The Council on Foreign Relations’ Max Boot is no stranger to calling for increasingly confrontational measures to address Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. But in a column in today’s L.A. Times, Boot doubles down on his calls for war while in the same breath admitting that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would only delay Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. He writes:
[A]t this late date, even such tough actions might not stop Iran from going nuclear.
The only credible option for significantly delaying the Iranian nuclear program would be a bombing campaign.
While Boot completely skips an examination of the consequences associated with bombing Iran — including damaging any possibility of deterrence should Iran acquire nuclear weapons and giving pretext for brutal crackdowns on the Green Movement — he’s apparently willing to accept those consequences in exchange for just “delaying” the Iranian nuclear program.
Boot’s column is equally troubling in that it dramatically misrepresents the facts on the ground.
Boot suggests that Iran and al Qaeda are in league, even while admitting that the 9/11 report cleared Iran of any role in the 9/11 attacks. He also claims that while Iran was arming insurgents in Iraq, it “was covertly developing nuclear weapons.” The Nov. 8, report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) draws no such conclusion, leading a senior Obama administration official to observe:
The IAEA does not assert that Iran has resumed a full scale nuclear weapons program nor does it have a program [sic] about how advanced the programs really are.
Neoconservative talking points pushing for war hinge on the well worn argument that backing down from the use of force — as Neville Chamberlain’s attempts to negotiate with Adolf Hitler allegedly proved — will always result in failure. Boot writes:
In retrospect, weakness in the face of aggression is almost impossible to understand — or forgive. Why did the West do so little while the Nazis gathered strength in the 1930s?
In February 2003, Boot used a similar argument, urging President George W. Bush not to be swayed by antiwar protests opposing the imminent war in Iraq. He wrote:
When the demands of protesters have been met, more bloodshed has resulted; when strong leaders have resisted the lure of appeasement, peace has usually broken out.
Boot’s track record would suggest he’s far more interested in war than peace. Aside from his misstatement about intelligence estimates on Iran’s nuclear program, hyping of an Iran-Al Qaeda link and recycling of pre-Iraq War “appeasement” arguments, Boot is right about one thing: Attacking Iran would only delay its nuclear program. And for CFR’s Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, it seems that’s a good enough reason to live with the consequences that will result.