Appears the interim director of Uptown Greenville has good knowledge of its operations. So let's look elsewhere, form a...

Trade war Trump may stumble into real war

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson


Sunday, May 19, 2019

With a competent president in the White House, the escalating confrontation with Iran would not rise to the level of crisis. With President Trump calling the shots, we should be afraid. Very afraid.

A rational president, of course, would not have abandoned the landmark deal that halted Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. A reasonable president would not take provocative steps that seem designed to goad the Iranians into a military clash. A sensible president would study the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and learn the sobering lessons they teach.

Instead, we have Trump.

He campaigned on a promise to end unwinnable wars and bring the troops home, which may be what he truly wants to do. But this instinct is thwarted by the president's insecure need to act like a swaggering bully on the world stage, pushing around our allies and punishing the adversaries he perceives as weak.

The sharp rise in tension with Iran cannot be entirely blamed on John Bolton, Trump's hawkish national security adviser, who has long made clear that his goal is nothing less than regime change. Ultimately, it was Trump who decided to pull out of the nuclear deal, against the advice of his then-defense secretary, James Mattis; Trump who ordered scorched-earth sanctions designed not to cripple but to destroy the Iranian economy; Trump who approved designating a unit of Iran's armed forces, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a terrorist organization.

But Bolton is guiding Trump down this dangerous path. I am no apologist for Iran's repressive, theocratic regime, which is a destructive and deadly influence in the Middle East. In shrewd and subtle hands, a push-pull policy of pressure and rewards might have a positive effect on the Iranian government's behavior.

Instead, we have Trump.

The president has allowed the traditional U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia — Iran's bitter rival — to be turned into what amounts to a Vulcan mind-meld, with the role of Spock being played by the de facto Saudi leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trump took no effective action against bin Salman for ordering the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The president has turned a blind eye to the near-genocidal war bin Salman is waging in Yemen. And now, Trump appears to be doing the Saudi potentate's bidding with regard to Iran.

Trump administration talk of sending up to 120,000 troops to the region if Iran or its proxies attack American forces is, at this point, just talk. But ordering home hundreds of non-essential diplomatic personnel from neighboring Iraq, as the administration announced Wednesday, is the kind of concrete step that often precedes hostilities.

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to convince European foreign ministers that the administration is acting on credible intelligence suggesting that Iran may be planning some kind of attack. But he "didn't show us any evidence," one senior European official told The Washington Post. U.S. officials were quoted anonymously as blaming Iran for damaging four oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. But the administration has not provided information about how the damage was inflicted or proof that Iran was responsible.

Iran is nearly four times as big as Iraq and has twice the population. Tehran does not have nuclear weapons — we know that thanks to the nuclear deal that the Obama administration negotiated and Trump ripped up — but it does have robust air and naval defenses. As we should know by now, Iranians would likely react to a clash with the United States not by turning on their leaders but by rallying around the flag.

Trump may believe his hard-line policies will force the Iranian government to negotiate a new agreement on nuclear technology, Iran's toxic influence in the region and its ballistic missile program. To me, however, it looks as if the administration is trying to provoke Iran into lashing out. If Trump doesn't want a war, he needs to make that clear — not just to the Iranians, but to Bolton and Pompeo as well.

The president is blowing the chance to lead an allied coalition in applying appropriate pressure to Iran, just as he is blowing the chance to orchestrate a multilateral stand on China's unfair trade practices. We already have a trade war. I fear Trump may stumble into a real one.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2009.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

July 23, 2019

Since being sworn in January, I have been working hard to help the people I represent in Lenoir and Pitt counties — and the biggest opportunity to do this has been through the state budget. I’ve talked with elected officials, educators, administrators, nonprofits, business owners,…


July 12, 2019

Over the past three years, I have had the good fortune to work on a project that has the potential to transform the farming landscape in eastern North Carolina, one that involves harnessing gas produced from hog waste.

As CEO and founder of OptimaBio, our work with Smithfield Foods to capture…


July 01, 2019

The American system of checks and balances government does not work the way most people think it does or the way the Founding Fathers said it would.

The president serves at the pleasure of Congress, just as the prime minister of the UK serves at the pleasure of Parliament, which means that the…


June 26, 2019

Several Democratic presidential hopefuls are calling for Americans to make reparations for slavery. On June 19, the House judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties held a hearing. Its stated purpose was "to examine, through open and constructive discourse, the…

Walter Williams

June 10, 2019

The New York Times 

“Because it’s there.” For those who grew up on George Mallory’s famous explanation for his yearning to scale Mount Everest, with all the romance, danger and spirit of exploration it implied, that viral photograph of an endless line of climbers in…

June 10, 2019

Although it may not appear so, the leaders of both major political parties in North Carolina favor lowering the tax burden of large businesses. Their real dispute is about the scope and magnitude of the tax relief.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has consistently opposed recent state budgets, crafted by…

john hood.jpg

June 10, 2019

We are just weeks away from the first of 20 Democratic debates scheduled this primary season. It gets underway over two nights in Miami on June 26 and 27, and never before has there been a debate this early in the election and potentially this important.

The reason there are so many candidates, 23…


June 09, 2019

Gerrymandering has always been part of American politics. After all, the term was coined in 1812 after Massachusetts governor and Founding Father Elbridge Gerry endorsed a state senate district that resembled a salamander.

Until recently, federal courts have been highly reluctant to enter the…

Steve and Cokie Roberts

June 09, 2019

It is not unfair to point out that President Trump, on many important subjects, is just an ignoramus.

A vivid illustration of this unfortunate fact came this week in London, when it was revealed that Prince Charles, a knowledgeable environmentalist, had tried to educate the president on climate…

Eugene Robinson

June 09, 2019

"When you are told all your life you're dumb, unworthy, you start believing it. God changed that for me."

Jerry, from Youngstown, Tennessee, hesitated to be interviewed by Chris Arnade, because "I don't know my ABCs, so I can't really talk right." He told Arnade, the author of the new book…

116 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 12
        Next Page»   Last Page»