President Trump orders the killing of one of Iran’s most senior leaders in response to the continued attacks on Americans, including at our embassy in Iraq, orchestrated by Iran through its proxy forces.
Iran responds with missile attacks on American bases in Iraq, but those attacks appear aimed at assets, not American personnel.
The president says, essentially, ‘Enough.’ Point made.
Both sides say that if further escalation occurs, it will be much more violent — and thus unpredictable and potentially uncontrollable.
A few lessons in international policy have been learned — or maybe re-learned.
First, the president was right to take out Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force.
Soleimani was the author of attacks that have killed many American soldiers. He was not about to abate his ambition. He would have continued to attack Americans and our allies as a means of asserting Iran’s desire for regional hegemony.
He was an initiator of terrorism and he would have gleefully targeted Americans in America if he had the capacity to do so.
Our policy on terrorists must be to find them before they can attack us. In Soleimani’s case, this is what the president did.
The Iranian response was measured. It probably reflects a need to do something for domestic political consumption in Iran — but not so much as to spark massive retaliation from the United States.
The president’s response to their response has also been rather measured and correct.
Is this the end of the issue? No.
Within the Iranian state, there are significant forces that will continue to push terrorism. Iran remains committed to developing nuclear weapons. It will continue to try to destabilize our allies in the region and drive conflict with Sunni-dominated governments.
Iran under its present regime will generate confrontation for the foreseeable future.
But as we move forward on this troubled water, a few things should have become apparent from the way this confrontation was handled.
If the right lessons are learned, they will help us deal with the next confrontation.
It is incumbent upon any president to grasp the necessity of informing Congress, through its elected leaders, of decisions which bring great peril upon the country or involve the use of significant American force.
This does not mean that the president has to give up his authority under the Constitution to act to protect the nation — or the right to take that action unilaterally.
But such engagement with the Congressional leadership — the Gang of Eight, as they are known — is not only an important element of our democratic structure. It is critical to retaining public understanding and support.
The president would not be mitigating any significant power by informing and advising the Congressional leadership of future actions. Rather, he would be solidifying the legitimacy of the course he is taking.
Our European alliances are in disarray.
After the Soleimani attack, the following occurred.
The European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, invited the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, to Brussels. This was a clear challenge and rebuke directed at the United States and the president.
Angela Merkel, Germany’s longtime leader and Europe’s most respected statesperson, arranged a meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The point was being made that she now looks to Russia not the United States to manage Middle Eastern — and possibly European — crises.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron called the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and spoke at length with him regarding the situation. Macron did not, to our knowledge, call President Trump.
It is sadly understandable that our traditional allies in Europe no longer look upon the United States as a reliable force supporting their national and regional interests.
The president has made a point of shredding these alliances.
His recent trip to the NATO meeting where he used the diplomacy of name-calling to characterize the leadership of some of these allies and intentionally snubbed others was the latest example of his go it alone, “America first, America only” policy.
This is a world where the threats are many; where there are still a great number of threats to western values and especially our nation.
It is a world where going it alone gives our nation little running room to negotiate and manage these threats.
There needs to be a coming together with our allies. They need us and we need them as we move forward in this dangerous world, especially in the Middle East.
There is no downside to acknowledging that these nations may have different agendas.
Some may be governed by people of appeasement who do not understand the depth of the threat. Appeasement is a policy that only increases these threats — but it is their policy nonetheless, and we must work with them independent of this difference in approach.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was surprised by the lack of support we received in the aftermath of the Soleimani killing. It is time for the president and his people to work to shore up these alliances, recognizing our differences, so that next time we need them we are not subject to such surprises.
Unfortunately, partisanship in our political system now is the norm, even when it comes to confronting threats from foreign adversaries.
It is understandable that this frustrates the president. It should frustrate the nation.
This would be a good time for all who govern us to step back, even as hyper-partisanship swirls around the impeachment process.
The president should convene a meeting for the sole purpose of finding a way to lessen this partisan atmosphere, at least as it relates to issues of foreign policy and national security. It would be good for everyone, both substantively and politically.
These are some lessons that could be gleaned from the immediate past. Learning from the past is almost always a good way to move forward.
Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.