As I mentioned yesterday, as we move away in time from the killing of
austere soldier philosopher debonair media dreamboat and murderous Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last Thursday, we’re beginning to see more process pieces that attempt to explain in best #OrangeManBad fashion just how the events came to be. Some are utterly fatuous, like the New York Times story claiming that the option of killing Soleimani had only been included as some kind of what can only be described as a joke option. That simply isn’t how the military staff process works at any level and to assert that the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman and Secretary of Defense signed off on a briefing to the President that included non-serious options is, frankly, stupid (READ NYT Claims Top Pentagon Officials Were ‘Flabbergasted’ When President Trump Agreed to Use Their Plan to Kill Soleimani).
The Washington Post had a similar piece headlined How Trump decided to kill a top Iranian general. That story claims that the decision to kill Soleimani was made at the same time as the decision to strike at the militia organization that had killed a US civilian contractor the previous Friday…then contradicts itself a few paragraphs later and says what is probably true, that the killing of Soleimani is a reaction to the attack on the US embassy.
But even inconsequential articles can cause unexpected consequences when idiots and rabid partisans join forces. First off, let’s go to the idiot.
Some analysts were skeptical about the need to kill Soleimani.
“There may well have been an ongoing plot as Pompeo claims, but Soleimani was a decision-maker, not an operational asset himself,” said Jon Bateman, who served as a senior intelligence analyst on Iran at the Defense Intelligence Agency. “Killing him would be neither necessary nor sufficient to disrupt the operational progression of an imminent plot. What it might do instead is shock Iran’s decision calculus” and deter future attack plans, Bateman said.
First off, Soleimani has exhibited operational control over operations in the past. So to say he’s a “decision-maker” as though that made him irrelevant is rather stupid. We don’t know what the imminent operation was nor Soleimani’s role. To rule out killing him as “neither necessary nor sufficient” is sort of the muddled-thinking royal-pronouncement that one often finds emanating from the ranks of “analysts” who have never spent a day in muddy boots. There are any number of reasons why killing Soleimani might be both. Let’s suppose that the attack on the US embassy on December 31 was a dress rehearsal to gain intelligence about the layout, the available defenses, and US reactions. Let’s suppose there was another attack planned and imminent that would, at a minimum, force US military forces to gun down hundreds of unarmed Iraqi civilians being used as human shields by militias in order to prevent a penetration of the embassy itself. Let’s suppose that because of the visibility of such an attack, Soleimani wanted to be personally assured of the planning and that was the reason for his visit. In this scenario, killing him would be both necessary and sufficient to stop the planned attack.
Killing commanders who even aren’t directly involved in an imminent operation can often stop things. The removal of a commander causes uncertainty. The new guy will need time to review what is going on and decide if he agrees with it. The guys in the field will be reluctant to act until the new commander tells them to. In a command climate where acting out of sync with leadership gets you beheaded or burned alive, acting based on the orders of a dead guy might not be a great evolutionary strategy.
In short, if this guy was providing this kind of analysis from within the Defense Intelligence Agency, then a lot of truly bizarre things suddenly make sense.
Now enter Laurence Tribe:
“Jon Bateman, who served as a senior intelligence analyst on Iran at the Defense Intelligence Agency,“ said “[k]illing [Soleimani] would be neither necessary nor sufficient to disrupt the operational progression of an imminent plot.” If true, it’s fatal. https://t.co/wy9IAYHvXF
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) January 4, 2020
What Tribe was claiming was not the obvious, that the attack was fatal for Soleimani, but the bizarre, that the opinion of one “analyst” about the necessity of the attack made rendered the entire attack illegal.
Tribe is truly a sad, sad case. Thanks to Stage 5 Trump Derangement Syndrome he’s descended from respected legal scholar and short-lister for Supreme Court seat to self-parody, to Twitter troll. Unfortunately, he’s had more influence upon the Democrat party and the nation as Twitter troll than he ever had professionally. He’s the genius behind the idea that the House could approve Articles of Impeachment and just bury them in a Mason jar in the backyard. He’s been the loudest voice in pushing even the more bizarre aspects of the Russia Hoax and the Ukraine nonsense. He’s obviously seeing in this another article of impeachment.
I’ve no doubt that Tribe could undoubtedly convince Fat Jerry Nadler to vote another article of impeachment, but Tribe’s analysis, such as it is, is nothing more than playing to the NeverTrumpers in the cheap seats. Killing Soleimani, whether or not his killing might have disrupted an imminent attack, was a decision that President Trump has under his Article II powers as commander-in-chief and it is his judgment on how to react and his responsibility for the action. No analyst anywhere has any role in making that decision.