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Iran at a Crossroads
Dropping Bombs Now to Keep Iran From Dropping a Nuclear Bomb Later
Time to Get Serious
By Scott Rohter, April 2012
Editor's Note: In Foreign Policy Magazine, which is a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard professor Stephen Walt writes that he thinks the media is irresponsibly promoting the idea of a war with Iran over the non-existent threat posed by their nuclear weapons program. This article is a rebuttal to Stephen Walt’s March 2012 piece that appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine.
In responding to Professor Walt’s many different assertions and assumptions I would like to offer what I believe is a more sensible and more realistic counter opinion, and a realistic alternative to his arguments which basically support Iran’s right to have a nuclear weapon. When you get right down to it, all of Stephen Walt’s arguments go to supporting Iran’s right to develop and build atomic weapons!
Point #1. Professor Walt asserts that the media is trying to “mainstream” the idea of going to war with Iran. I would just like to point out why the United States should be pro-active rather than reactive, and not sit around on our hands and knees and just wait for Iran to announce that it has already developed a nuclear bomb. If the media is actually making a concerted attempt to mainstream the idea of going to war with Iran I don’t see it, but even if they were, that does not prevent any “died in the wool pacifists” or “bury their heads in the sand liberals” from making their voices heard in the media, or on the editorial pages of their local newspapers and On-Line. If those liberals want to bury their heads in the sand they can continue to do so, but just not until all of the sand on the beach is turned into a sea of molten glass from the intense heat of a thermo-nuclear explosion on our shore or on Israel’s shore!
Let me point out that just targeting one or two high priority nuclear facilities in Iran with a tightly focused pre-emptive air strike does not constitute an actual war, not at least according to the current definition of what war is generally considered to be in the 21st Century. When Israel destroyed a suspected nuclear facility being built in Syria with North Korean assistance, it did not start a war in the Middle East. It didn’t start a war either when the Israeli Defense Forces destroyed a well-known Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981. The current Democratic administration did not call it a “war” when the United States and NATO were bombing the birkas off of Libya just a few months ago. I believe the Obama administration just called it a “kinetic military action”. It was almost universally perceived as some kind of a humanitarian rescue operation. Well forgive me if I think it would be a REAL humanitarian rescue operation if we just saved the world from a nuclear armed Iran, and prevented a cult of religious fanatics from ever developing and acquiring nuclear weapons, while we still can!
Point #2. Professor Walt is upset about all of the so called “loose talk” surrounding Iran’s nuclear development program. Unfortunately all of the so called “loose talk” is the result of a lot of "tight restrictions" placed on the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to prevent them from doing their job, in other words to prevent them from having open and unfettered access to all of Iran’s known and suspected nuclear development facilities. The so called “loose talk” regarding Iran’s nuclear development program is specifically the result of Iran’s determined efforts to deny strategic access by the inspectors of the IAEA to all of their nuclear facilities. That begs the question of why the Iranian leadership is so reluctant to co-operate, and if they have anything to hide. Why don’t they just allow the United Nations inspectors full access to all of the sites? If they did, then some of the alleged loose talk would be a little less loose, and all of this could be cleared up by now.
Point #3. In his 3rd point Stephen Walt states in Foreign Policy Magazine, that the Western press, and Westerners in general seem to be obsessed with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That is simply just not true! Most of us don’t even want to hear about him anymore. We would just like him to go away and never come back. I am not personally obsessed with him. I recognize Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for exactly what he is, a figurehead and a useful stooge of the Iranian “Mullahcracy”. But he exposes the opinions and the intentions of his masters. He is their mouthpiece. When he opens his mouth it might be wise to consider that the Ayatollahs are speaking through him, kind of like a puppet master and a ventriloquist speaks through their "dummies".
It doesn’t matter what the Ayatollahs are saying publically. They are well aware of public opinion and they always try to maintain an air of plausible deniability and a degree or two of separation between themselves and what they know is a controversial or unpopular position. They are well aware of worldwide perception and world public opinion, and this is where Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes in very handy. Whenever the Mullahs of Iran want to say something that is controversial or won’t be received well by the world community, they use Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to do that for them. He provides them with the cover that they need to keep up their façade, and to maintain cordial diplomatic relations with the rest of the world.
The statement that Stephen Walt attributed to Ayatollah Khomeini, that nuclear weapons are contrary to the tenets of Islam is just plain absurd! Killing infidels by any means possible is the norm in the "religion of peace". They can do it by slicing the enemy’s throat while he is still alive, by planting improvised explosive devices under the ground, by strapping bombs on their own children and wiring them up to explode in the middle of a crowd, by machine gunning innocent bystanders to death, by haphazard rocket attacks on a civilian population, or by flying airplanes into the World Trade Center and killing 3000 innocent people, some of whom were even Muslims! No matter! The end justifies the means in Islam!
Mr. Walt appears to be a serious apologist for Islamic extremists! Why should we assume that a more efficient type of killing of their perceived enemies wouldn’t be very acceptable to the practitioners of the religion of peace? Why would they reject a nuclear weapon? After all their already is one Islamic country with nuclear weapons, Pakistan, and they don’t find anything contrary in the Quran that prohibits them from possessing nuclear weapons! If the mullahs of Iran ever said that nuclear weapons are contrary to Islam, they were lying!
