Hawks and Their Enablers, Continued

by Will on September 5, 2010

Reza Azlan and Bernard Avishai have a really good op-ed piece in today’s New York Times about the recent arguments we’ve been hearing that an attack on Iran is in everybody’s interest. I would really recommend reading the whole thing. This is the kind of clear thinking that everybody ignored in the run-up to the Iraq war, and it bears hearing now:

An Israeli attack on Iran would almost certainly precipitate a devastating regional war with unforeseeable global consequences.

Iran is not Syria, with no immediate capacity to retaliate against a surprise attack on its nuclear sites. Iran is a country of 70 million people, and its commanders, battle-hardened by a brutal eight-year stand-off with Iraq, have the ability and will to engage in a long, protracted war against Israel and American interests. Iran maintains a large military equipped with Russian-made weapons systems, surface-to-surface missiles, combat aircraft, unmanned drones and high-speed torpedo boats capable of destroying large warships…

Israel would likely be compelled to extend its military operations to include Lebanon. That would instantly plunge the entire region into war, likely bring a new intifada onto Jerusalem’s streets and place enormous pressure on leaders in Cairo and Amman to renounce their peace treaties with Israel. If Israeli planes use Saudi airspace, Iran has threatened to attack the kingdom, too.

The United States, for its part, could forget about the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. There are up to 30,000 Iranian operatives in Iraq ready to do Iran’s bidding. And Iran enjoys significant loyalty from Afghan officials and warlords, particularly those in the trouble-prone region of Herat.

Iran has repeatedly said that it would, in the case of an attack, shut down the Strait of Hormuz, through which roughly 17 million barrels of oil pass every day, spiking oil prices and devastating America’s financial recovery.

The sanguine war enthusiast will optimistically chime in: “No, no, no. They’ll be able to destroy all of Iran’s tanks and airplanes right away, and then popular anger will rise up and overthrow the regime, and we’ll get a pro-western, democratic Iran that will not seek weapons. This bombing will be good for everybody. Even those who get killed will be grateful.” Well, maybe. That story seems to me at odds with recent experience, but I can’t definitively prove it is wrong. But maybe Azlan and Avishai are right. Maybe a bombing would bring about a long-lasting period of chaotic violence, economic catastrophe, and ultimately not even achieve the goal of preventing a nuclear Iran. Is it really worth risking those awful results? If it is, that’s the case that hawks need to be making. Put those rose-colored glasses away, please.

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