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So You Really Want to Defeat the Iranian Regime?

by D.J. McGuire

“A strange game, the only winning move is not to play” – Joshua, War Games

Less than a week after Qasem Soleimani was killed in an American drone attack in Baghdad, the Iranian regime’s military has responded with a dozen-plus missile attacks on two American bases. Thankfully, as of early this morning, there appear to be no American or Iraqi casualties.

That the Khomeinist regime in Tehran is hostile to the United States is not news – and no, said hostility did not start in January 2017. Tehran has been subverting Iraq’s democracy for over a decade. It has played a critical role in Bashar Assad’s bloody repression of the popular uprising in Syria – spearheaded by Soleimani himself before he met his own well-deserved demise. It has continually, and successfully, waylaid attempts by the Lebanese people to escape its influence.

All of these have been swept under the rug by the projectile exchange – including a burgeoning anti-Tehran movement among Iraqi Shiites, as I noted last week. Tehran’s attempt to change the subject worked beautifully. Now, they’re hoping to reap the benefits by relying on outrage at “the Great Satan” to isolated domestic opponents and keep any of the aforementioned anti-Tehran movements from getting more oxygen.

At this moment, Trump can continue military action, or he can move to defeat Tehran in the region. Note, I said or, not and. America can (and should) deliver serious geopolitical defeats to Tehran, but they won’t be delivered via direct military force. What would it entail? As it happens, I provided some of that answer last week:

A broader strategy would have recognized and reached out to the Iraqi protestors (and their counterparts in Iran) and challenged the mullahcracy across all fronts – including Syria and Lebanon. It would go beyond the ridiculous yet stubborn false choice of nothing or full military force. It would work with regional and global allies to press the case for true democracy and the stability that comes with it. It would make clear that the Tehran regime itself is the problem, and that we recognize its behavior is but a feature of its tyranny and the anxiety that always comes from a lack of popular legitimacy.

Contrary to what Tehran would like us to believe, opposition to their influence in Iraq hasn’t gone away. Even as the Shiite parties in the Iraqi parliament voted to demand U.S. troops leave Iraq, the Sunni, Kurdish, and other non-sectarian Shiite parties refused to show up for the vote (Washington Post). Had six more Shiite MPs been unable to attend, the parliament would have lacked a quorum and been unable to vote on anything.

The largest of the parties that did vote for the demand that is led by Muqtada al-Sadr, whose anger at the U.S. is at least matched by his fury at Tehran’s influence in his country. The current Prime Minister there is already on his way out because of the anger of the anti-Tehran Shiite movement. An American president who understood the nuances of the situation would realize we could seriously damage Iran geopolitically without firing a shot.

Meanwhile, we do still have a military presence in eastern Syria, and thus still have an opportunity to build and support Syrians who reject the false choice of Assad or Wahhabism. Of course, that first requires a president who recognizes that to be a false choice. Again, a Syria without Assad would strike a major blow against the Khomeinist regime.

Finally, there is the matter of the dissidents within Iran itself. For all of Trump’s supposed toughness, he has repeatedly insisted he is not looking for regime change in Iran (CNBC). This continues to send the wrong message to the Iranian people – the regime’s first and longest suffering group of victims. Lest we forget, Ronald Reagan gave the Polish Communists fits by supporting the Solidarity movement with words, funds, and communications materials. The Communist regime fell in 1989 without a shot being fired.

The first two objectives, if achieved, would badly defeat the Khomeinist regime; the third would help the Iranian people end it entirely. The problems are these: direct military action against Iran is more likely to damage than to benefit efforts for all three, and Donald Trump has never shown an interest in any of them in the first place.

