside the beltway and twitter bubbles. What Trump is doing is completely rational from his perspective and, in many cases, it’s proven effective in advancing his goals despite the opposition arrayed against him. Ignoring that and continuing to insist on evaluating him in terms of establishment politics is just going to result in his reelection.

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  15. CSK says:

    Trump is speaking now. He sounds as if he’s been drugged.

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  16. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Humility??
    Listening now, no inkling of humility. Rather sounds like a stump speech “how great I am”

  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @mattbernius:

    That’s the key thing here — they responded but didn’t escalate. And that was a fundamentally rational move on their part. That’s the exact opposite of demonstrating they can do a boatload of direct harm.

    Yes, again they are the rational actors in all of this. But implicit in not escalating is that they could have. They could have demonstrated the ability to do a great deal of harm.

    Yes, I agree that invading Iran would be another quagmire of epic proportions. But from a rational Iranian government POV it’s also a death sentence for them.

    Is it? I mean sure we can over-run anyone we want to. But the Iranian leadership isn’t Saddam Hussein; ruling by smoke and mirrors and hiding in a spider hole. Iran is holding joint military exercises with Russia and China. And I’m not really sure we want to go to war with with 200 Million Shia…especially with a President who couldn’t tell you the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni.
    I mean…we are both essentially on the same page…I just think Iran’s statement was more of one of strength through walking away, than it was of abject capitulation.

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  18. CSK says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:
    I thought Trump looked and sounded weary and defeated. His speech was mechanical. Sure, he gave a few obligatory cheers to American military prowess, but even those weren’t terribly enthusiastic.

    He plodded to and away from the podium slump-shouldered—more so than usual.

  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Andy:

    They understand that would trigger a war with Iran would lose.

    In a conventional sense, yes. But why has everyone forgotten the past 17 years we have been in Iraq? FFS. Do you think that’s WINNING? Do you really think Iran is going to be EASIER than that??? JFC.

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  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    We would not win a war against Iran, we’d be damned lucky to get regime change and a takeover by Shah 2. Look at a relief map of Iran. We can sink their navy and knock their planes down. But we cannot conquer or control, not without a million men on the ground and a three year campaign costing a trillion or more. And then we’d have at best a pyrrhic and temporary win.

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  21. KM says:

    @Andy:

    Trump is only “irrational” to those who’ve failed to properly assess his mindset and motivations.

    This is the same logic that states a “tortured artiste” isn’t a terrible and talentless hack, nobody really *gets* their art! Blaming the audience for not understanding the genius before them is a dead giveaway that it might not be so genius after all. I’d say most intelligent people have assessed Trump’s motive and mindset fairly accurately and come up with “mentally deteriorating con man completely in over his head that’s only looking out for #1” He is – to pretty much the whole planet at this point – effectively irrational and capricious.

    What Trump is doing is completely rational from his perspective

    Yes, crazy people have insane troll logic that makes perfect sense to them. It’s when you can’t explain it to others in way that can be understood that it stops being “logic” and starts being “coo-coo”. When I was a counselor and work with individuals that were genuinely mentally ill, they would often try to tell me things that seemed perfectly rational and obvious to them. Like the TV delivering ultra-sonic messages to the dog to kill them in the sleep so Billy Ray Cyrus could win the Super Bowl. You can theoretically follow those logic tracks for a little while before you realize you left sanity two stations behind.

    Just because it makes sense to him doesn’t mean it make genuine sense.

    and, in many cases, it’s proven effective in advancing his goals despite the opposition arrayed against him.

    And what goal would that be? What was the goal here? He’s lost far more then he’s gained and so have we as a nation. This isn’t a video game where you kill “the bad guy” and game over, flawless victory achieved! There’s always another and always consequences for what was done. Americans aren’t going to suddenly stop dying in hot zones because Soleimani’s taking a well-deserved dirt nap. We’re still targets – now more then we have in some time. The organization he was working with? Still there and still ready to do what they were doing. His future plans? Hmm, it’s not like there was only one paper-copy who’s details were never discussed with another living soul and it went up with his corpse. This was the extreme scenario presented so it wasn’t even the military’s preferred goal or outcome. It just made Trump feel like a big man to order the military to blow something up in his name.

    What exactly was the goal that he was so effective at achieving?

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  22. CSK says:

    It was easy to tell that Trump really, really didn’t want to say what he did. Someone–or more likely several someones–made him do so; they force-fed him the content of that speech and made sure he regurgitated it.

    Trump always uses that monotonous, robotic delivery when he’s reciting someone else’s words.

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  23. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    @Michael Reynolds:
    Same thing said two very different ways…and THAT’s why Reynolds has ton of best selling books!!!

  24. KM says:

    @CSK:

    Yep. I wonder if anyone’s told him how whipped it makes him sound. One thing you cannot deny about the man is he’s full of energy and passion when he’s talking freely. That man can talk and likes to talk. Compare his rallies to any speech he has to read and it’s like watching a small child sulkly read out an apology. It really diminishes him to acknowledge someone can make him do something, doesn’t it? His whole presence just….. sags and fades knowing somebody’s the boss of him.

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  25. dazedandconfused says:

    Iran will honor the memory of Soleimani by re-dedicating themselves to his mission, which was to get the US out of Iraq and Syria. I believe Soleimani’s replacement has stated this clearly. There is no reason I can see not to believe them.

    Assuming Trump takes no more big risks, no more blatant invitations to war, I expect Iran will simply re-double the pressure on everybody every chance they get in pursuit of their goal. I believe it unlikely Iran will engage in wanton killing. Iran will likely seek to kill only when they have plausible deniability, and in killing that is unlikely to prompt a massive response which would be counter- productive towards that goal.

    I wouldn’t expect anything spectacular, a steady diet of moral-draining troubles, if it takes 50 years or more. But it’s not “over”, not by a damn sight.

  26. Guarneri says:

    How are the faux psychiatrists and military experts doing today?

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  27. JohnMc says:

    Worth noting that our President has the same panel of Aides and Secretaries that gave the choices of which assassination was one. Absolutely the least impressive group any president has had since… forever? And the principal voice — Mr Pompeo — appears to be working to immanentize the education (as WFBuckley once described the “left”).

  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    Living in reality. How about the Cult45 bootlicks?

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  29. Mike in Arlington says:

    @Andy: What do you see as his pattern that we’re all missing?

  30. JohnMc says:

    “immanentize the Eschatron” (spell check learned a new word)

  31. CSK says:

    @KM:
    I’ve checked Lucianne.com, Red State, and Hot Air, and so far Cult45 hasn’t reacted to this speech, nor, indeed, acknowledged that it even took place. It’s early, of course, but generally one of the pro-Trump writers at HA or RS would have already posted a piece raving about how this was the greatest oration since Demosthenes’ Philippics. Maybe even they noticed what we did…

  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    1) Iraq’s Shiites are united in demanding we leave.
    2) The fight against ISIS – ostensibly our purpose – is dead.
    3) The Kurds have learned never to trust us.
    4) Our allies think we’re insane.
    5) Iran is now seen as the rational actor, while the US is seen as dangerously unstable.
    6) Iran gets in the last slap and can legitimately claim a win for domestic purposes.
    7) The Arabs woke up when they heard about missiles targeting Dubai. They’ll be less likely to agitate for war.
    8) Iran has now stated publicly that they are free of the constraints of the JCPOA.

    Examine that list in light of our long-term strategic goals: stability, the destruction of ISIS and Al Qaeda, a non-nuclear Iran.

    Then examine them in light of Iran’s strategic goal: the removal of western forces and the unification of Shia majority states.

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  33. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Guarneri:
    Infantile.

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  34. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    1) Iraq’s Shiites are united in demanding we leave.

    1a) Trump has completed the process, begun in earnest by Bush and Cheney, of ceding Iraq to Iran.

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  35. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    But why has everyone forgotten the past 17 years we have been in Iraq? FFS. Do you think that’s WINNING? Do you really think Iran is going to be EASIER than that??? JFC.

    Because your definition of “winning” for the Iranians is “17 years of U.S. occupation.” Yes, Iraq is a quagmire that bleeds US troops and money, which greatly helps Iran. But–and this is an important “but” for Iranian leaders–it’s taking place in Iraq.

    An invasion of Iran is a loss for the Iranian leaders, full stop. Just in the same way that the invasion of Iraq was a loss for Saddam and the Bathists. I don’t think Saddam was chuckling as the noose was put around his neck “Yes, but the fools have 10 more years of quagmire awaiting them!”
    Your view (unless I’m mistaken) is that on a decades or centuries-long timescale, a convention war with Iran would ultimately hurt the U.S. more than Iran. Debatable, but I can see where you are coming from. (Even after 17 years, I would say Iraq has been hurt more than the U.S.) But the people running Iran are thinking in both a decades-and-centuries view AND a “me and all my compadres getting killed by a dozen cruise missiles during a years-long invasion would really, really suck” view.

  36. mattbernius says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    An invasion of Iran is a loss for the Iranian leaders, full stop. Just in the same way that the invasion of Iraq was a loss for Saddam and the Bathists.
    […]
    But the people running Iran are thinking in both a decades-and-centuries view AND a “me and all my compadres getting killed by a dozen cruise missiles during a years-long invasion would really, really suck” view.

    This. Thanks for putting it so succinctly.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I mean sure we can over-run anyone we want to. But the Iranian leadership isn’t Saddam Hussein; ruling by smoke and mirrors and hiding in a spider hole. Iran is holding joint military exercises with Russia and China.

    Its a more politically complex situation but Russia and China are not going to go into a hot war with us over Iran — especially if Iran did something that “caused a boatload of harm.”

    Iran doing anything “that causes a boatload of harm” would be the action of a suicidal regime. And they are not that.

  37. David M says:

    As to “what now with Iran”, Trump will continue on the consistent path he’s been on, and the results will be the same. He’ll keep hiring Iran hawks, otherwise known as Republicans, so the belligerence will continue. He’ll continue his disdain for diplomacy, so military actions become more likely. He’ll continue waging his sociopathic and pointless economic war on Iran, so their responses will keep slowly escalating. All leading to more military action

    Trump is only confusing if you listen to the garbage coming out of his mouth. If you look at the actions of this administration, it’s all too predictable and understandable.

    I mean it’s totally amoral and horrific, but that’s what we get for electing any Republican. It’s what they do.

  38. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    What Iran is thinking is:

    Hmm, seems like only yesterday we were in a bloody war with Saddam’s Iraq, and now we’re the dominant power in Iraq. Courtesy of the USA. Seems like only yesterday we were concerned that our buddy Assad was done for, and now we are the dominant foreign power in Syria. Courtesy of the USA.

    No doubt Khamenei is concerned for his own survival. But he’s 80 years old, and Shia has a strong martyr tradition. So I doubt he’s panicked. He just fired missiles from Iran itself, no cut-outs, no games, and the US is apparently letting it go. I imagine that got him hard.

    They keep getting closer to their strategic objectives, we keep getting further away. A US invasion would undoubtedly be scary for them, but they’d win in the end and they know it.

  39. Andy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    In a conventional sense, yes. But why has everyone forgotten the past 17 years we have been in Iraq? FFS. Do you think that’s WINNING? Do you really think Iran is going to be EASIER than that??? JFC.

    A war doesn’t require invasion and occupation, which is what we did in Iraq. That is simply not going to happen with Iran if there is a war. I’m using “winning” in the sense of defeating Iranian conventional forces as well as the ability to wreck their economy and completely reverse the gains they’ve made as a regional power. Iran has long understood that it can’t compete with us on that playing field, which is why they are so calculated and savvy about avoiding that kind of war.

