This doesn’t happen often, but for once we are in agreement with Rep. Mo Brooks.
Brooks, the Huntsville Republican who represents the Fifth Congressional District in the U.S. House, took to the House floor Thursday to call for an end to the U.S. being “the world’s policeman.”
Specifically, Brooks spoke against any unilateral military response to the Persian Gulf oil tanker attacks that the Trump administration blames on Iran.
“Who is responsible for these two tanker attacks?” Brooks asked. “There is international disagreement. America and the United Kingdom blame Iran. Iran denies responsibility. Other nations offer no opinion and caution against a rush to judgment.”
Regardless of who is responsible for the attacks, however, Brooks correctly notes that no Americans or American ships where involved. In the case of the two most recent attacks, the ships were owned by Norway and Japan and filled with oil from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Brooks is open to Norway, Japan and other nations that get their oil predominantly from the Middle East taking military action, but he doesn’t see a reason for the U.S. military to do so, or for U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill, unless Americans or U.S. property are attacked, or “should Iran attack and kill any of our allies’ citizens,” then “an entirely different set of considerations come into play.”
This is a welcome break from the parade of Washington insiders who would like nothing more than to attack Iran now, and it is a reminder that President Donald Trump has, too, spoken against the U.S. being the world’s policeman.
Unfortunately, Trump’s administration and Trump himself are of at least two minds on the issue.
When Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone last week, Trump was quick to say Iran had made “a very big mistake.” But Trump also believed it possible Iran shot down the drone by accident. Thursday night the U.S. was prepared to strike at Iranian radar sites when Trump called the strikes off after being told the strikes could kill 150 people, Trump tweeted Friday morning. That, Trump said, was too high a price for an unmanned drone.
We highly doubt Iran shot down the drone by accident, but at the same time we don’t think doing so is a cause for escalating tensions. If it were the other way around, and Iran flew a surveillance drone within spying distance of the U.S. coast, you can bet the U.S. military would shoot it down.
It’s not enough, however, simply to refrain from being the world’s policeman. If the U.S. is to avoid playing Globocop, it must also avoid causing tensions on the other side of the globe to rise.
“America must stop burning through our treasury and risking our American lives when we have no compelling national security interest in a dispute,” Brooks said in his floor speech. “This is particularly true when those nations that do have a national security interest don’t care enough about their own national security interests to protect them.”
Here, we must quibble. It isn’t that our allies don’t care enough about their own security interests to protect them. It’s that they recognize their interests are not furthered by military action. Virtually all of America’s allies would rather the United States had not reneged on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement the Obama administration reached with Iran that put a stop to Iran’s nuclear program.
The Trump administration not only scrapped JCPOA, which Iran was following, it ratcheted up economic sanctions, which has put the squeeze on the ordinary Iranian citizens that people like National Security Adviser John Bolton purport to want to help.
If Brooks means what he says, he should help put pressure on the president to fire the Iran hawks in his administration, like Bolton and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, before their bad advice gets Trump and the U.S. back in the very situation Trump campaigned on avoiding.