Friday, October 13, 2006
Time for a Serbia-Style Air War Against Iran?
by Winston Smith
An interesting essay by Jack Kelly. He quotes Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's top foreign policy adviser, Hassan Abbasi: "[Iran] has a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization." Mr. Kelly advises us that it is 1939.
Jack Kelly is joining a growing chorus of conservative commentators who are urging us to make war on Iran. And loyal liberals (yes, there are still quite a few out there) in the mainstream media are writing headline stories every week to warn the American people about how crazed Iran's new leader is and how insistent he is on obtaining nuclear weapons.
These reports on Iran's political culture are also reports on the state of America's political culture. They're encouraging reports. This is 1936, not 1939. There is still time to act. We still have another year or another couple of years before Iran will deploy nuclear weapons.
In Iran's nuclear program the United States faces a situation in the Middle East that resembles Hitler's re-occupation of the Rhineland. The stakes for the world are not as high as they were in 1936. Unlike Nazi Germany, Iran cannot destroy the civilized world. Iran does not have the capacity to project its power beyond a handful of weak or failed states—post-invasion Iraq, pre-Cedar-revolution Lebanon, and the post-disengagement Palestinian Authority—but it does have the power to draw blood. And by arming itself with nuclear weapons, it will have the power to draw a great deal of blood.
More specifically, Iran will have the power to send Muslim terrorists into our streets, and nothing short of nuclear war will stop them.
If Iran arms itself with nuclear weapons, it is more likely that they will use them as a shield rather than a sword. Nuclear weapons would make Iran the ultimate safe haven for Islamic terrorists. All guerrilla warriors—the good and the evil, the atheist and the fanatically religious—need a safe haven, a rear area where they can organize themselves, recruit, train, and draw supplies. Iran will soon provide Mohammed's terrorists a safe haven with a nuclear umbrella.
Stalin and Berea, Mao Tse Tung, and both of North Korea's Kims were at least as unpredictable, irrational, and nihilistic as Iran's Ahmadinejad. But America's nuclear might deterred them all from firing their nuclear weapons. And contrary to conventional wisdom, even George Bush has deterred the supposedly un-deterrable suicide bombers of al Qaeda. It is four and a half years into the post-9/11 shooting war and al-Qaeda still hasn't hit back at us infidels here on American soil.
That can only be explained by the idea that Muslim fanatics don't want a repeat of 9/11—or that they don't want it badly enough to persistently put up the resources needed to push it through. The Bush administration's destruction of the al-Qaeda network has been substantial, but not total, and other, sometimes newer, Islamist groups are out there to do the work of al Qaeda, too. But they've already lost Afghanistan and are in the process of losing Iraq. Pakistan and a dozen Arab regimes have moved towards making themselves more open to the West. And over 40,000 Muslims have been killed.
All these ill tidings have come to the Muslim world because two skyscrapers were destroyed in Manhattan. None of the Islamists welcomes the idea of another attack in the United States. They don't want the American people—or all the people of Western Civilization—to mobilize against them again. They're afraid of us.
But for all that, deterrence doesn't guarantee that Ahmadinejad (or Kim Jong-Il, for that matter) won't fire a few nukes at us. Deterrence or not, nuclear war is still possible.
Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush—who perfectly represents the honest but un-intellectual American man—have long evaded the responsibility to respond to Iran's ugly little war on the United States. But that evasion is now breaking down.
It is a powerful force on the side of good that essentially all Americans—left and right, in the press, in Congress, and in the White House—and the vast majority of Europeans now agree that Iran is evil, that Iran has a major nuclear weapons program, and that Iran is led by an irrational, unstable, millennialist religious fanatic who will strike out and kill Americans and Europeans. This force is beginning to make it culturally and politically possible for the West to answer Iran's quarter-century-long war on us—possible, that is, if there is a leader among us who will step forward to lead the attack that most of us in our heart of hearts want.
The United States and the Western world aren't too weary of the conflict in Iraq to accept a Serbia-style air war against Iran.
There is no reason why Iran can't be quarantined, its air and naval defenses destroyed, and its nuclear, oil, and other industries bombed day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. There is no reason why Iranian society cannot be taken apart brick by brick—in an air war made bloodier for the Iranians by the fact that they're a populous nation of 68 million with a decentralized power structure that has a strong following among a substantial minority of its people (which makes Iran an uninviting target for invasion).
We would have to live with oil prices at $90 per barrel, but the Iranians would starve. Iran can be defeated by siege. We already have them surrounded.
(Deploying American military forces to the Persian Gulf and along most of Iran's borders is the main reason why, back in 2002, was a good idea—a good first step.)
There is no reason why the United States cannot make war on Iran and prevail—no reason except the lack of committed intellectual leadership. The American people and the people of Western Civilization need leadership to convince us that war is what we need and to convince us that we're not guilty for the death and suffering a war will cause inside Iran.
Is George W. Bush that kind of leader? We know if he were to start such a war he has the persistence to finish it. But so far, he has carefully avoided starting anything with Iran—sometimes employing spectacular evasions like his support of feckless IAEA negotiations and maneuvering towards an empty proclamation from the UN Security Council.
So far America's actions towards Iran have been steered by our foreign policy marriage with Great Britain. It is Great Britain, not America, that sent its foreign secretary to Tehran in the autumn of 2001 to ask Iran to join the West in our War on Terrorism. (Yes, Tony Blair and Jack Straw actually did that.) It is Great Britain, not America, that has been careful—too careful—not to step on Iran's toes in Basra or Najaf [in Southern Iraq]. It is Great Britain, not America, that has insisted on talks with Iran over IAEA inspections and using them as the spearhead of a decidedly un-pointed policy to retard Iran's nuclear program.
In arranging to have its friendly overtures and civil entreaties unceremoniously rejected—year after year—by the primitive turban-heads of Tehran, Great Britain has gone a long way in demonstrating to the entire Western World how incorrigibly evil and uncivilized Iran is. But Britain has done it at the price of giving the Iranian dictatorship the illusion that it can get away with anything—including the subversion of Iraq's fledgling government.
America has a good foreign policy marriage with Britain—it is honest and true—but now is time for the United States to be the patriarch of the family, to make the decision and ask everyone else in the family, not for permission, but for what they will volunteer to contribute to the effort.
It is time to take the reins of our Iran policy from Great Britain and to steer it down a more rational path.
The campaign to topple the Taliban was retaliation for 9/11. The invasion of Iraq was a post-9/11 completion of the half-finished Gulf War of 1991 against Saddam Hussein. Ahmadinejad and his uranium hexafluoride are giving the United States an unparalleled opportunity to launch our first actual pre-emptive war against Islamism—the kind of pre-emptive war that the neoconservatives correctly argued for back in the winter of 2002–2003. In the case of Ahmadinejad's Iran, there is no doubt he will attack us if we don't attack first.
As Michael Ledeen tirelessly reminds us, we are not done killing Muslim fanatics. We need another war.