Unlikely Generals

Charles Krauthammer gives the lie to the mounting meme that not Iraq, but Iran, “was the real threat”. He demolishes the argument on several levels.

“Well, of course Iran is a threat and a danger. But how exactly would the critics have ‘done’ Iran? Iran is a serious country with a serious army. Compared with the Iraq war, an invasion of Iran would have been infinitely more costly. Can you imagine these critics, who were shouting ‘quagmire’ and ‘defeat’ when the low-level guerrilla war in Iraq intensified in April, actually supporting war with Iran?”

Impossible to imagine, indeed. But this type of reflection is not common among the serried ranks of sudden military analysts among liberals and the Left. Anti-war people putter on about North Korea too -- an even more disingenuous stance. As Krauthammer points out, North Korea's nuclear arsenal, however inchoate, makes it "untouchable". Is this what we want for Iran?

When an alternative to force is put forward -- and it's not often that one is -- it relies on ahistorical or irrelevant appeals to multilateral diplomacy and containment. The latter worked against the mostly sui generis behemoth of the USSR. It has not been tried in the long-term against a nuclear-armed, Third World autocracy. And the atavism of multilaterism won't fare much better. Krauthammer writes:

We know the central foreign policy principle of Bush critics: multilateralism. John Kerry and the Democrats have said it a hundred times: The source of our troubles is President Bush's insistence on 'going it alone.' They promise to 'rejoin the community of nations" and 'work with our allies.'

Well, that happens to be exactly what we have been doing regarding Iran. And the policy is an abject failure. The Bush administration, having decided that invading one axis-of-evil country was about as much as either the military or the country can bear, has gone multilateral on Iran, precisely what the Democrats advocate. Washington delegated the issue to a committee of three -- the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany -- that has been meeting with the Iranians to get them to shut down their nuclear program.

The result? They have been led by the nose. Iran is caught red-handed with illegally enriched uranium, and the Tehran Three prevail upon the Bush administration to do nothing while they persuade the mullahs to act nice. Therefore, we do not go to the U.N. Security Council to declare Iran in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We do not impose sanctions. We do not begin squeezing Iran to give up its nuclear program.

Instead, we give Iran more time to swoon before the persuasive powers of 'Jack of Tehran' -- British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw -- until finally, humiliatingly, Iran announces that it will resume enriching uranium and that nothing will prevent it from becoming a member of the 'nuclear club.'

The result has not been harmless. Time is of the essence, and the runaround that the Tehran Three have gotten from the mullahs has meant that we have lost at least nine months in doing anything to stop the Iranian nuclear program."

I've been pleasantly surprised by all the hawkish talk during the Democratic National Convention. But can individuals cognizant of the threat posed by Islamist terror stir to action a party that seems to fetishize multilateralism? Pre-emptive action, if necessary?

I took out a bet at work last week on whether and when Israel would fly a sortie into Iran and incinerate Bushehr. This of course would be a reprise of the favor Israel did the world in 1981, when she reduced Saddam and Jacques Chirac's science project, the Osirak nuclear reactor, to carbonized popcorn. In late 2001, a former president of Iran, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, helpfully observed that the "application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world." So there is both precedent and incentive for the Jewish state to act unilaterally. But Krauthammer and others have observed that Iran is farther off and much better prepared and equipped than Iraq, and its nuclear facilities are strategically subterranean.

So it may not come to that. Revolution in Iran is the more plausible and desired course, but an American assault -- or some effort coordinated by another coalition of the willing -- is increasingly likely. And, in a final rejoinder to the generals of the Left, Krauthammer observes:

Both of [these], by the way, are far more likely to succeed with 146,000 American troops and highly sophisticated aircraft standing by just a few miles away -- in Iraq."
Posted by John-Paul Pagano at July 30, 2004 11:16 PM