There are reports that President Trump wanted to launch a strike on Iran’s main nuclear facility last week. According to these reports, Trump’s advisers talked him out it.
I don’t know whether these reports are true, but let’s say they are. And let’s suppose, hypothetically, that Trump had decided to go through with the attack. Finally, let’s say, again hypothetically, that Trump or his team had briefed Biden about the attack before launching it.
What would Biden have done?
We know Biden would have opposed the strike. He didn’t even agree with the strike that took out Qasem Soleimani, the thuggish Iranian general responsible for so many American deaths. Biden accused Trump of “throwing a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.” Wrong again, Slow Joe.
However, an attack on Iranian soil against a nuclear facility might fit the cliche Biden applied to the killing of Soleimani. And the last thing Biden wants is to inherit any kind of war with Iran.
Therefore, I believe that in the hypothetical situation I’ve described, Biden would have tried to undermine the contemplated attack on Iran’s nuclear facility by leaking word of it. That’s assuming that members of the Trump administration didn’t first do the leaking.
Therein lies a problem for those urging Trump to brief Biden during the transition period. In theory, of course, the president-elect (which Biden soon will be) should be kept apprised of all important elements of the outgoing administration’s foreign and national security policy. The theory applies nicely when, as at times during the era of bipartisan foreign policy, the incumbent and the successor are on the same page.
But when the president and his successor hold diametrically opposing views of what our policy should be, the successor will be tempted to subvert the president’s final initiatives. That danger is particularly acute when the president-elect is a slippery character like Joe Biden, who participated in efforts to undermine him during his transition to the office.
If Trump doesn’t intend to do anything controversial during the next two months, then there’s no harm in keeping Biden fully apprised during the transition period. But if Trump plans to do anything bold, as is his right until January 20, he would be better advised to try to keep Biden in the dark about it — unless, somehow, he trusts Biden not to interfere.