John Hinderaker has some rather interesting advice for President Bush as to how to handle the current war in the Middle East.
So here is what you, President Bush, should do: take as a model the Cuban Missile Crisis. First John Kennedy, then Adlai Stevenson, laid before the world the evidence, in the form of aerial photographs, that the Soviet Union was installing nuclear arms in Cuba. The proof was taken as conclusive, and, consequently, the Kennedy administration’s actions enjoyed universal support at home, and widespread support abroad.
Do something similar here. Commandeer a half hour in prime time to tell the American people, and the world, that we have clear evidence of Iran’s involvement in killing American servicemen. Show the captured munitions. Explain exactly how they have contributed to American casualties. Display aerial photos of the training camps. No doubt there is much more evidence that can be presented or described.
You should say that Iran’s supplying of weapons in order to kill Americans is an act of war. In the dramatic finale of your speech, announce that thirty minutes earlier, American airplanes stationed in the Middle East took off, their destination, one of the munitions plants or training camps of which you have shown pictures. That training camp, you say, no longer exists. You say that if Iran does not immediately cease all support for, and fomenting of, violence in Iraq, we will continue to strike military targets inside Iran.
That would certainly get the attention of the mullahs in Iran. Those of us who pay attention to the situation in the Middle East have seen that what is going on is more than just violence in Iraq. Iraq is the battlefield for what amounts to a regional civil war that has been brewing within the heart of Islam for centuries. The old rivalry between Sunni and Shi’ite is exploding once more, and Iran is trying to claim influence for itself. The Saudis are already warning the United States that if the US leaves Iraq, they’ll be forced to defend Iraqi Sunnis. Meanwhile, Iranian-backed militants are massacring Iraqis by the dozens and trying to tear that country apart.
We are facing a regional crisis, and we need a regional solution. On that account, the Iraqi Survey Group was entirely correct: the problem is that neither Iran nor Syria have any interest in negotiating an equitable settlement. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become so dangerous that the true rulers of Iran, the Guardian Council and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini are trying to sideline him. With the upcoming Iranian elections key to deciding who replaces the ailing Khameini, Ahmadinejad has the opportunity to completely control all elements of the Iranian state. Should Ahmedinejad’s forces do well in this election, it’s likely that his rule will become even more absolute. While there is growing opposition in Tehran, Ahmadinejad is a shrewd politician and is quite popular among the poor in Iran. His political power should not be underestimated.
Ahmadinejad wants Iran to be a nuclear power, and once that happens, he will ignite a nuclear war in the Middle East. He is not the sort of leader who can be deterred. It is simply too risky having someone who may very well believe that the destruction of Israel will usher in the coming of the Imam Mahdi and the rise of a global Islamic caliphate to have the means to commence that apocalyptic vision.
By the time that Iran gains nuclear weapons, it will already have been too late. President Bush must act soon to prevent the Iranians from reaching nuclear capability. The left, which has done everything they can to undermine the President, has left America significantly weaker than before. By attacking the credibility of evidence that was the consensus of every major intelligence service on the globe, including those opposed to the invasion of Iraq, it has weakened our ability to go after future threats. Bush could make this his Cuban Missile Crisis moment, and there is no room for doubt that Iran is acting to destabilize Iraq, but it’s questionable whether Bush has the political capital here or abroad to do anything about it.
I agree with Hinderaker that something must be done. Where my doubts lie is whether this Administration has the political will or the political capital to do it. Not only have we been far too timid in Iraq, which has put a strain on our ability to fight elsewhere, but Bush has lost the support of the American people beyond just the radical left. Boldness does pay off, but it should have happened a long time ago when Bush had a chance to show initiative.
Sooner or later, we’ll have to deal with Tehran. Sadly, I don’t see it happening before things spiral to a point where we’ve absolutely no choice but to react. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it is the result of a lack of leadership from the Administration and the constant politicization of this war.
Then again, I’d love to be proven wrong on this, which is why if nothing else, Hinderaker’s advice should be taken quite seriously.
UPDATE: Military historian Arthur Herman has an interesting piece in Commentary on a realistic military option for dealing with Iran that involves taking control of the key Straights of Hormuz. 40% of the world’s oil (soon to be a majority) passes through that key region, and the Iranians have plans on the table to use it as an economic weapon against the world. The US has already engaged in active hostilities with Iran over the Straights in 1987-1989. We may need to use US naval and air power to keep them open again.
Herman argues that such a campaign would be quite effective in taking down the Iranian regime:
In fact, there is little Iran could do in the face of relentless military pressure at its most vulnerable point. Today, not only are key elements of the Iranian military in worse shape than in the 1980’s, but even the oil weapon is less formidable than imagined. Currently Iran exports an estimated 2.5 million barrels of oil a day. Yet according to a recent report in Forbes, quoting the oil-industry analyst Michael Lynch, new sources of oil around the world will have boosted total production by 2 million barrels a day in this year alone, and next year by three million barrels a day. In short, other producers (including Iranian platforms in American hands) can take up some if not all of the slack. The real loser would be Iran itself. Pumping crude oil is its only industry, making up 85 percent of its exports and providing 65 percent of the state budget. With its wells held hostage, the country’s economy could enter free fall.
A limited war that involves control over the Straights of Hormuz may be our best option for containing Iran at some point – although the Iranians could cause quite a bit of trouble for us by ratcheting up the violence in Iraq and using their Hizballah puppets in Lebanon to cause trouble along the Israeli border. In dealing with this looming crisis we don’t have good options, just options that are less bad than others.
UPDATE: The Washington Note says that Saudi Prince Bandar is pushing for military confrontation with Iran. That isn’t surprising, the Iranians could cripple the Saudi economy by closing the Straights of Hormuz. The rapid departure of Ambassador Turki from Washington suggests that there are deep divisions within the House of Saud as to how to proceed against this threat. Ultimately, if Iran does decide to act, the Saudis would feel the heat more than nearly anyone else, which is why they are quite worried about what Iran may do next.