- - Thursday, January 9, 2020

Smart people learn from their mistakes, but wise people learn from other peoples’ mistakes. That is why you study history.

This is a lesson I regularly share with the college students, other young people and fellow members of Congress. The study of history is really about what works, what doesn’t work, and the consequences that people and nations have suffered as a result of wrong decisions. It would serve America’s leaders well to consider this in view of the decision to kill Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Quds Force.

Democratic leaders and the left-wing media claim that President Trump’s actions in this situation could provoke a war with Iran. The truth is that Iran has been in conflict with the United States and the West for over three decades and has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984. While Soleimani was Iran’s top military commander, he also ran their terrorist network and oversaw the funding, training, and equipping of terrorists and militia groups that are threats to the entire region.

There should be no confusion about Soleimani. He was a ruthless terrorist responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people, including more than 600 American soldiers, and the wounding of thousands of others. He even tried to orchestrate an attack on U.S. soil when, in 2011, he was implicated in a failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.

In the wake of the recent attack on the American embassy in Baghdad, U.S. intelligence alerted Mr. Trump that Soleimani was about to initiate other attacks against U.S. diplomats. Rather than ignore those warnings, Mr. Trump recognized that Soleimani presented a serious danger and acted to stop him.

The failure to heed warnings and act is what enemies of the United States had come to expect. In 1998, during the Clinton administration, terrorists carried out bombing attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Eight months before these attacks, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Prudence Bushnell warned the State Department that security was inadequate.

The U.S. military also expressed this concern and offered to help, but the State Department declined the offer. The two attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 5,000, including Ambassador Bushnell.

The Benghazi attack during the Obama administration is another example of the tragic consequences of ignoring warnings. Democratic politicians and their left-wing media allies have attempted to describe the recent attack on our embassy in Baghdad as “Trump’s Benghazi.” But it is the exact opposite.

Prior to the Benghazi attack in 2012, U.S. intelligence had warned the Obama administration that al Qaeda was active in Libya and posed a threat. Ambassador Christopher Stevens asked for more security, but it never came. In fact, it was reduced. He and three other Americans died because the Obama administration was more concerned about avoiding bad publicity over the deteriorating conditions in Libya than they were about protecting the Americans serving there.

Given this history of past administrations failing to act, it is understandable why Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s head of state, publicly mocked the U.S. during the attack on our embassy in Baghdad. He declared, “You can’t do anything.”

With this administration, Ayatollah Khamenei miscalculated.

Mr. Trump and his advisers were not willing to repeat the mistakes of the Clinton and Obama administrations. This would not be a repeat of Nairobi, Dar es Salaam or Benghazi. The president warned the Iranians not to kill any Americans. They did anyway, and when intelligence indicated that Soleimani was planning more attacks against U.S. diplomats and other Americans, Mr. Trump acted swiftly and decisively.

If we expect people to be willing to serve in our diplomatic corps in dangerous places, they must be certain that America will defend them. They know that now, and so does Iran’s leadership.

While I am confident that no one in this administration wants to engage in a full-scale war with Iran, it should now be clear that this administration will respond forcefully to any and all attacks. It should now be apparent to everyone that when it comes to protecting American embassies and American citizens, President Trump has learned from others’ past mistakes.

• Gary Palmer is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Alabama.

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