It’s easy to choke on Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s claim that the Pentagon is “working with our partners to address this unprecedented attack and defend the international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran." Defending the rules-based order? Hasn’t the Trump administration been doing exactly the opposite?
Trump has separated the United States from the central rules-based approach to managing climate change. His administration has been chipping away at the capacity of the World Trade Organization to provide rules-based adjudication of international trade disputes. On his first day in office he took the United States out of the multi-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade process. Since then the United States has also withdrawn from UNESCO and the United Nations Human Rights Council. The United States is no longer party to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, which helped end the Cold War. And speaking of arms control, Trump has also taken the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program. This latter decision has helped pave the way for the tensions that are now on full display as Tehran flexes its muscles.