Apparently, many Americans believe that wars are and should be fought following rules of chivalry. What a shock it has been to find the U.S. military capable of a dastardly attack on an individual – Qasem Soleimani – who repeatedly planned operations that killed and maimed American civilian and uniformed personnel – along with the citizens of many Middle Eastern countries. The fact that this person held a high rank in his own country’s elite force seems to be expected to give him protected status. The entire concept is absurd, and it certainly was not the reason why two previous presidential administrations chose not to close down the activities of this dangerous and unscrupulous killer.
Then there is the argument that this man was considered such a high official that killing him would be considered a war crime. This too would be a fanciful notion. Without a doubt, past historical figures of dastardly repute were always deemed legitimate targets; that list would go on at great length. To accept the concept of “too high ranking to kill” is a direct insult to all who have been merely lowly enlisted men. And that doesn’t even consider the purposeful annihilation of generations of civilians as ancillary casualties.
Another specious argument is the one that suggests a declaration of war must be in hand or else the act of killing a high-ranking terrorist organizer, trainer and planner may be considered an illegal action. In point of fact, attaining high office in an undeclared war, or more accurately one characterized as a large-scale assassination program, does not protect anyone or any group from counteraction. After two world wars and many other “sideshows” of lesser size, such as the Vietnam and Korean wars, there is just no place for convenient innocence and lack of accountability. As the old British saying goes: “It’s just not cricket, old boy.”
An additional point is that today to inhibit what are now called “proxy wars” and the guidance and support of same, democratic nations such as the United States simply have to do whatever they can and hope for the best. This may seem to be lacking in legal form, but it is reality. Frankly, it’s a guide that General George Washington followed. The history books will bear this out. America’s revolutionary war was not fought following Marquis of Queensbury rules. The ragtag assemblage of patriots didn’t even know what the rules were. The British Crown followed the rules, but only when convenient – and that was the reason for the war in the first place.
Ultimately, politics – American and European – was the only real aim in condemning the militarily perfect destruction of an unsuspecting perpetrator of horrendous acts against humanity. The funny thing is that the Persians have known about that sort of thing for centuries. The Hollywoodesque crowd scenes honoring the death of Soleimani are straight out of medieval times – and just as politically effective. In fact, the political impact in the Western world would have made Cyrus The Great blush with pride.
In the end – in terms of the Iranian response to Soleimani’s killing – the Iranians felt the weight of Moscow and Beijing counseling them to follow a careful and limited military counteraction. Russia and China have a strong interest in encouraging Tehran to restrict the Ayatollahs’ reaction to the U.S. action against Soleimani. These are complicated times and one man’s death cannot and should not be used as a tool of domestic power.
That’s the real world!