‘I have two groups of people,” President Donald J. Trump told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “I have doves, and I have hawks.”
News of a planned foray against Iran, which Trump canceled at T-minus ten minutes, suggests that he is torn between some advisers who recommend restraint and others who advocate aggression. His next move should be a defensive armed action that promises the benefits of these two approaches.
President Trump should stage a flamboyant, Teddy Roosevelt–style show of force. Specifically, he should organize an American-led naval convoy to escort ships through the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman. This would provide a deterrent military response to Tehran’s destruction of a $130 million U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk drone over international waters and its suspected attacks against four cargo vessels on May 12 and two more on June 13 — all in the Gulf of Oman. Such a naval convoy would display U.S. power without actually drawing blood. This would be akin to a police department deploying squad cars in a tough neighborhood, but without cops opening fire, which could kill innocents and needlessly prompt criminals to retaliate.
“So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation,” President Trump wondered via Twitter on Monday. “All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey. We don’t even need to be there in that the U.S. has just become (by far) the largest producer of Energy anywhere in the world!”
Trump is right. The United States should not bear this burden alone. However, as leader of the West and the industrialized world, America should recruit a multinational naval force to help calm the waters that Iran has roiled.
The president should rally navies from NATO to Japan (Tokyo transports 62 percent of its oil through the Strait of Hormuz, Trump said) and even China (91 percent of Beijing’s oil traverses that chokepoint) to help shield vessels from Iranian destruction. American warships — perhaps from the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group — could spearhead this effort, with America’s allies and associates assisting this initiative. Such an undertaking would echo similar naval missions that guarded ships from Tehran’s and Baghdad’s subterfuge during the 1980-1988 Iran–Iraq War.
This maneuver would corner Iran. It also would paint a bright-red line on their beaches and dissuade the ayatollahs from trying anything funny. The decreased sabotage risk should lower global oil prices. This would be good news for the U.S. and western economies and bad news for Iran, which would watch its oil revenue trickle even more weakly. This would squeeze the Iranian regime even harder and likely make these despots more willing to negotiate a realistic denuclearization treaty, as opposed to Obama’s laughable, humiliating $150 billion instrument of appeasement — which the ayatollahs never even signed!
If, however, Iran ignores this array of international sea power and bombs a ship, blasts a U.S. drone, or otherwise misbehaves, Trump already will have in place — just a few miles away — potential partners for a multilateral reprisal. And, after America and its allies’ and convoy partners’ strictly defensive reaction to Iran’s recent actions, any further hostility by the ayatollahs will confirm them as total belligerents who made force necessary. This would strengthen America’s hand in terms of diplomacy and worldwide public opinion.
Finally, this effort would give President Trump a spectacular opportunity to perform as a statesman, exercise his diplomatic skills, and undergird them with both U.S. power and that of our allies — from Europe to Asia. This would be a huge win for him and make idiots of his relentlessly carping critics who call him “unfit” to be president, despite his growing list of accomplishments.
The G20 summit in Osaka, now underway, is the perfect place for the president to assemble and then announce such a coalition. And then: Anchors Aweigh!
Michael Malarkey contributed research to this opinion piece.