Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Iran More Dangerous Than Saddam?

I've recently mentioned the "preemption" justification for invading Iraq, and posted several pieces on Iran's apparent intention to acquire nuclear weapons. I'd assumed that any possible military strike against Iran would rely on the preemption rationale. But Alex Fiedler argues that the case against Iran is even stronger in an interesting op-ed in last month's Jerusalem Post:
Chattering classes and media invoke the fact that the US invaded Iraq and has yet to find weapons of mass destruction, the raison d'ĂȘtre for invading. Because Saddam Hussein did not have an active program, or rather, because one was not found, these people conclude that the war in Iraq constituted bad policy. This is the greatest difference between Iraq and Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency, US, Israel, European Union, Russia, the Gulf states and most importantly Iran, acknowledge an active nuclear program. This fact is not in doubt.

An international inspection following a strike against Iran would not magically reveal that there was no WMD program. The only disputes among these actors are how advanced the Iranian nuclear program is, and whether or not the weaponization program is active. But can honest disputants deny weaponization in the face of Iran's continual testing of long-range missile and its desire to enrich uranium to higher levels?

For an honest policy debate on Iran, it is critical to reframe the issue in two ways. Most importantly, a military strike must be posed as one of retaliation, not preemption, not prevention. Secondly, when relying on historical analogies to explain the situation in Iran, proper analogies must be used. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, there is no analogy for a nation like Iran acquiring a nuclear capability.
I'm not certain I agree, but it's thought-provoking. And see also Normblog.


Marc said...

This from the second part of Michael J. Totten's interview with Christopher Hitchens:

Hitchens: I thought that was worth pointing out. It's not "the regime" or "the theocracy." It's now very clear that the Revolutionary Guards have committed a coup in all but name—well, I name it, but it hasn't yet been named generally. They didn't rig an election. They didn't even hold one.

MJT: They never counted the votes. There's no "recount" to be done.

Hitchens: The seizure of power by a paramilitary gang that just so happens to be the guardian and the guarantor and the incubator of the internationally illegal weapons program. If that doesn't concentrate one's mind, I don't know what will.

MJT: If the Obama Administration calls you up and says, "Christopher, we need you to come in here, we need your advice." What would you tell them?

Hitchens: I would say, as I did with Saddam Hussein—albeit belatedly, I tried to avoid this conclusion—that any fight you're going to have eventually, have now. Don't wait until they're more equally matched. It doesn't make any sense at all.

The existence of theocratic regimes that have illegally acquired weapons of mass destruction, that are war with their own people, that are exporting their violence to neighboring countries, sending death squads as far away as Argentina to kill other people as well as dissident members of their own nationality—the existence of such regimes is incompatible with us. If there is going to be a confrontation, we should pick the time, not them.

We're saying, "Let's give them time to get ready. Then we'll be more justified in hitting them." That's honestly what they're saying. When we have total proof, when we can see them coming for us, we'll feel okay about resisting.

Marc said...

Opps. Here's the link to the Totten/Hitchens interview.


OBloodyHell said...

I've made the case many times before -- Saddam was the appropriate action at the appropriate time, much as suggested in the piece, though for even more reasons than asserted there:

While the so-called WMDs were not found, UN Weapons inspector Hans Blix, hardly a shill for Bush, has acked that Saddam had the capacity to, within 90 days of the relaxation of sanctions, to produce anthrax/botulin (I forget which) in industrial quantities. Within another 90 days (i.e., 180 total) he would have been able to manufacture the other of those.

Given the amount of Oil-For-Food money getting bandied about the UN (sufficient to make Enron look like total two-bit chiseling pikers) as bribes, there is no question that those sanctions would have fallen within a year or two at worst -- so that means that, by this point Saddam would have had both anthrax and botulin in industrial quantities for more than 2-3 years. If you believe that he would not have made them available to terrorists by this point, you are a naive fool.

By contrast, Iran does not yet have WMDs.

Q.E.D. -- Iraq was the correct rogue state to take on at the given time, and, in addition, was the intelligent move and inarguably in American interests.

That, for once, the USA did so in a manner which offers potential long-term benefits for the Iraqi people AND other nations in the region (instead of just going with the old standard of propping up a local strongman) is something to be proud of.