    @KM:

    Yes, crazy people have insane troll logic that makes perfect sense to them.

    And people said and say the same thing about Saddam, Iran’s leaders, Qaddafi, the Kim dynasty, etc. Yet they were all able to gain and maintain power. Many of them made major errors and miscalculations, but that doesn’t make them irrational. Calling people who have clear patterns, goals, and methods of operating “crazy” is really missing the point. Actual crazy people end up living under bridges or in institutions, not becoming President.

    And all this isn’t to say that Trump is some kind of calculated clear thinker and planner. He is very much an instinctual person and his instincts are often wrong, which is why he compensates through flexibility and walks stuff back all the time.

    It just made Trump feel like a big man to order the military to blow something up in his name.

    No, only the scale of this was surprising (assassinating such a prominent figure), but Trump has been an opponent of Iran since the beginning. Here’s part of his speech to AIPAC in March 2016:

    When I am president, I will adopt a strategy that focuses on three things when it comes to Iran. First, we will stand up to Iran’s aggressive push to destabilize and dominate the region. Iran is a very big problem and will continue to be, but if I’m elected President, I know how to deal with trouble. … Secondly, we will totally dismantle Iran’s global terror network. Iran has seeded terror groups all over the world. During the last five years, Iran has perpetrated terror attacks in 25 different countries on five continents. They’ve got terror cells everywhere, including in the western hemisphere very close to home. Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorism around the world and we will work to dismantle that reach. Third, at the very least, we must hold Iran accountable by restructuring the terms of the previous deal. Iran has already – since the deal is in place – test-fired ballistic missiles three times. Those ballistic missiles, with a range of 1,250 miles, were designed to intimidate not only Israel, which is only 600 miles away but also intended to frighten Europe, and, someday, the United States.

    It’s pretty obvious – to me anyway – that this is consistent with how the Trump administration has acted in terms of Iran policy over the last three years. The Soleimani assassination was a huge gamble, but it wasn’t crazy or irrational and it was completely consistent with his stated view on Iran.

    Americans aren’t going to suddenly stop dying in hot zones because Soleimani’s taking a well-deserved dirt nap. We’re still targets – now more then we have in some time.

    That remains to be seen. But the strategic and tactical problem for Iran now is that it may not realize where Trump’s red lines are. That adds some risk for further actions they might take via proxies. Trump killed one of the most important Iranian leaders after a series of actions that Iran considered relatively minor and “normal” events. Is Iran now willing to risk even more aggressive action by their proxies? I don’t know, but we’ll soon find out.

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  40. Neil Hudelson says:

    Hmm, seems like only yesterday we were in a bloody war with Saddam’s Iraq, and now we’re the dominant power in Iraq. Courtesy of the USA. Seems like only yesterday we were concerned that our buddy Assad was done for, and now we are the dominant foreign power in Syria. Courtesy of the USA.

    Yup, and all that action took place in a country not named “Iran.” I cannot stress how important that fact is when defining “winning” for the Iranians.

    A US invasion would undoubtedly be scary for them, but they’d win in the end and they know it.

    I think you need to define “win,” and how long “in the end” is.

    If by “win” you mean “survive,” sure. Will the US have a permanent presence in Iran after this fictional invasion? No, not on a long enough timeline. Iran/Persia has been a nation since before the concept of a nation, and they’ll continue to be one.

    In this thread we are simultaneously claiming that Iran is a very, very rational state actor, and that their leaders get hard when firing off missiles, and will be fine with an invasion and occupation because, fuck it, the leader is old and it’ll all work out eventually.

    Additionally, this whole conversation also seems to be predicated on the idea that in every conventional war, there’s a winner and a loser. An invasion of Iran by the U.S. would not a be a “winnable” scenario for either side. Massive loss of life and treasure for the Iranians. Massive loss of treasure, some life, and losing all influence in the ME for the U.S.

  41. charon says:

    @KM:

    Well said. T is foolish, irrational and unpredictable, and anyone who assumes any type of rationality to his actions is a fool.

    Here is a link that makes the point at much greater length:

    https://aelkus.github.io/problem/2020/01/04/normal

    T really is in his “second childhood” as his senile dementia is now severely progressed. To the people above who have taken a sanguine view of toddler behavior when corrected, please recall that toddlers have been known to throw tantrums, I have seen them supine and screaming, kicking their heels at the floor.

    Apparently, his speech this morning was pretty symptomatic of the neurological issues.

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  42. Andy says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I think you’re exactly right.

    Iran, in order to further its goals, needs to diminish US power in the region while avoiding a war with the US. A war would be a disaster for Iran and the success of the Khomeinist revolution is something Iran actively seeks to avoid.

    @Mike in Arlington:

    What do you see as his pattern that we’re all missing?

    That is a good, fair but complicated question. I’m short on time right now, so I’ll have a more detailed response later. For now, the short answer is to focus on Trump’s actions and methods and not his Twitter feed.

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  43. charon says:

    BTW, I don’t see Iran as having “stood down.” I see them back to being what they have long been, a regional power contesting regional hegemony with the Arab states. I.e., continued support for Hezbollah etc, etc, etc.

  44. KM says:

    @Andy:

    The Soleimani assassination was a huge gamble, but it wasn’t crazy or irrational and it was completely consistent with his stated view on Iran.

    Just because something has internally consistent logic doesn’t make it logical or true over all, it just means it’s internally consistent. The end result is still illogical when viewed as part of the greater whole. I agree that this decisions is perfectly rational from the POV that Trump has zero idea what he’s doing, runs of his feelings and is far more likely to take a hawkish position he doesn’t fully comprehend then look “weak”. *However*, that doesn’t make this decision rational as it does the complete opposite of what it was meant to do, isn’t consistent with his stated end goal of MAGA / keeping the US a world power and anyone with a modicum of sense could have sussed that out. Our standing in that part of the world just took a hit it didn’t have to and there’s no logical reason for it other then Donnie Did Something Dumb.

    Furthermore, it wasn’t a “huge risk” but an *unnecessary* one that was given to him by military advisers solely so he’d had multiple options. Kinda like how nukes are always in the back pocket just in case but they’re never *really* a rational option (FYI Donnie had trouble with that logic too). He wasn’t supposed to take it and there’s reports the advisers couldn’t believe that he chose it when he had better choices on hand. He picked the least rational, highest potential to be FUBAR option because he’s Trump and that’s what he does. In other words, he’s consistently irrational as his actions do not align with his goals – he’s always been lucky enough to weasel out of consequences or have people delude themselves into thinking he’s crazy like a fox. He has failed upwards his entire life and everyone keeps trying to tell themselves it’s because he’s somehow clever enough to do it.

    We are in the unenviable position of waiting to see if Iran is smarter then we are. We gave them power we didn’t need to because the ball’s in their court and they’re going to control the outcome here. This didn’t have to happen. It’s happened because an irrational man made an irrational choice for internally consistent reasons that are – surprise!- irrational to 90% of the planet. Trying to argue there’s some hidden plan or cleverness we’re not getting is utterly missing the point. Telling us we just don’t understand him and his ways misses the point. His ways are a dumpster fire – I don’t need to understand the chemical composition of the garbage to know the damn thing needs to be put out.

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  45. Barry says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “No doubt Khamenei is concerned for his own survival. But he’s 80 years old, and Shia has a strong martyr tradition.”

    People who want to be martyrs don’t live to 80.

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  46. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    An invasion of Iran is a loss for the Iranian leaders, full stop.

    In a religion, and region, that loves martyrs…I don’t know.
    The point is that Iran just fired missiles on US targets…an exceedingly rare action. They now own Iraq, full stop. And they will soon have the nukes they have coveted for so long.
    Iraq, and Saddam, were weak. And we are still there 17 years later. Iran won’t be nearly as easy as all of you think. Especially with a President addicted to Adderall.

  47. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Barry:
    People who live to 80 have three options: 1) An easy death in bed, 2) a hard death in hospital, 3) blaze of glory.

  48. David M says:

    A lot of the confusion over Trump’s Iran policy is due to the fact they lie so constantly and easily that listening to their public statements is actually counter-productive.

    The single most important fact to remember is the current Republican Party has no use for diplomacy, and no interest in diplomatic solutions. They’ve shown they’ll accept states going nuclear before they engage in diplomacy, and they have zero regard for the lives of others, whether that be our citizens in the military or civilians abroad and especially not people in other countries.

    Once you remove those guardrails, everything since the year 2000 makes sense, and Trump is 100% on board with the Republican program, awful as it is. After you remove diplomacy from the list of acceptable options, all that is left is sanctions and military action, so that’s what we’re going to get. Iran’s actual actions are completely irrelevant here, just as nothing Iraq did mattered before Bush ordered the illegal invasion. If they want to get their war on, they will.

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  49. al Ameda says:

    @CSK:

    Trump says he will make a statement later today. I suppose the best we can hope for is that he will, as you say, spin this into some glorious victory, and then forget it.

    As you and others here at OTB may have noticed, this morning he slurred his words constantly, and predictably attacked Obama more than he did the Iranians.

  50. MarkedMan says:

    Back in the original post James commented that his compatriots did not have a consensus on whether or not the assassination of Suleimani was a good thing or not. The idea that intelligent people are framing the debate in this way is depressing. This is like if the chief of police decided to show the bad guys he meant business by getting drunk and shooting wildly into a crowd. A crowd surrounded by truckloads of high explosives. And then people start to argue over whether the guy he hit was bad enough to have deserved killing. Talk about missing the point…

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  51. Neil Hudelson says:

    In a religion, and region, that loves martyrs…I don’t know.

    Can you define what you mean by winning? Palestine loves martyrs. They have a bunch of them, 50+ years worth. Are they winning against Israel? Have the martyrs helped them move the needle in anyway?

    The point is that Iran just fired missiles on US targets…an exceedingly rare action.

    Which is so far the only action they’ve taken in decades that would come close to inviting an invasive response. It was a calculated gamble, and they won. If they lost, the price of losing would have been an invasion. To make the point again–in this scenario, the Iranians won if the U.S. didn’t invade in response, and lost if they did invade.

    They now own Iraq, full stop.

    Yup, which doesn’t support one way or the other the notion that they’d “win” an invasion.

    And they will soon have the nukes they have coveted for so long.

    Yup, while not being invaded.

    Iraq, and Saddam, were weak. And we are still there 17 years later. And we are still there 17 years later.

    Right, but again–do you think in this scenario, Saddam and the Bathists have won? What was their winning prize? And to the notion that “Iran isn’t Iraq,” how does that make this morerational for Iran, when they have WAY more to lose?

    Iran won’t be nearly as easy as all of you think.

    When have I, or anyone on this thread, argued that invading Iran would be easy, good, or wise? It won’t be. Iran is larger than Iraq, has smarter leaders (plural–it’s not a thug and his two sons here), and has a nationalistic population. Invading Iran is something no sane President would contemplate, and even with the buffoon in office, is something that is not gonna happen.

    You seem to be arguing that so long as the U.S. is hurt by an invasion–17 years of quagmire–this means Iran both “wins” and isn’t worried about an invasion. That’s hogwash. The U.S. will survive any terrorist attack thrown at us. That doesn’t mean we welcome terrorist attacks because, in the end, we’ll win anyway.

    Everyone here seems to agree that Iran is a rational actor. “Welcoming an invasion because it’ll hurt the other guy too” is not a rational act.

