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Opinion

Opinion

Attack on Iran would be a big mistake

February 13, 2010

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Sarah Palin has suggested that President Obama could improve his re-election prospects by declaring war on Iran.

“Say he played the war card,” she told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “Say he decided to declare war on Iran. ... I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and decide, well, maybe he’s tougher than we think he is today. And there wouldn’t be as much passion to make sure that he doesn’t serve another four years.”

Never mind what this says about the level of Palin’s foreign-policy smarts. Does anyone really think it would help America’s security — or Obama’s re-election chances — to embroil the country in another Middle East war? Bizarrely, the answer is “yes.”

As the source of her idea, Palin cited a column by Pat Buchanan. In fact, Buchanan’s column opposed a military strike against Iran. However, he also claimed that a war strategy would boost Obama’s standing at home.

Although she never mentioned him, the hawkish columnist Daniel Pipes claimed credit for Palin’s remarks, citing his National Review column “How to save the Obama presidency: Bomb Iran.” Pipes referred to an October Pew Research Center poll that said 61 percent of Americans would favor taking military action if it’s necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

This poll result is driven by a real problem: Tehran’s failure to respond to Obama’s policy of engagement, and suspicions that Iran is developing the capacity to make nuclear weapons. However, those who heedlessly urge a U.S. (or Israeli) attack on Iran revive nightmares of the heedless rush into Iraq.

Contrary to their claims, such an attack would harm U.S. security interests, while failing to stop Iran’s nuclear program — and it would sink Obama’s election prospects. It would also doom the best hope of changing Iran’s nuclear policy from within.

Iran is going through its most dramatic internal political upheaval since 1979. The regime has been unable to crush those who believe that the June elections were rigged and are demanding their human and political rights. They were be back on the streets on Thursday, the 31st anniversary of the revolution that ushered in the Islamic republic.

It’s unclear whether Iran is yet on the verge of another revolution. However, a process has started that will be hard for the regime to reverse, and the United States should not do anything that would shut it down.

Given the internal political confusion in Iran, it’s unlikely the regime will agree to any nuclear compromise in the near term. That means Obama may have no option other than to push for tougher economic sanctions, while strongly supporting international human-rights protections for the opposition.

Keeping this balance won’t be easy. Israel, the target of vicious Iranian rhetoric and threats, is pressing for a tougher U.S. position, and it may want to attack Iran if we don’t. But Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has pointed out that any strike on Iran’s nuclear program, much of which is dispersed and underground, would not destroy it, but only cause a delay.

Moreover, a military strike could lead to Iranian retaliation against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which border Iran. Such a strike would also spur Iranian retaliation in the Persian Gulf, sending oil prices soaring as the world struggles to emerge from a deep recession. And it would enrage the publics of Muslim countries such as Pakistan, where the presence of jihadis plus nuclear weapons presents the most potent threat to the United States.

Equally destructive would be such a strike’s impact on the Iranian opposition. As Gen. David Petraeus has noted, it could benefit the regime by inflaming nationalist sentiment, pushing the opposition to unite with the regime against Iran’s attackers.

Abbas Milani, an Iran expert at Stanford University, put it well on the Charlie Rose show: “Almost nothing can save this regime. But there is one thing that I think will save it, and that would be an Israeli attack.” (I would add: Ditto for a U.S. strike.)

“If Israel attacks,” Milani added, “not only will there be widespread instability throughout the region, but I think this regime will be saved. And I don’t think that saving this regime is in the long-term interests of Israel.” Or America, either.

So let’s cool the war talk and let Iran’s political drama take its course. Internal change offers the best hope for ensuring that Tehran’s nuclear program will be peaceful, and for opening Iran to the world.

— Trudy Rubin is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. trubin@phillynews.com

Comments

Christine Anderson 4 years, 10 months ago

No, no, no!!! I am appalled by how the current regime in Iran treats their own people. No, I don't want to see Iran have nuclear capability. But Sarah, you're an idiot! She clearly has no idea what kind of a firestorm that would set off. Oh, most personally, my daughter and her father still have family over there. Family that I don't want to see my country bomb and kill, thank you.

RKLOG 4 years, 10 months ago

Ridiculous. It's just as ridiculous as thinking that it would improve a person's financial standing by going out and robbing a bank.

anon1958 4 years, 10 months ago

"Attack on Iran would be a big mistake"

This headline brought to you by the same Captain Obvious that confirmed through research that people were happier on the weekends. I geuss the JW editors were so impressed by Captain Obvious they have him on staff now.

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This video is smoking hot! It has moose costumes, guns, beer, speaking in tongues, every redneck from Alabama to Alaska will vote for Sarah the next time!

Her 2012 presidential victory will soon be gaurandangteed!

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

This country needs presidents who do not feel they need to prove themselves tough and war mongering. We need presidents with backbone who set peace as the objective by way of diplomacy not not killing thousands upon thousands of people annually.

And we wonder why other countries dislike the USA government.

In the past two days the marines were forced to launch an attack in Afghanistan = more innocent marines and Afghani people dead.

USA military is in Yemen,Pakistan,Iraq,Iran and of course the USA military strong arm of Israel. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/apr/20/israelandthepalestinians.oil

This is the policy of USA total global military domination: http://www.oldamericancentury.org/pnac.htm

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

Strategic Errors of Monumental Proportions

by Lt. Gen. William E. Odom (Ret.)

