Will Trump start a war with Iran?

Two days ago, on December 29, B-52s flew to the Middle East for the third time since Trump lost the election. Such missions aren’t routine, but occur from time to time — as “a traditional American method of demonstrating resolve,” Tom Nichols, a defense specialist who teaches at the Naval War College (bio here; see previous article here), writes in the Atlantic. He added, “Whether such flights do any good is questionable, but … administrations of both parties use them.”

There’s a specific reason for some muscle-flexing: January 3 marks the first anniversary of the U.S. assassination of Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani (bio here), Iran undoubtedly intends to get even, and that date is a natural one for conducting some sort of retaliation. (Read Iranian boasting here about making the Americans squirm by trying to guess when, where, and how.)

But there’s another, bigger, story potentially lurking in the background: “Trump is intent on creating as much chaos as possible on his way out of the White House. Could that include saddling Joe Biden with another war in the Middle East?” Nichols asks. Well, I ask, wouldn’t that be just like him?

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Trump recently replaced the Pentagon’s civilian leadership with “a claque of mostly unqualified officials in an acting capacity” and froze the president-elect and his team out of defense and intelligence briefings, which is consistent with some sort of scheming going on which he doesn’t want discovered. And it would be just like him to hand Biden a war as his going-away present. That doesn’t mean he will, of course. But he’s thinking about it.

Nichols says, “We already know that Trump is thinking about attacking Iran. In mid-November, after he lost the presidential election, Trump asked for military options against Iranian nuclear facilities, a reckless idea that was derailed by top aides.” That was before the B-52 flights began. Now Nichols suggests that “Trump might be planning a final grand distraction before he is forced to relinquish his office.” Here’s the problem:

“He holds the authority of Article II of the Constitution until noon on January 20. As unsettling as it may be to realize this, Trump—like any American president—can launch anything, from a reconnaissance mission to a nuclear strike, even as Biden is standing on the steps of the Capitol waiting to be sworn in. … [T]he authority of the president of the United States is not limited by losing an election.”

He muses that Trump might think he could somehow stay in office if America is embroiled in a war. He’d be wrong, there is no circumstance in which presidential terms are extended, but Trump doesn’t know that. This is a guy who doesn’t even read PDBs (presidential daily briefings), much less the Constitution.

You wouldn’t expect a normal president to do something like this, but Trump isn’t a normal president (or a normal human being); and he should not, Nichols argues, be given the benefit of the doubt. In the rest of his article, Nichols describes what to look for as signs of an impending military strike against Iran. Read it here.

For an update on the latest military posturing by both sides, go here.

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  1. Hopeful his minders can keep him busy and distracted #

    He needs to play more golf, get more sunshine and forget about DC.

    Leave the politics to the big boys.