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  1. A few days ago Dr. Yaron Brook gave us his livestreamed opinion on the killing of Qasem Soleimani. https://youtu.be/wyP2Crtv93A In the video, he begins by calling the killing a good thing, but ends by calling it insignificant. "Let me just say good riddance. I'll say that the killing of Soleimani is both a good thing, a commendable thing--it's good to get rid of evil and to destroy evil--and, at the end of the day, fairly meaningless. And so in terms of the long-run, in terms of the Middle East, in terms of U.S. strategy, in terms of 4D chess, it will have very little impact on where things go, very little positive impact on where things go, and is, at the end of the day, not a strategic decision." (2:20) Then, at 3:40, Brook further refers to the killing as "insignificant in the big picture." I find this to be an odd belief, especially since Brook spends the next several minutes detailing how impactful Soleimani actually was to the long-run, and to the Middle East and America. He provides much evidence for the fact that this popular Iranian general was very influential throughout Iran and the Fertile Crescent. Soleimani, he tells us, was a "major force in destabilizing the Middle East and attacking the interests of the United States." (12:00) How odd, then, that Brook considers this man's death to be insignificant and of little or no strategic importance! More strangely, Brook also describes the "insignificant" killing as a serious act. "This is the first act of any kind of serious act against the Iranian regime that any administration has taken in decades--maybe ever." (18:18) Note that I have not misquoted Brook. Indeed he actually said "the first act of any kind of serious act." And, if you watch the video, you can see him pause a bit just before using the word "act" the second time. Perhaps he couldn't bring himself to call the killing an act of serious significance or importance, which would have been more consistent with typical language and sentiment, but of course less consistent with his initial thesis. Despite Brook's word choice, shouldn't this particular point count as evidence for the killing's strategic significance, rather than its insignificance? The attack on Soleimani represents a dramatic change in America's posture against Iran. After decades of relative unseriousness and tolerance, we are finally taking them very seriously and hitting them where it hurts. We literally made the Iranian leader and his people weep as a nation while mourning their fallen commander. Brook considers the killing a "serious act against the Iranian regime." Yet, at the same time, he argues that it was "not an attack on Iran." It wasn't an attack on Iran, he claims, because it didn't occur on Iranian soil. (14:54) Somebody should tell this to Iran, because they seem to think that we attacked them. Indeed, equating a nation of people with their land and soil is a misguided premise, the sort used to argue for ethno-nationalism. Only here it's used to belittle a serious, self-defensive action. It's used to suggest that striking Iran's top general is somehow insignificant, in part because we didn't kill him within Iran's territorial boundaries. But in the big picture, does it much matter where we kill such a person, especially if it's done in a recognized war zone? I wonder whether such questions interest Dr. Brook. He claims that "all we can do is assassinate one of [Iran's] generals" and that this is "a sign of weakness, a pathetic response to a regime that has been flaunting their willingness to kill Americans…attack American interests…" (17:02) So, if assassinating the enemy's top commander is, itself, a sign of weakness, why should Brook care whether it's done on Iranian soil or not? It seems that Brook's real problem is not with the location of the hit, but with the choice of target itself. He thinks we are playing a never-ending game of whack-a-mole with the enemy's military leaders. Soleimani's death, he reiterates, is "fairly meaningless" and "changes nothing." (12:48) In this regard, he notes that Iran has already replaced Soleimani with another general to oversee the Quds force, and he therefore insists that "nothing about Iran has changed." (14:20) First, it's simply not true that "all we can do is assassinate one of [Iran's] generals." It's not true politically or militarily. And with Trump it's not even true in terms of our president's willingness to retaliate with disproportionate force. In addition to killing Soleimani, let's not forget that Trump started this recent, retaliatory campaign by bombing Iran's proxy militia bases in Iraq. Also, along with Soleimani, he killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the founder and leader of Kata'ib Hezbollah. So, at minimum, Brook should maintain the full scope of what Trump has accomplished so far. Second, Brook implies that Iran is relatively strong, while we are relatively weak, because they flaunt their willingness to kill Americans and attack our interests. But didn't Trump just do the same thing to them? Didn't he just kill Iranians and attack their interests? Are we now weak for starting to do that which makes our enemy strong? And third, the fact of military succession should not render the fact of Soleimani's death insignificant. Leaders get replaced. Things get replaced. This doesn't mean that the precipitating events were therefore "fairly meaningless." Their significance depends on their value to those affected. To Iran, Soleimani's death means the disheartening loss of a powerful and popular general. To America, it means "the first