Following President Donald Trump’s decisive, defensive strike on arch-terrorist Qassem Soleimani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (QF), Democrats immediately claimed that the U.S. was on the warpath with Iran.
They didn’t ask for the president’s justification in taking out a man who was responsible for the murder of over 600 U.S. service members in Iraq via roadside IEDs; instead, they immediately labeled the strike “disproportionate” and an “act of war.” They claimed the Trump administration was actively attempting to start a war with Iran, and in taking out the head of the QF (a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization), the administration had done just that.
However, Democrats’ certainty was quickly dashed when the Iranian “retaliation” proved to be symbolic and merely face-saving. There was no aggressive response that would indicate the start of war. Instead, the Iranians effectively bombed the sand, targeting bases in Iraq that had been given prior warning of the strike.
Iran’s response proved not that the mullahs wanted to escalate, but that they understood the cost of a potential full-scale war with the United States. Their feckless strike made it clear that Trump’s message was heard and received: You do not mess with the United States. Trump reiterated this message in his address to the nation following the Iranian airstrikes, saying, “we have sent a strong message to terrorists, if you value your own life, you will not threaten the lives of our people.”
The truth is that Trump wasn’t trying to start a war with Iran; he was trying to keep us out of a war with Iran while nonetheless asserting American deterrence. Democrats fail to see this because they are seemingly incapable of admitting Trump ever does anything right.
The Obama-Biden doctrine of foreign policy, appeasing our enemies at all costs — and if that doesn’t’ work, also send them pallets of cash — is what got us into the situation into the first place. The Obama administration would set “red lines,” and then regularly allow our enemies to cross those lines without any form of retaliation. And this wasn’t a one-time thing; repeated aggression would go virtually unchecked, other than perhaps a stern finger-wagging speech and a “promise” for retaliation in the future.
Real “red lines” only work if your enemy knows that if they cross that line, there is a high likelihood of retaliation. The Iranians hadn’t seen a real red line in so long that they were shocked when they were actually held to one.
Iran would be aggressive. Obama would allow it. Iran would be aggressive again. Obama would send them pallets of cash. Iran was aggressive under Trump, but Trump eventually drew his own red line. Iran was plotting future aggression that would cross that line. Trump saw a clear and present danger to U.S. troops and personnel, so he launched a decisive, defensive strike.
It’s a lot simpler than what many on the Left would lead you to believe.
President Trump’s red line is clear: You do not lay a hand on Americans. Period.
His willingness to hold to the red lines he sets, coupled with a multitude of comments emphasizing the U.S. doesn’t seek war, is how Trump kept the United States out of a war with Iran. Because sometimes, the enemy doesn’t respect you until you give them a reason to do so. President Trump gave the mullahs just such a reason.
Ryan Fournier is founder and co-chairman of Turning Point Action.