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|November 8 - 14, 2007
War on Iran would be demented
by Rod Dreher
Vice President Dick Cheney has been freaking out the pundit class of late with his bellicose rhetoric about Iran. As hard as it is to believe, given this administration’s track record in Iraq, most of the country is with him.
According to a Zogby International poll released last week, 52 percent of Americans favor an attack on Iran, and 53 percent expect President Bush to launch one before his term ends.
Is half the country smoking crack? How is it, exactly, that the United States can afford to launch a new war on a populous and relatively powerful Middle Eastern country when we can’t even bring the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to favorable conclusions?
Contemplating the Zogby numbers, you begin to understand what the American public’s everyday disconnect from the reality of war has done to its judgment.
To be sure, there’s no point in pretending the Iranian regime isn’t malicious or that it isn’t trying to acquire nuclear weapons. In a responsible community of nations — as opposed to the real world — they would not be permitted to acquire nukes. It’s now clear that absent war with the United States, Iran sooner or later will build its atomic bomb. Given how the Iranians are believed to have hidden much of their nuclear facilities, even a successful strike only would put off the inevitable.
You think Iraq has been a quagmire? Wait till we attack Iran. A land war is out of the question, given the burdens now on the shoulders of U.S. troops in Iraq. If we launch, we’ll go by air. In the best-case scenario, a sustained aerial bombardment would cripple Iran’s nuclear capability and its ability to fight back through the air.
Iran would launch a missile barrage at U.S. positions in Iraq, killing thousands of American troops.
Tehran’s agents and their militant allies in Iraq and around the world would likely launch terror operations against American targets worldwide, including in Europe and the United States.
Though leaders of Gulf Arab states would silently cheer the Americans for acting to blunt Iranian hegemony, the Muslim street, from Indonesia to Algeria, easily could catch fire with anti-American fury. And aside from Israel, no country in the world would stand with us.
The Iranians would do their best to disrupt Persian Gulf shipping, and the United States would have to blockade Iranian ports. This would send the price of oil into the stratosphere, with dire consequences for the world economy.
And would a diplomatically isolated America really risk a wider conflict with Russia and China by refusing to let those nations’ ships dock at Iranian ports?
While it’s true that the Iranian people detest their regime, it’s folly to imagine that an assault by the Great Satan, including a blockade inflicting economic hardship, would turn the masses against the mullahs. As Stratfor’s George Friedman pointed out last week, history does not support that conclusion.
“Such a campaign is more likely to drive a wedge between the American people and the American government than between the Iranians and their government,” he judges.
It is not necessary to engage in wishful thinking about the true nature of the Iranian regime to take war off the table. North Korea’s berserker leadership is arguably more dangerous than Iran’s, but the cost of war to destroy Pyongyang’s nuclear capability has rightly been deemed unacceptable. So, too, with Iran.
Nor is it necessary to believe that a nuclear-armed Iran would mean business as usual in the region. If Iran acquired the bomb, it would set off a Mideast nuclear arms race.
A nuclear-armed Iran would be a terrible thing — but not, as Cheney put it in Dallas on Friday, “the worst outcome” of the current standoff.
The Cold War taught us that containment and deterrence are possible. Besides, as we’ve learned at great and continuing cost in Iraq, war is not the answer to every terrible thing — and even can unintentionally create worse things.
We could wake up tomorrow and find that Bush, who has vowed not to leave office with the Iranian nuclear program intact, has sent American bombers. He has that constitutional power.
When Cheney threatens war against the mullahocracy, he means it — and that sobering fact should sharply focus the public’s thinking.
The vice president talks like he’s holding a loaded pistol to Iran’s head, but the barrel of the gun is really pointed at our own. Are we really ready to follow this administration down the same road again?
Rod Dreher is a Dallas Morning News editorial columnist. Readers may write to him at the Dallas Morning News, Communications Center, Dallas, Texas 75265; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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