World War III? Not necessarily

“Let’s Go Places.”

Gen. Qasem Soleimani is dead. Good.

And now we’re speculating about whether this could trigger a Third World War. Not good.

David Schanzer, a terrorism expert and professor of the practice at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, warned the killing “will strengthen the Iranian regime domestically, the exact opposite goal of our policy.”

“President Trump’s decision to escalate hostilities by killing Qassem Soleimani epitomizes the failure of his strategy for dealing with Iran,” he said in a press release obtained by McClatchy News. “ … By engaging in a unilateral act of aggression inside Iraq, we have pushed our Iraqi allies even closer to Iran.”

Quincy Institute analyst and Colby College International Relations Professor Steven Simon said it is unlikely weapons of mass destruction will fall on a city such as Chicago in the near future.

Still, many on Twitter feared the worst.

People on Twitter always fear the worst. Still, while I’m shedding no tears for this guy, I’m anxious about what happens next. If the 21st century has taught us anything, it’s that killing even the most deserving bad guys doesn’t automatically result in peace.

The one halfway-decent thing you can say about the Trump Administration is that it hasn’t gotten America trapped in any more Middle Eastern wars, but who could possibly have any confidence in their ability to handle a major international crisis?

Hopefully, Daniel McCarthy’s take on this is correct:

Iran’s Islamic revolutionary regime might well want revenge. But is avenging Soleimani worth risking the regime’s existence? If killing him was an act of war, is this a war Iran is prepared to fight and win? How, exactly? Iran couldn’t win a war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1980s. Contrary to what neoconservatives might want you to think, Iran has not become a military superpower akin to Nazi Germany in the 30-odd years since then. Also contrary to what neoconservatives sometimes say, Iran is not irrational to the point of being suicidal. But some panicky anti-war supporters of President Trump have adopted this implausible view of Tehran. They think honor will demand that Iran retaliate, leading to out-and-out war.

But nation-states are not 18th-century gentlemen fighting duels. Most regimes are concerned above anything else with their own survival. This is as true for Iran as it is for North Korea, another country which is not about to attack the United States, despite what much of the press and foreign-policy world would like you to believe. 

Are US forces in the Middle East in danger of being targeted by Hezbollah or other Iranian proxies? Here too the stakes are clear. President Trump ordered the strike that killed Soleimani because Iranian-backed demonstrators and militias were harassing the US embassy in Iraq and an American contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in December. The Trump administration has said that Soleimani was planning more mischief, which is easy to believe: far from being a martyr to peace and non-interventionism, Soleimani was a man whose business was fomenting war and insurgency. It’s tempting to call him an Iranian neoconservative. He was in Iraq on a mission of exporting revolution.


Donald Trump was elected to put Washington’s emphasis back on the well-being of Americans, rather than on the imperial politics of the Middle East. A war with Iran would be a betrayal of his mandate — a war that would lead to other wars and more prolonged occupation of the region. His domestic agenda, all his policies on trade and immigration, would fall by the wayside in the same fashion that George W. Bush’s did as a result of the Iraq War. He would become another war president, and another failed president. But killing Soleimani doesn’t make that inevitable — on the contrary, by itself Soleimani’s death brings an end to one of the villains whose role in stoking anti-American violence in the region made it harder for us to leave. President Trump has struck a blow for peace.

“President Trump has struck a blow for peace.” I know those words, but that phrase makes no sense.

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