A war with Iran would plunge the Middle East into further chaos and commit more American lives and resources to an unwinnable situation.
Americans are familiar with this pattern now. Regimes in the Middle East may be toppled, but factions are numerous, sides are difficult to discern and any real objective evaporates. This is a lesson the U.S. military learned within six months of invading Afghanistan, yet American troops remain in the country 18 years later. The American public only recently learned how soon U.S. military officials realized the situation was a quagmire, as bureaucrats decided to deceive the public on the success of operations in the country.
Iraq was invaded under false pretenses, and George W. Bush quickly declared “Mission accomplished.” Yet the reasoning for that operation was gradually exposed as a sham. Troops remain in Iraq after 17 years.
Many have tried to bring soldiers in both countries home, but it is painfully clear that doing so would destabilize the region and endanger nearby U.S. allies and interests. Both situations were a mess of America’s own making, and now both hang as an albatross across the neck of the country.
The decision to assassinate Iran’s top military leader while he was in Iraq seems rash and ethically questionable, but will escalate things considerably. It’s true, as the president himself said, that enemies (not Iranians specifically) may use roadside bombs or suicide vests with little care for the innocents they jeopardize in an attack. That’s because they’re terrorists. The U.S. does not respond to terrorism with terrorism of its own.
While tension with Iran before the strike was undeniable, the American people can be forgiven for glancing askew at the administration’s suggestion that high-ranking Iranian officials were engaged in some plot against the U.S. Of course, now, thanks to this attack, the wheels in Tehran are turning. Gen. Qassem Soleimani was popular with the Iranian government and its populace. Trump has given the Iranians reason to retaliate. Trump’s statement that Congress will learn of his military plans when he posts them on Twitter is deeply troubling, absurd and, in another context, might be laughable, if the consequences were not so grave.
America does not need another reckless war, nor should it carelessly imperil the lives of Americans here and abroad, including military personnel already in the region. To repeat a doomed history three times within 20 years would be nothing short of a self-inflicted, completely avoidable tragedy.