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It should be pretty clear to most observers by now that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of a peaceful nuclear energy program. While they haven’t yet enriched uranium to the very high levels required for weapons use, they’re well beyond any capacity required for a nuclear power plant, and their claimed intention to use medium-enriched uranium for “medical research reactors” is questionable at best. The Iranian government routinely refuses offers to import low-enriched uranium from trusted neighboring countries, and likewise outright rejects subjecting their facilities to regular inspection by officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, the intergovernmental organization which monitors many other countries’ nuclear plants). While I can understand the desire for nuclear energy, since this would give them a greater surplus of oil to sell on the international market, I see no reason to believe that’s their true desire — and the IAEA report released earlier this week corroborates this.
That said, the idea of going to war with Iran right now over this issue is both unrealistic and contemptible. In 2002, the United States was similarly convinced that another troublesome Middle Eastern authoritarian country possessed weapons of mass destruction. We invaded preemptively shortly thereafter, which produced one of the longest and least popular wars in American history. Just five years later, the U.S. found itself with an unstable country acting as a new training ground for terrorists, a military completely overburdened with two foreign wars and an unprecedented level of contempt and resentment for the United States overseas. (Did I mention the skyrocketing deficit?) All of these things threaten national security. While I’ll agree that the current intelligence on Iran is far more robust and convincing than the faulty and manipulated intelligence on Iraq in 2002, I think we’ve learned our lesson about preemptive, unprovoked invasions.
Saturday’s GOP debate notwithstanding, it’s fairly uncommon to hear people explicitly call for war with Iran. Instead, they usually blast the Obama administration for “not doing enough.” But let’s look at this carefully: Without an aggressive airstrike on or invasion of the country, what more could we possibly be doing? The U.N. passed its fourth round of economic and targeted sanctions on Iran, the U.S. passed even harsher sanctions on the country and many observers believe the U.S. government recently executed a stunningly successful cyberattack on Iranian nuclear facilities (in the form of a worm known as Stuxnet). Pretty much the only thing we haven’t done besides war is start talks with Iranian officials — an effort that has failed largely because of political opposition within the United States.
Sanctions put pressure on an unresponsive country — and if nothing else, they pressure other countries to abandon nuclear pursuits before they get started. Targeted sanctions on government assets and organizations ensure pressure is applied directly to those responsible; however, the prospect of invasion only stands to make the situation worse by decimating the Iranian nation (not just its state), and by posing unprecedented threats to U.S. security. As the Oracle at Delphi once famously told a contemplative general: “Go to war and you will destroy a great empire.”
Daily Nexus liberal columnist Geoffrey Bell thinks the last thing we need is another unfounded war.
In Response, Right Said:
I’m glad my counterpart acknowledges that Iran poses a very credible threat to the security of the international system and possesses hostile intentions. However, though this realization makes his position more commendable than Ron Paul’s, I must disagree with several of his other contentions.
The Obama administration could be doing more against Iran. When democratic protests broke out in 2009, the president could have shown true leadership and strongly endorsed them. Stronger sanctions placed on Iran’s oil exports would also help because it would destroy Iran’s economy, therefore impoverishing the state. Further, the president could call Iran out for what it truly is: a theocratic dictatorship headed by a Holocaust-denying, egomaniacal puppet of a president, controlled by an ayatollah that is even more bent on genocide.
In addition, the president’s attitude toward Israel — the country Iran would target its nuclear weapons at — leaves much to be desired. All of the president’s actions — from suggesting Israel ought to go back to its indefensible 1967 borders to bad-mouthing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu behind his back — have signaled that the U.S. is not unequivocally committed to its friendship with Israel. The president really ought to assure PM Netanyahu that if Israel is forced to preemptively act, the United States will support Israel with whatever means necessary.