by Kevin Carson
July 05, 2010
at the Weekly Standard, questions whether a
military strike on Iran’s alleged nuclear development program would be as
dangerous as everyone seems to think. A limited, target strike against
selected military and terrorist-training targets, he argues, would most
likely result in a similarly limited Iranian response.
The reason: the rational self-interest of Iran’s
“It’s unclear… that Iran would want to risk
broadening the conflict and creating the prospect of regime
decapitation. Iran’s rulers have shown that their preeminent concern is
maintaining their grip on power. If U.S. military action is narrowly
targeted, and declared to be such, why would Iran’s leaders… want to
escalate the conflict, as even one missile attack on a U.S. facility or
ally or a blockade of the Strait would obviously do?”
In other words, the Iranian leadership’s likely
response is a rational assessment of the results of their own past actions:
“This attack is punishment for our reckless
policies. Clearly, we must adjust our course of action to avoid such
punishment in the future.”
Now consider the reaction among most of the
Republican base when Ron Paul, in 2008 GOP primary debates, made a similar
assessment of 9-11 as blowback from American adventurism overseas.
The howls of outrage were swift, loud, and
Imagine the United States being subjected to a
limited Chinese strike against its military forces, aimed at limiting the
American government’s ability to intervene overseas and deterring its
leadership from adventurism.
What seems more likely to you?
That the American people would pressure
the U.S. government to refrain from further adventures overseas in
order to avoid more such attacks, and that the U.S. leadership -
obsessed, after all, with holding onto power - would avoid any
response that might result in a decapitating second strike?
Or that the American people would rally
around the flag and the “Commander-in-Chief,” and that the U.S.
government would wage total war to punish this totally unjustified
So Kristol is relying on the assumption that
Iran’s leadership and populace are not as pig-brained stupid as those of the
Indeed, if Iran’s leadership is as rationally self-interested as Kristol
says, it seems likely that any attempt at acquiring nuclear weapons
capability is driven by a supremely rational interest in deterring the
United States. Iran - a country with no history of military attacks on its
neighbors over the past thirty years - has witnessed first an
American-sponsored attack on itself by one of its neighbors, and then two
American attacks on that same neighbor based on trumped-up accusations.
Man, I’d be wanting some nukes myself.
Kristol also produces the obligatory, for neocons, quote from Churchill on
“appeasement” and “half-measures.”
In the neocon template, the “foreign threat” of
the week is always Hitler at Munich, and the United States is faced with a
choice between Chamberlainian appeasement and Churchillian deterrence and
This neglects the possibility that the leadership of foreign
states might see the United States as playing the Hitler role, and
themselves as confronted by a choice between appeasement and deterrence.
In the neocon view of the world, the United States is the only country in
the world whose people and political leadership should be incapable of
rational self-interest. For America, alone among the peoples of the world,
rationally considering the consequences of the U.S. government’s foreign
policy and adjusting that policy accordingly constitutes “defeatism.”
Apparently it’s never occurred to Kristol that, in the event of an American
attack on Iran, the Iranian leadership would see itself as Chamberlain in
the Munich scenario, and attempt to punish aggression as harshly as possible
in order to deter further attacks - or that the Iranian people would rally
around their flag in exactly the same mindlessly uncritical, gullible
fashion as their Nascar-attending, Toby Keith-listening counterparts in the
To be a good American, you must be stupid. If you think, the terrorists have
Maybe that’s what Liz Cheney means by “American exceptionalism.”