January 10, 2020

Why did the Pentagon ever give Trump the option of killing Soleimani?

Sending the U.S. military to use force is among the most consequential decisions presidents can make. Matters may get out of control even with the most careful and deliberate planning. Skipping such steps shows callous disregard for American lives and interests. And there is overwhelming evidence in the past week that President Trump instigated an escalation cycle with an American enemy without such consideration. According to multiple news reports, policymakers gave Trump the option of killing Qasem Soleimani as one of several choices, perhaps hoping that including such a dramatic measure would push him toward a middle course; instead, he went for it, reportedly with little forethought or preparation. Our national security system is not meant to function that way.

Instead of holding a tightly managed, inclusive debate in the Situation Room, Trump made one of the most dangerous choices of his presidency among a tiny group at Mar-a-Lago. Such decisive moments are usually preceded by hundreds of people spending countless hours in dingy government offices and conference rooms, building PowerPoint slides and asking lawyers questions. These individuals create the parameters and permutations of what the decision-makers consider. They identify the possible options, vetting their likely operational, diplomatic, economic and other effects. That work enables the commander in chief to make wrenching decisions about his military options wisely.

At least, that is how decisions are supposed to be made, and how we helped leaders make them when we worked in government. Bad options, considered with little serious deliberation on an unnecessarily rapid timeline, should never get to the president in the first place.

Read the full article and more in The Washington Post.

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