Analysis & Opinions - The Boston Globe

The Costs of Trump's Disdain for International Morality

| Jan. 20, 2020

The institutional costs of using a wrecking ball approach may reduce American power in the long run.

When President Trump ordered the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, he crossed two red lines. Assassination of a high government official in a third country when we are not at war with the countries involved is something we practiced in the early Cold War. But President Ford forswore it after Senate hearings in the 1970s revealed our efforts to assassinate foreign leaders like Patrice Lumumba and Fidel Castro. If we again treat assassination of officials as an acceptable international norm, how can we protest if Iran were to assassinate an American official on a visit to Baghdad? Did President Trump even consider the question?

The other red line that Trump crossed was the international law that forbids attacks on another state unless approved by the United Nations Security Council or in exercise of the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter. But that right relates to defense against imminent attack, not revenge for past actions or prevention of vague futures. The administration proclaimed that an Iranian attack on American embassies was imminent, but the evidence failed to convince even some of its own supporters in the Senate....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Nye, Joseph S. Jr.“The Costs of Trump's Disdain for International Morality.” The Boston Globe, January 20, 2020.