One possibility is blindness about an enemy from a different culture
First, we dispense with the irrelevancies:
It was unconstitutional for the president to take out Qasem Soleimani without first getting Congress’ approval. Not more unconstitutional than for Obama to take out Osama bin Laden or Anwar al-Awlaki.
It was a violation of Congress’ power to declare war. As if Congress has even once declared war since WW II. As if the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq did not exist.
It was not shown that Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat. As if a a threat to kill Americans and other innocents in the near future, against a background of having done so again and again, including in recent days, is an insufficient definition of “imminent.”
It was was another impulsive act by Trump, who lacks a grand strategy. As if Iran were not the one area of foreign policy in which Trump has been nothing if not consistent: withdrawal from the nuclear agreement; imposition of punishing sanctions on Iran; pressure on Europe to adhere to these sanctions; acquiescence in Israel’s repeated bombing of Iran’s assets in Syria.
It was against international law to target Soleimani while he was in Iraq. As if Soleimani’s presence in Iraq itself were not illegal under a 2007 UN Security Council resolution.
So much for the irrelevancies. Our question is: Why was this murderer of Americans, Iraqis, Iranians, Israelis and others; this architect of Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism throughout the Middle East and elsewhere; this favored instrument of the would be, Shiite Muslim, world conquerors in Tehran — why was he not taken out years or decades earlier?
Why did all those Americans have to die at his hands, whether directly or indirectly?
Why did Lebanon have to fall into such a miserable state, as evidenced by the recent, bitter, protracted anti-government demonstrations — a condition caused largely by Iran-backed Hezbollah usurping much of the economy and geography of the country in order to fight or threaten Israel?
Why did so many people have to die in Yemen in a war prosecuted by Iran-backed Houthi rebels?
Why did countless tens or hundreds of thousands of Syrians have to die at the hands of the Bashar Assad regime propped up by Iran just when the Syrian rebels had a chance of topping the evil dictator?
Why did Iran-backed Hamas have so much access to funding, which is the same thing as asking: Why did so many Palestinians in Gaza have to live in misery as the Iranian funds were directed to the construction of terrorist tunnels against Israel? And why did so many Israelis and Palestinians have to die at the hands of Hamas?
Why, then, did it take so long to assassinate the one person most responsible for all this human suffering?
One possibility: fear. If Soleimani is assassinated, Iran will retaliate! Why take the risk?
If Israel harbored this attitude, Israel would have been destroyed long ago. If Israel backed away from fighting enemies, it would have backed itself into the Mediterranean Sea. Western Europe and some in the US harbor the “why risk it” attitude. Translation: We are not willing to pay the price of freedom. We are willing to let Iran bomb our embassy in Beirut, or a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, or commit countless other atrocities around the world. We are willing to allow Iran develop a nuclear weapon, which, under the nuclear agreement that Obama negotiated and Trump cancelled, Iran had every right to do in a few years. Not to mention, under this nuclear deal supposedly restraining Iran, not every suspected Iranian nuclear site was allowed to be inspected.
Another possibility as to why this assassination was so long in coming: the belief that every nation’s policy is negotiable. The belief that all of our enemies are driven by material self-interest. We just need to find the exact combination of carrots and sticks — of financial rewards and threats of economic and military punishment — to get Iran to the table. The idea that some Muslim theocrats hold certain values above what Westerners define as self-interest is not grasped. Facing religious fanatics, Western policymakers are imprisoned by their own intellectual, cultural and perceptual world.
The most absurd embodiment of this severely limited Western vision was the delivery of $1.7 billion in cash and a total of at least $56 billion made available to Iran as part of the nuclear deal. The negotiators actually thought that Iran would see the money as motivation to moderate its export of terrorism. What happened was just the opposite: more Iranian, state-sponsored terrorism, facilitated by more available funds. Just like anyone not culturally blinded predicted.
Another possibility as to why this assassination took so long: Iraq will now fall to Iran and the entire operation will backfire. This is, of course, is possible. But take note that Iraq’s parliamentary vote to expel American troops was non-binding and passed without the participation of Iraq’s minorities, who do have sizable representation in this divided country.
Also note that Iraq would not be free of ISIS without the US military presence; that an expression of outrage over the assassination of Soleimani, itself offered by but a bare majority of the Iraqi parliament, may not carry the day.
Also note: There are no exclusively American bases in Iraq. The expulsion of American troops would leave the Iraqi troops exposed and weakened.
Also note that certain geographical segments of Iraq, or near Iraq, are hospitable to American forces. The US can retain its influence in the area regardless of what Iraq does.
Also note that Iran is now up to its neck in conflicts around the Middle East and might not wish to risk another one, especially when faced with a president like Trump.
Though we would have welcomed the elimination of Soleimani long ago, we are not naive. The eradication of one source of evil, no matter how important, will not make the Iranian challenge go away. The fight against terrorism is long and hard. A quick solution cannot be specified in the same breath as naming a country governed by people who see their conquest as theologically mandated and inevitable. With or without a sustained retaliation from Iran, the battle looms large. It requires strategy, funding, allies, more bold steps and, above all, fortitude.
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