william kristol's persian fantasy

The fact that anyone takes William Kristol seriously anymore is as terrifying as it is depressing.

And one routinely hears how very, very dangerous any use of military force against Iran would be.

Would it be so dangerous? That is a debate the country needs to have, publicly and frankly, before it’s too late.

Critics of military action against Iran argue that it would open up a third front for American forces in the Middle East. Our troops would be at risk from Iranian missiles. Iran would block the Strait of Hormuz (causing oil prices to skyrocket) and use its terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah to carry out attacks well beyond the Middle East, including perhaps on the U.S. homeland.

Yet 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?

Why, indeed? After all, acquiescence to American power has a been a cornerstone of the Islamic Republic's foreign policy since it's founding.

If the Iranian regime's first priority is maintaining its grip on power--to the extent that they will not retaliate against targeted strikes against nuclear facilities by the US--doesn't that also suggest that they can be contained even if they did possess nuclear weapons?

Either the Iranian leadership are rational, or they aren't. Either they are willing to risk immolation in some sort of apocalyptic showdown with the Great Satan, or they aren't. But you cannot argue that they are both too irrationally belligerent to be contained AND rational enough not to fight back when directly attacked.

Note that I'm not saying there is no plausible scenario in which military action against Iran should ever happen. However, Kristol's formulation that we really have nothing to lose by erring on the side of preemption is as crazy as it is familiar.

One is tempted to wonder how dangerous it really would be to have the entire editorial board of the Weekly Standard shot. After all, it is unlikely that particular flock of chickenhawks are especially well-armed themselves, and even if they were, surely the instinct for self-preservation would lead them to attempt to talk their way out of it, rather than engaging in a firefight that would almost certainly end in their destruction. Surely that would make the world a safer place, too, to have the leading voice for war in the most powerful country on earth neutralized. And I'd like to think that given the Marxist roots of neoconservatism they could at least appreciate the irony.


Gino said...

the editorial board of the standard, i'm sure of it, is well armed.
i'm also sure that they've never fired any of their weapons either because loud noises startle them, so a coup would be pretty bloodless.

i'm in favor of launching the attack on them.
but then they would be screaming about antisemitism if you did.

gawd, i hate those people. they are worse than code pink.

Dave said...

Well, Clausewitz points out that it is the loser who decides when a conflict is over. There is a conflict between the US and Iran for influence in the region. If the US does not chose to continue the conflict then it must accept the consequences of increased Iranian influence; Bill Kristol seems to be saying that while attacking Iran would be bad, accepting Iranian primacy in the region is worse and will inevitably lead to conflict with the US as the US *cannot* accept such an outcome. Therefore, if war is inevitable, then Kristol apparently wants to wage it while there are sizable amounts of troops and facilities to the east and west of Iran.
The Iranians may or may not be rational, but they are taking a calculated risk in their pursuit of nuclear weapons, guessing that the US is either too weak, distracted, or disinterested to wage a campaign of such magnitude that the regime would be threatened. Therefore, the potential benefit of regional hegemony compliments of nuclear weapons apparently outweighs the limited risk posed by provoking an American response.

Brian said...

I understand Kristol's larger point (even though I don't agree with it). I just think it's ridiculous to try and sell that point on the basis that the risks of military action against Iran are minimal. Particularly coming from the guy who said the same thing about Iraq.

chris said...

Technically, he was right about the risks of military action against Iraq being minimal. Their army laid down like a 16-year old on prom night. He just didn't mention the inevitable difficulties associated with the subsequent occupation which would also exist with Iran.