Wednesday, May 15, 2019

This tail has too many dogs

Update: Now furnished with a last paragraph!

Iranian interior, via DesignSponge.

If you've been having these unpleasant little Gulf of Tonkin flashbacks, or even Remembering the Maine, over the ongoing harshness involving a couple of damaged ships and the float of a war proposal, you're not the only one, and some of our fellow sufferers are in high places, I'm glad to say, according to Helene Cooper and Edward Wong at The Times:
WASHINGTON — As the Trump administration draws up war plans against Iran over what it says are threats to American troops and interests, a senior British military official told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that he saw no increased risk from Iran or allied militias in Iraq or Syria.
A few hours later, the United States Central Command issued an unusual rebuke: The remarks from the British official — Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, who is also the deputy commander of the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State — run “counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.”
More ominously still,
One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential internal planning, said the new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was “small stuff” and did not merit the military planning being driven by Mr. Bolton. The official also said the ultimate goal of the yearlong economic sanctions campaign by the Trump administration was to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States.
It doesn't get any more explicit than that. "Yeah, we're trying to get a little war going, so the boss decided to make up some shit."

Or you could look at these signs as welcome signs of Bolton's incompetence, that the British command feels the need to take public issue with him and some White House resister is impelled to speak about it this bluntly. He's like the bad kid in the marshmallow experiment, unable to delay gratification, and he's unable to conceal his designs, unable to manage alliances, unable to command loyalty in his own shop. And his enemies are taking command of Trump, starting with one of Mad Dog Mattis's close confederates, on Fox (which is where the Emperor goes when he needs to find out what he thinks):
Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane blasted the report that the Trump administration has updated plans to send more than 100,000 troops to counter Iran if necessary.
“It’s a distortion of what really happens,” he said on “The Story with Martha MacCallum.” “The president doesn’t even know what they are talking about.”
Bolton has already overplayed his hand. Trump poohpoohed Bolton's 120,000 troops proposal at the White House,
"Would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that," Trump said. "And if we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that." (NBC)
Where "I would do that absolutely" means "I'm always up for issuing threats, but that doesn't mean I'm expecting to follow one through". I never expected to be glad that the president is given to empty threats or that the secretary of state and national security adviser are idiots, but here we are. And
Keane also pushed back on claims the Trump administration is sliding toward war with Iran. Keane said the Trump administration isn’t looking for a regime change or a war, and that the president wants to negotiate with Iran and make better diplomatic deals.
He added, “President Trump is measured in dealing with Iran.”
That absolutely fits the Art of the Deal pattern: violent threats against Mexico and Canada provoking the NAFTA renegotiation, "fire and fury" talk on North Korea leading to the Singapore summit, even his behavior over the Affordable Care Act, which is meant to lead Congress to create something like Obamacare only with lots of marble and gold, the design of which is their problem, not his. His fundamental playbook is really that narrow: scream until you get what you want or, more likely, an opportunity to pretend you got what you wanted, and what he basically wants from the presidency is just to get rid of Obama, obliterate him from human memory, and to have some self-esteem.

Trump's been doing the same thing with Iran all along, tossing the Obama-created JCPOA because Obama created it, not because he agrees with all the criticisms of Binyamin Netanyahu and Mohammad bin Salman and Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, or even understands them, at all. Or has any idea what the original deal itself consists of, other than that somebody got an airplaneful of cash out of it—he's familiar with that concept, and in his experience it's a good indication that somebody's committing a crime. He himself just wants to do his own deal, with his name on it, that will be the best deal ever made. Poor Bolton and Pompeo are given to complex and devious planning (some day I'll try to write up the Venezuela "coup" Pompeo thought he'd engineered and its ridiculous failure), and longing for some wag-the-dog violence, but this tail has too many dogs and they can't control anything.

So they thought his violent language about Iran meant he wanted to kill everybody, and salivated over the opportunity, but no, he really wants to fall in love with old Khamenei, take pictures in one of those exquisitely furnished rooms, and sign a document. Not that Khamenei ever will, but Donald is full of hope, and whatever happens, he'll be sure it's somebody else's fault.

The stupidity of all these people is getting impossible for even Republicans and journalists to ignore. I can't get over this thing about Jared Kushner's plans for immigration reform, reported in Washington Post:
Sooner or later we're bound to find out that Kushner's views on fixing the opioid crisis or resolving the Israel-Palestine dispute have more or less the same content as that. He's as dumb, and as fixated on keeping  the marks looking elsewhere as he sails through the con, as Donald—he just dresses better and has some manners. Hopefully he will be convicted of something sooner or later, though actual jail could be too much to hope for.

We still need to worry about war with Iran, no doubt, which would be a colossal blunder far worse than the Iraq war. But if it happens, I'm confident it won't be because John Bolton did some clever planning.

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