This article originally appeared on Strategic Culture Foundation.
Rep. and Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) brought the hammer and the house down on Twitter for calling out President Trump on subordinating the US military to a foreign power’s prerogative.
She was completely right to take this tack with Trump here. And Trump was completely right, for once, to ignore a challenge to his authority and persona. Because had he done so, he would have boosted Gabbard as a real challenger to him in 2020. Trump knows that in politics you neve r attack down unless there is no down side.
Gabbard’s uncompromising honesty and principles on these important foreign policy positions give her the moral high ground.
Trump can’t respond to that without betraying his entire Presidential aura.
She is correct that US citizens who sign up for the military take an oath to protect and defend the constitution and the people of the United States. They did not take an oath to protect foreign dictators incapable of basic defense of their most precious and valuable real estate.
This is especially true when said dictators are the aggressors in a war of conquest against their neighbors. After more than four years of fighting, using weapons produced by the United States, with assistance by US military advisers, the Saudi Arabians have completely botched their war in Yemen, committing dozens, if not hundreds, of despicable attacks on civilian targets without anything to show for it but animosity and, now, wholly insecure infrastructure.
That this infrastructure is vital to the global economy should be irrelevant to Trump’s calculus as to where to send US troops and war materiel. That was something Saudi Arabia’s Clown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman should have considered before starting this war back in 2015.
The Houthi rebels in Northern Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on the Abqaiq gas processing facility as a direct consequence of Saudi aggression. Of course, they are backed by Iran and Iranian technology.
It’s nearly a week after the event and we still don’t know for sure what happened. We have vague assurances from anonymous sources with the US and Saudi governments but no concrete details other than what was hit and how.
That Trump ultimately decided against going to war with Iran over this incident doesn’t negate Gabbard’s attack on him. It was cogent given the moment and is principled in how US troops should be used.
In all of this discussion about a potential war with Iran no one in the Trump administration or anywhere else have made a credible argument as to what actual threat Iran poses to the people of the United States.
Vague proclamations by Iranian politicians of “death to America” are, ultimately far less threatening or interesting than the parade of US Senators and Congresscritters saying that Iran is a “rogue regime” and it should be wiped off the face of the earth.
Are our sensibilities so fragile that we can’t handle a little criticism from people we have waged war by proxy with for over 70 years?
How is this any different than the average tweet by Lindsay Graham (R-AIPAC)?
We have senior officials, like the Secretary of State and the erstwhile National Security Adviser calling Iran ‘evil’ and we have officially lumped their army in with the same lot of terrorists as Al-Qaeda and ISIS. We have sanctioned their government and individuals within it.
Never forget that you reap what you sow in this life. And any animosity Iran and Iranians bear towards the US and Americans is richly deserved. The reverse, however, is difficult to make a case for.
Because, little factoid, Iran hasn’t attacked anyone in a span of time that is longer than the US has been a country.
Iran threatens Israel in the same way that Israel threatens it. Saudi Arabia threatens Iran as an oil competitor and religious one.
And the idea that the President of the United States should entertain even a mere thought of going to war with Iran over an attack on Saudi oil production should be anathema to anyone with two brain cells to rub together and make a spark.
Because at the end of the day this is not our fight. This is a fight between enemies made rich by oil in some cases (Saudi, Iran), political clout in high places in the US and U.K. in others (Israel) and friends in other high places and cultural integrity (Iran).
This is a cultural and religious conflict we barely understand and cannot change the dynamics of by blundering in with weapons of mass destruction. It is precisely because we take sides in this conflict that this conflict never ends.
And it is a conflict that dovetails with prevailing ‘wisdom’ in the West about how to maintain control over the planet that dates back more than 150 years. And that is why we do what we do. But it is time for that worldview to end.
It’s time bury Mackinder’s ideas alongside his corpse.
To Trump’s credit he seems to have realized that this incident was another like the events which led up to the US Global Hawk drone getting shot down in June. It was designed to get him to over-commit to a policy which would engulf the world in a war that only a very few powerful and highly placed want.
Even the tweet that Gabbard called him out on was carefully worded to cool things down and hint that he wasn’t prepared to respond militarily to this incident. As Gabbard climbs in the polls and is treated worse than Bernie Sanders in 2016 and Ron Paul by the Republicans in 2008 and 2012, she will hold Trump to account on foreign policy with an ever-growing clout and moral clarity which bodes well for the future of US involvement overseas.
And, like Nigel Farage in the U.K. offering the Tories a non-aggression pact to get a real Brexit over the finish line, Gabbard should put country before career and applaud Trump when he doesn’t act like Saudi Arabia’s “Bitch.” That will win her even more votes and more respect among the silent majority who are not in the throes of Trump Derangement Syndrome on both the Left and the Right.
Along with this, the likely end of Netanyahu’s political career should mark a sea change in US policy. While AIPAC’s pull is still very strong in the US, Israel’s commitment to an aggressive foreign policy with an uncommitted President should falter under a new government without its Agitator-in-Chief.
And without that animus propelling events along eventually cooler heads will prevail, and the present dynamic will change.
Trump made an enormous mistake pulling out of the JCPOA. That genie cannot be put back in the bottle. The question now is does he have the sense and the humility to realize his board position has materially weakened to the point where the probability of a rout is rising?
2020 for him has to be about making good on his promises to end the Empire building and improving relations with Russia. With Putin openly trolling him and the Saudis recently over weapon sales the odds of the latter happening are low.
But he can still make good on the former. Trump has lost so much of his goodwill with the people he’s ‘negotiating with’ that there is little to no wiggle room left. He has no leverage and he’s got no goodwill.
I saw this coming the day he bombed the Al-Shairat airbase in April 2017. I said then that it was one of the biggest geopolitical mistakes ever. It set the stage for all the others because it showed us just how out of his depth Trump was on foreign affairs. It set him back with both Putin and Chinese Premier Xi and it also showed how easily he could be manipulated by his staff and their rotten information.
It’s a deep hole he’s dug for himself. But there are still people who want to help him climb out of it. Gabbard’s ‘bitch slap’ is an example of the kind of tough love he needs to right his Presidency’s ship.
His base needs to do that a little more often and then maybe, just maybe, we’d get somewhere.