Monday, January 6, 2020

Explain This To Me, Again?

Okay, as I understand it, Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani was targeted by the United States in a drone attack because he was thought to be planning "imminent" attacks on American diplomats, interests and military targets.

Was he planning to carry them out himself?

Now, I'm not a soldier, but I didn't think that high-level general officers worked alone on things like this. And if an attack was actually "ready to take place" or "happening soon" how would killing General Soleimani have prevented it? One would have thought that the planning and logistics would have already been in place for an "imminent" attack, and that one of the General's direct reports could have given the go-ahead for things to proceed. Again, I'm not a soldier, but if you'd told me that the death of General Franks would have stopped "Operation Iraqi Freedom," I'd be skeptical of that claim. Military forces don't strike me as organized around the drive of a single person in that way.

Republicans and Democrats alike have lined up to call out General Soleimani as a villain with American blood on his hands, and thus deserving of death (even though many Democrats have taken issue with how it was done and/or the timing). Which is to be expected, I suppose. But no-one is holding up his past anti-American actions as the reason he was killed, and questioning of just how his death would forestall some future attack has not been raised, at least not in the media reports that I have come across.

According to the Department of Defense, "This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans." But I don't really understand how that would work out in practice. I suspect that I will never really know; that would likely require me to have a really high security clearance, and as, well, just another random American, I don't have one. Assuming that General Soleimani was guilty of the things that the Department of Defense says he was, it makes sense that he was a target. But it also makes sense that, rather than labeling the Quds Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, the United States would have gone for a formal declaration of war or charges of war crimes/crimes against humanity. I suppose that it's felt that designating part of nation-state's military a terrorist organization allows the conflict to be better contained, but I'm not sure how effective that is. After all, this situation seems to be on the verge of getting out of hand.

I'm no more a historian than I am a soldier. But it's been my understanding that in many parts of the world, people have long memories for wrongs, slights and humiliations done them. And many people have come to understand the United States as a worldwide bully that does as it pleases, regardless of the consequences for anyone else. The anger that this generates tends to then push the United States into an even more wary and aggressive posture; viewing outside anger as illegitimate, the United States engages in further acts that stoke anger in the name of defending itself. And so the cycle continues. The United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been at odds for decades now, with no sign of the conflict fading. And there is no sign that either side will allow the other to have last licks. Ending the cycle will require one or both sides to swallow their pride. I have no expectation that it will ever happen.

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