In the United States, it is said that there is nothing more popular than a wartime president. However, it’s not the enemy that makes these presidents popular, but the feeling of patriotism that unites the historically polarized nation. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lindon D. Johnson and George W. Bush are among the most noteworthy Presidents that experienced national unity when America faced international conflict. Instances of such conditional unity can be observed during the aftermath of Peral Harbor, Gulf of Tonkin and 9/11. Each of these incidents resulted in congressional approval to engage in war and the subsequential elections of all three sitting-presidents at the time the tragedies occurred. Donald Trump’s most recent assassination of General Qasem Soleimani could be an attempt to stimulate that same unity ahead of the 2020 general election, aiding in his potential victory come November.
The reaction of Donald Trump after the attack was to provide justification on the grounds of preemption. In his address yesterday, accompanied by the vice-president, secretary of state and four military generals, Trump stated that Soleimani not only trained Hezbollah and was involved in past terror attacks on US embassies, but was additionally orchestrating a forthcoming attack targeting Americans. Democrats did not specifically condemn the motivation for such an attack, but responded by criticizing the president for not seeking Congressional opinion before action was taken. Regardless, Trump did not receive the unilateral support he may have hoped for, but did he ever expect to get it? The attack could have had an alternative political motivation other than that of killing an accused terrorist and sparking national unity.
Impeachment has resulted in diminishing Trump support among Independent and left-leaning voters. With the Senate undergoing their turn of the impeachment debate, Donald Trump’s attack could be an attempt to divert focus, simultaneously strengthening his Republican base and hoping to reattract some Independent and Democratic support. Although this seems absurd, it is not unprecedented. In 1998, Bill Clinton ordered airstrikes on Iraq in an attempt to delay his impeach proceedings regarding his lie about an affair with a White House staffer.
Regardless of the intentions, it was always expected that a high-profile attack would certainly have its consequences. Since the American strike, tensions have further escalated. Protests erupted in the Iranian streets resulting in a flash-mob that killed 35, then followed by Iranian missile attacks in Iraq on American airbases Ibril and Al Asad. After Trump’s call to action, nations are beginning demonstrate allegiances, leaving the mind to wonder about possible geopolitical reactions. However, we hope what follows is diplomatic, resulting in an overdue summit and de-escalation. We look to international institutions to guide talks, helping the world arrive at peace and ensuring the safety of all humans. Obviously, such an attack having political underpinnings will never be disclosed. Yet, as November draws closer, the following weeks will reveal changes in Trump’s support after such a bold action; surly he hopes it doesn’t end the same way Clinton’s did.