Now is not the time to attack Iran

In his Foreign Affairsarticle Matthew Kroenig makes the dangerous case that a strike on Iran now is the least bad option comparing it to the prospect of containing a nuclear Iran in the future.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk along the Colonnade of the White House on March 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. The two leaders discussed peace in the Middle East and Israel's growing concerns with Iran producing nuclear weapons. (Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

As the Special Adviser in the Office of the US Secretary of Defense from July 2010 to July 2011, he cannot claim responsibility for getting us into the Middle Eastern quagmire we are in, but he is a clear proponent of perpetuating it.  Responsible for defense strategy and specifically for policy in Iran this proponent of preeminent strike is in a dangerous position to advocate flawed policy.  His argument is flawed for several reasons.  First, he overestimates the threat a nuclear armed Iran poses.  He simplistically compares containment of a nuclear Iran and the power it would possess to the prospect of not having to contain Iran at all, and US national security interest preserved in the region unchallenged.  He does not acknowledge that the US has no sovereign right to act in the region without the consent and support of the nations there.  “A nuclear-armed Iran would immediately limit US freedom of action in the Middle East.  With atomic power behind it, Iran could threaten any US political or military initiative in the Middle East with nuclear war, forcing Washington to think twice before acting in the region.”   The US has no freedom in the Middle East and the US should be thinking twice before engaging in any political or military action anywhere.  Further, it should gain consent from the as many actors as possible before such action.  If Washington thought twice about its actions in the Middle East the financial and human cost of the Iraq war could have been largely mitigated.  He never mentions increased unilateral action.  He posits that international sanctions have had little effect and sanctions of increased severity are not likely to change the national course.  The Economist reports that “the [Iranian] government will soon be starved of revenues, because of an oil embargo [and] sanctions are biting, the financial system is increasingly isolate and the currency has plunged in value.” Regardless of the status of international sanctions, this does not mean that the US must act unilaterally to secure the safety of the region.  Kroenig even goes so far as to say that the US should secure the agreement of its allies to avoid responding to an Iranian attack.  He is specifically ruling out an international action on the grounds that it will be cleaner and faster if “other armies, particularly the Israel Defense Forces, [are kept] out of the fray.” The Economist. “Briefing: Attacking Iran.”  February 25th to March 2nd2012. In another article the Economist briefs: “At worst an Israeli mission might fail altogether (Iran’s sites are spread out and some of them hardened against strikes, demand repeated hits, and America has more military options than Israel), at best an American one could, it is said, set back the program a decade.”

Bob Kunst protests against a nuclear Iran in front of the White House (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The magazine does admit that Iran looms over the Middle East saying that “the country is insecure, ideological and meddles in its neighbors affairs.”  The quote itself could easily be applied to either aggressor nation here, and behooves the US to take the high ground so as not to assume the description.  Kroenig claims that deterrence will come “at a heavy price.”  Management of any difficult issue comes at a heavy price.  The solution to national difficulties, such as personal healthcare, access to free and fair elections and national financial security, all come at a heavy price.  It is unlikely even that in the US the price will be paid or that those benefits will be realized in the near future.  Kroenig assumes that a high price tag implies a solution not worth buying into as proof that another high priced item, a strike on Iranian national soil, is worth buying. As the Economist reports, “if limited bombing is not enough, America should be aiming for an all-out aerial war, or even regime change. Yet a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated where that leads.” Kroenig’s first question in deciding whether the US should attack Iran is whether an attack could even work.  He then lists the reasons that it could.  His order is wrong.  The US should first decide whether it should.  Kroenig is too much of a hawk to see that firing missile power into another nations sovereign space is an act of unacceptable aggression and makes the US no better than the evil Iran he paints.  Kroenig uses these arguments to support a preemptive strike on Iran for the sake of “US interests” but never makes clear what those interests are.  Any interests the US may have in the region are surely outweighed by the threat of global nuclear war.  It is laughable that Kroenig raises concern that an attack could have “potentially devastating consequences for Iranian domestic politics.” He does not seem to believe that Iranian national politics are worth considering if he is willing to bomb their facilities.  In the event the US did attack he says it is likely that Iran will feel like it needed to respond but will “seek to calibrate its actions to avoid starting a conflict that could lead to the destruction of its military or the regime itself.”  If he had this much faith in the domestic policies of the Iranian regime would it be necessary for the US to step in and take charge of the state?  Further he is a proponent of the US articulating clear “redlines,” or forms of retaliation to which Iran can respond with devastating military action, such as closing the Strait of Hormuz.  Not only is he proposing that the US attack the sovereignty of another nation, but that the police state then initiate the rules under which the criminal state is allowed to appreciate the attack.  It is true; the US must establish a clear strategy in regards to Iran just as it does with each nation.  It must eradicate the hawkish view that is proposed by Kroenig however.  Preemptive strike has proved a faulty and costly strategy twice over the past decade; it is unwise to follow this course.  The US cannot afford the financial burden of policing the globe unilaterally, nor can its reputation suffer the cost.  Any action against aggressive nations can and should be left to supranational bodies.  The US can decide to take part in international actions, but should cease its attempts to govern the globe militarily.

Senate Republican leadership hold a press conference after their weekly policy luncheon in the U.S. Capitol building March 6, 2012 in Washington, DC. MinorityLeader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) advocated military force against Iran if the country were to develop nuclear weapons. Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

“The regime in Tehran is divided and it has lost the faith of its people.  Eventually, popular resistance will spring up as it did in 2009.  A new regime brought about by the Iranians themselves is more likely to renounce the bomb than one that has just witnessed an American assault.”

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