Text of testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 18 January 2007

Good afternoon, Senator Biden, and members of the committee. It is a grave responsibility to testify before you today because the issue, the war in Iraq, is of such monumental importance.

You have asked me to address primarily the military aspects of the war. Although I shall comply, I must emphasize that it makes no sense to separate them from the political aspects. Military actions are merely the most extreme form of politics. If politics is the business of deciding "who gets what, when, how," as Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall in New York City once said, then the military aspects of war are the most extreme form of politics. The war in Iraq will answer that question there.

Strategic Overview

The role that US military forces can play in that conflict is seriously limited by all the political decisions the US government has already taken. The most fundamental decision was setting as its larger strategic purpose the stabilization of the region by building a democracy in Iraq and encouraging its spread. This, of course, was to risk destabilizing the region by starting a war.

Military operations must be judged by whether and how they contribute to accomplishing war aims. No clear view is possible of where we are today and where we are headed without constant focus on war aims and how they affect US interests. The interaction of interests, war aims, and military operations defines the strategic context in which we find ourselves. We cannot have the slightest understanding of the likely consequences of proposed changes in our war policy without relating them to the strategic context. Here are the four major realities that define that context:

  1. Confusion about war aims and US interests. The president stated three war aims clearly and repeatedly:

  2. the destruction of Iraqi WMD;

  3. the overthrow of Saddam Hussein; and
  4. the creation of a liberal democratic Iraq.

The first war aim is moot because Iraq had no WMD. The second was achieved by late Spring 2003. Today, people are waking up to what was obvious before the war -- the third aim has no real prospects of being achieved even in ten or twenty years, much less in the short time anticipated by the war planners. Implicit in that aim was the belief that a pro-American, post-Saddam regime could be established. This too, it should now be clear, is most unlikely. Finally, is it in the US interest to have launched a war in pursuit of any of these aims? And is it in the US interest to continue pursuing the third? Or is it time to redefine our aims? And, concomitantly, to redefine what constitutes victory?

  1. The war has served primarily the interests of Iran and al-Qaeda, not American interests...

http://www.antiwar.com/orig/odom.php?articleid=10396

Brent Garner 4 years, 10 months ago

Articles appearing yesterday in various news outlets from Europe to the US touted a recent technical report that suggests that Iran's enrichment program is encountering significant technical problems. The reports even suggest that the number of centrifuges currently operating is fewer than the number previously operating and that this is mainly due to mechanical failure of the devices, which devices are based on a design known for mechanical problems. However, those same reports, while suggesting Iran is lagging in its enrichment program make a very startling conclusion. First, they conclude that if the information is accurate, then Iran may have great difficulty developing a commercially viable enrichment program for supplying its own nuclear fuel. This would belie the Iranian claim that their program is strictly peaceful. The second conclusion is the alarming one. That conclusion is that while the loss of significant numbers of centrifuges may impair commercial enrichment, it does leave Iran with enough machines and feed stock to pursue bomb level enrichment and, as some stated in the reports, may be the only logical reason for the existence of the enrichment program.

Peaceful? If so, then good. If not, then at what price are we willing to endure a nuclear armed and violent Iran?

JKBagby 4 years, 10 months ago

Ah Global Re-alignment. And we like the drive thru at MacD's but we don't want to pay the price for our lifestyle of convenience and prosperity. Iraq was just the door. nationality is simply an identity construct. There is no America. No Iran. There just IS the powers that be. President Obama. President Bush. An act we need to convince us of our identity. Kudos to Iran. Nuclear and Armed? I say Ok! Yeah, Tom, And clinton gave 3 Billion(?) to the taliban to eradicate opium growth. I'm not sure if that is the correct $. Remember when the USSR was nuclear and Armed and had the most bad-ass Navy in the world? Man those were the Glory days. War by proxy is awesome. Clinton ran more SF black ops than any president in history. Ha so awesome. Pat Roberts and those apocalypse-ists are so silly. Come on, we got that stuff covered Pat. You don't got to pray for it. But, sorry, in the end no Jesus. Man, I'd like to have coffee with Barry. For real, not any bad blood just brain picking. As with alot who post that have knowledge. I thank you my fellow citizens for expressing.

georgiahawk 4 years, 10 months ago

Way to spin, Tom! Does it make you dizzy sometimes?

BorderRuffian 4 years, 10 months ago

OK.
So far, I think the sentiment is against war with Iran, even though they seem bent on nuking Israel and starting WWIII.

I can go along with that. Instead of starting another war, why not simply do a quickie flyover with some of our bestest Bunker-Buster bombs and turn the Iranian nuclear facilities (which, of course, do not exist) into just one more pile of sand? Then step back and apologize profusely?

skinny 4 years, 10 months ago

We will attack Iran sooner or later, you watch.

Go for it!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 10 months ago

Yes, please, let's attack Iran soon-- Fox and CNN could use the ratings boost.

PosseComitatus 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't even know where you start with this mess. I guess the best advice here is to stop listening to the puppets, truly analyze what the current events are, ask yourself why and draw your own conclusions.

What do Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Georgia have in common? Why is Iran important? Why are we placing missiles all over the world? Are these missiles designed to fight terrorists? Why is Yemen just now important?

A big one in my mind is how do you get enough people to volunteer for military service to fight a large scale, multi-year war without a draft???

There are many more questions I ask myself, but I think a general answer can be gained by looking down these few rabbit holes.

jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

Larry,

I would guess that the US strongly supports Israel because we were instrumental in creating that country at the end of WWII, after the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

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