    And that’s not even addressing the fact that history is dynamic. After a theoretical 17 year quagmire in Iran, the Ayatollah doesn’t just pick up right where they left off and continue as before. The world changes. There’s no guarantee for Iran that even if they “win” an invasion, they are left with the same influence and power they have now. Seventeen years is a lot of time. Again, welcoming an invasion is not a rational act. Iran seems to be very rational in its actions. Ergo, the leaders are likely not contemplating an invasion as a good thing.

    One last point–I think it’s fairly well acknowledged that Iranians know their history better, are guided by it more than Americans, and do indeed take a longer view. The last time Iran directly tangled with a major world and western power was against the Russian empire in the 1800s. The result was a massive loss of territory by Iran. Now, Iran survived as a nation, so perhaps they thought it was a win, but I have a feeling that that loss of territory hurt. Indeed, it hurt so much that they haven’t voluntarily entered into a conventional military confrontation in about 200 years. (Saddam invaded Iran, so that one was kinda forced on them. )

  52. KM says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    I think it’s interesting everyone’s tactically accepting invasion is on the table instead of a new Cold War scenario. Let’s fact it – America invades where we’re sure we can kick ass otherwise we engage in “tensions”. We’ve always been like that. Places like Iran and China are far more likely to see us peruse Cold War shenanigans where we engage in cyber warfare and shoot at each other in other nations then go straight to the source.

    We will not and likely never will invade Iran – too many potential pain points. We will, however, shoot at each other in the waters of the Gulf and drag surrounding nations into the mess. I’d expect to see a huge uptick in proxy skirmishes in Iraq and Afghanistan then see US tanks on Iranian soil.

  53. Neil Hudelson says:

    Let’s change the scenario a bit. If the U.S. were to drop nukes on the top five biggest Iranian cities, Iran as a nation would still survive. On a long enough timeline. There would be millions dead, billions of dollars would have to be spent to rebuild. And yet, after such an attack, the U.S. would lose international standing and all of its influence in the ME. Likely many Iranian leaders would be considered martyrs.

    Increased regional influence, degrading the Great Satan, martydom, the whole shebang–they’d have it all. Do you think Iranians would view a mushroom cloud over Tehran as a “win?” If not, why not? And if not, why would an invasion–with almost the exact same results–be a “win” for them?

  54. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    In case it seems rude that I didn’t tag you in my reply–I accidentally deleted your name, and then ran out of editing time.

  55. Neil Hudelson says:

    @KM:

    I don’t think an invasion is a realistic scenario. I would say that it will never ever ever happen, but we have Trump in office so…

    I’m approaching this as purely theoretical. I believe Reynolds, Andy, and Matt are too. I’m not entirely sure if Daryl is viewing this as all academic, but I think he’s on the same page.

  56. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    To be fair, I think those are pretty much the options available to anyone of any age.

  57. CSK says:

    @al Ameda:

    Yes. Having listened to the entire speech, I think, as I’ve said, that he made it under duress. He did not want to be saying most of what someone else wanted him to say. I expect him to slur and mispronounce words more often when he gives a prepared speech.

    Blaming Obama is his default mode, but he sounded flat and uninspired even there.

  58. Kathy says:

    One thing to keep in mind about Iran, is that for a very long time the US has had troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which border Iran to the east and west. These troops were not used to attack Iran, but given the long enmity with America, they must have been very nervous about it. From their point of view, too, these troops have not been used to attack Iran yet.

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  59. Bill says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    People who live to 80 have three options: 1) An easy death in bed, 2) a hard death in hospital, 3) blaze of glory.

    Since April of last year I have been living in a 55 and older community composed of 14 buildings. A good number of the people in my building alone are old enough to be my parents.

    One neighbor, I’ll call him R, is 85. I take him to the store one or two times a weeks. He looks to be in good physical health other than an allergy problem. Mentally, he may be losing it slightly. I helped him fill out a passport application some months back. He’s done nothing with it and so far as I know, he don’t travel.

    Other neighbors of ours look their age. We have a 99-year-old downstairs but from my few encounters with her, D seems mentally sharp.

    Me, I’m 59, battle stage IV cancer, and write crazy stories that would leave a good number of people questioning my sanity.

  60. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    I’m pretty sure OBL thought he won…bullet in the forehead or not. He got the US to jump into a never-ending war. His legacy endures. A new study from Brown University says we have spent $6.4T. For what?
    I’m pretty sure Afghanistan thought they won when they drove Russia out after a decade or so.
    After 53 years of conflict I’m not sure what either side in the Israel-Palestinian conflict thinks about winning.
    I certainly do not think radical Islam sees winning and losing through the same prism that we do. Al Queda becomes ISIS becomes something else. Iraq becomes part of Iran (which used to be called Persia) all of which becomes something else someday. Radical Islam continues.
    All of which makes this discussion difficult on an academic level, like this; it’s nearly impossible for Trumpies to even wrap their brains around.
    I see no way in which we win. What do we win? What have we won so far?

  61. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I’m pretty sure OBL thought he won…bullet in the forehead or not. He got the US to jump into a never-ending war. His legacy endures.

    Yes, but OBL wasn’t a nation state, and Iran isn’t a loosely knit, decentralized terrorist organization, which is why I’ve asked you multiple times about Saddaam and the Bathists–its a more apt comparison, one which you are studiously avoiding.

    I’m pretty sure Afghanistan thought they won when they drove Russia out after a decade or so.

    By “Afghanistan” do you mean the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the nation as-constituted before the Soviet invasion? The one guaranteeing equal rights to women, universal education, and land reform? The one that was replaced by warring tribes, warlords and the Taliban? Because that Afghanistan definitely did not win that war–they ceased to exist.

    Your definition of “winning” here seems to be “the nation-state continued to exist in some form or another (even if the entire government is exiled/murdered, and the state collapses like in Afghanistan).” Japan continued to exist post WWII, even thrive, but I don’t think they won that war.

    After 53 years of conflict I’m not sure what either side in the Israel-Palestinian conflict thinks about winning.

    Indeed, which is why I question the importance of martyrdom in defining “winning.”

    I certainly do not think radical Islam sees winning and losing through the same prism that we do.
    Which makes this discussion difficult.

    We aren’t talking about ‘radical Islam,” we are talking about the actions of the nation of Iran. And while Iran’s population generally adheres to a version of Islam far too radical for my tastes, it’s actions as a nation are decidedly not made through a prism of Islamism (their propaganda notwithstanding).

    (Your sudden shift away from Iraq/Iran to Afghanistan/Islamism is…confusing.)

    I see no way in which we win. What do we win? What have we won so far?

    THIS! Now, apply that same logic to the current regime in Iran. What do they win that they aren’t already winning without being invaded? And if the answer is “well, not much more really” then it would be irrational folly to invite an invasion. Iran is decidely not an irrational actor, which is why I’m fairly confident an invasion is the very last thing the Iranian regime wants, regardless of how far you can stretch the definition of ‘winning.”

  62. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Who won? The US, or Vietnam???

  63. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    A few days ago Vox had this article up. A most enlightening point was the summary of a 2011 report by Stratfor, a private intelligence firm, that opined that for the US or other country to invade Iran and take Tehran to force regime change, would take an occupying force of 1.6M. As a point of reference the Vox writer pointed out that the US had only 185,000 troops in Iraq at the peak.

    With the current US manpower at approx. 2.3M including reserves, for the US to invade Iraq the draft would need to be reactivated and the capacity for the military to train those draftees would need to be built up… So a ground war and an invasion isn’t happening soon.

    Now Iran has responded and indicated that this is their reprisal, whether Tiny does or doesn’t escalate, the Iranians can go back to terrorist tactics and soft targets. Then of course they’ll blame ISIS. Who we’re no longer fighting.

  64. Moosebreath says:

    @Andy:

    This Vox piece seems to provide a rationale for Trump’s behavior which fits most of the facts — his goal is dominance, and he felt Iran was not taking him seriously enough. The conclusion:

    “Trump likely intended [the Soleimani assassination] as an attempt to try and assert his dominance, and to prove that he really will act in outrageous and shocking ways sometimes. His reputation for dangerous unpredictability (which he evidently sees as an asset) had waned somewhat since he took office. And this was indeed a stunning move that appeared to violate norms against targeting foreign leaders. And Trump then threatened that he was ruthless enough to go even further, by saying he’d overwhelmingly retaliate against a response from Tehran he deemed unacceptable, including against Iranian cultural sites.

    Yet Trump accompanied this by saying he did not support “regime change” and doesn’t want war. So he seemed to be sending a message — that Iran had gone too far with the embassy attacks, and that they should show more restraint in the future, or else — but, if they did show more restraint, this wouldn’t be the start of a larger US war.

    It was a dangerous gamble. But for now, at least, it appears that Iran doesn’t want war — the regime responded, but in a way that didn’t kill any Americans. Yet in asserting his dominance in the short term, Trump could be creating more problems for the US in the longer term. “

  65. charon says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Which is so far the only action they’ve taken in decades that would come close to inviting an invasive response. It was a calculated gamble, and they won. If they lost, the price of losing would have been an invasion.

    Really? Amphibious landings, like Normandy? Do you have some country in mind that would permit an invasion into Iran across its border?

    I do not believe the Pentagon is that stupid.

    It was a calculated gamble, and they won.

    The only risk was air and missile attacks, get a lot of their stuff blown up in a both sides lose happening. The only reason that risk existed, and it was clearly real, is that Donald is mentally ill and cognitively impaired.

    @Kathy:

    Iraq is not going to permit an invasion across its border. Afghanistan seems a bit logistically problematical as a minimum.

  66. charon says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    A few days ago Vox had this article up. A most enlightening point was the summary of a 2011 report by Stratfor, a private intelligence firm, that opined that for the US or other country to invade Iran and take Tehran to force regime change, would take an occupying force of 1.6M. As a point of reference the Vox writer pointed out that the US had only 185,000 troops in Iraq at the peak.

    Considering the joint chiefs told Bush it would take 500,000 to successfully occupy much smaller Iraq, 1.6 M sounds about right. The Bush- Cheney answer was we only have 130,000 available so we will make do with 130,000. History relates how well that worked out.

  67. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Saddaam and the Bathists

    Did Saddam win? Obviously not…and he was NOT inviting invasion. That was a PNAC wet dream. But the Sunni’s became Al-Qaeda in Iraq became ISIS.
    Because of Trumps mis-adventure our fight against ISIS has been “paused” so they will continue to exist at least for a while.
    17 years, and $6.4T, later we have won nada.

  68. Neil Hudelson says:

    Deleted by author–no interest in continuing the argument.

  69. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Obviously not…and he was NOT inviting invasion.

    I agree! That’s because, rationally, states generally don’t invite an invasion, even if the result will be a 17 year quagmire for the invading force. That’s literally been my point this whole time.

  70. Neil Hudelson says:

    @charon:

    You’re right–I should have said “protracted military conflict.” As I’ve stated before, I do not think an invasion of Iran is going to happen.

  71. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    You win.

  72. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Coming to the argument late. (Was at school all day teaching a poetry unit.) But I have to say, I’m not sure that I understand what all the fuss has been about. We have the word of none other than the Secretary of State promising

    Americans should know that we will do the right thing.

    I can’t imagine what more we could want than the *smartest guy in the room* (well, that room anyway, not a-smartest-guy-in-the-room type, to be sure) making that promise. If I ever knew what he was talking about, I might advise that we might consider taking what Guarneri or Tyrell has to say on this topic more seriously, but…

  73. charon says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Americans should know that we will do the right thing.

