Donald Trump

Trump Is Right: Killing Innocent Iranians Would Be a 'Not Proportionate' Response to Downed Drone

Trump says he called off a planned airstrike against Iran on Thursday night, just minutes before the bombs were to be let loose.


President Donald Trump says he called off a planned airstrike against Iran on Thursday night, just minutes before the bombs were to be let loose.

He canceled the planned attack, Trump tweeted on Friday morning, after being informed by a general that roughly 150 people would die in the assault—which was being carried out in response to Iran's shooting down of an American drone earlier this week. Trump decided that the possible loss of life was "not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone," per his Friday morning tweets.

It's likely that dozens of people are alive today because of Trump's brave decision. He should be applauded.

It shouldn't be difficult to decide that murdering 150 innocent Iranians is an incorrect response to a drone being shot down. Unfortunately, the four men who occupied the White House before Trump have eroded that morality to the point where dropping bombs on the Middle East and Central Asia has become a reflexive action. It's something done with little regard for the damage done to America's reputation, to the prospects for a peaceful resolution to the region's problems, and (probably least of all, tragically) to the people on the receiving end of those strikes.

Breaking that habit is not easy. It requires moral fortitude and, yes, bravery in the face of an almost-certain backlash from the domestic political elements that favor endless war.

Trump hasn't always been up to the task. He's fired missiles into Syria and backed down from a plan to bring American troops home from Afghanistan. He's ordered more troops to be sent to the Middle East in recent weeks. It's probably right to remain skeptical of the idea that last night's near-miss on war with Iran means military conflict is off the table.

But, for one night at least, Trump lived up to the non-interventionist message he delivered to voters in 2016. Remember, Trump won the White House by directly defeating the heirs to the Clinton- and Bush-era foreign policy disasters that have cost America and the Middle East so much blood and treasure. Even as John Bolton—Trump's national security advisor and the architect of the catastrophic Iraq War—and others have tried to steer America into a conflict with Iran, Trump has appeared unconvinced about the necessity of violence.

"Look, I said I want to get out of these endless wars, I campaigned on that, I want to get out," he told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday, according to Politico. "We didn't have a man or woman in the drone. It would have made a big, big difference." The president has reportedly sought counsel from others who are skeptical of additional foreign conflicts, such as Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) and Fox News host Tucker Carlson, even as other Trump allies like Bolton, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.) have been beating the drums of war.

On Thursday night, Trump had to make a decision. With planes or drones already in the air, according to The New York Times, and targets picked out, the easy thing would have been to let the generals blow things up and kill people.

Instead, Trump did the right thing.