Fortunately, after threatening on Twitter to attack Iranian cultural sites, Trump decided to back down and move closer to President Barack Obama’s Iranian playbook. That’s OK, because the previous president’s negotiation-oriented policies with Iran—an effort that may even have helped defeat ISIS in the region—is more productive than a policy of bluster and a potential war.
“Donald Trump started with over-the-top, machismo rhetoric toward Iran,” Politico reported. “He ended by backing down so far that he sounded more like his predecessor.” The unnecessary fracas is particularly bizarre, given those much-circulated Trump tweets from 2011 warning that Obama would start a war with Iran to help get re-elected. Trump threatened war before backing down, so he may be more like Obama on Iran than Obama was himself.
The squabble showcases the best and worst aspects of the Trump presidency wrapped into one package. On the best side, Trump is enough of an outsider—and unconcerned about norms and the political establishment’s feelings—to challenge the bipartisan foreign policy status quo that leads from one costly war to another. He hasn’t done much to end wars, but he has seemed less likely than others to immerse the country in a new one. On the worst side, he’s unpredictable and narcissistic, and could bumble his way into trouble.