Some brief comments on the situation:
- We dodged a bullet and are not at war. Pause and reflect on how lucky we as a nation and world are that things did not go differently.
- The day after the Iranian missile strike, civilian satellite photography of the damaged air base made clear – these are not your father’s Scuds. Unlike the previous times Iran shelled Baghdad with missiles (the Iran-Iraq war, which for the majority of its length was a combination of World War 1-style trench warfare and badly aimed missiles aimed at population centers) the targets were precisely hit.
- On the other hand, missile defense does actually work. Most of the missiles aimed at the Erbil special forces base were shot down or malfunctioned (and given the damage at Al Asad, almost certainly the former). The weakness of missile defense? It’s really, really expensive. That’s why Al Asad didn’t have any – they were protecting more vulnerable targets.
- Not only were the missiles well-aimed, they were also aimed specifically to cause no casualties (and Iran warned the Iraqi government before the strike took place, knowing it would be relayed to the US). Afterward they communicated via three different interlocuters to the US directly that no further retaliation would occur if the US stood down. Given the raw fury throughout Iran this past week, this was a major show of an entirely different kind of strength.
- Thankfully, the US responded in kind; it would have been all too easy to blindly flail in response, and Trump and his Fox News support system have been howling a willingness to do exactly that. It appears Trump’s inner pacifist (which does exist, strangely enough) won out over Trump’s outer bully.
- There has been a lot of commentary over Trump’s performance at his speech yesterday morning; he was late (almost certainly because he insisted on a last-minute ham-fisted edit somehow blaming Obama for the crisis) and slurred and stumbled through his performance. As always, the likely truth is far less interesting than the conspiracy theories – he almost certainly was slurring thanks to poorly fitting dentures (he is nothing if not vain) and most likely has had almost no sleep since the crisis began. Trump is not a young man and sycophantic reports to the contrary, not in very good health. It’s amazing he could stand upright given the past few days.
- The takeaway from all this, I fear, is that the incompetence of this administration is spreading throughout the government. Yesterday Republican Senators were briefed on the initial strike against Soleimani and many off the record (and a few on the record, such as Mike Lee and Rand Paul) noted how slapdash and unconvincing the presentation was. When you fire everyone who doesn’t agree with you politically, you may not like what you have left.
- Australia is still on fire. And Puerto Rico has no power (again) thanks to earthquakes and malicious federal neglect.