After Iran launched missile attacks against military installations in Iraq on Tuesday night, Trump and his enablers decided to take a victory lap, claiming “we won.” For example, here is Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner:
The early indications are that Iran blinked. The regime dramatically launched ballistic missiles toward U.S. troops and made a big show of it to the world, but it also chose targets where it knew Americans were expecting an attack and would be able to take preparations to reduce or avoid casualties.
I was reminded of a quote from the famous Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
This president, who refers to himself as a “stable genius,” has demonstrated that he has zero self-awareness. But with even an ounce of curiosity, one might wonder why Iran would choose to strike where their opponents were expecting an attack and were able to prepare for it.
The problem is that when your only tool is bullying through threats and violence, all that matters is the body count. Under that scenario, the U.S. wins by taking out a major military figure, while the strikes from Iran produced no casualties.
But if we step back from the body count, we can examine what else Iran achieved from this exchange. Perhaps the most important is that it will probably lead to U.S. forces leaving Iraq. Along those lines, take a look at this tweet from a senior advisor to Iran’s president:
.@realDonaldTrump You took out General Soleimani in Iraq. We will take you out of West Asia. Start packing!
— Hesameddin Ashena (@hesamodin1) January 8, 2020
In addition, Iran has abandoned the limits on its nuclear program and the assassination of Soleimani has empowered Iranian hardliners by unifying opposing political factions in the country. An honest assessment of the situation would take those outcomes into account.
It is also important to keep in mind that, based on Iran’s history, the country’s retaliation might not be over. Yashar Ali points to some examples from the past to demonstrate that “the Iranian gov sees revenge as almost a generational thing…their timeline can be in months/years. Revenge always doesn’t come via a show of force they take PUBLIC credit for … So while POTUS is taking the off ramp, the Iranians will sit and wait and do what they want and when they want to do it.”
Since the end of World War II, most countries around the globe have concluded that conventional war with the United States would be disastrous. It was the asymmetrical tactics employed in Vietnam and Iraq that kept this country mired in those seemingly forever wars. Iran has worked to perfect the use of those asymmetrical tactics.
Even someone with a rudimentary understanding of the Middle East would be aware of Iran’s methods and history. But knowing your enemy seems to be above the pay grade of Trump and his enablers. While Iran lost an important military figure, they have also benefited from his assassination and are probably not done when it comes to seeking revenge against the U.S.
Keep that in mind as Trump and his enablers celebrate a pyrrhic victory.