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December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, Mahmoud
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Christmas Eve brings Ahmedinejad the present that dictators all over the world are craving:  an op-ed in America's newspaper of record asserting not just that "military airstrikes could work" but that "Iran might need to be bombed more than once to persuade Tehran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons."  Yes, Christmas came early for Iranian hardliners and the Republican Guard, who desperately need evidence that the US intends to use force against their country no matter what to drown out and discredit the voices of democracy campaigners.

Matt Duss has already reminded us that we might not want to take our advice on military intervention from someone whose moral and strategic sense, as Matt put it, "has a history of providing intellectual cover for policy choices that result in huge numbers of deaths."  But Rwanda, Schmaranda, you say?  Let's see how his claims stack up against the views of bipartisan military and political leaders.

Kuperman:  "Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran's bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, last year on FOX News: 

I'm fighting two wars, and I don't need a third one... I worry about the instability in that part of the world and, in fact, the possible unintended consequences of a strike like that and, in fact, having an impact throughout the region that would be difficult to both predict exactly what it would be and then the actions that we would have to take to contain it.

Kuperman:  "Yes, Iran could retaliate by aiding America's opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it does that anyway. Iran's leaders are discouraged from taking more aggressive action against United States forces - and should continue to be - by the fear of provoking a stronger American counter-escalation."

Former Under Secretary of State and Bush Admin chief Iran negotiator Nicholas Burns, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last May:

 Air strikes would undoubtedly lead Iran to hit back asymmetrically against us in Iraq, Afghanistan and the wider region, especially through its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. This reminds us of Churchill's maxim that, once a war starts, it is impossible to know how it will end.

And finally, what ought to be the coup de grace to any casual observer -- or, ahem, op-ed page editor.  What does the Secretary of Defense for the last two administrations think of this military proposal?  Kuperman insists that only the US can bomb Iran and should do it soon:

We have reached the point where air strikes are the only plausible option with any prospect of preventing Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.

What say you, Secretary Gates?  What have you, in fact, said consistently, regardless of the political affiliation of your boss, the President?  He wrote in Parameters journal last year that, “Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need. In fact, I believe it would be disastrous on a number of levels.”



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