    Different people have varying ideas as to what “the right thing” is. Pompeo being an extreme Iran hawk may have a different idea as to what “the right thing” might be.

    (Pompeo reportedly was egging Trump on for the recent Iran adventure).

  74. Andrew says:

    Trump is a fucking fool.

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  75. Andy says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    Ok, a little more on this:

    What do you see as his pattern that we’re all missing?

    To start off, this is analysis not advocacy. I’ve never been a Trump supporter, didn’t vote for him and don’t plan to vote for him in 2020.

    The first thing is to consider actions above rhetoric. After four+ years people are still obsessed and take everything he tweets seriously and then worst-cases it until the next news cycle. The latest about attacking Iranian cultural sites is a case-in-point. It was inflammatory, stupid and counterproductive, but it was never a serious consideration for a multitude of reasons.

    This, in my view, is really why so many think he is unhinged or might literally do anything. There are probably thousands of similar tweets that have been gnashed over that are now long forgotten thanks to the myopically short-term news cycle that dominates Twitter and the beltway bubble.

    So instead, I try to focus on actions, consistency and what is actually possible.

    Without getting too into the weeds, let just look at foreign policy. I’d say there are four broad themes in Trump’s foreign policy:

    1. A deep skepticism for foreign wars, interventions and attempts to right the world’s wrongs.
    2. A transactional approach to foreign policy, even with allies (with two possible exceptions – Israel and the UK).
    3. America as the world’s “Alpha Male” that doesn’t take shit from anybody and puts the focus on American sovereignty. This is American Exceptionalism without the benevolent attitude.
    4. A skepticism of globalism generally and in all its forms, including free trade and open immigration.

    Most of Trump’s FP actions fit into that framework. I can’t think of any offhand that doesn’t except for Trump’s love of Israel.

    Note that all of those are completely contrary to the national security establishment and the tenets of US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. That contrasting framework:
    – Has a deep affinity for interventions and righting the world’s wrongs.
    – Sees allies more like family with America as the father figure than sovereign countries with their own interests.
    – Sees American hegemony in terms of inherently benevolent power.
    – Has a dogmatic belief in globalism.

    As for Trump himself, his methodology is also pretty consistent:

    – He doesn’t believe in process or what we call “the interagency” and what was considered normal bureaucratic governance.
    – He values his own views above experts until convinced otherwise (and often not even then) – he relies a lot on his own instincts.
    – His transactional approach is rooted in the world of New York real estate where he is the boss and there are no permanent friends or allies.

    In sum, I think Trump is a lot more consistent than his Twitter feed would suggest. Whether one agrees with Trump’s views and policies is a different matter. But I think those who actually believe that Trump “might do anything” are not paying close enough attention, or are distracted by the shiny social media outrage machine.

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  76. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    If I ever knew what he was talking about, I might advise that we might consider taking what Guarneri or Tyrell has to say on this topic more seriously, but…

    I think you’re supposed to take Tyrell literally but not seriously, and Guarneri seriously but not literally.

  77. Kathy says:

    @Andrew:

    Water is f***g wet.

  78. Andy says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Yes, I think a lot of that Vox piece hits the right notes.

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Yes, exactly – that’s why an invasion of Iran is a fantasy. It’s a country with twice the population of Iraq, three times the land area and geography that is hostile to modern mechanized warfare. We simply don’t have the ability to invade Iran, much less occupy it.

    But we can wreck it from the sea and air.

  79. Andy says:

    @Kathy:

    Water is f***g wet.

    Apparently not to those who think Trump is crazy, irrational and capable of doing literally anything.

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  80. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    Apparently not to those who think Trump is crazy, irrational and capable of doing literally anything.

    Many of us think he is crazy, irrational, and incapable of doing literally anything.

    At least anything he sets out to do.

    I’m a firm believer that he never expected to win the Presidency, and that he simply failed at losing.

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  81. Gustopher says:

    @Moosebreath:

    It was a dangerous gamble. But for now, at least, it appears that Iran doesn’t want war

    I don’t think Iran wants war, and certainly not a war on the US’s terms.

    I don’t think we would be able to overthrow and hold any substantial chunk of Iran, and so we would by definition lose … but that doesn’t mean Iran would win. It would be a lose-lose scenario.

    Now, a low level continuous conflict using small attacks through proxies at soft targets and targets of opportunity, designed to make the cost of staying in Iraq too high… that’s absolutely the war Iran wants right now.

    They might stumble into war by accident though.

  82. Kathy says:

    @Andy:

    I thought we were stating the f***g obvious 😉

    As to one of your other points:

    1) We know, and no doubt the DoD also knows, that a land invasion of Iran would be a disaster. Does Trump know this?

    2) We can wreck Iran through bombings, shellings, and naval actions, sure. Leaving aside the immorality of such actions, what would Iran do in return? They likely have no nukes as yet, but what do they have? Chemical weapons? Enough radioactive material for a few dirty bombs?

    3) A limited land invasion to take a chunk of territory is possible. It’s what Saddam tried to do, badly. It wouldn’t be cheap, and I know of no specific chunk that can be taken. But this is the kind of things Dennison might just dream up one day.

  83. Modulo Myself says:

    I think if Trump fell on his ass into a war it would stick. But his one main problem is that he has no interest on stories. For all of the bullshit about what he is and isn’t for, he just doesn’t have any interest in narratives. Most dumb people enjoy movies, but he doesn’t seem to like any of that craziness. He comes from a very hostile place where nobody has ever shared anything. That’s why he sticks to the War on Christmas and how Mexicans are terrifying and Hillary and her emails. He has a limited range, and you have to have a greater range or luck into a 9/11 in order to get a war against a far-away country going.

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  84. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    Yes, exactly – that’s why an invasion of Iran is a fantasy. It’s a country with twice the population of Iraq, three times the land area and geography that is hostile to modern mechanized warfare. We simply don’t have the ability to invade Iran, much less occupy it.

    But we can wreck it from the sea and air.

    Or as I keep suggesting: look at a relief map and read a bit about the US in WW2 Italy. Then there’s the fact that they’re just a short hop for Russians bearing crates of toys. And I don’t think the threat against Dubai was empty. Are the princes and oligarchs and their Malaysian maids ready to keep calm and carry on? (Imagine the videos of missiles hitting glass towers.)

    The question of winning and losing comes down to who we mean by ‘they.’ If they is the regime, they lose. If they is the Iranians writ large, we lose. It’s also a function of time. Victories can become pyrrhic over time.

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  85. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: You make a lot of good points and I suspect your analysis will result in a pretty solid theory-vs-actuality hit ratio. But I think there is a lot wider range of Trumpian analysis than you may think, much of which overlaps with what you are saying. For instance, I don’t think trump is irrational, but rather that his rational processes work in a very crude and animalistic way. Basically, he has the rational capacity of a gorilla. He doesn’t process information and emotions beyond “That man/idea/fact makes me feel uncomfortable/inadequate/disrespected and therefore I must attack it.” Given his natural bellicosity I think it makes him extremely predictable, easily goaded and therefore extremely easy to manipulate if what you want is to flail out in an aggressive and destructive manner.

    So I’m not really disagreeing with anything you say, but just have a much more negative interpretation of what it all means.

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  86. Guarneri says:

    You guys crack me up. A mass killing terrorist dead. A limp dirk Iranian response. None of your hand wringing predictions come to pass……..

    And you all are disappointed……………over politics. What a sick crew.

    BTW – all those fantasizing over nuclear exchanges need to lay off the Jack. It would be military and oil targets. And then Iran chokes on its own vomit.

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  87. DrDaveT says:

    @Andy:

    I’d say there are four broad themes in Trump’s foreign policy: […]

    Thank you for taking the time to lay out this carefully considered and formulated position.

    I respectfully disagree.

    I think that all of Trump’s actions are better explained by the theory that he acts entirely spontaneously, transactionally, and giving consideration only to what he thinks is likely to increase his power/reputation/support/wealth in the short- to medium-term.

    I can think of no counterexamples to falsify this theory. Also, my theory explains a feature of Trump’s behavior over time that your theory cannot — namely, that he reverses his own positions on major issues all the time.

    (I do not base any of this on his tweets, which I discount as well, except to the extent that they are also intended to stoke his base.)

    But I repeat — thank you for taking the time to craft such a careful statement of your position.

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  88. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher:

    I’m a firm believer that he never expected to win the Presidency, and that he simply failed at losing.

    Imagine that: so stupid, so incompetent, so utterly impotent that he couldn’t even lose properly.

    Well, it’s pretty clear at this point he’s dead-set on fixing that “problem,” and taking the rest of America down with him.

  89. Jim Brown 32 says:

    So, as I predicted….Iran selected a de-escalatory response. They will save an actual gut punch for one of their proxy networks to carry out. This isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination.

    After reading the comments this evening..there is one thing I think bears pointing out. We all have to recognize that its impossible to be completely informed about all the moving parts by the news media. Having had up-close acesss to comparable events in the cable news era–there are always contextual events that don’t make the news or simply aren’t amplified by the news. Now, all parties to these type events have an understanding of information warfare and thus use the media to gain narrative advantage. Add in media that work as outlets for political parties and you can get jedi-mind tricked quite easily. We think we’re informed–and we are–but only partially.

    Frankly, I see this latest exchange as a draw in terms of policy outcome. The Administration has consistently said their goal is for a new deal with Iran to replace JCPOA. For Trump to return to sanctions after taking a blatantly provocative move is going in a circle. He could have imposed new sanctions after the embassy storming. Unless of course, if the actual goal was to wack Solemani as a gift to the Saudis–who are also fighting a proxy war with Iran.

    In my view, the entire premise of our foreign policy with Iran is misguided. Preventing them from having a nuclear weapon is cold-war thinking. Im not a fan of JCPOA but at least it was born out of a “harm reduction” mindset which is where I believe our p0licy framework should be. For the US to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons, we’d first have to priorities Iran as a greater threat than Russia and China..which no strategic US Gov’t communicates. Because Iran is our 3rd priority–and will remain so… they will eventually become a nuclear power. That’s more of a threat to Israel than to the US but it doesn’t take a genius to see that for some strange reason…”America First” doesn’t apply to Israel. Kudo’s to Trump for taking the out the Iranian gave him. They are biding their time until the election—no telling how many facebook ads they’re buying.

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  90. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Guarneri: I cracked up after you used the word “limp”–freudian slip? )

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  91. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    Yeah, I recall your unalloyed patriotic joy when Obama killed OBL. Hypocrite.

    As to the strategic picture, just admit you aren’t bright enough to see beyond your glandular reaction.

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  92. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    It always comes back to impotence with these guys. Missile = dick. Bomb = orgasm. And of course he’ll never have done anything more bold than race a yellow light.

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  93. Barry says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “Frankly, I see this latest exchange as a draw in terms of policy outcome. The Administration has consistently said their goal is for a new deal with Iran to replace JCPOA. For Trump to return to sanctions after taking a blatantly provocative move is going in a circle. He could have imposed new sanctions after the embassy storming. Unless of course, if the actual goal was to wack Solemani as a gift to the Saudis–who are also fighting a proxy war with Iran. ”

    I would say that it’s a slight win for Iran, assuming that Solemani is the sort of ‘irreplaceable man’ who can be found by the dozen in any cemetery:

    The US murdered a major government official, claiming the war on anybody, anywhere it pleases terror. This is a significant escalation.

    The US murdered a major government official who was traveling on official business in an allied state. This is a major long-term diplomatic problem.