act of any kind of serious [importance] against the Iranian regime that any administration has taken in decades--maybe ever." Brook belittles America's achievement by placing it against the enormous backdrop of his own imagination. He has a grand vision of victory, his big picture, his ideal war. And in that giant wall fresco, in a tiny spot in one of the corners, is the killing of Soleimani. What, you ask, is the featured subject dominating the middle of Brook's painting? It's the assassinations of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his ruling clerics. Brook dreams of the pro-Western revolution that will spring forth in Iran after we eliminate its current political-religious leadership. (19:15) Ah, yes, that will be a glorious day indeed! Unfortunately, it's still pure fantasy. And it's poor ethics to judge the value of something based on its relation to fantasy over reality. Besides, aren't political-religious leaders also replaceable, like military ones? Nations the size of Iran have no shortage of trained officers, politicians and clerics. And let's not delude ourselves into believing that if not for the Ayatollah and his men, the Iranian Parliament would stop chanting "Death to America!" every chance they get. Who in Iran can challenge the armies of the totalitarians? Shouldn't we first diminish the fighting spirit and muscle of those military forces, thereby giving resistance groups more of a fighting chance? Doing this will also make Iran less willing and capable of attacking our soldiers in the field. Brook criticizes Trump for not making regime change the goal in Iran. But regime change cannot guarantee victory. It should be an afterthought, for when we have the enemy on its knees. Our war goal should be nothing less than the capitulation or elimination of the enemy. And that requires us first to identify and name the enemy. By killing Soleimani and attacking Kata'ib Hezbollah, Trump not only issued a first, serious strike against our immediate foe, he also generally exposed the greater threat to the West. By provoking widespread reactions around the globe, the world has now more clearly witnessed the nations, the governments, the groups, and the individuals who support and sympathize with Soleimani and the Islamic totalitarians of Iran. Wittingly or unwittingly, Trump ordered the cause that produced this effect, simply by killing the enemy's champions in the field of battle. If we are to solidify the political and military alliance against Islamic totalitarians, we must continue to attack Iran's champions and thereby expose and highlight the nature of this evil for all to see and understand clearly. More important than changing the regime in Iran is producing a lasting victory against the Islamic jihadists, and to accomplish that we must avoid generating too much sympathy for them among our reasonable allies. We must avoid advancing beyond our global support system. None of this so-called 4D chess strategy really concerns Brook anyway. If he can't paint his ideal scenario onto reality, then he loses interest in the real battlefield situation. "Let me be clear, I am not suggesting we fight a war with Iran today, with this president and with the kind of ideas that our military has in their heads." (24:55) Okay, if not today, when is the right time for war with Iran? If not this president, which one? If not these military ideas, whose? Brook wishes to wait at shore for fantastic factors that are unseen and long overdue. Maybe we should instead climb aboard the best boat we have and set sail. Along the way we might offer a few strategic ideas of our own to the captain and crew. Perhaps we'll find Brook's imaginary friends stranded at sea somewhere. Despite past hawkish rhetoric, Brook now balks at the idea of a war with Iran. "There's no point in fighting a war that you're not interested in winning. There's no point in fighting a war that you're gonna lose." (24:55) How does Brook know that the Trump administration is not interested in winning? Oh, right, because Trump hasn't yet made regime change a key goal, and winning, according to Brook, requires regime change. But a disagreement over strategy doesn't equal lack of interest in winning. There is more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes. And Trump probably thinks he has the best strategy to get the job done. As far as there being no point in fighting when you will lose, that's merely Brookian hyperbole, based on his belief that Trump and America have no interest in winning. For, even Brook agrees that America would crush Iran's military in a real war. What he probably means, then, is that there's no point in attacking Iran unless the ultimate goal is to change the regime. And here he should be reminded of the enormous value in combining self-defensive actions with siege tactics. If Superman were attacked by Dennis the Menace, should he level the kid's entire house and risk becoming the monster of the story? Or when kicked in the shins, should he lock Dennis in his room until the boy promises to change his wicked ways? The moral here isn't to handle a menace with kid gloves. The point is to handle it in a way that doesn't turn the menace into the victim, and you into the menace. Iran needs to change its ways, but also America needs to remain the beloved hero, if it's going to maintain its "maximum pressure" siege of Iran. If, by crushing Dennis under the rubble of his home, we are made the villain in this epic, then we might as well retreat from the Middle East and start repainting the walls of our Fortress of Solitude.
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