Trump’s Talk Worries Me, Like the Talk Before the Iraq War

The financial cost alone to the United States will top $3 trillion, according to the estimates of the economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, or about $24,000 per American household. Some 4,400 American soldiers died in Iraq, along with approximately 500,000 Iraqis, according to a survey and academic study.

The war helped trigger the Syria war, the genocide against the Yazidi and Middle East Christians, the rise of the Islamic State, the strengthening of Iran and a broader Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East that will claim lives for years to come.

.. I have a grim feeling in my belly, a bit like I had in the run-up to the Iraq war, that we have a president who is leading us toward reckless, catastrophic conflict.

Actually, toward three reckless conflicts.

The first is not a bloody one: It’s a trade war.

.. The second conflict that Trump is hurtling toward is with Iran.

.. Unless he chooses some face-saving compromise, it looks as if Trump will pull out of the Iran nuclear deal by May 12.

.. The risk is that Iran responds by restarting its nuclear program. This would lead to soaring tensions, the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran, a risk of Saudi-Iranian conflict and a danger of war between the United States and Iran.

Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, whom Trump has nominated to be secretary of state, is very smart — and very hawkish on Iran. Moreover, Trump is considering replacing his national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, with John Bolton, who is not a mere hawk so much as a pterosaur.

.. The final risk, of course, is a war with North Korea. We may have a reprieve for a couple of months if Trump’s face-to-face with Kim Jong-un goes ahead, but I think Americans are too reassured by the prospect of a summit meeting.

.. The basic problem: There’s almost no chance that North Korea will agree to the kind of verifiable denuclearization that Trump talks about.

.. Trump’s snap decision to accept Kim’s invitation to meet underscores the risk of a mercurial president leaping into actions — which is one of the reasons we got into the mess in Iraq.

.. The temptation to fire missiles at North Korea or Iran may also be particularly great for a president seeking to distract from a Russia investigation or an outspoken porn actress.

.. Kori Schake, who worked in the Bush White House during the Iraq war, notes that Trump sometimes has spoken about North Korea the way Bush administration officials did about Iraq, and she adds: “I worry that President Trump could lead to war on the Korean Peninsula or against Iran, or by miscalculation in a number of other places where adversaries misread his intent. The president considers his unpredictability advantageous, when it is more likely to have explosive consequences.”