    People in the US had their minds concentrated wonderfully by the *immanent* prospect of Trump taking the USA to war.

    As to who else was pushing it, my money is on Israel. According to some press, Solemani was traveling between Tehran, Riyadh and Baghdad to help ease tensions; the main people who’d hate that are Israel.

  94. Barry says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “So, as I predicted….Iran selected a de-escalatory response. They will save an actual gut punch for one of their proxy networks to carry out. This isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination.”

    You get credit for this.

  95. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Mikey:

    Imagine that: so stupid, so incompetent, so utterly impotent that he couldn’t even lose properly.

    Sounds like the Dolphins…losing a draft pick.

  96. Mike in Arlington says:

    @Andy: Thanks for your response. It deserves a longer response from me, but I did want to respond to your argument that he’s predictable and isn’t quite as unpredictable as his twitter feed may suggest. I generally agree with this, with the following caveats:
    — That he’s unpredictable is an image he’s tried hard to promote and that unpredictability is a good thing strategically. So it’s no mistake that people think this about him. That said, I agree that he has a handful of go-to moves, making him more predictable, especially over the long term, although some of his individual actions and decisions may take everybody by surprise.
    — He has a poor grasp on, well, let’s be honest, everything. Since he is so ill-informed, he will make some piss poor decisions that will surprise anybody with a modicum of common sense and general knowledge. For example, I didn’t know who Soleimani was before, but I would never think that killing him would be a low-risk option that wouldn’t cause unintended, long term effects. So in that way, he can be unpredictable.

    I will try to respond in a more complete way, and it might appear in another thread, should this one stop being updated.
    ETA: changed “could” to “wouldn’t”

  97. gVOR08 says:

    @Mike in Arlington: I more or less agree, but with some large caveats.
    – His desire to appear unpredictable often seems like after the fact rationalization.
    – Even if we take his psychological predilections as offering a way to predict his actions, his “poor grasp on, well, let’s be honest, everything” makes it difficult to anticipate what aspect of a situation he may fixate on. We have no way of knowing who he talked to last.
    – One predictable behavior, shared with other Republicans, is that he will often do the right thing. After he’s caught enough flack for doing the wrong thing. He appears to have just done this with Iran.

  98. Mike in Arlington says:

    @gVOR08: You have caveats to my caveats? How dare you! How dare you, sir!

    I’m not sure how much of his unpredictability is an after the fact rationalization or not. He said a number of times during the campaign that we should be more unpredictable and that is one of the things that he would bring to the white house. However, that is not mutually exclusive of using it to explain some of his erratic behavior. My point was that this was an image that he’s tried to promote, so it’s not like it comes just from an attempt to explain his behavior.

    “Even if we take his psychological predilections ..” – that actually is my point. That because he doesn’t understand policy and doesn’t want to education himeself, his decisions are so uninformed that sometimes they can be hard to predict.

    I don’t know about taking the right decision. Someone convinced him that he needed an escape hatch for this charlie foxtrot that he started with Iran and he took it. I think this was more self-preservation than taking flak. In fact, he’s shown that he has a high tolerance to shame, so this decision was foisted upon him using some other leverage.

  99. Michael Reynolds says:

    Bottom line: Iran is closer to getting a nuclear weapon today than they were last week, and closer than they were when the asshat was elected by a minority of voters.

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  100. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: An incredible shot from the defensive zone red line… HE SCOOORRRRES!!!!!!

  101. Andy says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    I think those are fair caveats. Trump obviously isn’t completely consistent or always precisely predictable (and who is?). But he’s far more consistent and predictable than those who believe he is crazy, irrational, or capable of doing or supporting literally anything.

    @MarkedMan:

    So I’m not really disagreeing with anything you say, but just have a much more negative interpretation of what it all means.

    Yes, I think that’s fair. I would note again that I’m not a Trump supporter and am highly critical of many of his policies and I don’t think someone with his character should hold the office. I just think that the fear-mongering that Trump might do anything is both wrong and counterproductive.

  102. Andy says:

    @Kathy:

    As to one of your other points:

    1) We know, and no doubt the DoD also knows, that a land invasion of Iran would be a disaster. Does Trump know this?

    Probably not, but I don’t see this as very important. President’s are ignorant of many things, Trump differs mainly in degree.

    2) We can wreck Iran through bombings, shellings, and naval actions, sure. Leaving aside the immorality of such actions, what would Iran do in return? They likely have no nukes as yet, but what do they have? Chemical weapons? Enough radioactive material for a few dirty bombs?

    That would really depend on the nature and scope of the conflict. War is an inherently uncertain enterprise.

    3) A limited land invasion to take a chunk of territory is possible. It’s what Saddam tried to do, badly. It wouldn’t be cheap, and I know of no specific chunk that can be taken. But this is the kind of things Dennison might just dream up one day.

    Again, it would depend on the nature and scope of the conflict. In a major conflict, I think it would be quite likely that the US would seize some of the Iranian-controlled islands in the Gulf. In my view, there would be little point in landing or invading the mainland absent a desire to conquer Iran, which I don’t think is possible.

  103. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    One more passing thought. It may be that we are overanalyzing this whole thing. Policy/not policy, intentions/unintentional, vision/lack there of, dangerous/unthinking/primal/whatever–that all probably doesn’t matter. The real consideration is that Trump was seen (even by some of his supporters) as out of his depth. He’s not up to the job. Four years later, we see nothing that shows any change in that situation. He’s still not up to the job. Focus on that. All the rest is blog commentariat window dressing.

    The bigger problem may be that people who know that Trump is not up to the job will support him anyway. That’s major “you can’t fix stupid.” Bigly.

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  104. Kathy says:

    Now there are reports Iran might have shot down the Ukrainian plane.

    I’ve no doubt the Iranians will deny it, and the evidence thus far is rather thin. A missile would fit what we know of the crash, but so would an un-contained engine failure, or a bomb on board, or other things.

    This is certain to complicate things.

  105. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    Without getting too into the weeds, let just look at foreign policy. I’d say there are four broad themes in Trump’s foreign policy:

    1. A deep skepticism for foreign wars, interventions and attempts to right the world’s wrongs.

    I’ll agree with this, but it gets overridden impulsively by #3.

    2. A transactional approach to foreign policy, even with allies (with two possible exceptions – Israel and the UK).

    That assumes that he is getting something big from Russia then, given how deferential he is to their interests.

    3. America as the world’s “Alpha Male” that doesn’t take shit from anybody and puts the focus on American sovereignty. This is American Exceptionalism without the benevolent attitude.

    He’s thin-skinned and has fetishized feeling like a victim. Nothing more. Just poor impulse control and resentment.

    Given how thin-skinned he is with everything else, I think you’re trying to put to much of a framework on this, which ends up being an after-the-fact rationalization. Much like Trump himself boasting that he’s a “counter-puncher” — he takes a weakness (he’s easily provoked) and tries to dress it up as a strength.

    And he looks at those who don’t have to take shit from anyone — the dictators who don’t care about international criticism — and sees something admirable in them. Putin, Kim, Duarte, Erdovan… these are people he wants to be more like.

    It’s a defining weakness that prevents him from being effective.

    I would also say that his definition of “America” does not include all Americans.

    4. A skepticism of globalism generally and in all its forms, including free trade and open immigration.

    I think that, except for immigration, this falls into #2 — a question of “well, what’s in it for me?” Along with an inability to plan more than one or two steps in advance.

    As far as immigration goes, I think his behavior can simply be explained by a racist, thin-skinned response. Why are there poor brown people showing up on his doorstep?

    I’ll offer a simpler explanation of Trump’s foreign (and domestic) policy.

    1. Transactional nature that doesn’t look at second order effects.

    2. A narrow definition of America that is just the America that likes him.

    3. Aspirations of Big Dick Energy, constantly sabotaged by his resentment over having a small penis.

    He’s a bad boyfriend who thinks that because he is a great lover he can do whatever he wants, but he’s not a good lover and gets angry and defensive and withdrawn when that’s pointed out. He also resents the previous boyfriend, that black guy.

    It sounds flippant, but it basically explains everything.

    He wants America to be a Superpower, but he doesn’t want to do any of the hard work, just use the threat of our strength (the big dick). For anything where that’s not effective, he gets defensive and withdrawn. And he admires and sucks up to those who do get their way.

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  106. steve says:

    Andy-

    I guess I can see how you came to your conclusions, but some of them dont quite fit. His skepticism on foreign intervention didnt stop him from Bombing Syria over chemicals, sending troops to KSA and its not like we are pulling out of anywhere. I think the Alpha Male thing is more properly interpreted as his being the alpha male.

    I think you are forgetting that he was a reality TV star. Ratings matter to him. In this case it is his domestic audience. Everything he both says and does is calibrated for his domestic audience. He says and acts impulsively, it doesn’t look like much of anything is planned, but always he is doing something that will please his audience, ie his voters. Sometimes he goes too far in pleasing them and then he pulls back when he realizes bad stuff might happen as a result of his impulsive speech or act. How does he know what his audience wants? “The shows.” Much simpler explanation that also accounts for both what he says and does.

    Steve

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  107. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Kathy:

    This is certain to complicate things.

    Kathy wins the understatement award.

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  108. Kathy says:

    @steve:

    I think the Alpha Male thing is more properly interpreted as his being the alpha male.

    He certainly acts like one. You know, he makes a lot of noise and throws his own s**t around.

  109. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    That assumes that he is getting something big from Russia then, given how deferential he is to their interests.

    That’s actually a good example of what I’m talking about.

    There is a disconnect between what Trump says and what his administration does. No doubt Trump (inappropriately in my view) has been verbally too deferential to Russia generally and Putin in particular. But his administration’s actual actions tell a different story:

    – He sold lethal weapons to Ukraine (which Russia strongly objected to), something Pres. Obama refused to do. He’s continued the bilateral relations with Ukraine, including US troops for training Ukrainian forces.
    – The administration sanctioned Russia and Russian entities seven times in 2019, nine times in 2018 and once in 2017. His administration has actively used the Magnitsky Act.
    – His administration still forcefully refuses to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
    – One of his first acts in office was bombing Russia’s most important ME ally, Syria.
    – Expelled around 60 Russian officials from the Russian Embassy and UN.
    – He’s maintained our NATO presence and training commitments on Russia’s frontier, particularly the Baltic states and Poland
    – Issue several statements and sanctions as a result of Russia’s assassination campaign, particularly in the UK
    – Instituted export restrictions and then eventually withdrew from the INF treaty due to Russia’s long-standing violations.
    – Denounced and sanctioned Russia for their support to the Maduro regime in Venezuela

    I could probably find more things with some research.

    I know there are some people here who actually believe that Putin owns and essentially controls Trump, but where is the evidence? What material benefit has Russia received from Trump?

    Again, I look more at actions rather than what people say or virtue signal.

  110. Andy says:

    @steve:

    I guess I can see how you came to your conclusions, but some of them dont quite fit. His skepticism on foreign intervention didnt stop him from Bombing Syria over chemicals, sending troops to KSA and its not like we are pulling out of anywhere. I think the Alpha Male thing is more properly interpreted as his being the alpha male.

    As should now be obvious, Trump isn’t afraid to use military force as a punch in the nose. Intervention implies some kind of longer-term commitment and is different from simple retribution. And yes, he’s not been perfectly consistent but his skepticism of interventions I don’t think can be denied even if he gets talked out of it. Mattis quit because of Trump’s desire to withdraw troops from Syria for example.

