The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Hard Questions; No Easy Answers

Rich Galen

Monday January 6, 2020

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  • I was in favor of invading Iraq in 2003. I thought, as did a majority of the U.S. House and Senate, that there were good and sound reasons to send troops, bounce Saddam Hussein out of power, and allow the long and storied history of Iraqis to regain their cultural and economic footing.

  • Given what we knew then, I would still believe that. Indeed, as many of you have pointed out over the years, I put my money where my mouth was and spent the better part of six months in Iraq in 2003-2004.

  • Turns out we knew how to get into Iraq but, just short of 17 years on, we still can't figure out how to get out of Iraq.

  • The assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani over the weekend on the specific orders of President Donald Trump, smacks of the same thing: We know how to start these things, but we're a little fuzzy on how to end them.

  • This is not (unless you are, or are working for a Democrat running for President) a time of absolute pronouncements. This is true no matter how many pundits, analysts, experts, and specialists we see on the cable chat shows.

  • As usual with this administration, Trump appears to have made the decision to take out Soleimani on the spur of the moment with little or no coordination outside the Department of Defense knowing the Iranian General would be on or near the Baghdad International Airport on Friday night.

  • No coordination with the Congress. No synchronization with our allies. No departmental cross-planning within the Administration.

  • We've discussed this before, but it is worth while pointing out again. In 1998, in the midst of the Newt v. Clinton impeachment process, Clinton came back from "family healing time" in Martha's Vineyard to set cruise missles on what was alleged to have been a chemical weapons factory operated in favor of Osama bin Laden in Sudan.

  • That was two weeks after two U.S. Embassays, in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were attacked by truck bombs killing upwards of 200 people.

  • I bring this up solely to point out that shortly after the attacks became public, I got a call at my desk at GOPAC from Speaker Gingrich telling me he had been informed of the impending attack, that the intelligence was shared with him, and that he agreed with President Clinton's decision to attack.

  • That the "chemical plant" turned out to be a factory making pharmaceuticals was an unfortunate error in intelligence.

  • Again.

  • The current situation appears to have been another "Trump's Gut" call. Trump's gut is often pretty good, but at this point his gut is sending, according to, "The entire 1st Brigade Combat Team of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division." The brigade is comprised of about 4,000 troops.

  • The Iranians have pledged to retaliate against the U.S. but they are being even less transparent than the Trump administration as to what the nature of that retaliation might be.

  • Tom Friedman's NY Times column over the weekend reminded us that Iranians are not Arabs. They are Persians and, notwithstanding Anti-American demonstrations in the streets of Tehran,
    "Soleimani understood that Persians would not be willing to die in distant battlefields for the sake of Arabs, so he focused on recruiting Arabs and Afghans as an auxiliary force. He often boasted that he could create a militia in little time and deploy it against Iran's various enemies."

  • The current conjecture among the literal Monday Morning Quarterbacks on TV is that the retaliation will likely take the form of cyber attacks against U.S. and our allies' governments, infrastructure, and/or corporations.

  • I don't know about you, but I'm backing everything up today. If I could just find those 3.5 inch discs I put somewhere for safe keeping. And a disc drive able to use them.

  • Killing Soleimani on Iraqi soil has caused some problems in Baghdad including a vote by the Parliament to force the U.S. to withdraw all our troops from Iraqi soil.

  • Two things: First, please don't throw us into the briar patch and, second, the vote has all the legal authority as a "Sense of the Congress" resolution here in Our Nation's Capital.

  • Things may not be spinning out of control just yet, but the carousel appears to be picking up speed.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Great links to the "chemical factory" attack, to the discussion of an imminent attack, to the Tom Friedman column, and to the Library of Congress' explanation of a "Sense of the Congress" resolution.

    The Mullfoto is of a sign on an abandoned pay phone station at DCA.

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