Speaking at the hearing, Institute for the Study of War head retired Army General Jack Keane, an architect and prime promoter of the Bush administration’s “surge” escalation in Iraq (who’s now pushing to keep troops there against Iraq’s will), completely elided the last decade of the Cold War with the Soviet Union in order to single out Iran. In Keane’s testimony (PDF), he said:
The Iranian bungled operation to use proxies to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States and to purposefully plan the operation inside the United States is a stunning rebuke to the Obama administration’s policy of negotiation and isolation with the Iranians. Indeed, Republican and Democratic administrations since 1980 have failed to deal effectively with the harsh reality that Iran is our number one strategic enemy in the world.
In the 1980s, the Cold War was still raging. This was at a time when, according to a Congressional Research Service report (PDF), Soviet military capabilities were surpassing the U.S. in a number of regards; when the U.S. and Soviets were fighting proxy wars in Central America and Afghanistan; and when the young struggles to tear down the Iron Curtain in Europe were getting started. Nuclear-armed submarines patrolled the seas, and both countries kept massive arsenals of missiles aimed at each other.
There’s little doubt that Iran does pose a strategic challenge to the U.S., but Keane’s revisionist history badly stretches credulity. Indeed, that using coordinated law enforcement and (presumably) intelligence gathering to break up the alleged assassination plot is hardly a “stunning rebuke” to the Obama administration’s policies, but rather reinforces that, in this case, they worked.
Furthermore, while calling Iran the “number one” strategic threat during the 1980s is completely ridiculous, that status may even be over-reaching since the end of the Cold War. For example, China is challenging American power, North Korea, unlike Iran, has tested a nuclear weapon; 9/11 demonstrated the threat of al Qaeda to the U.S.; and, no small thanks to Keane, the U.S. has gone to war with Iraq twice since the end of the Cold War.