A Dose of Reality for the Realists
By J.R. Dunn
The intentions of the realists, as represented by the Iraq Study Group, appear to be perfectly straightforward: convene a conference of all concerned parties – Iraq, Syria, Iran, the Gulf States, Turkey, perhaps even Armenia and Georgia, if they feel like jumping in – sit them all down, get everybody talking, carry out some behind-the-scenes diplomatic swashbuckling in the classic mode and emerge in relatively short order with a settlement of the Iraq Question resulting in a “stable” status quo.Provided with this cover, the U.S. can then “honorably” pull out. The settlement may last as long as the one that ended the Vietnam War. Maybe even as long as detente.
The Iranian Scenario
The intentions of the Iranians are just as clear: get U.S. forces out of Iraq and at a safe distance, continue smuggling men and weapons across the border, and in a year or so announce that you can no longer ignore the cries of your tormented Iraqi Shi’ite brothers and move over in force. Perhaps you begin annihilating Sunnis and Kurds immediately, perhaps not. The price of oil spikes at well over $100 a barrel.
The UN, on top of things as always, issues a resolution expressing (with reservations) its concern. Life is good.
The contradictions between the two scenarios are only apparent. The realists want the U.S. out of Iraq. So do the Iranians. The realists want stability in the region. So do the Iranians. The realists, in light of their record, don’t really care by what means they accomplish this. Neither do the Iranians.
Where they part company is the point where the Iranian solution winds up with the Persian Gulf, and the bulk of the world’s oil supplies, in the hands of men to whom medievalism represents a progressive future. With American policy in the region effectively negated, our alliances dead letters, our influence nil. With tens, if not hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the Sunni and Kurd massacres in Iran’s new provinces. With the world economy in free fall. With Europe permanently cowed. With Asia, home of our closest allies, turning elsewhere for protection (the place to which they turn is spelled “C – h – i – n – a”). With Chavez’s Latin Reich program, which has been looking increasingly ragged in recent months, given a new lease on life.
And the Jihadis? Don’t worry about them – they’ll know what to do.
The realists don’t want this. They really don’t. They think they can finesse it all.
They believe they can deal with the Middle East the same way Europe was dealt with that region at the Congress of Vienna. Their thoughts were made clear by Henry Kissinger, realist advisor and elder statesman, in his Times of London piece mistitled “Iran despises Weakness.” If anything, the piece was about disguising Western weakness. Kissinger opined that the U.S. must provide incentives to persuade the Iranians to negotiate. What would those be?
“A restarted Palestinian peace process should play a significant role.”
Thank you very much, Doctor K.
In fact, the realist agenda would inevitably and quickly give rise to the Iranian Scenario, a point that never enters the argument because there is no answer for it.
A Third Alternative
Which brings us to a third alternative: if the U.S. has to leave Iraq prematurely – something that is nowhere near as certain as current rhetoric makes it appear – it will only be after assuring that Iran cannot, at any point in the near future, take advantage of it. That means a military strike. This possibility has been discussed in light of Iran’s intransigence concerning its nuclear program. But the current situation has nothing directly to do with nuclear weapons. It has everything to do with keeping control of the Persian Gulf, and all that implies, in the hands of civilization.
The Iranians, in Dr. Kissinger’s words, believe that they are “in a position to challenge the entire world order.” They need to be persuaded otherwise, and that cannot be accomplished by negotiations, concessions, or even visits from Kofi Annan. The Iranians, as shown by every foul speech from Ahmadinejad, every threatening missile launch, every advanced, Iranian-designed bomb that goes off in Iraq, believe they can play in the big leagues.
Well – we can play, too. We’re not proposing, needless to say, invasion and occupation, which, as Iraq has demonstrated can have its drawbacks. We’re talking about a no-holds-barred attack by air, naval, and Special Forces assets, something along the lines outlined by Arthur Herman in his superb Commentary piece, “Getting Serious About Iran”. A strike that will leave Iran with no navy, no air force, no serious nuclear potential, and an army reduced to pre-20th century armaments and mobility. An Iran roughly in the same state as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War.
This is the style of warfare for which the U.S. has no equal in history – cutting an opponent off at the knees, leaving him thoroughly incapacitated and utterly shamed, but with the means of national survival intact.