That is why I have been so critical of his policies in the region. That is why I came up short of three full cheers for the successful dispatching of Soleimani. That butcher’s death would have been very helpful at least regarding the Syria and Iraq objectives, but without said objectives, all we got was a president with a goosed-up ego and the business end of roughly a dozen missiles. That said, it’s not too late to shift gears and “go long” with the aforementioned objectives to actually defeat the Khomeinist regime.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Repackaging Medicare For All (Ep. 228)


This episode covers Trump’s sellout of the Kurds, John Bolton’s sellout of Rudy Giuliani, Mitch McConnell’s sellout of Thanksgiving, DJ’s sellout of Christmas music, and Kevin’s attempt to sell Medicare For All.

Donald Trump Is a Coward

by D.J. McGuire

Over the past year, it has become clear that the Stalinist regime in northern Korea has no intention of slowing – let alone reversing – its build-up of nuclear weapons and missiles. Yet with each act of provocation, Donald Trump responds by backing down or explaining away the danger (Time)…

As Russia continues to grind down Ukraine (Reuters), Trump falls upon the weakened Ukraine to demand it smear the Bidens (CNN)…

As the Chinese Communist regime continues to constrain the people of Hong Kong while slaughtering the people of occupied East Turkestan, Trump refuses to make any criticism (Bloomberg)…

As the anniversary of 9/11 approached, Trump considered a full withdrawal from Afghanistan (New York Times)

Just last week, Trump removed American troops from a position that would have blocked Turkey from invading northeastern Syria …

… and yesterday, when the Turkish invasion was far bloodier and closer to American troops than promised, Trump simply withdrew our troops from northeast Syria entirely (Washington Post).

Much of this could have been chalked up to the president’s narcissism and refusal to acknowledge when things go wrong, or to his long-held isolationist worldview (he’s been like this since the 1980s). More than a few are wondering about Trump’s investments in Turkey – after all, he has himself admitted to “a little conflict of interest” (New York).

There is, however, a simpler explanation: one that explains Trump’s slavish treatment of dictatorships and the continuing retreat of American power under his tenure in office.

I humbly submit before you this proposition: Donald Trump is a coward.

All of his talk about being “tough” is simply that – talk. When push comes to shove, and he has to do more than hire lawyers, lie to the press, or bully elected Republicans, he folds like a cheap suit. Rather than face the consequences of his business mistakes, he sought Russian funding to keep his empire afloat. Rather than acknowledge mistakes and accept the consequences, he lies, sues, and blames others. When he believes he is more powerful, he punches down. But when someone – anyone – appears able to square up against him, he appeases and surrenders, all the while pretending that he isn’t.

As a result, he is manifestly unfit for office. His refusal to acknowledge his own failings has led him to be used by tyrants repeatedly (see above). His psychological need to compensate for that has led to abuses of power and other high crimes.

As for the consequences to the rest of us, Max Boot put it better than I ever could:

Most of the time, the costs of the Trump presidency are inchoate — laws are broken, norms transgressed. But when it came to immigrant children in cages or Kurds in the line of fire, the costs are all too human and horrifying. Are you happy now, Trump supporters?

That last question is not for me to answer, of course, but I also ask it, with an addendum: Did you, Trump supporters, know you were supporting a coward? Is it worth it so long as he is “your” coward?

It will be tempting to presume this is just a debate among Americans – or even just among conservatives. It isn’t. Trump’s cowardice, to the rest of the world, is America’s cowardice. All Americans will share this stain, including brave men and women such as the special forces soldier who told Fox News, “I am ashamed for the first time in my career.”

Americans can wash ourselves clean, but only if we begin by cleansing the office of the presidency. Every day Donald Trump continues in that office incurs greater shame and greater danger. If he survives impeachment and wins re-election, the damage his cowardice will do to American interests, American prestige, and American lives themselves will grow exponentially.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Another Premature Withdrawal Leads to Another Terrorist Rebound

by D.J. McGuire

“Stop us if this sounds familiar” – Ed Morrisey, Hot Air

That particular quote begins Morrisey’s examination of a new report from the lead inspector general for Operation Inherent Resolve (the name for the anti-Daesh operation in the nations of Syria and Iraq). Here’s the rest of the opening paragraph.

