By: Clyde Ramalaine
A Diplomacy that systemically is premised on an enemy-terrorist diaphragm
Recently impeached Donald J. Trump the 45th president of the USA on Friday joined the long list of American presidents that fits the description of a group of war-presidents. Let us also not be fooled to assume that the list is only defined in colours of red American political party descriptions.
The list includes both Republican and Democrat presidents. His decision to execute a military attack on an Iranian human target temporarily in a foreign country of Iraq through 4IR drone technology communicates a set of discomforting challenges of praxis of diplomacy.
While Trump, his deputy Pence, secretary of defence Esper and Pompeo are at pains to justify the killing, with the rhetoric of claims that Suleimani was behind many American deaths, this act on last Friday has turned the Iranian General into a martyr. Rather the opposite of what Trump ever may have had in mind. In this sense, the act of executing the Russian roulette act remains a gross miscalculation.
Not because Qassem is a saint, but because Trump has had little discernment to realize what this act would mean in ramifications for a very volatile region. In the aftermath of the killing, as of Sunday, Iran announced it would no longer heed the restrictions in the 2015 nuclear deal that restricted its development of nuclear weapons. Iraq’s lawmakers voted on a bill drafted by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to expel U.S. forces from the country. The bill must be signed by the prime minister to take effect. And the coalition led by the U.S. that has fought ISIS in Iraq and Syria for years announced it was suspending operations and instead focusing on defending its forces.”…We are now fully committed to protecting the Iraqi bases that host Coalition troops,” a press release said.
By Tuesday we heard of sworn revenge threats among others even a bounty on the head of an American President in claims of U$80million.
University of North Carolina academic Klause Larres locates the problem with Trump’s actions in his failure to forge cooperation with allies. He asserts the USA was robbed of advice and expertise in how to tackle the problems posed by Iran. There is substance to this claim as advanced by Larres, yet I wish to remonstrate, this strike while it didn’t rely on the allegiance of allied partners as was the case for example with UN Resolution 1973 that resulted in the killing of Gadhafi, unveils America’s troublesome diplomacy that floods in overreliance on its conviction of what I will call America’s obsessed- enemies –syndrome albeit that enemy assumes a person or individual or nation frames.
Trump never had the support of any of the other major countries on Iran who consistently condemned his hostility towards Iran as baseless given the Iranian deal agreement and its compliance on nuclear proliferation.
We may also argue that Iran dared to flex its proverbial muscle in the combination of events namely its June 2019 shooting down a super-expensive American drone and its support for the Assad regime in Syria and the Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon. Notwithstanding the aforementioned Trump’s decision in the killing of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani is and remain a gross miscalculation and wholly an error of international relations judgement that increasingly confirms more than jolts of discomfort.
While an attack from Trump was expected within the first year of his presidency given his suspect temperament and his of the hip-politics, America and the world had to wait until this past Friday. This singular act against one person as America deceived itself in the blindness of arrogance of its superiority and self- appointed global police officer role has opened the USA up to an unnecessary vulnerability as wholly uncalled for. There is little doubt that the killing of Iran’s recognised military commander, General Qassem Soleimani, and also Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a U.S. drone strike on Baghdad airport placed the region in unnecessary tension.
What could have been a rationale for this action? There is little doubt that Trump is facing heat on the home front with a two articled impeachment process led by the Democrats. Hence as political theory leads when in trouble at home, create a crisis elsewhere. Trump, therefore, is a man under pressure and he instead opted to deal with a domestic problem with the Democrats in a foreign space in targeting of an enemy in classic USA diplomacy deflection. Unfortunately, an analysis of the USA diplomacy confirms an incessant need for an enemy, be that a person or nation. We not sure why the USA’s diplomacy continues to define an enemy–matrix definition.
In this sense, we can comfortably describe Trump’s action in what University of Johannesburg International Relations and Diplomacy academic Chris Landsberg and I in conversation coined in the definition of deflection theory.
I hold no hope that the partison impeachment will ever succeed simply since the Senate is controlled by Republicans and they will not break rank but also since I from the start condemned the political games of the Democrats that took easy refuge in an impeachment exercise.
Equally so I do not think Trump really needed any attack or war before the next elections ten months away. He could have coasted along and easily secured his second term leaving the Democrats with more than egg on their faces as their desperate impeachment attempts failed. He could easily have survived what the South African president Jacob Zuma no less than eight times outlived.
Surely Trump’s advisors could have made this call and advised him not to be too concerned with the impeachment process that is heading nowhere. Unless Trump is not sure of how the proverbial cookie may crumble on his current impeached status. It is also possible that Trump was advised in the aforementioned but opted in usual testosterone saturated Trumpism on Iran.
We know that diplomacy in another sense is also explained in descriptions of the art of deception. Meaning somebody is deceived by the actions of another. Did Trump resort to deception in seeking to rally home base support against a foreign threat? Did his advisors think it right to deceive the USA people that killing Soleimani would not have this type of fallout and that the impact would be minuscule?
