Lawrence J. Korb
Security, Middle East
The president should look at how Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama responded to similar standoffs with the Middle East country and re-examine his strategy for Tehran.
Why Trump Won't Bomb Iran
After President Donald Trump decided not to “bomb Iran” in retaliation for shooting down an unmanned Navy drone that was either very close to Iranian air space, many of his conservative critics accused him of acting more like President Barack Obama rather than President Ronald Reagan.
According to critics like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), President Donald Trump’s decision to call off the air strikes, which he had apparently approved, was a replay of Obama’s refusal to bomb Syria after Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had crossed Obama’s red line by using chemical weapons against the rebels who were trying to get him to leave office.
These same critics note that Reagan attacked Iran on April 18, 1988, two days after a mine planted by the Iranians wounded ten sailors and damaged an American destroyer, the USS Roberts, which was one of the ships escorting reflagged Kuwaiti tankers through the Strait of Hormuz.
Both of these historical analogies give a misleading impression of how Obama and Reagan actually handled these issues. In fact, Trump should take some lessons for dealing with the current crisis with Iran, which is largely of his own creation, by understanding how these two predecessors responded to similar situations.