  111. David M says:

    So Iran shot down the Ukrainian airline and killing 176 people, a not unforeseeable outcome of Trump continually increasing pressure on Iran, for absolutely no reason.

    This is what people mean when they say Trump is completely unpredictable and might do anything. He just got a bunch of Iranians and Canadians killed because he doesn’t trust experts.

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  112. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Kathy:

    I’m not a missile-identification expert, nor do I play one on TV, so I’ll just share this tweet from Steffan Watkins:

    “There are still questions about the #PS752 tragedy, but the sensors U.S. sources are quoting are in orbit to detect missile launches. They’re there to spot what they saw. The likelihood U.S. space-based IR sensors are wrong is miniscule.”

  113. Andy says:

    @David M:

    He just got a bunch of Iranians and Canadians killed because he doesn’t trust experts.

    So by that same logic, the US isn’t responsible for the Vincennes shootdown because we didn’t start the tanker war?

    No, Iran owns this tragedy. This was an Iranian action that took place during an Iranian attack on Iraqi bases.

    @Neil Hudelson:

    As a former intel guy who spent most of his career analyzing foreign air defense systems, I have a high degree of confidence in the US government assessment. I know what sources and methods the reports obliquely mention and if they detected what is alleged in the leaks, then there is no doubt in my mind that Iran shot down the plane. That fact that SA-15 missile parts were found near the wreckage is also dispositive.

  114. Kathy says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I tend to believe it, pending further, harder evidence. But I also tend to doubt anything produced by Dennison’s so-called administration.

    Not to mention that sensors, and especially the people interpreting their data, have been wrong numerous times. Ask the disgraced commander of the USS Vincennes.

  115. David M says:

    @Andy:

    This was an obvious risk of escalating and continuing to increase the pressure on Iran. Again, all for nothing.

    If a disliked neighbor is armed, but someone still continually fires rounds into the house (for no reason), it carries the risk they fire back and hit someone who isn’t involved.

    It’s unserious to treat Trump’s actions towards Iran as beginning with the assassination.

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  116. steve says:

    Andy- You keep having to explain exceptions with your model. I dont think I do with mine, but then I would think that.

    Steve

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  117. Kathy says:

    @Andy:

    No, Iran owns this tragedy.

    Agreed, but I don’t expect them to own up to it absent strong pressure. even if/when it’s determined definitely they shot down the plane, they’ll try to blame Trump (not entirely without reason).

    The negligence must have been extreme. it’s not as if there were drones and fighter planes buzzing all over Tehran. And you’d think people in charge of air defenses would know the flight paths out of the capital’s airport.

  118. Andy says:

    @steve:

    As I said at the outset, I’m describing a general pattern, which is what the questioner originally asked. I’m not describing an iron law. With our species and with politics, there are always some exceptions when it comes to human behavior – they don’t invalidate the overall pattern.

    Your “model” is just one factor (he only cares about the “audience”) and that single-factor model isn’t incompatible with my pattern. And there are certainly exceptions to that as well, such as Trump’s semi-frequent advocacy for gun control. In any event, What politician doesn’t play to and try to please their base? I think your model is a tautology.

    @David M:

    Of course there is a risk in escalating (and I thought this escalation was unwise), but that doesn’t make Trump responsible for shooting down that airplane.

    It’s unserious to treat Trump’s actions towards Iran as beginning with the assassination.

    Which is something I never said or implied. Obviously there is a long history of events that brought us to this point.

  119. Andy says:

    @Kathy:

    Air defense is a lot more complicated than it seems at first glance. And when there are extremely high tensions and pressure, it’s a lot easier to make mistakes because the stakes are high, information may be incomplete and decision times are short.

    It’s actually not at all uncommon for air defense systems to shoot down friendly aircraft. US patriot systems, for example, shot down a couple of aircraft after the first Gulf War. For the next several years the pilots I briefed prior to missions for Southern Watch were more scared of those than anything Iraq had.

  120. Paul L. says:

    Democrats to add to the Articles of Impeachment against Trump.
    1) Assassination of beloved Iran Military hero General Qassem Soleimani
    2) The murder of the people on Iran Air Flight 655.
    “It’s Trump’s fault the Iranians shot down the airliner because he killed the guy who murdered hundreds of Americans and thousands of other people across the Near East”

    Progressives don’t let #Cult45 lie, bully and gaslight you away from the narrative on this like they did with Duke Lacrosse/UVA, Kavanaugh and Covington!

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  121. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Paul L.:
    Trump has admitted to enough illegal activity to make this a pointless discussion.
    But the fact of the matter is that if Trump hadn’t violated the JCPOA none of this would be happening.
    If I wave someone on at an intersection and there is a traffic accident as a result, I am responsible for that accident.
    Trump violated a valid agreement…no one else…so everything that falls out of that violation, he bears some responsibility for, no matter how small.
    Just the same, I am comfortable with the Bribery, Wire Fraud, and Obstruction, that he has already confessed to.

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  122. Kathy says:

    @Andy:

    Air defense is a lot more complicated than it seems at first glance.

    From what little I know about it, I can see this is the case. Also:

    It’s actually not at all uncommon for air defense systems to shoot down friendly aircraft.

    Or to bomb friendly forces.

    But given Iran’s history with the Vincennes shoot down, you’d think they’d be more careful. Especially in the environs of a commercial airport, where you expect aircraft to fly at low altitudes, and to vary their altitudes at all times. Not to mention commercial airliners have transponders that identify them.

  123. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    Are you sure your experience wasn’t in dsinformation?

    – He sold lethal weapons to Ukraine (which Russia strongly objected to), something Pres. Obama refused to do. He’s continued the bilateral relations with Ukraine, including US troops for training Ukrainian forces.

    Actually he insisted that while Ukraine could buy anti-tank missiles they could not be used against Russia.

    – The administration sanctioned Russia and Russian entities seven times in 2019, nine times in 2018 and once in 2017. His administration has actively used the Magnitsky Act.

    Trump’s hand was forced by Congress which feared he’d kill the sanctions as he repeatedly talked about doing.

    – His administration still forcefully refuses to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

    Forcefully refuses, does it? While at the same time killing the strong pro-Ukraine plank the GOP at the convention?

    – One of his first acts in office was bombing Russia’s most important ME ally, Syria.

    It was a pinprick and you know it. And back in those days he wasn’t certain of the Senate’s servility. It was the very least he could do.

    – Expelled around 60 Russian officials from the Russian Embassy and UN.

    I’ll give you that, but again, at that point he still had an actual SecState (of sorts) and there was still a State Department. You’re giving him credit for doing the absolute minimum he could have gotten away with given where politics was at that point.

    – He’s maintained our NATO presence and training commitments on Russia’s frontier, particularly the Baltic states and Poland

    Jesus Christ, dude, we’re giving him points for not absolutely annihilating NATO? This is some pure bullshit. He’s done everything he can get away with (or comprehend) to harm NATO. Ask a German or a Belgian – let alone an Estonian – whether they think Trump supports NATO.

    – Issue several statements and sanctions as a result of Russia’s assassination campaign, particularly in the UK

    You’re seriously giving him credit for allowing his State Department to condemn an assassination on the home territory of our closest ally? If you had a shovel could you bury that bar any lower?

    – Instituted export restrictions and then eventually withdrew from the INF treaty due to Russia’s long-standing violations.

    Withdrew from the INF treaty thus allowing Russia to openly pursue a type of weapon they can position within range of NATO while political reality makes it impossible to match that? WTF are we going to due with intermediate range nukes that we can’t already do better with naval forces? Naval forces Russia can’t match. Tell me how it helps us to get out of a treaty that at least allowed us to whine when the Russians violated it? Now they can not only develop weapons systems but deploy them openly.

    – Denounced and sanctioned Russia for their support to the Maduro regime in Venezuela

    You seem to have forgotten meeting with Putin while refusing to have a US translator in the room, while refusing to have notes made.

    And you forgot all about Trump’s refusal to support election security measures.

    And you forgot about trying to get Russia back into the G8.

  124. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    The odds favor it being an Iranian missile, but only the odds, not the evidence. The technical skill of our intel people is not the question. The question is analysis followed by their decision on what to present to us. We’ve just had three years of a president calling them lying, unpatriotic scum. But we’re supposed to believe he allowed an unbiased report? Him? Because he, what, respects standards of proof? Him?

    We don’t have an intel community, not until they are back in a position of some degree of autonomy and freedom from influence.

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  125. Gustopher says:

    @Andy: I see the Trump Administration slow walking and half-assing everything that gets in Russia’s way. And usually only when their hands are tied.

    Delivery of lethal aid to the Ukrainians was done only after his own party was complaining, and had been held up for ages.

    Similarly, sanctions on Russia for the use of nerve agents in the assassination on British soil… implemented six months after required.
    https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/02/politics/trump-russia-sanctions-chemical-weapons-spy-poisoning/index.html

    I’ll take Trump at his word when it comes to Russia — obsequious praise, and complaining that he cannot get anyone to actually implement his policy.

    He has tried and mostly failed to change US policy, because he mostly fails at things. He’s a terrible manager. And then blames it on the Deep State.

    With Russia, I expect him to try to avoid taking action as long as he can, and frequently fail. He has not surprised me.

  126. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    And:

    Trump’s weakened America’s leadership (ok, this goes back to the younger Bush’s years), and driven a wedge between the US and NATO, and between the US and other countries and regions (ie South Korea, Mexico, Central America, etc). He’s also quit promoting human rights, which I’m sure warms Putin’s heart. And he’s refused to do much to keep Russia from meddling in US elections.

    Did you know in the 70s and 80s the KGB stirred anti-American attitudes in Latin America? partly covertly, partly in an overt manner through local publications jointly with area Communist parties. They also spread rumors, such as an adaption of blood libel that had Americans kidnapping children to harvest their organs.

    They’d have had a field day with Trump. They could have just sat back and let the Orange Clown ruin America’s reputation in the region. They wouldn’t have dared to claim the US was caging children, breaking up families, denying basic sanitation and medical care to immigrants, etc.

  127. Kathy says:

    CNN has video showing something hitting something else in the sky, presumably in Tehran, presumably at the time the Ukrainian 737 went down.

    That does look like a missile hitting a plane, and if it was shot on Tehran on the morning in question, it can’t be anything else.

    That’s pretty solid. If it’s genuine.

  128. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    As I recall you’ve variously claimed that Trump was Putin’s puppet, his bitch, was owned by him, beholden to him etc. I don’t remember all the terms you’ve used but I think all the regulars here have gotten the gist.

    The evidence you’ve presented for this is in terms of concrete actions is in your comment are:
    1. not supporting election security measures
    So the measure that passed 2018 and the Election Security Act of 2019 that Trump signed two weeks ago doesn’t count?

    – trying to get Russia back into the G8.
    Ok, this could be one material thing Trump has done for Russia.

    Is that it?

    Anyway, as for the rest of it, I think you’ve missed the point. Trump is, no doubt, “softer” on Russia than Clinton would have been, as she was/is one of the most hawkish politicians generally and especially on Russia, but Trump’s actions in many areas aren’t far out of line from Obama’s first term. Some, notably missile defense (see below), Trump is much, much harder on Russia.

    The point is that the constant rhetoric coming from you and others about Trump selling the US out to Putin and literally being a traitor to the US is not supported by the facts and the actual actions taken by the Trump administration.

    Now, some responses to some of your counterpoints:

    Actually he insisted that while Ukraine could buy anti-tank missiles they could not be used against Russia.

