Although President Bush spoke during his second term about “keeping the military option on the table,” it became apparent to Tehran that, distracted by other issues, Washington would not back up its words with actions. Now the Obama administration has virtually given up even referring to the use of force — except when administration officials warn of the supposed catastrophic consequences of any military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Indeed, the Obama administration seems much more taken with the urgency of blocking an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear program than with stopping Iran’s nuclear program. And one routinely hears how very, very dangerous any use of military force against Iran would be.
What other issues was Bush distracted by? Oh, you know, that other war (Iraq) that Kristol helped steer us into, and the other other war (Afghanistan) that we’re still fighting now largely because of the decision to invade Iraq before we’d finished the job in Afghanistan. It’s unsurprising that Kristol doesn’t mention this, because that would require him to recognize that launching new and glorious military interventions entails serious costs and trade-offs, and he is simply unable to do that. In Kristol’s world, bad things only ever result from not launching new and glorious military interventions.
Arguing against the fairly overwhelming consensus that a U.S. military attack on Iran would produce a series of disastrous consequences, Kristol and co-writer Jamie Fly simply insist that “if we carried out a targeted campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities, against sites used to train and equip militants killing American soldiers, and against certain targeted terror-supporting and nuclear-enabling regime elements, the effects are just as likely to be limited.”
It’s unclear, for example, that Iran would want to risk broadening the conflict and creating the prospect of regime decapitation. Iran’s rulers have shown that their preeminent concern is maintaining their grip on power. If U.S. military action is narrowly targeted, and declared to be such, why would Iran’s leaders, already under pressure at home, want to escalate the conflict, as even one missile attack on a U.S. facility or ally or a blockade of the Strait would obviously do?
While I’m pleased that Kristol and Fly are now on record in support of the idea that the Iranian regime is rational, and against the nonsensical idea that it desires nuclear martyrdom, it hardly needs to be pointed out that “Hey, there’s a chance that the very worst might not happen!” does not constitute a solid argument for military action. Hard as it is for some to grasp, the simple fact is that there are problems in foreign policy that cannot be solved by American ordnance.
It’s also worth noting that frequent Weekly Standard contributor Reuel Marc Gerecht has an op-ed in today’s New York Times arguing for more explicit U.S. support for Iran’s pro-democracy Green movement — yet it’s hard to think of anything that would extinguish that movement more quickly and effectively than following Kristol and Fly’s advice.