Woman dies after three-vehicle crash in Hanover

OP-ED: Trump did the right thing — gasp! — in aborting potentially lethal attacks on Iran

Scott Martelle
Los Angeles Times (TNS)
U.S President Donald Trump, left, and John Bolton, right, the new national security adviser attend a briefing from Senior Military Leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House on April 9, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Well, here’s something new — President Donald Trump, in reversing his own decision to attack multiple targets in Iran in retaliation for the downing of a U.S. drone, exhibited a surprising level of restraint late Thursday, and for the right reasons.

That is, of course, if his tweets can be believed. That’s not a given, but Trump’s comments confirmed earlier news reports out of Washington surrounding the decision to scrap the attack.

Most significantly, Trump tweeted Friday morning that he had approved the attacks but then reversed himself after being told they would likely kill about 150 people.

That’s the exactly correct reason not to attack. Killing people in retaliation for the downing of an unmanned drone would have been obscenely disproportionate.

Especially because it remains unclear who was at fault. Did the U.S. fly a drone into Iranian air space, or did Iran shoot down another nation’s asset in international air space?

More:OP-ED: Trump's Iran stand down shows total incoherence of his policy

More:Pompeo sets out to build global coalition against Iran

More:U.S. prepped for strikes on Iran before approval was withdrawn

More:Tankers targeted near Strait of Hormuz amid Iran-US tensions

The sad part here is neither government has earned the benefit of the doubt for its version of events.

It’s also worth noting that, at least according to the New York Times, planes were already in the air and the mission was underway when Trump asked about the death toll. So Trump didn’t think to ask that question before he approved the attacks? And that detail wasn’t included in recommendations from his military advisors (or maybe Trump didn’t bother to read the details)?

Regardless, it’s commendable that once Trump did ask the question and received the answer, he decided the retaliation would have been out of proportion to the downing of the drone, and called it off.

Of course, this isn’t over. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some sort of lesser attack in the coming hours or days, perhaps an advance warning sent through a third country — Russia? — that U.S. missiles would strike specific antiaircraft and radar installations, giving Iran time to evacuate.

A better course here would be to find a way for both sides to back off, perhaps with an international show of force in the Straits of Hormuz to signal global condemnation of an increasingly aggressive Iran.

But that would require some international leadership. And we have the wrong president for that.