Since Donald Trump is one of the least popular presidents in modern history, many people were anxious since day one that he might start a war to boost his own popularity. The reality is that the so-called “rally round the flag” effect is generally a short-lived one. President George HW Bush did see a considerable jump in his approval ratings following the First Gulf War, but lost his bid for re-election a year later. Even Winston Churchill, remembered fondly for leading Great Britain through World War II, was voted out of office shortly after the war was finished.
That said, the idea of someone as impulsive and tactically clueless as Trump leading the country into war, especially under false pretenses, should rightfully concern people. So when the administration targeted Gen. Suleimani last week, many suspected he was either looking to provoke a war with Iran to prop up his re-election odds or to distract from his own impeachment.
Now, a new report by The Wall Street Journal suggests that this is pretty close to why Trump plotted his move. In some ways, it’s worse because Trump was caving to Republican senators who have long dreamed of military action in Iran, if we’re to believe the words of a foreign policy adviser who spoke to the press. This suggests that a few senators were considering witnesses at Trump’s senate trial and that by ordering the airstrikes, Trump was catering to a few of them – suggesting his foreign policy was influenced by domestic political affairs.
On Friday, we saw reports leak that the administration was looking to take out another senior Iranian military commander in Yemen, on the same day that they killed Suleimani. The reports of an attack being imminent to defend the airstrike are looking pretty weak – especially since the administration doesn’t have a consistent definition of what the word “imminent” means and they can’t share details. These leaks are also coming out shortly after Nancy Pelosi has announced that she will deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate next week which seems too well-timed to be coincidence. We could be seeing Trump’s reckless attack turn into a full-fledged scandal in the days to come.
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and an advocate of science-based policy making