In the May 9th New York Sun, Daniel Pipes, in "How to Deter Tehran," listed and discussed three options open to the U.S. in its face-off with Iran.
The first option is to accept without reservation Iran's assertion that it is only processing nuclear fuel for "peaceful" purposes, and that in time President Ahmadinejad will be muzzled and constrained by Iranians who don't share his confidence that he is the new "Mahdi," destined to set the world straight. Pipes rightly dismisses this as an exercise in fantasy.
The second option is a military one, to destroy Iran's nuclear fuel processing capabilities so that it could not produce nuclear weapons. "Military analysts," writes Pipes, "posit that American airpower, combined with good intelligence and specialized ordnance, suffice to do the needed damage in a matter of days; plus, it could secure the Straits of Hormuz."
Pipes qualifies the logic of this option by citing two "unfavorable consequences": outraged Muslim public opinion against the U.S. and the effect it would have on the world oil market. Aside from moving the "now-alienated Iranian population to rally to its government," he paints another "unfavorable consequence," as well: "Globally, air strikes would inflame already hostile Muslim attitudes toward the United States, leading to a surge in support for radical Islam and a further separation of civilizations. News reports indicate that Tehran is funding terrorist groups so that they can assault American embassies, military bases, and economic interests, step up attack in Iraq, and launch rockets against Israel."
"Even if Western military forces can handle these challenges, air raids may cause Iranians and their supporters to withhold oil and gas from the market, engage in terror against the energy infrastructure, and foment civil unrest, all of which could create an economic downturn rivaling the energy-induced recession of the mid-1970s."
The third option Pipes lists is international cooperation to put pressure on Iran, either through the United Nations or by persuading other countries that it would be in their best interests to "convince Iranians of the terrible repercussions for them of defying the international consensus."
Pipes asserts in his article that the political leadership of Iran is "divided, with important elements dubious about the wisdom of proceeding with nukes....Other influential sectors of [Iranian] society -- religious, military and economic in particular -- also worry about the headlong rush." "A campaign by Iranians to avoid confrontation could well prevail," writes Pipes, "as Iran does not itself face an atomic threat."
Two questions must be posed here: Is the Iranian "oligarchy" so splintered and concerned about international "isolation" that it could gag Ahmadinejad and put its West-hating mullahs on leashes? And why shouldn't Iran be faced with an "atomic threat"? It is, after all, posing that very same threat to the West, and in particular, to Israel, which Ahmadinejad and his underlings insist should be wiped from the map of the Mideast.
Pipes rightly dismisses the first option as wishful thinking. He concedes that the second option, immediate military action, is a step in the right direction, but agrees with Senator John McCain of Arizona that it is less worse an option than a nuclear-armed Iran.
But his preferred third option would require the diplomatic equivalent of a conga line, necessitating the willingness of Russia and China to join it. But the "terrible repercussions" of international isolation and economic sanctions, presumably administered by the U.N., do not ring with promise, if the sanctions and isolation imposed on Saddam Hussein's Iraq are any guide.
Further, Russia and China are not likely to agree to anything harsher than a slap on Iran's wrist. Russia is supplying Iran with the very technology that would help Iran create nuclear weapons (with dictator Vladimir Putin assuring President Bush that he continues to be an ally on the war on terror), while totalitarian China has just signed a trade pact with Iran that includes what might be characterized as an "oil for vetoes on the U.N. Security Council" deal.
There are several things wrong with the last two options.
If it is true that military strikes against Iran might cause the Iranian populace to "rally to its government," should such a possibility act as a brake on U.S. policy and action? No. If that populace is so fickle, why should we care how it might respond to the U.S. acting in its self-defense? During World War Two, German and Japanese populations "rallied" to their governments. Our policy then was to bomb them into submission and bring home the repercussions of supporting tyranny and sanctioning aggression. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were subsequently and roundly defeated. The ultimate deterrence of aggressive tyranny is its destruction.
If military strikes would raise the level of Muslim "public opinion" against the U.S., should that act as a brake? No. Why should we care about what the Muslim world thinks of the U.S.? The U.S. is already hated and isolated. Should a rise in the emotional intensity of hatred be a factor in formulating a proper policy for dealing with our enemies?
Pipes provides a clue to his own perspective in his article. He writes:
"...Air strikes would inflame already hostile Muslim attitudes toward the United States, leading to a surge in support for radical Islam and a further separation of civilizations."
Islam is by its nature "radical"; it can neither be tamed nor made "moderate," no more than communism, Nazism, or Bushido can be modified to "coexist" with their political antipodes. It is fundamentally a creed of conquest. The notion of a "peaceful" Islam is as ludicrous as expecting a Doberman to behave like a Pekinese. It cannot be coaxed into passive "tolerance" of ideas and institutions it is compelled to oppose and destroy.
As for worrying about a further "separation of civilizations," the further apart they are, the better. The West, if it seeks to preserve its identity, has nothing to gain from Islam. The only way they can be brought closer is for one or the other to submit: either the West submits to Islam, and no longer is the West but a gigantic theocracy, or Islam submits to the West, and would no longer be Islam, if it began imbibing the ideas of freedom, individualism, and capitalism.
But the West is not advancing freedom, individualism and capitalism. Or even reason. It has virtually abandoned the values that define it and distinguished it from the rest of the world. It is seeking rapprochement with an ideology that is dedicated to their final eradication.
It is a philosophical conflict that exists, not merely a geopolitical one. However much one might wish for reconciliation between the West and Islam, it will not change the fact that they are mortal enemies. It is an issue of reason versus faith allied with force.
President Ahmadinejad of Iran seems to know this. It would explain the smugness that colors his sneering pronouncements about the U.S. and his confidence that it can be stared down in a contest of chicken. It is the root of his hubristic, mocking certainty, that, morally, the U.S. is a paper tiger.
The only practical, realistic option open to the U.S. to resolve a crisis of its own making -- to prevent the crisis from becoming even more "complex" and untenable, tangled as it is in economic and "humanitarian" considerations -- is to bite the bullet, attack Iran and destroy it. Only then will that "now-alienated" Iranian populace seek to overthrow the government responsible for inviting such devastation to be visited upon it. Islam would be discredited throughout the Muslim world, which would begin to collapse into itself.
While the West, in particular the U.S., wrings its hands over how to deter a nuclear-armed Iran, Iran can count on a more lethal weapon of mass destruction to deter the West and the U.S from annihilating it and Ahmadeinejad's agenda of destruction: philosophical bankruptcy and a commitment to unprincipled pragmatism.