Point #4. Professor Walt claims that Iran is a weak country. That is not true. In comparison to the United States or Russia, of course Iran is weak, but in comparison to other countries in the Middle East, Iran is strong. People who say that Iran is weak are just wrong. Everything is relative. Iran has a large conventional military force stationed right there in the area. They don’t have to ship forces in from far away like we would have to do in the event of hostilities. That capability is intimidating to other countries in the Middle East who have reason to fear Iran's long term foreign policy goals. Perhaps the only countries in the Middle East that are actually stronger than Iran are Pakistan and Israel. And they are stronger precisely because they possess a nuclear deterrent!
For eight long years Iran waged a bitter land war with Iraq and they fought Sadaam Hussein to a standstill. They could easily invade Iraq today and take it over, if it wasn’t for the United States presence in the Middle East. They could probably invade and occupy Afghanistan too, if they wanted to. They are close enough to Afghanistan that they would have a very short supply line.
In regard to the Harvard history professor’s claims that Iran only uses proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah to fight their strategic battles in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel because they are weak, he is 100% wrong! The conclusion that Iran cannot mount an invasion of their neighbors doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The reason that Iran uses proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah is because they want to have plausible deniability. It is for this same reason that the Ayatollahs use Mahmoud Ahmadinejad! It is not because they are weak. It is precisely because they are cagey. Cagey like a fox! The Iranian regime uses Hamas, Hezbollah, and Ahmadinejad for the plausible deniability that they provide, and in order to maintain a certain degree of separation.
Point #5. Another one of Stephen Walt’s regrets is that the media doesn’t even bother to ask why the Iranians would like to have a nuclear bomb in the first place. Does it really matter why? This isn’t “Mr. Rogers” or “Sesame Street!” We are not playing with children’s games. This is deadly serious business. Who in their right mind actually cares to know why the Iranian regime would like to have a nuclear bomb? I have an imagination and I can suspect why. I don’t need to hear it from them! The point is that they should not be allowed to get a nuclear bomb for any reason!
Let’s examine the hypothesis that Mr. Walt puts forward, that the nine existing nuclear powers, the US, Russia, China, England, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel all obtained their nuclear weapons strictly as a deterrent. Does this line of thinking assume that this is always going to be the case with every country, and in every future instance? There is no sound basis for this blind leap of faith. Are any of the world’s nine existing nuclear powers ruled by a fanatical band of religious clerics who want to bring about the return of the twelfth Imam by creating some kind of worldwide catastrophe?
Five of the world’s nine nuclear powers have democratically elected governments. And all but one of them have imposed some kind of self-restraint when it comes to demonstrating or testing their nuclear weapons which could be viewed as provocative by their neighbors. The lone exception to this rule is North Korea.
Point #6 Obviously speaking out of both sides of his mouth but not thinking with both sides of his head, Mr. Walt blames the western media for not considering why Iran might not want to have nuclear weapons. The intellectual gymnastics that Mr. Walt has to perform in order to arrive at this assumption is very impressive. Common sense tells me though, that a majority of countries in the world would have nuclear weapons if they could only afford them or knew how to build them, and if there were no negative consequences from obtaining them.
In another rather curious leap of logic Walt acknowledges that Iran would be the greatest military power in the Middle East if it only had better leaders. Well, outside of Israel and Pakistan, Iran already has the third strongest military in the Middle East, and the ouster of a few eccentric old clerics is not going to do much of anything to change that!
Point #7. Mr. Walt takes exception to Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s assertion that Iran’s nuclear weapon’s facilities are being built under ground in order to hide them from public view. Walt has a different opinion. He claims it isn’t so. According to Walt they are being built underground in order to make them difficult to destroy. May I ask, “Why would Iran think that their nuclear facilities might be destroyed unless they were doing something there that they weren’t supposed to be doing? The reason that the Israeli ambassador and much of the rest of the world believe that Iran is trying to hide something is precisely because the Iranians continue to build these facilities out of satellite surveillance, and out of the reach of conventional weapons. And they keep denying the IAEA free and open access to these sites.
Point #8.Professor Walt states, “We have been living in the nuclear age for sixty years now and no nuclear State has been able to conduct nuclear blackmail.” I have only two words to way to Mr. Walt, North Korea!
Point #9. Walt asks the following question, “What about the innocent bystanders who would be harmed in any potential air strike on the Iranian nuclear facility at Fordow? My response to Mr. Walt is that if they are working at a secret Iranian nuclear facility then they are not innocent! And what about all of the innocent human beings who will be killed if the Iranians are ever allowed to construct a nuclear bomb?
Point #10. Finally the esteemed professor of international relations at Harvard asks the following question, “Could diplomacy work if we just give it a chance?” That is precisely what all people, everywhere ask, all over the world. That’s what John Lennon asked. That’s what Neville Chamberlain asked. And that’s what many people continue to ask until it is frequently too late! Nobody in their right mind wants to go to war or to initiate a hostile act that could possibly be perceived as an act of war. But we have been trying to use diplomacy, and we have been trying to negotiate with the Iranians over their nuclear development program for at least the last four years, and negotiation and sanctions have not worked. The short answer to Mr. Walt’s question is, “No it will not work. We have already given it a chance!” The Ayatollahs of Iran are even more fanatical than Harvard professor Stephen Walt can even begin to imagine!
"A journalist has no better friend than the truth." - Scott Rohter