    Which was still more than the Obama administration was willing to do.

    And it’s not true they can’t be used against Russia – the sale conditions only stipulate that they can’t be used in the current conflict against Ukrainian separatists. If Russian invaded Ukraine, the missiles could and would be used against Russia.

    Why would Trump do this if he was Putin’s asset?

    Trump’s hand was forced by Congress which feared he’d kill the sanctions as he repeatedly talked about doing.

    That was the case for only 1 or 2 of the sanction actions mentioned. What about the others?

    Forcefully refuses, does it? While at the same time killing the strong pro-Ukraine plank the GOP at the convention?

    Yes, the US does not recognize the annexation of Ukraine and the Trump administration said so in very clear, hard, and incontrovertible language.

    As for how pro-Ukraine the US should be, I think that we shouldn’t have a strong pro-Ukraine policy. Ukraine is a divided country with little social cohesion that has never been an independent entity. The notion that we should support Ukraine, which, in reality, means only supporting the pro-western faction in Ukraine, is not in our interest.

    Regardless, there are entirely legitimate reasons to not want to get too cozy with Ukraine that have nothing to do with Trump being a Russian asset.

    Jesus Christ, dude, we’re giving him points for not absolutely annihilating NATO? This is some pure bullshit. He’s done everything he can get away with (or comprehend) to harm NATO. Ask a German or a Belgian – let alone an Estonian – whether they think Trump supports NATO.

    Let me see if I understand this reasoning.

    Trump is a puppet of Putin and Trump hates NATO and has done everything he can to harm NATO. Right?

    If that is true, then why does Trump still send US forces to Russia’s periphery to train with NATO allies there and conduct patrols next to Russian airspace in what Russia sees as a very provocative move?

    Trump could end these deployments and kill two birds with one stone – please Russia and piss off/weaken NATO. Why doesn’t he?

    You’re seriously giving him credit for allowing his State Department to condemn an assassination on the home territory of our closest ally? If you had a shovel could you bury that bar any lower?

    Look, I’m not the one stating that Trump is Putin’s puppet. The fact that you’ve tacitly admitted that Trump is supporting our ally against Russia contradicts your thesis.

    Withdrew from the INF treaty thus allowing Russia to openly pursue a type of weapon they can position within range of NATO while political reality makes it impossible to match that?

    They were already pursuing weapons in violation of the INF. And INF weapons are a threat to Europe and not the US, so they aren’t important to Trump. And Europe doesn’t seem worried about Russian missiles because they’ve done nothing about the INF threat.

    But that reminds me of a really big factor I forgot to mention in my original post – missile defense. Russia and China have both been very hostile to US missile defense developments over the last couple of decades, even as previous Presidents tried to assure them that our systems were limited and only designed, deployed and intended to defend against “rogue” states like North Korea and Iran.

    Trump’s budget priorities and his missile defense strategy that came out a year ago changed all that. You can read this analysis yourself.

    Does threatening Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent sound like the actions of a Russian asset and a treasonous pro-Russian President? After all, Russia is already taking measures by developing dangerous nuclear-power cruise missiles and hypersonic reentry vehicles – two technologies specifically designed to counter US missile defenses.

    In a normal world, we would be criticizing this missile defense escalation as a dangerous and destabilizing threat to the global strategic nuclear balance that keeps us from destroying ourselves as a species.

    But we are not in that world, we’re in the naval-gazing world of obsession over Trump’s tweets and outrageous statements. We are in a world where a non-trivial number of people believe in a Trump-Putin conspiracy despite all the actual hard evidence to the contrary.

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  129. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    But we are not in that world, we’re in the naval-gazing world of obsession over Trump’s tweets and outrageous statements. We are in a world where a non-trivial number of people believe in a Trump-Putin conspiracy despite all the actual hard evidence to the contrary.

    We are in a world where Trump pretends to be a Russian asset, but secretly isn’t?

    He isn’t a subtle or complicated man. When he says insane things, it’s because he believes them. He may contradict himself later when he believes something else, but he believes it when he says it (or soon after…)

    The entire “Russia didn’t hack our election, the Ukrainians did” thing is crazy ass bullshit, but he’s running the government based on it, and a belief that all of US intelligence is apparently compromised by the Deep State Operatives and cannot see it.

    Trump has had uncomfortably close ties to Russia since before he was elected. And he has lied about them. And he keeps no records of conversations with Putin. And he is soft on Russia relative to their actions.

    He’s also soft on the Saudis, the Turks, and other countries where he has a financial interest. He’s also soft on Strongmen who don’t point out that he’s a fool.

    It doesn’t require Trump to be particularly compromised by the Russians to be this obsequious. I’m not in the “Putin has the Pee Tape” crowd.

    It all falls into the aspirations of Big Dick Energy with shame about his tiny penis. The stronger someone acts, the more Trump respects them, until they make it clear that they do not respect him. And then he’s angry and petulant.

    He will offer concessions to random strongmen so long as he doesn’t care about the concession. And he doesn’t give a shit about the Crimea, it’s just an obstacle in the way of a Great Man recognizing his power.

    The Saudis butchered an American-resident reporter for the evil Washington Post. But they also let him touch their weird glowing ball. So, you have to balance the two.

    I don’t think Putin has anything on Trump because he is so servile to the House of Saud. Putin might have something on him, but he doesn’t need it.

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  130. Barry says:

    @Andy: “So by that same logic, the US isn’t responsible for the Vincennes shootdown because we didn’t start the tanker war?”

    We were supporting Iraq in the tanker war, and were combatants.

  131. steve says:

    “I think your model is a tautology.”

    His audience is unique which makes him different. He is speaking directly to the 30% of people who will support him through almost anything. Presidents are usually trying to convince people from the middle and even some from the other tribe. Not true of Trump. Gun control? He has taken zero actions in that direction. He sometimes, impulsively, says something then always pulls back. IOW, he is a reality TV star who sometimes forgets his audience, but not for long.

    Steve

  132. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Andy:

    Is that it?

    I guess you missed the part where Putin co-signed all of the loans that bailed out Bankrupt Trump?
    C’mon.

  133. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    1. not supporting election security measures
    So the measure that passed 2018 and the Election Security Act of 2019 that Trump signed two weeks ago doesn’t count?

    The election the Russians corrupted was three fking years ago, Andy. Three YEARS and now, finally, when it is too late to do any good in 2020, we get this limp response. And you think that makes your point? Um, no, it makes my point. If FDR had taken three years to react to Pearl Harbor would you not have had a wee bit of an issue with that? After he’d spent three years publicly denying an attack took place?

    Actually he insisted that while Ukraine could buy anti-tank missiles they could not be used against Russia. Which was still more than the Obama administration was willing to do.

    Which does not in any way support your position that he’s not Putin’s bitch. You said he supplied weapons to Ukraine, no, he pretended to supply weapons to Ukraine.

    And it’s not true they can’t be used against Russia – the sale conditions only stipulate that they can’t be used in the current conflict against Ukrainian separatists. If Russian invaded Ukraine, the missiles could and would be used against Russia.

    This is such transparent bullshit I can’t believe you wrote it with a straight face. If Russia invaded? If? So, you figure it’s all rogue Russian militia, do you? You know this is bullshit.

    Trump is a puppet of Putin and Trump hates NATO and has done everything he can to harm NATO. Right?

    If that is true, then why does Trump still send US forces to Russia’s periphery to train with NATO allies there and conduct patrols next to Russian airspace in what Russia sees as a very provocative move?

    Trump could end these deployments and kill two birds with one stone – please Russia and piss off/weaken NATO. Why doesn’t he?

    So, again, we’re crediting Trump for not doing something that would have caused a not entirely servile Congress to explode? He did what he could. You can see the effect on NATO in statements by other NATO leaders and in polling of Europeans. And again, you know it.

    Look, I’m not the one stating that Trump is Putin’s puppet. The fact that you’ve tacitly admitted that Trump is supporting our ally against Russia contradicts your thesis.

    Throughout your entire weak debunking you’re leaning way, way over to give white POTUS credit you never gave black POTUS. Wow, the president of the United States managed to make some mewling remarks condemning a Russian assassination in the UK. Hosanna! An assassination where the bad guys were clearly exposed. And that proves what, exactly? If Obama had pushed to get Russia back into the G8 after Russia was caught murdering people on NATO territory you’d have had a stroke.

    Missile defense?

    Oh, spare me. You know as well as I do that we have no capacity to hit incoming ICBMs of the number and quality the Russians could throw at us. We’d be damned lucky to knock down a single North Korean missile. Meanwhile we’ve handed Putin all the intermediate range nukes he wants.

    The problem here, Andy, is that you’re not stupid enough or ill-informed enough to be advancing these pitiful arguments. Coming from @Guarneri or one of the other idiots I’d just assume they were clueless. But you’re not stupid. You’re well over on the right side of the bell curve. You can’t plead ignorance, which makes this deliberate, calculated disinformation. And that’s disturbing. Because one has to wonder why a clever man with claimed direct experience is talking transparent nonsense.

    If Russia invadesUkraine? Jesus Christ.

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  134. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    Finally, one simple question I keep asking:

    When Trump meets with any foreign leader he has his own translator and note-takers present. All except for Putin or his people. Why? Give me the innocent explanation for why Trump will not allow any other American to be present when he meets with Russians.

    Give me the innocent explanation for why the president who attacks he CIA, who attacks the FBI, who attacks his own State Department, who insisted on backing away from support of Ukraine, who denied in the face of overwhelming evidence that Putin had helped in electing him, has to meet in absolute secrecy with Putin.

    Guarneri flees when I ask him. Can you do better?

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  135. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    We are in a world where Trump pretends to be a Russian asset, but secretly isn’t?

    He isn’t a subtle or complicated man. When he says insane things, it’s because he believes them. He may contradict himself later when he believes something else, but he believes it when he says it (or soon after…)

    Does he actually believe all the crazy shit he says and tweets? I can’t see into the man’s mind, but it strikes me as more of a vomitous stream-of-consciousness than real conviction.

    Again, I look at actions more than what people say and this is especially true of Trump who is liable to say anything. Observing actions is even more important with people like Trump because, as they say, talk is cheap.

    And there is little evidence that the Trump administration’s actual actions are pro-Russia – at best they are less anti-Russia than would otherwise be the case.

    @steve:

    He has taken zero actions in that direction. He sometimes, impulsively, says something then always pulls back.

    That is making my point, although he did sign the bump-stock ban.

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  136. Andy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I guess you missed the part where Putin co-signed all of the loans that bailed out Bankrupt Trump?
    C’mon.

    What’s the evidence for that? Last I heard that was a misreported rumor that was retracted.

  137. Mike in Arlington says:

    @Andy: I don’t know if it’s true or not, but there was another, recent story alleging that there was a Deutche Bank whistleblower that had evidence of Russian underwriting of loans given to Trump.
    https://www.scribd.com/document/441601742/Forensic-News-Article-12-3#

    I’m not sure if this was run down and confirmed or not, so take with as many grains of salt as you find necessary.

  138. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Hi Michael,

    The election the Russians corrupted was three fking years ago, Andy. Three YEARS and now, finally, when it is too late to do any good in 2020, we get this limp response. And you think that makes your point?

    Michael, my argument is about refuting your thesis that Trump is a Russian asset. I don’t need to prove a negative. Rather you need to explain why a Russian asset would let these bills pass in the first place. You need to show how that proves or supports your theory.

    Which does not in any way support your position that he’s not Putin’s bitch. You said he supplied weapons to Ukraine, no, he pretended to supply weapons to Ukraine.