The U.S. is not good at counterinsurgency warfare. (Exactly why is difficult to say, after Vietnam and Central America. Could the answer be some form of cultural blindness? The Persians never learned to counter Greek hoplite warfare, after all.) Like the First Gulf War, we will fight this campaign by means with which we excel. If the Iranian people want to take it further, they can do so. If they’re resigned to continue slogging under the ayatollahs, that is up to them. If they want to overthrow them, as they’ve repeatedly claimed in recent years, that’s fine too.
What such an attack will do is take Iran out of the strategic equation for the foreseeable future. It will gain Iraq a fighting chance, even without large numbers of U.S. troops. It will be a serious blow to the Jihadis. (The realists have said nothing about recent reports that Iran is trying to take over al Queda.) It will create a true, if relatively short, state of stability in the Middle East, representing an opportunity for local governments to solve short-term problems – including that of the Palestinians – and begin working on longer-term challenges represented by Iran and the Jihadis. (One suggestion not often heard would be an alliance among the Gulf States and other interested parties such as the U.S., Britain, and Japan, for the sole purpose of deterring Iran once it gets up off its knees.)
It will also serve to regain the U.S. a lot that has been lost in Iraq. The international left, along with various appeasers and hysterics, never intended to support the war either in Iraq or the war against the Jihadis in general. Their sole interest lay in attacking the U.S., no matter what the cost to the Iraqi people or the world in general. They knew there would be difficult moments – everyone did, Donald Rumsfeld included – and took advantage of each of them—Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Halabja—to tear yet another piece out the U.S., undermining its role, its intentions, and its plans. Such an attack would rock these people back on their heels, as they well deserve, and go a long way toward restoring the respect that they’ve stolen from U.S. over the past three years.
As for the Muslim ummah – this would act as a good lesson as to the true nature of the strong horse. The Jihadis have run an outstanding propaganda campaign centered on Iraq. DVDs, cassette tapes, the Internet, have all been used to establish a myth of American stupidity and cowardice and Jihadi invincibility. A strike on Iran would make it clear that all the snipers and suicide bombers and IEDs in the world do not, in the end, add up to the power of a single stealth aircraft.
It would take a lot of pressure off Israel, always a worthwhile effort. Syria, the running dog of the Mideast, currently demanding “timetables” from the U.S., would be chased back into its kennel. (And high time, if the Gamayel murder is any indication. This is yet another side of “realism” we hear little about.)
The UN won’t like it, but we can live with that. Neither will Russia and France, but they can learn to live with that. Our serious allies will feel compelled to wash their hands, but that will be solely for public consumption. We can expect congratulations in private.
As for reasons, we have all the reasons we require. Ahmadinejad’s ranting is mostly bluster, but it has succeeded in making Iran a threat to peace. Iran has declared the destruction of another nation a state goal, has carried out threatening exercises in the Gulf, has provided weapons, guidance, and intelligence to the Iraqi rebels – assistance that has unquestionably resulted in the deaths of American troops. All of which is not even to mention Iranian defiance concerning nuclear weapons. Wars have been fought – and quite justifiably—for much less in the way of reasons than those.
Of course, there will be repercussions, most of them unforeseeable, some likely to be negative. But that’s one of the factors that nations must live with. We have a clear picture of what the results of doing nothing would be. We can easily guess the results of the realist program. Of any of these alternatives, could a dynamic response to the Iranian threat be the worst? Such a strike will return the initiative where it belongs – to the United States. It will be the act of a nation that is not crawling away from the battle. A nation placing a marker, making it clear that it means what it says, and has the ability to back it up.
The irony of the whole thing is that it’s the realists and the Iranians themselves who are making such an action all the more likely, the Iranians through their chest-beating, the realists with their “redeploy at any price” stance (for example, Kissinger’s insinuation—it can’t be called a declaration—that victory in Iraq is impossible).
The Iranians have been busily painting themselves into a corner. The realists have shown up to help them apply the final strokes.
Humbling mighty Persia has always been an option in U.S. Mideast strategy. But it’s beginning to look more and more like a necessity.
J.R. Dunn is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.