Some loosely connected notes:
- from the day America collectively woke up and said "we elected WHAT?!?", one of the more disturbing questions is what Trump would do in an actual international crisis. We now have an answer to this question: "not much" combined with "make it infinitely worse". Not really surprising.
- this is, without a doubt, a direct consequence of James Mattis resigning as Defense Secretary. Mattis despised Soleimani from his time commanding the 1st Marines in Iraq and defending against an insurgency Soleimani advised, armed and improved. And I can state with almost 100% certainty that Mattis would never have gone along with this killing.
- closely related: the fact that the military came up with this option, planned it out, and presented it to Trump for a yes/no decision (quite literally all he is capable of - there is a hilarious interview from the election where a friendly Fox News interviewer is trying to explain to a bumbling Trump who Soleimani actually was) indicates a very disturbing shift in the highest levels of our military command. Prior to this, the US has had many opportunities to assassinate Soleimani (and the US has never been shy about assassinating people it deemed dangerous or enemies) and declined every time because it would start a war with Iran. Including, memorably, when we did kill someone (Imad Mughniyeh, the #2 Hezbollah commander) and waited until Soleimani, whom he worked closely with, was not in the area. Something has changed and that is disturbing, profoundly.
- closely related to THAT: despite the darkly hilarious insistences from Pompeo that all of this is our attempt to "de-escalate tensions" (because I often slug people in the grocery store and then loudly yell "why doesn't everyone just calm down"), quite literally within 24 hours we tried to bomb another Iran-linked Iraqi militia commander. The target was actually in Beirut in the time and instead a convoy of medics was blown up. I believe at this hour the Pentagon is still insisting the airstrike was not the work of the US. Because, you know, it was one of those OTHER air forces flying ground attack missions in Iraqi air space. Also, the dog ate my homework. The combination of a poorly planned attack, a bungled execution, and then a fumblingly laughable attempt at denial at precisely the worst possible time imaginable implies that our military command has been infected with Trumpism. Symptoms include mind-boggling stupidity, a willingness to use military force without question, and a refusal to think of consequences or plan more than 4 hours in advance. No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, THAT should frighten the hell out of you.
- in case you're not frightened enough yet - Iran WILL respond. It will not be the wisest or most moral course of action, but neither traits have been hallmarks of the Iranian leadership and they see Soleimani's death as a direct challenge to their continued leadership. (Who would be next? Rouhani? Khamenei?) Likely avenues of response: missile/drone strikes into Saudi Arabian refineries and desalination facilities (because they very correctly see the Saudi leadership as a proximate cause of this aggression), attempts at high-casualty attacks into Israel (because killing Jews is always popular in that part of the world and Israel has been the staunchest ally Trump could wish for), and assassination attempts against US military commanders anywhere in the world security is lax. (I discount a cyber attack against US infrastructure simply because it hasn't happened yet and would be the easiest to initiate. Iran wants blood, not metal.)
- in response to THAT, expect a hot mess of escalation and counter-retaliation. One thing NOT to expect is a no-shit full invasion of Iran, because the US does not have enough troops in the area (we would need, well, all of them, similar to Gulf War 1), no friendly governments in the area bordering Iran (save Afghanistan, and the terrain in the Afghan/Iran border is, to put it mildly, not the best, to say nothing of the war already ongoing) and no way to keep a full-scale invasion supplied. What we CAN look forward to is a lot of bombing, because we're pretty good at that regardless of geography. It will solve absolutely nothing, but we're past that point anyway.
- No, this isn't World War Three. It's the Forever War, chapter 2020s. And that's grimly worse, because you see, it never ends.