    Ukraine has the weapons, therefore, as matter of objective fact, Ukraine has them. There is no “pretending” at all.

    Ukraine could use them anytime it wants to, the US has no power to stop them. And in any existential situation, Ukraine sure as fuck would use them regardless of what any sale contract stated. The US has no authority to repossess them, all we could do is drop support and not sell them anything else in the future and issue a protest statement.

    This is such transparent bullshit I can’t believe you wrote it with a straight face. If Russia invaded? If? So, you figure it’s all rogue Russian militia, do you? You know this is bullshit.

    Russia is definitely involved, including using its own troops in different uniforms, but there actually is a separatist movement there Michael that wants to secede and join Russia. It is not an invasion as per the common definition of that word, where Russia is openly at war and taking territory under its own flag.

    So, again, we’re crediting Trump for not doing something that would have caused a not entirely servile Congress to explode? He did what he could. You can see the effect on NATO in statements by other NATO leaders and in polling of Europeans. And again, you know it.

    And you didn’t answer my question. The opinions of NATO leaders and the European public don’t prove your thesis, Michael. So I’ll ask you again. If Trump is a Russian asset then why does he still send US forces to Russia’s periphery to train with NATO allies there and conduct patrols next to Russian airspace in what Russia sees as a very provocative move?

    Throughout your entire weak debunking you’re leaning way, way over to give white POTUS credit you never gave black POTUS.

    Michael, I’m not going to tolerate your blatant insinuation that I’m racist. Your characterization is factually wrong and unhinged. I voted for Obama in 2008. I supported some of his policies (like the JPCOA) and opposed others (like the Afghanistan surge). I’ve always thought he had a better character than most politicians. The notion that I never gave credit to the “black” POTUS is completely without merit and such a baseless accusation reflects on your character much more than it does mine.

    And that proves what, exactly?

    It doesn’t prove anything, but it’s evidence against your thesis that Trump is a Russian agent.

    If Obama had pushed to get Russia back into the G8 after Russia was caught murdering people on NATO territory you’d have had a stroke.

    No Michael. Even though we’ve debated in the same forums for well over a decade and “know” each other in a very limited sense because of that, you have no idea what I would have done. You have no insight or authority to tell me or others what I think or what I would have thought or done in any situation. As I’ve said many times before to you and others here, I’m not going to play that game. If you want to know what I think about something then ask.

    Oh, spare me. You know as well as I do that we have no capacity to hit incoming ICBMs of the number and quality the Russians could throw at us. We’d be damned lucky to knock down a single North Korean missile. Meanwhile we’ve handed Putin all the intermediate range nukes he wants.

    Russia and China don’t share your view. Russia and China were against even our more limited regional ballistic missile defenses.

    Russia is currently developing a nuclear powered intercontinental cruise missile – one which recently exploded killing many Russian scientists and spreading radioactive pollution into the surrounding area. Why is Russia doing this? US missile defense.

    Again, Michael, look at actions, not only words and wrong assumptions.

    The problem here, Andy, is that you’re not stupid enough or ill-informed enough to be advancing these pitiful arguments.

    and

    But you’re not stupid. You’re well over on the right side of the bell curve. You can’t plead ignorance, which makes this deliberate, calculated disinformation. And that’s disturbing. Because one has to wonder why a clever man with claimed direct experience is talking transparent nonsense.

    As I noted at the very beginning, this is analysis, not advocacy. I’m not arguing that Trump is great or that his policies are great. I’ve stated my opposition to Trump and many of his policies very clearly here over the years and nothing has changed in that regard.

    My argument here is to present evidence to dispute your thesis that Trump is a Russian asset. If that were true, then we would see Trump take actions that would reflect that relationship and materially benefit Russia. Instead, we have clear examples of actions the Trump administration has taken that are what we would expect from most Presidents, plus a few actions that are unprecedented and threaten two of Russia’s core interests.

    You have not been able to dispute those facts, you’ve only tried to make them seem less important than they are. But facts matter Michael. And if you want anyone to take your thesis seriously, then you need to explain why the Trump administration would take actions that are directly contrary to Russia’s interests.

    In the intelligence world, this is how we figure out what foreign governments and adversaries are actually up to.

    Let me give you an example: The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. No one believed it would happen. All the regional experts thought Saddam’s threats (which he’s made before) were just another bluff. The Kuwaiti’s and Saudi’s didn’t believe it, nor did the Israelis.

    But deep inside the Defense Intelligence Agency, intelligence analysts were looking at hard data. The observed the marshaling and movement of Iraqi ground forces. The observed the placement of logistical and support elements. They saw all the indicators that an invasion was coming and they reported this up the chain. They correctly and accurately provided strategic and tactical warning for the invasion. It was a picture-perfect example of how the intelligence warning system is supposed to work.

    But the George HW Bush White House ignored the hard evidence and chose to believe what others believed and said instead. They chose to believe words and opinions rather than facts. Even with the evidence staring them in the face, they persisted in the fantasy that Saddam was still bluffing.

    And here we are today, still dealing with the results of that bad judgment. The Iraqi invasion and the rise of Al Qaeda and ISIS all had their nexus there.

    So, based on actions and not opinions, I think the record is pretty clear that Trump isn’t as friendly to the Russians and Putin as his rhetoric would indicate. If you want to convince me that Trump is a Russian asset then you need to present hard evidence instead of lectures about how I supposedly hate the black POTUS and your other wrong characterizations of me.

    That you’ve resorted to ad hominem just weakens your arguments even further.

    When Trump meets with any foreign leader he has his own translator and note-takers present. All except for Putin or his people. Why? Give me the innocent explanation for why Trump will not allow any other American to be present when he meets with Russians.

    Maybe you’ve forgotten we’ve already been over this ground, but here we go again. I frankly don’t have the time or desire to re-research all the facts on this, so this is working from memory:

    First off, I believe this only occurred at one or two meetings with Putin, not every single meeting with the Russians. Every other meeting with Putin or Russian officials had other American officials and/or American translators present.

    Secondly, the reasoning, as I understand it from memory, was three-fold: to prevent leaks of what was said, to prevent staff from interrupting him to stay on the official talking points, and because of Trump’s ego – as the greatest negotiator in the world and as a guy who prefers one-on-one conversations. He thinks he can do it all on his own.

    Now, do I think these explanations are convincing? Not really, except maybe the last one. But I don’t think they can be completely dismissed either.

    But the analytical problem here, Michael, is that we don’t know what was actually said in those meetings. You’ve assumed and are convinced it’s nefarious, but as a matter of actual objective fact, what happened in those couple of meetings is an unknown.

    So, at this point what an intel analyst would do (and trying to figure out what two foreign leaders discussed is a common intelligence problem) is look at what actions each individual took in the days, weeks and months following the meeting, see if there is a change in the pattern to determine what was discussed or agreed to. If there is a change in patterns, or if new orders or directives are given that flow down the chain, then that can be a big clue as to the actual content of the meeting.

    I haven’t done that kind of analysis on the Putin-Trump meetings, have you or anyone else? If so, I would be very interested in reading it.

    But I doubt that is the case. Assuming is easier. So at this point, absent actual evidence, I think it is not dispositive of anything – it could go either way.

    Ok, that is it for me. This comment is way too long and this thread has already taken up way too much of my time. I’m leaving it here, feel free to have the last word.

    PS: Mike in Arlington – thanks for the response. If I get time later, I look at that link.

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  139. Tyrell says:

    @Barry: “murdered a major government official” He was also a mass murderer, right up there with some of the Nazi leaders.
    It is amazing how some of the news media refers to this person as some normal military officer. This is disrespectful of the word general. Referring to him as a general is like calling Jack the Ripper a doctor.

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  140. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    First off, I believe this only occurred at one or two meetings with Putin, not every single meeting with the Russians. Every other meeting with Putin or Russian officials had other American officials and/or American translators present.

    Secondly, the reasoning, as I understand it from memory, was three-fold: to prevent leaks of what was said, to prevent staff from interrupting him to stay on the official talking points, and because of Trump’s ego – as the greatest negotiator in the world and as a guy who prefers one-on-one conversations. He thinks he can do it all on his own.

    Only with Putin. Not Merkel. Not Macron. Not Trudeau. Just Putin. Somehow with Putin and Putin’s ambassador, the president who’s been attacking the CIA and FBI and stating his preference for Putin’s intel over his own, can’t have anyone else in the room. Fear of leaks? Bullshit. You know it’s bullshit and you’ve now grabbed a rake to spread it a little further.

    Your analysis would be 180 degrees different if this were Obama or Hillary. White men of a certain age react to Trump like 14 year-old girls with Justin Bieber. You are searching for rationalization, not dealing with data. Maybe this is what you feel you have to do to get along with professional peers. I don’t know. But it is utterly unconvincing and it’s disappointing. You’ve gone down the moral recusal hole with Schuler and Drew and basically every other old white guy, rationalizing and evading, and lowering bars so far they’re nearing the earth’s mantle, and tap-dancing around in ways you would never countenance – did not countenance – for a second for the black president or the uppity woman.

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  141. Michael Reynolds says:

    Secondly, the reasoning, as I understand it from memory, was three-fold: to prevent leaks of what was said, to prevent staff from interrupting him to stay on the official talking points, and because of Trump’s ego – as the greatest negotiator in the world and as a guy who prefers one-on-one conversations. He thinks he can do it all on his own.

    Now, do I think these explanations are convincing? Not really, except maybe the last one. But I don’t think they can be completely dismissed either.

    This is particularly absurd. So, according to a pathological liar with 15,000 demonstrated lies to his credit, a pathological liar who trashes his own intelligence services, said he was worried about leaks? And you give that partial credit? That’s a shoulder shrug? I dunno, could be true. Also he thinks he can do it all on his own. . . but only with Putin. So sure, nuthin to see here, move along folks.

    Is that your professional level analysis there, Andy? It doesn’t pass the laugh test.

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  142. Andy says:

    Michael,

    I’m just going to quickly pop back in here to note that for all your talk of data and analysis, you provide none and instead throw insults and make false and derogatory assumptions about me. Your arguments, such as they are, amount to ad hominems, racist/sexist stereotyping, and variations of declaring anything you disagree with “absurd” without addressing substance, etc.

    When you go down that road in a debate I think most everyone understands that it’s because you’re unable to argue on the merits and are forced to resort to slander. It’s certainly not the first time you’ve resorted to name-calling with me and it probably won’t be the last.

    I won’t reciprocate.

    Ok, now I’m out real. I’m happy to let readers can decide for themselves who made the better case.

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  143. Andy says:

    PS: Trump has met privately with other world leaders. Do your research dude.

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  144. Jax says:

    @Andy: I just wanted to say that I appreciate your input and discourse on this site, and have for years. You provide a point of view we are not used to, and you’re not afraid to provide links and backup data to prove your point.

    It’s a good place when you can get a different point of view. I think that’s why we all ended up here to begin with. 😉

  145. Barry says:

    @Tyrell: “He was also a mass murderer, right up there with some of the Nazi leaders.”

    This is false. I doubt that he had more deaths on his hands than Cheney, for example.

  146. An Interested Party says:

    First off, I believe this only occurred at one or two meetings with Putin, not every single meeting with the Russians. Every other meeting with Putin or Russian officials had other American officials and/or American translators present.

    Of course it’s not that simple at all…funny how someone who is accused of being too friendly with Putin doesn’t do much to disprove that accusation…in fact he seems to be doing so much to prove it…