Tuesday, January 7, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said that all was well.

Trump's first and so far only reaction to news that Iran had hit Iraqi military bases housing American troops with a dozen or more ballistic missiles was to tweet, "All is well!"

Americans' immediate reaction to the oddly cheerful tweet was generally unkind.

Because Iran launched the missiles from its own territory—and, as experts immediately pointed out, because they were likely aiming to avoid places where people might be—American forces would have had ample warning to head to fortified bases. In that light, Trump may have trying to suggest that there were no Americans killed in the attacks. (As of 11:30 p.m. EST, no announcement about casualties had been made public yet.) 

Otherwise, Trump cannot be happy with what has happened on the ground in Iraq and Iran in the five days since he ordered the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. In less than a week, he essentially lost Iraq. Soleimani was popular with the mostly-Shiite Iraqi militias fighting the Islamic State. The Iraqi government, which wasn't warned that Soleimani would be killed on their territory, responded almost instantly with a vote in Parliament to expel American troops. (The Iraqi government doubled down on that reaction again today.)

In the same short period, Iran has also used the conflict as an excuse to begin enriching uranium, which is the first step in creating nuclear weapons.

And while Trump pleasantly surprised some observers with his weirdly calm reaction—far better than the alternative—he's also losing face. Iran's attack came with a threat, delivered in English via Twitter, that if the United States responded further, they would attack Israel and Dubai. Any such attack on unrelated countries would also be a war crime, but Iran's military—while large and effective—is much more likely to actually carry out such an order than the United States armed forces would be.

In other words, by pretending he wasn't upset at having American troops attacked and being dared not to respond, Trump may be doing the only thing he can do in the situation he got himself into: declaring victory and changing the subject.

Why should I care about this?

  • Nothing that gives enemy nations this much of an advantage in this short a period of time is a good thing.
  • Telling people "all is well" when they know it isn't is pretty insulting.