Feb 01, 2012 Editorial
It is all very surreal. In a very matter-of-fact mode, the very prestigious US journal “Foreign Affairs” by the Council on Foreign Relations dedicated its current issue to: “The Iran Debate: To Strike or Not to Strike. Arguments Over Military Action.”
Leading off the debate was Matthew Kroenig, who bluntly advised the US government: “Time to Attack Iran”. From July 2010 to July 2011 Kroenig was Special advisor in the US Secretary of Defence, responsible for defence strategy and policy on Iran. Pointing to several high profile incidents between US and Iran he asserts that they have “already managed to increase tensions between Washington and Tehran. Although the Obama administration has not publicly threatened to retaliate with military force, the allegations have underscored the real and growing risk that the two sides could go to war sometime soon — particularly over Iran’s advancing nuclear program.
For several years now, starting long before this episode, American pundits and policymakers have been debating whether the United States should attack Iran and attempt to eliminate its nuclear facilities. Proponents of a strike have argued that the only thing worse than military action against Iran would be an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.
Critics, meanwhile, have warned that such a raid would likely fail and, even if it succeeded, would spark a full-fledged war and a global economic crisis. They have urged the United States to rely on non-military options, such as diplomacy, sanctions, and covert operations, to prevent Iran from acquiring a bomb. Fearing the costs of a bombing campaign, most critics maintain that if these other tactics fail to impede Tehran’s progress, the United States should simply learn to live with a nuclear Iran.
But skeptics of military action fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond. And their grim forecasts assume that the cure would be worse than the disease — that is, that the consequences of a U.S. assault on Iran would be as bad as or worse than those of Iran achieving its nuclear ambitions. But that is a faulty assumption. The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.”
One response was from Colin H. Kahl who advised, ‘Not Time to Attack Iran”.
Between 2009-2001, Kahl was US Deputy Secretary of Defence for the Middle East. He wrote bluntly: “Kroenig’s argument for preventive military action to combat Tehran’s nuclear program suffers from three problems. First, its view of Iranian leaders’ risk calculations is self-contradictory. Second, it misreads nuclear history. And third, it underestimates the United States’ ability to contain a nuclear Iran. When these problems are addressed, it is clear that, contrary to what Kroenig contends, attacking Iran is not “the least bad option.”
On the leadership issue, he suggests, “If Iranian leaders are as reckless as he seems to believe, a preventive strike would likely escalate to a full-blown war. If they are not, then there is no reason to think that a nuclear Iran would be uncontainable. In short, a preventive attack on Iran can hardly be both limited and necessary.”
Kahl declares that contra Koenig on nuclear history are Israeli strikes on Iran and Syria, “The Iraqi case suggests that any attacks that do not depose the Iranian regime, would cause it to accelerate its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Kroenig’s prescription might therefore precipitate the very outcome he is trying to avoid.” The same for the Israeli destruction of Syrian capabilities.
He concludes, “Military action against Iran would be a profound strategic miscalculation. For all the talk of retrenchment, the U.S. military might remains the most powerful in the world, and it can successfully minimize consequences of an Iranian bomb, should one come to pass, by containing Tehran’s ambitions, dissuading regional proliferation, and providing security assurances to its allies.”
Small nations like us can only hope that good sense prevails.
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