So what does the killing of Suleimani communicate in American diplomacy? While we on surface level may be tempted to engage that in the uniqueness of juxtaposition of America’s Iranian diplomacy under Obama and that of Trump and rush to conclude in adjectives of soberness [for Obama] and an obdurate [for Trump] praxis, I would postulate we warrant going beyond these easy differences with specificity to Iran and instead search for what will call a macro-frame of a diplomacy that cuts across geographic spaces and contrary to common thinking instead manifests in a bigger degree of congruency.
To appreciate this stance we must enquire on moments of military action that defines American diplomacy of which there are many. It is more than surreal since we have been here before. In a sense of de-javu. Karl Marx in his essay The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, reminds us “history repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce.”
We dare not pretend this Soleimani strike is unique, we dare not suffer selective amnesia, George Wilhelm Hegel cautioned us long ago, “History is not the soil in which happiness grows. The periods of happiness in it are the blank pages of history. Therefore, history, unfortunately, has no blank spaces.
Shall we momentarily revisit May 2, 2011, when America’s 44th Democrat President Barack H. Obama signed off on Project code-named Geronimo, a U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden which referred to either the overall operation, to fugitive bin Laden himself or to the act of killing or capturing bin-Laden? Bin Laden the Saudi Arabian born, a USA former friend, since September 11, 2001, became public enemy number one and was hiding in Abbottabad, Pakistan. American snipers executed its mission of killing Bin-Laden.
The similarities between the killings of Soleimani and Bin-Laden are striking. Both stood accused of having been behind attacks on Americans. Both were military operators and leaders of groups in the case of Bin Laden an Al Qaeda. Soleimani a military general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and, from 1998 until his death, commander of its Quds Force, a division primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations according to Wikipedia.
Both were killed in foreign countries in which America thought it not wrong to violate the UN-endorsed sovereignty of foreign states. Both afforded American diplomacy the privilege to define them as enemies. Both are now eternalised in frames of terrorist identities.
On another level, this moment in American foreign diplomacy description involuntarily reminds us again of the infamous weapons of mass destruction sophism concocted in justification for an Iraqi invasion. George W. Bush, Colin Powell and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair deceived many with this lie. Weapons of mass destruction the means to an end – the justified killing of Saddam Hussein [also a former friend] on December 30, 2006, until this hour never surfaced while Iraq as a sovereign nation was invaded and Hussein killed in Hollywood drama style.
In case we forgot, it was the same diplomacy that saw to the UN resolution 1973 that the USA initiated to justify the invasion of Libya and the subsequent murdering of its leader, Muammar Gadhafi. Barack Obama is on record to have expressed his personal regrets for this incident that he defines as his lowest moment in foreign diplomacy. These incidents I herewith cite underscores the now standard diplomacy of America regardless of whether red or blue party colours drape a White House in entrusted political power.
While America got away with killing Hussein, Gadhafi, Bin Laden in that same enemy-matrix belief, the ramifications for the Soleimani killing appears not well thought-through or contextualized. This is threatening to be more than just an incident as Trump and his cabinet in wilful ignorance want to insist Iran accepts as if nothing had happened last Friday. The doctrine of killing any enemy as craftily framed that is oxygenised in a terrorist description has hitherto worked for America’s diplomacy to wage war. It appears that doctrine was overplayed in the latest act of a Soleimani killing.
If Napoleon Bonaparte taught us anything in war- theory-strategy, it must be that no nation regardless to its size, power military might and degrees of advanced technology can be engaged in more than one war at a time with reasonable prospects of victory. Hence, targeting Soleimani while placing Iran at the centre of the challenge, inadvertently confirms Iraq the geographic space and site of maximum impact for where America’s attack was executed. This naturally disturbs whatever forms of stability that may have hitherto prevailed both in an Iraq and a broader explosively volatile region. America, therefore, underscores its war history as captured by Chris Landsberg in his 2006 analysis, where he asserted, and “America is a domestic democracy and a rogue state in international diplomacy”.
Unfortunately, this one act of Trump again confirms the now entrenched history of America as a nation that evidences scant regard for sovereign borders and nations in its quest to annihilate a targeted enemy. It is not misplaced to argue American foreign policy strangely warrants enemies often framed in individuals or nations. Meaning a successful American foreign policy is one that must have an identified enemy albeit in make-belief, real or deflection. We know that the Trump presidency early on identified a set of enemies defined in robes of both economic and military descriptions.
For Trump, Iran despite complying with UN requirements became a natural enemy. Trump found fault with the Iranian deal and used that as his base to define a fresh American hostility towards Iran as in this epoch a unique enemy. Trump executed his plan to kill Soleimani somehow not expecting any backlash on neither domestic nor international platforms. So Trump upon hearing Soleimani was in Iraq travelling from the airport determined to violate Iraq’s sovereignty to execute a mission on its soil without any sense of expecting any reprimand since it was all about taking out a USA enemy.
We must ask what it means for the USA to be this entitled to execute military action in foreign nations in a sense of total impunity. We warrant knowing how sustainable is this means of American diplomacy?
What is clear is that Trump in overnight sense rendered Suleimani a martyr. The dogma on martyrdom confirms that as I type this opinion piece there are right now in Iran and beyond easy a thousand young boys and girls, including soldiers and or trained military personnel that may have privately or in group sense determined to emulate Suleimani.
America, therefore, has more enemies since this incident, perhaps the fuel that now in vicious cycle defines its preferred questionable diplomacy.