The defense will be that Trudeau was making a statement of straightforward fact. “I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” he tells a reporter from the Global Post in the clip below. True enough. As a matter of basic causation, if there’s no assault by Iranian militias on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad then there’s no strike on Soleimani. If there’s no strike on Soleimani then there’s no Iranian missile attack on U.S. bases in Iraq. If there’s no Iranian missile attack on U.S. bases in Iraq then Iranian missile defenses don’t end up on high alert for a U.S. counterattack. And if Iranian missile defenses don’t end up on high alert for a U.S. counterattack then there’s no mistaken shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger jet.
But watch the clip. Trudeau is asked (twice) whether the U.S. specifically bears some blame before giving that answer. This isn’t a banal statement about the sequence of events in Iran to the effect of “bad things happen in war (or near-war),” it’s an attribution of moral culpability, clearly. And so we return to the question that neither Pete Buttigieg nor Tulsi Gabbard nor every other lefty who’s laid the shootdown at the feet of the U.S. has had to answer. Is there any action America could have taken after the embassy assault and the various rocket attacks by Iranian-backed militias, one of which killed an American contractor, that would have absolved it from blame for Iran’s catastrophic fark-up with a jet in its own airspace? If we bear blame for their recklessness for the simple reason that it takes two to escalate, presumably any response by the U.S. that led to a shootdown would have left us partially culpable for that disaster.
Or is culpability triggered only if, as lefties believe, the act of killing Soleimani was disproportionate as a reprisal to Iran’s actions?
It’s hard to shake the suspicion that any act of self-defense by the U.S. would allegedly put us on the hook morally for whatever insane thing Iran chose to do in response, especially coming from someone with Gabbard’s views on foreign policy. The subtext of this debate, after all, is whether America should be aggressive in responding to Iran and run an increased risk of war or whether it should be passive about Iranian provocations and run an increased risk of Iran thinking it can push the envelope with impunity. If you believe any risk of war is unacceptable, even as part of a strategy of deterrence, then naturally any U.S. response to Iran is unacceptable. And one way to try to discourage those responses is to make Trump and the administration morally culpable not just for what we do but for what Iran does too, even if what Iran did in this case happens to be “not taking rudimentary precautions against blowing up passenger jets.”
Meanwhile, in Washington:
As many as 10 Republican senators are considering bucking President Trump on a resolution that would limit his ability to take military action against Iran…
GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) have already voiced their support for the measure, and Kaine says about eight more Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Todd Young (Ind.) and Mitt Romney (Utah), are reviewing it…
Lee said fellow Republicans should view the Kaine-sponsored resolution as a “completely noncontroversial measure” that restates the Constitution’s declaration that Congress shall have sole power to declare war…
Kaine has agreed to accept Republican amendments that remove specific reference to Trump or might be construed as forcing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from areas where Iranian proxies are present.
I’d be surprised if it’s 10. It’s a low-risk vote on the merits since Trump will surely veto any sort of legislation on this point that ends up on his desk and neither the House nor the Senate has the votes needed for an override. But Senate Republicans must have read the news stories about the president turning his back on Matt Gaetz after Gaetz surprised everyone by supporting the House version of this same bill. The president’s clearly treating the debate as something of a loyalty test. He might not hold a grudge against Lee or Rand Paul since he knows they’re prone to dovishness but anyone on whom he normally depends for “loyalty” will be forced to stay away from it. Are there 10 Republicans in the Senate willing to risk chillier relations with the White House as the price of a meaningless vote which voters won’t remember 20 minutes after it’s cast?
Here’s Trudeau. Watch a few minutes to get the full flavor.