Next International Trump Disaster Waiting to Happen: Sending a Murderer to Do a Diplomat’s Job in Iran

Hubris, in the wrong hands, can be the most dangerous weapon of all. Michael D’Andrea, the man Donald Trump has put in charge of intelligence operations in Iran, has more hubris than most. This was the man who invented the so-called signature strike, and stuck with it despite (deadly) evidence that it did not work. D’Andrea should not be getting a new job; he should be getting a lawyer to defend him against charges of war crimes. Instead, we are sending this murderer to do the job of a diplomat. Bad things are on the horizon.

Signature drone strikes, you may remember, are the ridiculous idea put into practice that we Americans know so much about the hearts and minds of Afghan farmers and shepherds that we can tell, from a computer screen thousands of miles away, what they are up to. We can, according to this theory, tease out the difference between a group of tribal leaders coming together to discuss land use or village education, and a group of terrorists coming together to discuss what to blow up next.

Of course, we can’t tell this from a computer screen. Classified documents that came to light in 2013 listed 114 drone strikes that killed as many as 613 people over a 14-month period beginning in September 2010. About one out of every four people killed by drones during that time were labeled “other militants,” by the CIA. In other words, the CIA had no idea who it was killing.

We met some of that “collateral” damage making Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars. We heard how the fear, pain and anger of indiscriminate killing was warping young minds on the ground, turning children into potential Al Qaeda recruits faster than we could kill them. We brought young people to Washington, from Pakistan, and forced those setting this deadly policy to look them in the face and recognize their humanity. I would like to think it paid off, in the form of less killing. Eventually the Obama administration put in place rules that no drone strike could take place outside a war zone unless there was "near certainty" that no civilian would be harmed. Obama also put the White House in the decision loop for each and every strike. That was not enough, but it was something.

Now we have Trump, who doesn’t want to know who is getting killed, as long as it is someone, as long as he can say he is acting. Trump appears to be reversing an Obama-era policy preference that removed the CIA largely from the drone-killing business.

Now the drone-killing tsar is in charge of our nuanced and complicated relationship with a country that has kept us on our toes for decades. Iran is moving in its own time in a better direction, trading nuclear transparency for sanctions relief. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was re-elected by an overwhelming majority based on a short but furious campaign advocating continued dialogue with the West. Rouhani represents an opportunity to address regional security concerns through diplomacy, rather than through an antagonistic, hawkish approach.

The United States and Iran actually share many common enemies: both nations despise ISIS. In Iraq, American troops are de facto fighting alongside Iranians in the fight against ISIS. Putting a bloodthirsty killer into this arena and setting him free to do his worst will land us with the very worst possible outcome.


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