August 11, 2005

I Just Ran, Iran All Night And Day

Some notes on the responses to last week's AmSpec column about Iran.

Commenter Lamar Johnson questions the Washington Post's sourcing. While I have no doubt that the anonymous leakers have an anti-Bush agenda, I don't think that means WaPo has the story wrong, exactly. The article is obviously spun to support the "Bush is overhyping the threat" view, but there are apparently enough sources that one of them probably would have said so if the facts on the content of the NIE were actually wrong.

So, should we trust the "carefully hedged" NIE that Iran is ten years from the bomb? Yes and no. We should at least keep the 10-year figure in mind as a best-case scenario, just as we should keep the worst case scenarios in mind. Remember, Reuel Marc Gerecht was warning two years ago that Iran could go nuclear by this year. It's reasonable to assume that the truth lies somewhere in between those extremes. And since the best-case scenario anyone was talking about prior to the new NIE was a five-year timeline, it's not crazy to analyze the situation under the assumption that we have more time than we thought before a preemptive strike, of the sort that Gerecht (along with Gary Schmitt and Charles Krauthammer) has called for, becomes necessary.

Speaking of worst-case scenarios, if you have digital access to The New Republic it's worth contemplating Michael J. Mazarr's argument against such a strike, on the grounds that it could trigger an extremely destructive response from Tehran. There are echoes of some of the sillier bouts of post-Vietnam antiwar scaremongering, but such pessimism is worth at least considering before throwing one's support behind any military action. (Often when you confront a former hawk who has gone wobbly on the Iraq war, it turns out that he never even considered how bad things could get; set alongside the worst-case scenarios brought up before the war, the facts on the ground have never been all that bad, relatively speaking.)

Consider also Trey Jackson's observation that we're already at war with Iran, whence some of the roadside bombs exploding in Iraq are coming. A strike on nuclear facilities won't stop that; per Mazarr, it might greatly exacerbate the problem. In the end, our only hope of fundamentally changing Tehran's behavior is regime change, which a strike would arguably make harder. What we can do to effect regime change before resorting to such a strike, we should.

Posted by John Tabin at August 11, 2005 09:40 PM

John, your argument is unassailable; none of the criticisms strike at your basic premise. The wether we have ten years or 1 year we have to act, and what is needed is regime change!

Posted by: Tim Birdnow at August 12, 2005 06:33 PM