An oft-quoted, seldom-applied truism holds that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So what have we here in Central Texas learned from watching a presidential administration based partially in nearby Crawford predicate its 2003 decision to invade Iraq on faulty intelligence or at least faulty interpretations of it? We sat back and cheered as military personnel, many from Central Texas, marched off to a war Saudi allies warned would upset the balance of power in the Mideast. They were right. Meanwhile, we reveled in our tax cuts and booming economy as troops got bogged down for years in a quagmire. Nearly 5,000 Americans died.
Now another administration blames Iran (probably correctly) for the latest attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman; Iranian officials deny this. Thursday’s attacks erupted as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan visited Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to reduce tensions between Iran and the United States, the latter of which broke a treaty the United States and some of its allies earlier negotiated to block Iranian development of nuclear weapons — a treaty that even by Trump administration admissions Iran had honored.
Caution, savvy and intelligence must now rule the day. We support President Trump’s decision to dispatch the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln to the Gulf of Oman along with destroyers and cruisers to protect tanker traffic, even as we urge the president to do nothing to further destabilize this situation. There’s no doubt that Iran is a malevolent actor in Mideast turmoil, but Trump has done nothing to pacify matters by tearing up a treaty with Iran and heaping economic sanctions on it. In short, there’s enough blame to go around without triggering a war that will quickly dwarf the 2003 Iraq invasion, consume lives and further worsen our runaway deficit-spending.
This may well be one area where our president can employ his skill to calm belligerent governments displaying the worst inclinations (even as Trump seems dismissive of our allies). While his summits with North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un failed to eliminate nuclear threats to Japan, South Korea and the United States, Kim does seem to have mellowed in warlike rhetoric and actions.
Given our Army personnel at nearby Fort Hood and the involvement in Iraq and other Mideast venues by reservists among our neighbors, Central Texans should demonstrate patriotism through unstinting vigilance, demanding elected leaders do all they can to resolve this peacefully. If the president believes he can really eclipse the diplomacy of President Obama’s administration and contain Iran and even bring it into the family of 21st-century nations, now’s his chance to pursue a worthy mark in history. He has an obligation to try, given that he has contributed to hostilities between our countries. As candidate Donald Trump accurately noted during the 2016 election, Americans have little appetite for further investments of blood and treasure in the Mideast. He got that one right.