Monday, February 19, 2007

At the risk of droning on about it...

I would be surprised if we surived the next two years without the United States (George Bush, in particular) making the disastrous mistake of bombing Iran. The BBC is reporting that any such attack would not just involve nuclear facilities, but would be aimed at a wide range of military targets. More importantly, I think, the article says that the U.S. now considers there to be two reasons to go to war - casus belli. The first is evidence that Iran is building a nuclear weapon. The second would be an attack on U.S. forces in Iran resulting in significant casualties. Even by the standards of recent U.S. foreign policy, this is one of the most ludicrous things I've heard recently. Say a cargo plane is brought down with U.S. troops on board, killing 70 or so, and it's proven to have been by an Iranian missile. That's a justification for another war that will kill thousands of people? U.S. troops who have invaded and occupied a neighbouring country are not legitimate targets? Is sabotage of one U.S. war a good enough reason to launch a second?

We've heard lots more talk recently about how high-level Iranians are controlling the Iranian forces responsible for supplying weapons that are used in attacks on U.S. troops. This seems to me like the rhetorical build-up to an attack, and given that the U.S. government now seems to have convinced itself that this is really a sufficient reason to attack, it makes sense for it to try to sell the same thing to the American people.

The idea of launching an attack not just to stop the nuclear program but to seriously degrade Iran's military, might make senseby purely military logic - it would make it harder for Iran to retaliate. But it just hammers home that any such attack would akin to a declaration of war, and it seems to me that it would be interprested thoughout the Muslim world as an unprovoked act of agression against Muslims. And, essentially, they'd be right. An Iranian bomb might threaten Israel's existence, but it is not an existential threat to the U.S., so given the likely disastrous consequences of an attack, it's simply not justified.

It's not just about what Muslims think, either, but about the perception of the legitimacy of U.S. power around the world. The U.S. has been able to exercise its power so effectively in the past because it hasn't been seen as aggressive, a power that needs to be balanced against. That will change if it goes to war with Iran. It would be the most capricious use of American power, I think, in history. With George W. Bush in power, and apparently believing that only he is of sufficient moral courage to do what's necessary to stop Iran from getting a bomb, we should all keep our fingers crossed.


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