Locked and loaded?

Sep 18, 2019 Steven R. Peck, Publisher

It's hard to know how literally to take Donald Trump's remark that the U.S. is "locked and loaded" in light of the drone aircraft strikes that knocked out a significant portion of Saudi Arabia's oil production capacity over the weekend (and started some ghastly fires in the process).

Presumably, the United States is prepared militarily at all times to respond to an attack or threat to our country, but that is not what this was. This was a remote controlled aircraft blasting an oil facility in another country on the other side of the world.

The U.S. fought a war when an oil-producing nation in the Persian Gulf was invaded and occupied by a foreign power a quarter-century ago, but that's not what this is, either. No invading army marched into Saudi Arabia and set up shop with tanks and troops laying down the new law.

There is evidence that the drones were either launched by or for Iran, which is known to support the rebel militia claiming credit for the attack. But Saudi Arabia also has been bombing neighboring Yemen for years now, and the rebel militia claiming credit for this attack on the oilfield is based in Yemen. It might be nothing more than simple retaliation between disagreeable neighbors.

An attack that interrupts the world oil supply is a serious matter, and the U.S. is right to be paying very strong, concerned attention, but it would be a hard sell for the American public to get into a military conflict with Iran over it.

Remember, recent National Security Adviser John Bolton has been spoiling for a fight with Iran for years -- and Trump just fired him. And now we're locked and loaded for a fight with Iran after all? At the same time we are talking about pulling troops out of other hot spots in the Middle East, Afghanistan chief among them?

Mixed messaging doesn't help matters. Now would be a good time to have experienced, knowledgeable counsel on these issues, but it isn't going to come from John Bolton, obviously. Let's hope there are competent lower-level officials advising Trump and the National Security Council.

Young people from Fremont County are deployed in these conflicts right now, and they probably would be in any new one as well. Our community already has lost at least two of its best, with others wounded and traumatized. Starting a new military action in Iran would affect everyone, even here.

Given the person doing the tweeting over the weekend, chances are this is just some tough talk in the short term. There can be a place for that in an international conflict, but it ought to be part of a well-considered strategy and process.

Do we have that on Iran? Who is developing the policy? And are we really waiting for Saudi Arabia to tell us what to do in response to the attack? At best, the United States has shown an incomplete approach to high-level international relations in recent years.

Step one is to get the very best information possible on how this attack was carried out, and who, at the highest level, was responsible for it. Step two might be to hold off on the war-mongering tweets until we know more -- and before we think about sending more young volunteers from Fremont County to another country to fight.

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