The US declares victory and goes home after a massive victory against an insurgency, only to see it metastasize in the vacuum left by our departure. That’s how we got ISIS in the first place after Barack Obama’s pullout from Iraq in 2011, and according to a new Pentagon report, that’s how we’re getting them again.

In this case, “again” refers to Syria, where “(t)he reduction of US forces has decreased the support available for Syrian partner forces at a time when their forces need more training and equipping to respond to the ISIS resurgence” (Glenn Fine, Principal Deputy IG, via CNN).

In other words, while Trump was declaring victory (as late as last month) and continuing a withdrawal that was so wrong-headed it cost him Jim Mattis as Secretary of Defense, Daesh “solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq, and was re-surging in Syria.”

Or, as Morrisey put it (emphasis in original): “There’s not much to say other than we told you so. (Or even more accurately, James Mattis told Trump so.)” For what it’s worth, similar sentiments came from yours truly back then.

Today, our allies in Syria are facing a “re-surging” Daesh and a triumphalists Ba’athist tyranny while Donald Trump pulls our forces out and pretends he’s won.

For those unaware, this was the issue that led me to vote for Clinton, the first – and to date, still only – vote for a Democratic presidential nominee I ever cast. I was convinced Trump would abandon the Syria people.

No one told me how bad being right would feel.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Mexican Standoff (Ep. 186)

This episode looks at the partial government shutdown and who will emerge victorious, the Go Fund Me drive to help fund the border wall, Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, and the looming war between Bernie and Beto for the soul of the Democratic left.

Trump Leaves Syria With Fight Against Daesh Unfinished and With Putin Ascendant

by D.J. McGuire

Those who know about my long and strange trip through Election 2016 know that I landed on my eventual choice (Hillary Clinton – yes, for those of you who didn’t know, thatHillary Clinton) due to one issue – Syria.

A quick refresher:

…I saw reports from the United States (Reuters) and from the region itself (al-Hayat, although the Jerusalem Post has a better translation, it also gets Akram al-Bunni’s name wrong). They revealed the preference of the Syrian opposition – the real opposition, not the Iraqi Ba’athists who keep Daesh operating – for Mrs. Clinton.

That tipped the balance, and countered Johnson’s superior positions on economic matters, at least to me. This year has been a long-running internal conflict between my inner neoconservative and my inner libertarian…and in the end, the neoconservative won.

For the analyst in me, this is a real leap of faith, but if there is a chance of a free Syria, I have to take it. If that means voting for Hillary Clinton, then God help me, that’s what I must do.

Obviously, we never got to see if Mrs. Clinton lived up to that. Her Republican opponent, by contrast, insisted that all he cared about in Syria was ISIS. He even contradicted his own running mate’s critique of Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad (CNBC).

Only we now know Trump was more interested in the appearance of defeating Daesh (as ISIS is known in the locale) than the reality of defeating Daesh – for he claimed a premature victory this morning and announced he was pulling troops out of Syria (CNN).

Trump issued his first public comments on the decision Wednesday evening in a video message posted to Twitter, in which he pointed to the sky to reference US military personnel who have been killed in Syria.

“We have won against ISIS,” Trump said. “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land and now it’s time for our troops to come back home. I get very saddened when I have to write letters or call parents or wives or husbands of soldiers who have been killed fighting for our country.”

There was only one problem with Trump’s assertion: it was a lie – as folks in his own Administration acknowledged:

Resistance to the move was strong among some in the administration. A senior administration official told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the President’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria is “a mistake of colossal proportions and the President fails to see how it will endanger our country.”

“Senior officials across the administration agree that the President’s decision-by-tweet will recklessly put American and allied lives in danger around the world, take the pressure off of ISIS — allowing them to reconstitute — and hand a strategic victory to our Syrian, Iranian and Russian adversaries,” the official said.

No matter, Trump wants his victory lap – and he’ll have it even if the race is still going on.

