While Shippensburg University students vacationed away from classes during the winter season, the United States government was embroiled in political disagreements.
Of these, the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani added more stew to the pot of arguments stating distrust in President Donald Trump.
It seems partisan lines bisect public opinion on the Jan. 2 assassination, during which President Trump approved of a plot to target Soleimani. Soleimani was traveling in a vehicle when a United States missile killed him.
Trump’s administration initially claimed that Soleimani represented an immediate threat to the American people. According to the Associated Press, the United States Defense Department said Soleimani “... was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
The Department of Defense also claimed Soleimani approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad at the end of last year. However, no evidence has emerged indicating either of these were the case.
Some argue killing a top military general of a foreign power constitutes an act of war for which President Trump should have consulted Congress. And in the wake of having taken this action, requests for evidence of imminent Iranian threats have been met with little response other than statements to the effect of “trust us, we know.”
Many will remember that former President George Bush’s administration falsely claimed Iraq had access to weapons of mass destruction and aided in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. It was clear we could not trust that administration’s justifications for war, and so it is clear we cannot trust this administration’s vague pleas for confidence at this time.
However, others rightly consider this action ample deterrence to shy Iran away from continuing to prod at the United States’ patience.
After all, the Iranian military has an extensive record in recent history of provoking the United States by destroying or seizing assets (see last June’s destruction of a United States drone or last July’s seizure of a British oil tanker), violating international treaties (see Iran’s violation of its nuclear deal by exceeding uranium stockpile levels) and even killing Americans abroad (see the December attacks that killed American soldiers and civilian contractors by militias backed by Iran).
Iran pokes the lion that is the United States’ military, and then retreats into a stance of plausible deniability to claim the high ground.
Both domestic partisan sides of this argument have valid arguments. But what they each fail to grasp is the fact that this is a high-risk game of escalation that can either provoke costly war or deter it altogether.
President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are the gamblers betting with their citizens’ chips. They are so far removed from the lives of those they lead that they are willing to thump their chests like meaty gorillas to scare the other for political brownie points. They have with all to gain, and nothing (of their own) to lose.
We saw this careless ambition in action when 176 people perished after Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane. We saw this in Iran-backed militia attacks on American soldiers and civilians. And while America can argue back-and-forth about who escalated tensions first, the fact of the matter is that the leaders initiating these issues have no stake in escalation in the first place.
Instead of domestically discussing these issues in terms of “Republican vs. Democrat,” we need to frame foreign conflicts in terms of “We the People vs. Our World Leaders” to take back power in this debate. In this way, we are closer to Iranian civilians than we are with our own government.
Allowing the current state of affairs to continue while propagating our opponents as evil warmongers or terrorist sympathizers completely side-steps the issue of accountability and disregard for human life on either side of the conflict.