The debate in the U.S. over how to contend with Iran as it pursues nuclear weapons goes like this: Many conservatives worry that the Bush administration — stung by the backlash over Iraq and the president's sinking poll numbers — has sworn off the military option. They argue that endless discussion and attempts at diplomacy have only emboldened the Iranian theocracy. Liberals counter that Iran's weapons program is over-hyped in the manner of Saddam Hussein's phantom nuclear arsenals. They worry we will soon stage another preemptive attack — if for no other reason than to wag the dog and shore up the president's approval ratings. And even if Iran gets the bomb, they argue, so what? Don't we already live with a nuclear Islamic Pakistan? Most Americans, though, probably understand the current U.S. position. We are resigned to the fact that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is both unhinged and eager to get his own nukes — and that we must somehow stop him at the 11th hour. For Ahmadinejad and Iran's ruling mullahs, there is little downside to pursuing and perhaps eventually obtaining a nuclear weapon. The issue helps divert attention from the country's domestic problems, humiliates Western diplomats and threatens rival Gulf oil producers. Plus, Ahmadinejad can brag that Iran is now the Islamic state that most worries Israel while blackmailing European capitals soon in missile range. Meanwhile, the United States, for a variety of understandable reasons, is not eager to take out Iran's nuclear facilities. A current parlor game imagines the nightmares of such a preemptive strike: it would be hard to know whether we eliminated all the centrifuges. Oil prices would get even worse. Some Shiites in Iraq might turn on our troops. Terrorists could be unleashed with dirty bombs in Western cities.The U.S. should lay back and see how it goes. Once multilateral approaches demonstrate their pointlessness, American "leadership" may be called for.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Of Time and Rope: Letting Iran Make the Case for Preemption
Victor Hanson argues that the international community needs to give Iran enough rope and in time President Ahmadinejad will duly convince the Europeans and Iran's regional neighbors that unilateral U.S. action is necessary to stop Tehran's nuclear program. The background to the Iran problem is found in the domestic backlash on Iraq and in the ineffectiveness of preventive diplomacy:
Posted by Donald Douglas at 9:39 PM