When President Trump was sworn in one of the knocks on him was his lack of presidential bearing and gravitas. I thought at the time it was a fair concern though I also thought he would grow into the job.
I don’t hear these complaints today, but I have heard in its place a lament about his lack of restraint. In my mind, it is a balancing act — American restraint being the garden party voiceover for procrastination or the inability to actually accomplish things.
The American Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel — as teaching point
An example I find worthy of discussion is the intransigence about the movement of the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This move was ordered by the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 with the Senate approving it at the time by a vote of 95-5 and the House approving it with a 374-37 vote. The law demanded the Embassy be relocated by 31 may 1999.
The law provided for a series of six month waivers for “national security” justifications. Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump waived it for 22 years.
Then, on 6 December 2017 — first year of the Trump presidency — President Trump publicly announced the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and ordered that the planning for moving the Embassy should begin.
Two big things:
1. From 1995 until 2017, American Presidents failed to implement the almost unanimous intentions of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 — a period of 22 years.
2. In the first year of his presidency, President Donald J Trump said, “Let’s get on with it. We’ve been clutching our pearls for too long. Now.”
On 14 May 2018 — on the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence — the US Embassy opened in Jerusalem in what had once been the Arnona consular building. The relocation turned out to be a renovation rather than a new build to suit. [President Trump is a builder and knew value when he saw it, saving us billions of dollars.]
That is the kind of lack of restraint that I applaud. President Trump gets things done that other presidents have kicked down the road for decades (NATO funding, trade, China, North Korea, Iran, immigration) — 22 years, three presidencies for the Jerusalem US Embassy. President Trump got it started in his first year, completed in his second year.
Iran and the off ramp
Which brings me to the issue of the US v Iran. Today, President Trump gave us a lesson in a different kind of lack of restraint and resolve with a side order of pragmatic reality.
President Trump ordered the killing of an evil man, Gassem Soleimani. You may look elsewhere for the bill of particulars that justified this action. It is overwhelming, incontrovertible, and it was dangerous.
Six months earlier, President Trump had drawn a red line with the admonition not to kill Americans through terror. The Iranians ignored it.
The typical Trump alarmist critics screamed: “Trump just started World War III.”
Others said, “There is no strategy for what happens next.”
Iran, in the person of its unhealthy, not-long-for-this-world, ancient Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promised a fierce revenge, maybe the start of an escalating set of actions with the Strait of Hormuz in danger and, thus, the oil global business.
In response, President Trump told the Ayatollah that the US had a target list of 52 sites including command and control sites within Iran that would feel the full brunt of American might.
So, what happened, Big Red Car?
What happened, my dear readers, was that the Ayatollah threw 15 ballistic missiles from Iran at two bases in Iraq that held American forces. Eleven of them arrived, 4 didn’t work, and no Americans were killed.
[It is fair to say that those ballistic missiles landed EXACTLY where the Iranians wanted them to land. They subsequently claimed, for domestic consumption, massive destruction and 30 dead Americans. Total baloney.]
President Trump then did something that nobody thought he might do: He exercised cunning restraint and chided the face saving Iranians while erecting a path to Iran one day re-engaging amongst the civilized nations of the world, but with an important admonition. That admonition was that Iran would never, ever possess nuclear weapons as long as he was President.
Bottom line it, Big Red Car
OK, here it is:
1. President Trump killed Gassem Soleimani and exerted the Trump Doctrine. This was a good stroke.
2. The Iranians saved face — a smart move as they were no longer risking “face.” They were risking their heads.
3. The Iranians punked out. Somebody was able to convince the dying, 80-year-old Ayatollah that President Trump was not kidding about his threats — as he hadn’t been kidding twice in Syria with cruise missile attacks, as he hadn’t been kidding with ISIS, as he hadn’t been kidding with Soluemani.
4. The days of the US kissing Iran’s butt to arrive at a fictitious Iran Nuke deal are over. The American resolve to ensure that there will never be a nuclear Iran is clear.
5. The Iranians sent a very pointed message when their Prime Minister tweeted:
“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,” Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.
May I translate that for you: “Ahhh, we was just kidding. No mas, amigo?”
Word of caution: Now is NOT the time for chest beating, for unleashing military testosterone, for trumpeting the Iranian blink. Now, is the time for serious men to shape the future, to get down to business to make the world safer. Now is the time for the statesmen — backed by a fierce President and a fierce military — to work this out. It may take a few more exchanges, but American resolve is no longer in question. This time America is coming with the full strength and authority of being right.
Now is also the time for the naysayers to just STFU. Once again, you got it wrong, terribly, horrifically wrong — there will be no WWIII; there will be no flaming Strait of Hormuz. Once again, President Trump has made you look foolish. But, you helped him, didn’t you?
6. Today, backed by the entire National Security apparatus, President Trump gave a speech in which he picked up the Iranian olive branch (such as it was) and said we can work this out, but there will be no Iranian nuclear weapons.
In evaluating this I want you to consider three things:
1. President Trump took decisive action in killing Soleimani. It was long overdue. He took a risk, using enviable lack of restraint.
2. American resolve is alive, well, and believed. This dramatically changes what the Iranians can do and they know it.
3. When the world was at the edge of war, President Trump walked it back, showed remarkable restraint. He gave the Iranians the credit for “standing down” when, in fact, he had backed them down.
Here’s the big thing — President Trump knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way.
When you look at that assembled talent surrounding President Trump as he spoke today, do you doubt for a second that you were looking at patriots, men who are at the top of their craft, men who had a plan?
Bravo, America. Well played, President Trump.
We are safer today than we were a week ago and I know exactly why that is.