In the meantime, Russia and Iran now know there is no one to stop them from propelling Bashar Assad to regain total control of Syria. Any attempt to use the area we controlled to allow Syrians to build a future free of Ba’athismis out the window.

Oh, and in case anyone – anywhere – tries to discount the accusations and evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime with the what-did-Putin-really-get-for-it question, we have the answer right in front of us.

Putin got Syria. He got his chief client state in the region (the Tehran mullachracy) as the pre-eminent power in the northern Middle East. The forces of tyranny are ascendant in the region (and worldwide) as we retreat.

Once again, for emphasis, the battle with Daesh was notover (CNN).

Tobias Ellwood, a minister in the British Ministry of Defense, said in a tweet that he “strongly” disagrees with Trump’s comment on Wednesday that ISIS had been defeated. “It has morphed into other forms of extremism and the threat is very much alive,” Ellwood wrote, while the Defense Ministry told CNN there would be no immediate change to its current operation in Syria.

If anything, the only real surprise here is that people are surprised. Trump has been an isolationist for decades, and has always preferred the big splash of symbolism over the hard work of real action. He has repeatedly promised to pull our troops out of Syria; it has been his staff that pulled a Sir Humphrey Appleby and prevented it until now.

I also understand and appreciate those who are concerned about the lack of Congressional authorization. One could argue that this deployment was consistent with the anti-al Qaeda authorization of 2001, given that Deash was once al Qaeda in Iraq, but even I consider that a slender reed on which to lean. A far more robust argument should have been made by Trump himselffor Congressional authorization against this specific enemy at the very least. Instead, Trump is pretending the battle is over as a cover for his decision to cut and run.

When it became clear Trump had defeated Clinton two years ago, I hoped against hope that I would be able to say I was wrong, and that Trump had confounded my very low expectations of him. Instead, he validated them.

Again, this was the issue that led me to switch from Gary Johnson to Hillary Clinton. I knew it was a leap of faith then. I have been proven right now – in the worst way imaginable.

Donald Trump lost Syria – check that, he gave Syria away.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Multiple Bombshells (Ep. 149)

This episode of “The More Perfect Union” podcast looks at Trump’s military strike on Syria and its ramifications, James Comey’s new book and its ramifications, Michael Cohen’s rumored 2016 trip to Prague and its ramifications, and Greg’s ability to do foreign accents and its ramifications.

WrestleMania (Ep. 107)

Episode 107 of “The More Perfect Union” podcast series features discussions about the Trump-CNN Logo wrestling video controversy, the Trump family at the G20 Summit, revelations of yet another previously unreported meeting between Russian lawyers and members of the Trump campaign, and we end with some funny political chants.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Trumpcare Delayed Is Trumpcare Denied (Ep. 106)

This week’s MPU podcast looks at the GOP’s failure to pass an Obamacare repeal and replace bill, the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, the potential for a U.S. ground war in Syria, the future of the Trump travel ban in the Supreme Court, and what the Founding Fathers might have thought of America in 2017.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Mother Of All Bombs (Ep. 92)

Episode 92 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at Trump’s potential plays in Syria, Korea, and the Fed. (And which one he’s likely to nuke first.) Then the gang has some laughs over Sean Spicer’s most recent verbal gaffes and shares their thoughts on the airline industry in light of the United Airlines passenger ejection assault.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

“Winning is Easy…” (Ep 91)

Taking a cue from VP Mike Pence’s love of theatre, the gang discusses the difficulties of actually running a government, the recent developments in Syria, and Neil Gorsuch’s new promotion.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Helena, Kevin, Molly, and lots of other smart, fun people.

More Perfect, After Dark: War and Peace (Ep. 87)

This special “After-Dark” episode takes listeners behind the scenes to hear what the hosts talk about after the podcast ends. This week they discuss the North Korean nuclear threat and how it compares to past situations in Iraq and Syria, how Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is handling his new role on the world stage, and whether President Trump is up to the task of international diplomacy.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Kevin, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.