Will It Take an Armed Attack to Stop Iran's Nuclear Program--and By Whom, the U.S. or Israel?
My good friend, and Lieberman Democrat, Paul Kujawsky, is ready for the United States to go to war to stop Iran's nuclear program. He has written a column explaining why, which we are publishing below. However, for reasons that I will explain in my commentary following his article, a U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear facilities will not happen. What may well happen instead is described in my comments. With that teaser of an introduction, here is Paul's column:
by Paul Kujawsky
What could possibly be wrong with the idea of "war only as a last resort"? Who would be so militaristic, so fiendishly bloodthirsty as to disagree? Actually, it turns out that there are at least two good reasons to quibble with this formulation.
First, at least some of the people who deploy this expression don't really mean it. For them, the time for last resorts never arrives. Another round of negotiations, back to the Security Council, more time for sanctions to work—the answer to the question, "Are we there yet?" is always, "No." It's an exercise in disingenuousness by wolves in sheep's clothing—that is, pacifists in realists' clothing.
Second, it's said that timing is everything in comedy. The same is true in war. It's possible to wait too long to resort to the "last resort." After all, the other side generally is not standing around idly shooting the breeze—they're preparing for combat.
Iran is the urgent example. As the West quarrels about watered-down Security Council resolutions while offering more and more political and economic incentives to the mullahs, they press ahead with their decades-old aim of acquiring nuclear weapons. They are close—very close. A war to prevent the Islamists of Tehran from getting nuclear missiles would be quite different (and more favorable for us) than armed conflict after Iran becomes a nuclear power.
Of course, there are objections. The decision to strike Iran would be divisive at home and condemned abroad. Some will decry the lack of domestic support. Others will say that the United States must not initiate military action without U.N. approval. Europe will be horrified; Russia and China will scowl.
All these points are true. But these are just different ways of expressing the paralysis of "last resortism." In an ideal world we could take more time to persuade the American people, convince or cajole the rest of the world. But in an ideal world implacably hostile, genocidal/suicidal Islamists would not be stretching out their hands to grasp the most destructive weapons in the history of humanity. In our non-ideal, actual world, we can’t wait too long.
Iran will fight back. They can do a lot of damage. Through its leading role in the international Islamist conspiracy, it will try to damage our interests throughout the world, no doubt with some success. Again, timing matters. The mullahs are somewhat constrained by the threat of American or Israeli military action against their nuclear and other facilities. If we wait and they get nuclear weapons, what will constrain them?
War is unutterably, incalculably dismal. But the time for last resorts has probably come. Remember: Iran is already waging war against America and its allies. Iran supplies the insurgents who are killing American soldiers in Iraq. It plays a central role in the Islamist war against liberalism and democracy. The reason this isn’t actually a "war" is simply because "war" requires fighting back. What we have now, basically, is more-or-less unopposed Iranian aggression. How much worse will our position be, facing a nuclear-armed, bellicose Iran?
The Kosher Hedgehog comments: I am not certain that I disagree with Paul over the necessity of armed confrontation with Iran to stop its nuclear program; so much as I believe that the United States will not act on that necessity. It will not do so for the following reasons:
1. The George W. Bush Administration has neither the time, nor the political power to order an attack on Iran. Only some five months remain before the inaugeration of a new President. The initiation of armed conflict with Iraq would result immediately in the introduction of impeachment articles in the House of Representatives. President Bush does not want to spend the rest of his term in office defending against impeachment, or engaged in a new armed conflict. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said as much today when she gave Iran two weeks to respond to the latest European offer in the negotiations to halt Iran's nuclear program, or else the U.S. would ... seek new sanctions. It is Secretary Rice and her faction in favor of diplomacy that currently have the ear of the White House, not the more hawkish advisors lead by Vice President Cheney.
2. There is no possibility of any significant international support for an attack on Iran. Russia and China would block any Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force. Indeed, in the event of an actual attack, they would exert every means short of a military confrontation with the U.S. to actively support Iran. France and Italy, which both have large investments in Iran, have been reluctant to support even meaningful sanctions, much less military action. As mentioned in the Martin Peretz column described below, Italy, led by a stalwart friend of the U.S., Silvio Berlusconi, just announced the construction of a major Fiat plant in Iran. The negative political reaction in Great Britain, now led by Gordon Brown, rather than Tony Blair, would probably lead to the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan at a time when they are most sorely needed. Of course, the reaction of the Islamic world to another American armed attack on a Moslem nation can be predicted.
3. The U.S. military is overstretched. War with Iran would not only require the the forces directly engaged in military action against Iran; it would worsen the situation in the Afghan and Iraqi theaters as well. Iran is in a geographical and strategic position to cause a great deal of trouble in both places. According to the reports that I have seen, our joint chiefs of staff have warned the Bush Administration about the dire consequences of an armed conflict with Iran.
4. The oil markets, just showing signs of stabilizing, would be thrown into chaos. Iran would try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the choke-point through which oil tankers not only from Iran, but from Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bharan, Qatar and even some Saudi fields must pass. The mere threat of such a closure would send oil prices spiraling wildly upward, and deal yet another blow to the already reeling U.S. economy.
5. If the next President is Barack Obama, there is no doubt that the U.S. will concentrate on diplomacy rather than armed force to try to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Even if John McCain is the next President, he first will have to take some months to organize his administration, and he then probably will try to show a "new direction" from the Bush Administration by pursuing diplomatic alternatives first. He will not risk being parodied as a President eager to bring into fruition his joke of "Bomb bomb bomb, Bomb bomb Iran."
So there will be no attack by the U.S. Our leaders will determine that we cannot afford war with Iran, even though it may well be true that we can't afford to put off that war either. More time will pass. Iran will come ever closer to realizing its ambitions to have nuclear weapons. And then, the one nation that does not have the luxury of waiting and seeing, the one country to whom Iran poses an existential threat--and to whom the Iranians have expressly declared that they pose an existential threat--will act because it believes that it has no choice but to act.
That nation is Israel, as Martin Peretz recently observed in his blog column at The New Republic online. If Israel attacks Iranian nuclear facilities, my friends, all bets are off. All of the chaos that I have previously described will occur, and more. Iran has already declared that it will retaliate on European and American targets, not just against Israel. All of Europe, Russia, China, and the Islamic nations will join in condemnation of Israel, and it will be an open question whether the United States will go along as well. (Let us not forget that the Reagan Administration joined in the condemnation of Israel's destruction of the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor, under development by Saddam Hussein, in 1981.) It would not be entirely surprising to see the U.S. support, or at least not veto, a United Nations Security Counsel resolution condemning. Iran and its surrogates--Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria--would probably launch military strikes of one sort or another at Israel. Indeed, it might well be the entire world against Israel.
(I leave it to our readers to ask themselves if such a scenario sounds at all familiar to them; if they may have read about something like it somewhere.)