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EDITORIAL: Donald Trump carries on Obama policy with deadly drone strike

Updated January 6, 2020 - 9:11 pm

In their frenzy to damage President Donald Trump, Democrats have given up all pretense of intellectual consistency in favor of a shameless hypocrisy untethered from historical perspective.

On Friday, Mr. Trump gave the OK to an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport. Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s proxy warfare throughout the Middle East. According to numerous reports, he had for the better part of two decades helped train and support a network of terrorist disruptions throughout the region that contributed to the carnage in Syria and directly or indirectly led to hundreds of American deaths. His fingerprints were all over the recent mob scene at the American Embassy in Iraq.

In the days since, the drone strike has drawn harsh criticism. Fine. A healthy democracy thrives on dissent, and any decision to employ U.S. military force must not be taken lightly. The American public has little tolerance for another prolonged conflict in the Middle East. On the other hand, the world is now rid of a terrorist who sought to kill as many Americans as possible.

The canned Democratic response to the incident, however, barely acknowledged the latter. Instead, many on the left argued, Mr. Trump’s action was further evidence of his recklessness and fulfills their apocalyptic prophesies of this president bringing the world to the brink of World War III. “In other words,” The Wall Street Journal noted, “Soleimani was a deadly menace, but the U.S. should have done nothing about his depredations because Iran could hit back. That is appeasement, not leadership.”

Indeed, such an outlook would have precluded the daring military raid in Pakistan, approved by President Barack Obama, that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. But Democrats applauded that mission — as well they should have. At the same time, with a few exceptions there was nary a peep from Democrats about the numerous drone strikes against Middle Eastern targets carried out by the Obama administration.

Micah Zenko, in a 2017 blog post for the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that Mr. Obama authorized the first drone actions — which killed “as many as 20 civilians” — just three days into his presidency. “Two terms and 540 strikes later,” Mr. Zenko notes, “Obama leaves the White House after having vastly expanded and normalizing the use of armed drones for counterterrorism and close air support operations in non-battlefield settings — namely Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.”

The quagmire in the Middle East long predates Mr. Trump. And it’s no fantastic stretch to speculate that Democrats would have responded much differently had Mr. Obama given the green light to take out Soleimani. It appears they are once again allowing their partisan hatred for Mr. Trump to cloud their policy judgment.

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