Trump Hasn't Learned Lessons About the Middle East, Pete Buttigieg Says: 'Taking Out a Bad Guy Is Not Necessarily a Good Idea'

The 2020 Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg has questioned the Trump administration's planning in its surprise drone strike on senior Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, suggesting the White House has not learned lessons from the Middle East's recent past.

Soleimani's assassination is a watershed moment in months of escalating tensions between Iran and the U.S. Washington accused Soleimani of planning further attacks on Americans, including diplomats, and said its strike was intended to deter Iran.

The major general led the Quds Force, the foreign unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Soleimani was a major figure in the Iranian regime and led its military operations in Iraq and Syria.

"Look, there is no question that Soleimani had American blood on his hands, that he was a bad actor in the region," Buttigieg, an Afghanistan War veteran, said during an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe program on Monday.

"But if there is anything that we have learned in the last 20 years about the Middle East it's that taking out a bad guy is not necessarily a good idea.

"And what we've seen here is no evidence that there's been proper consultation with Congress and more importantly, and more dangerously, no evidence that they've really thought about the consequences.

"Right now, my mind is with the troops who are moving to the Middle East and, having known what it's like to be in the inside of one of those airplanes, you need to be able to trust that everybody up your chain of command has thought through what's ahead. And we're just not seeing a lot of indications of that."

Newsweek asked the White House and the State Department for comment by email and will update this article if any is provided.

"There is no question that Soleimani had American blood on his hands & that he was a bad actor in the region. But if there is anything that we have learned in the last 20 years about the Middle East, it's that taking out a bad guy is not necessarily a good idea."--@PeteButtigieg

— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) January 6, 2020

Soleimani was killed close to Baghdad Airport in Iraq in an action that came at the direction of President Donald Trump, according to a Pentagon statement on Thursday released in the aftermath.

The Pentagon said Soleimani "was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region."

"General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more," the statement continued.

"He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months—including the attack on December 27th—culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.

"General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week. This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans."

Iran has promised to avenge Soleimani's death. But Trump warned Iran that Washington would strike back disproportionately and claimed to have a list of 52 targets—including Iranian cultural sites which, if struck, would be a war crime—lined up.

In response to criticism that he had not properly notified or briefed Congress about the Soleimani strike, Trump tweeted: "These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!"

According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, Buttigieg, who served in the U.S. Navy Reserve before becoming mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is in fourth place in the Democratic Party's 2020 polling at 7.7 percent.

He is behind Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in third place at 14.4 percent, independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in second at 19.9 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden in first at 29.3 percent.

Pete Buttigieg Trump Iran general Soleimani 2020
Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg stands in the spin room after the sixth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by PBS NewsHour & Politico at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California on December 19, 2019. AGUSTIN PAULLIER/AFP via Getty Images