Douglas London is a retired Senior CIA Operations Officer and an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University's Center for Security Studies.
To say he knows something about national security and threat detection is an understatement.
London retired at the end of 2018, his last position as CIA's Chief of Counterterrorism for South and Southwest Asia. During that time he also learned about President Donald Trump.
He shared his insight in an article for Just Security. In it, London echoes an observation many others have made.
For Trump, fame and popularity are more important than anything.
London described the factors he saw Trump consider when it came to targeted killings:
"When it comes to intelligence, like with so much else, President Donald Trump likes big names. It's this focus on celebrity, headlines, and immediate gratification—versus substance, impact, and consequences—that so often motivates him."
"Partly because of this, as a senior CIA counterterrorist manager, my team and I often struggled in persuading the President to recognize the most important threats. Now, with the killing of Qassem Soleimani, I worry that while Trump got a big name and lots of headlines, the long-term impact on U.S. strategic interests was not fully considered."
"At CIA, I saw this play out more than once. Trump's obsession in focusing resources against Osama bin Laden's son Hamza is one example of the President's preference for a 'celebrity' targeted killing versus prioritizing options that could prove better for U.S. security."
London used the strike that killed Soleimani as an example:
"In the President's mind, killing Soleimani could have seemed like an opportunity to make himself the commander-in-chief willing to do what no one else would risk. Again, it appears to have been more about Trump, and the potential for headlines, rather than the intelligence."
London concluded his article with a warning:
"Pundits will debate where to go from here. Don't expect the White House to produce any evidence to support its contention that Americans are any safer."
"Indeed, the greatest risk is the proclivity of both Iran and the U.S. to act from the wrong strategic calculus."
"To avoid this, the U.S. must first decide what's most important, the price it's willing to pay and anticipate the consequences. I have great trust in the Intelligence Community, but with the stakes never higher, it's time for the President to start listening to it and to begin to put U.S. strategic interests first."