Trump wants To 'deescalate,' but will his supporters let him?

Trump wants To 'deescalate,' but will his supporters let him?
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Following Iran’s missile strikes against two U.S.-occupied bases in Iraq, the world waited to see how Donald Trump would respond. Would he follow through on his threats to target Iranian cultural sites, international war-crime laws be damned? Would he escalate this incredibly dangerous situation into an all-out war that would make the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan look quaint by comparison?

Thankfully, he did not. As of Wednesday morning’s address, Trump decided to, at least for now, deescalate. This was made possible, I believe, due to the minimal nature of the Iranian response.

The strikes resulted in no American or Iraqi casualties, leading some to believe that they had been deliberately planned to avoid loss of life. 

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Although Trump had earlier threatened to respond in a “disproportionate” fashion to any attack against U.S. assets, the fact that there had been no casualties made it easier for Trump to save face and back off.

While claiming victory and bragging about American military superiority, he stressed that “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned.” If Donald Trump is similarly standing down, that is truly a good thing for all parties.

U.S. military strategy under Trump is already killing significantly more civilians than under previous administrations, and his past remarks concerning the casual use of nuclear weapons, in particular, make the prospect of him heading up a full-scale war effort a terrifying proposition.

But while Donald Trump seems satiated at present, it remains to be seen whether his most ardent supporters will be satisfied with the current extent of the conflict. In less than one week between the strike that killed Qassem Suleimani and Trump’s morning address, his supporters’ rhetoric was often equal parts gleeful and blood-soaked.

Fox Host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityStone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Signs of a Trump, Fauci rift on display Hannity to interview Roger Stone on Monday MORE, rumored to speak with Trump on the phone before bedtime regularly, spent the night before the address calling for Iran to be hit with “the full force of the greatest, most advanced, most sophisticated military this world has ever seen.” Hannity followed this up by suggesting the possibility of bombing Iranian oil refineries to produce “major poverty” for the Iranian people. He also suggested arming the Iranian people, presumably so that they could then overthrow the regime. 

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Pete Hegseth, a Fox & Friends host who Trump nearly picked to head up Veterans Affairs and who successfully lobbied Trump to pardon multiple soldiers accused of shocking war crimes, spent the last few days enthusiastically gearing up for another Middle East quagmire conflict, saying “I don’t share the concern that President Trump is dragging us into endless war here. I hate the term "endless war" as it pertains to Iran.” He responded to Trump’s threats to commit war crimes against Iranian civilian targets by saying, “I don’t care about Iranian cultural sites.” 

Pundits, politicians, and advisers in Trump’s extended orbit shared similar thoughts. Former White House adviser Sebastian GorkaSebastian Lukacs GorkaSunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Trump's new head of US media agency under fire from both sides Appeals court blocks White House from suspending reporter MORE fantasized about Trump unleashing “holy hell” on Iran to demonstrate to the world that the United States is a “hyperpower.” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K Democrats see immigration reform as topping Biden agenda Graham says he will call Mueller to testify before Senate panel about Russia probe MORE (R-S.C.) recommended, “economic targets that would crush the economy,” even to the level of putting Iran “out of the oil business.” On Fox & Friends, former Speaker of the House Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.) spread misinformation about 9/11 in an attempt to justify overthrowing the Iranian regime. The hosts did nothing to counter his claims.

Blaze TV host Mark Levin bragged that Trump could crush Iran, at any time that he wants, in “54 minutes” in a segment that made clear he had learned absolutely nothing from the American experience in Iraq over the past seventeen years.

Trump’s base, while not possessing the sort of public platform these media figures have, nor the same ability to subtly influence Trump’s thinking daily, seems to share with them a desire for further conflict. One might assume that decades of war in the region have soured the American public on this sort of conflict.

Still, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found 37 percent backed a “full military response,” including a ground invasion of Iran. Even more significant numbers would be supportive of an extended air war or more limited strikes.

Scarier still, a significant percentage of the American public, would even be supportive of a nuclear attack against Iran under the right circumstances. Back in 2017, scientists Scott Sagan and Benjamin Valentino tested to see how Americans felt about conventional and nuclear strikes against Iran if those attacks would save American soldiers’ lives.

They found that 60 percent would approve of a nuclear attack that killed 2 million Iranian civilians and that a majority preferred the atomic option to conventional bombings. An American public that sees Iran as hypothetically deserving this sort of nuclear carnage goaded daily by a Fox News lineup that badly wants war with Iran — that is a truly dangerous combination.

Not all pro-Trump voices are pushing for further conflict. Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonStone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Johns Hopkins doctor: Issuing 'ultimatum' for schools to reopen is 'wrong approach' Chris Wallace presses DeVos on threats to withhold funding from schools that don't reopen MORE seems far too focused on demonizing undocumented immigrants to be able to get behind another Middle East war, and Geraldo Rivera called out Brian Kilmeade’s enthusiasm for the Suleimani strike live on Fox. 

Perhaps those voices, urging a return to the status quo, will win out in the end. For that to happen, though, Trump’s favorite media figures will need to calm themselves and their audiences, abandon their long-held desire for regime change in Iran and dispense with the perpetual demonization of anyone speaking out in favor of diplomacy.

Finally, if you’re concerned about further military conflict, don’t let your guard down just yet. Considering how many times Trump has raised the prospect of a President attacking Iran to boost their reelection efforts until we’re past the November election, the threat will remain.

John Iadarola is the host and producer of the daily political news show The Damage Report on TYT.