As I predicted with the formation of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative last year, the neocons have been hard at work to repair their reputations and position themselves to push America into all kinds of new, staggeringly expensive and disastrously counterproductive military adventures. Yes, the people who brought us the Iraq debacle — and, by under-resourcing Afghanistan for years as a result of Iraq, the Afghanistan crisis too — are trying to get America into yet another war in the Middle East, this time in Iran.
Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, leading Congressional neocon Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) declared “It is time to retire our ambiguous mantra about all options remaining on the table”:
It is time for our message to our friends and enemies in the region to become clearer: namely, that we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability — by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must.
Leaving aside the other reasons, which I’ll get to in a second, why it’s important for Americans to reject Joe Lieberman’s warmongering, there’s the rather significant fact that his central proposition is an exercise in question begging. It’s entirely unclear that the U.S. can, even if it decides to do so, stop Iran’s nuclear program through military means.
As Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman General James Cartwright stated in testimony to the Senate Armed Services committee in April, strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities would, at best, only delay the Iranian nuclear program for a few years, while at the same time solidifying Iranian domestic support for the regime and removing any hesitancy that may have existed over the necessity of obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Gen. Cartwright was then pressed by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) on whether the only way to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear capability was “to physically occupy their country and disestablish their nuclear facilities?”
Gen. Cartwright answered: “Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, that’s a fair conclusion.”
Gen. Cartwright’s comments track squarely with those of retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, who, in discussing the various scenarios and likely consequences of a strike on Iran, concluded: “If you follow this all the way down, eventually I’m putting boots on the ground somewhere. And like I tell my friends, if you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.”
Which brings us to Iraq and Afghanistan, two disasters for which Joe Lieberman bears as much responsibility as any American politician. As Eli Clifton helpfully points out, Lieberman is now simply repurposing his Iraq arguments for Iran. Which is, of course, what all the neocons are doing. (No, these are not particularly imaginative people.)
How does Lieberman get around the Iraqi elephant in the room? By ignoring it, basically. In a 3,000 word speech entitled “The Future of American Power in the Middle East,” the word “Iraq” — a country where we have lost over 4,000 troops, taken over 30,000 casualties, and spent nearly $800 billion — appears twice.
First, to lament “the anxieties in the region” about American power that resulted from “the mismanagement of the early years in postwar Iraq,” implying that the surge had magically solved that problem, which is as unsurprising as it is false. And then to note that Iran’s “dream of replicating the Hezbollah model in southern Iraq was rolled back by the Iraqi and U.S. forces,” a baldly disingenuous rendering that ignores Iran’s key role in ending the fighting in southern Iraq, as well as its continuing influence in a post-war government made up largely of its clients and proxies.
What this gets at pretty starkly is that Joe Lieberman, as with others in the neoconservative faction, either doesn’t grasp, or simply refuses to admit, that the Iraq war has had hugely negative consequences for the United States and our allies in the region. Why? Well, obviously, because now they want to run it again.
But make no mistake: fantasies of “surgical strikes” aside, another invasion and occupation are what Joe Lieberman and the neocons are talking about when they press for “military action” against Iran. It will not be “surgical,” however, and it will not be quick. These are facts that Joe Lieberman needs to be made confront.