On Tuesday's Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC, host Andrea Mitchell fretted that President Trump could lead the country into a war with Iran and was assisted with that assessment thanks to New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker and former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin.
Baker told Mitchell that the more dovish members of the Administration, such as Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis, have departed. Mattis resigned in part because he felt that Trump's plan to withdraw troops from Syria was a gift to Iran.
Mitchell then asked McLaughlin if the current situation in the Persian Gulf resembled the Gulf of Tonkin, the 1964 incidents that involved the destroyer Maddox, North Vietnamese torpedo boats, false radar images, and wider U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
"You know, it has that feel to it," McLaughlin stated, "if something were to happen in the Persian Gulf now, you would have to look very carefully at it to make sure we either had not provoked it or it wasn't a miscalculation we were going to use as a spring board for greater conflict."
McLaughlin argued that the U.S. is internationally isolated, citing the British Foreign Secretary drawing "an equivalence between the United States [and Iran]." After Mitchell interjected, McLaughlin said "that's unprecedented for a a British Foreign Secretary to say in wat we have always though of as the Special Relationship."
Mitchell concluded that "a lot of things are not normal anymore." However, claims of abnormal behavior are not accurate and part of a larger hyperbolic response by the media to the events currently unfolding in the Gulf. Despite accusations of warmongering, there is no evidence that the administration is on a war path.
Historically, it is not uncommon for the U.S. to send aircraft carriers to potential hot zones. Bill Clinton, not exactly a right-wing war monger, sent not one, but two carrier strike groups through the Taiwan Straight to send a message to China during the Taiwanese presidential campaign as Beijing was sabre rattling by test firing missiles. Even during the Obama years, the U.S. said in no uncertain terms that if Iran closed the Strait of Hormuz, that the U.S. would reopen it.
The New York Times article that the Pentagon updated a plan to send 120,000 troops to the region should Iran accelerate work on its nuclear program. Journalists, pundits, and politicians have cited this as proof of the administration's warmongering, but the first paragraph indicated that the plan would be implemented in response to Iranian actions and the second paragraph emphasized that 120,000 troops would be woefully insufficient to invade Iran.
Rather, The Times article showed Defense officials amending contingency plans and national security officials wanting to be updated on those plans in the event of a worst-case scenario. In other words, journalists have shown an aversion to delivering news reports that are objective and sober and instead an urge to insist that the worst is upon us thanks to the President they so desperately want destroyed.
Here is a transcript for the May 14 show:
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports
May 14, 2019
12:25 p.m. Eastern
PETER BAKER: You’re right the people who had been on the more dovish side are now gone. People like Rex Tillerson, like Jim Mattis, people who had more experience in government, people other than that who had more experience in government who didn’t see Iran as worth a war.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Is this the Gulf of Tonkin?
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: You know, it has that feel to it. If something were to happen in the Persian Gulf now, you would have to look very carefully at it to make sure we either had not provoked it or it wasn't a miscalculation we were going to use as a spring board for greater conflict. This has to be… it's dangerous at this point, I think. If you notice the British Foreign Secretary actually said that could miscalculation by either side. It was kind of an equivalence between the United States ---
MITCHELL: He said that in Brussels right after meeting with Pompeo.
MCLAUGHLIN: --- that's unprecedented for a British Foreign Secretary to say in what we have always thought of as the Special Relationship.
MITCHELL: A lot of things are not normal anymore.