The Wall Street Journal Calls For War Against Iran

Wall Street Journal Ed Board Member Bret Stephens

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ) contained an otherwise forgettable opinion piece by the Journal’s editorial board, except that buried in the fourth paragraph was a call for war with Iran.

The opinion piece, titled “The Battle Over Iraq: Tehran Kills America GIs and Undermines Iraqi Democracy,” offers a lengthy defense of military aid to Iraq and a long term security relationship with Iraq — “The U.S. has kept troops in South Korea and Japan for six decades after the end of the wars there, and a similar presence in Iraq might be as salutary” — but the fourth paragraph contains the following endorsement of what could only be considered acts of war against Iran. It reads:

The U.S. has chosen not to go after the militias directly to shield the government of Nouri al-Maliki from the domestic political fallout of unilateral American military action. Such considerations are cold comfort to soldiers under attack. The U.S. has a legal and moral responsibility to respond. We ought to go after the militias in Iraq as well as their backers in Iran who’ve decided to make Iraq a proxy war.

For the sake of clarity, the WSJ editorial board should explain exactly what it means by “going after” the Iranian supporters of Shiite militias. Do they propose cross border raids into Iran? Targeted bombing of suspected arms smugglers in Iran?

But such loose talk of a potentially disastrous war shouldn’t be so surprising coming from hawkish deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens, who is widely understood to author the unsigned foreign policy columns and referred to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a “Hitlerian figure.” Furthmore, Stephens attended a secretive, off the record 2007 conference in the Bahamas hosted by the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which included an entire session dedicated to the discussion of various military options against Iran’s nuclear program.

Indeed, recent statements from senior military and intelligence officials about Iranian support for Shiite militias in Iraq has been leveraged by neoconservatives to push for more aggressive, yet vaguely defined, action against Iran.

Former George W. Bush Middle East adviser Elliot Abrams hit a similar note on his Council on Foreign Relations blog, writing twice in the past week on the failure of the Obama administration to take “action” against Iran. On July 8, he wrote:

What credibility can we possibly have when they know we know that Iran has been killing American soldiers year after year without any significant American response.

Much like the Wall Street Journal, Abrams never bothered qualifying what “response” was appropriate. What seems inappropriate, however, is the calling for “action” against another sovereign country without bothering to define what action is actually being endorsed.

Perhaps more importantly, if countering the extensive Iranian influence in Iraq is the new metric for success, the U.S. should plan to extend its mission there forever.