Mark Helprin believes that Iran’s nuclear program is a “mortal” threat to the United States and that containment cannot work:
Accommodationists argue that a rational Iran can be contained. Not the Iran with a revered tradition of deception; that during its war with Iraq pushed 100,000 young children to their deaths clearing minefields; that counts 15% of its population as “Volunteer Martyrs”; that chants “Death to America” at each session of parliament; and whose president states that no art “is more beautiful . . . than the art of the martyr’s death.” Not the Iran in thrall to medieval norms and suffering continual tension and crises.
These are very poor pieces of evidence for Helprin’s argument. Practicing dissimulation doesn’t make a person suicidal or prone to attacking others. Quite the contrary. The original purpose for it in Shi’ism was to avoid persecution and death. For Helprin to use that in the same sentence with references to martyrdom suggests that he doesn’t really understand what he’s talking about. How a regime uses its soldiers in a conventional war of self-defense doesn’t tell us anything about their willingness to use a nuclear weapon. As I have said before, the veneration of martyrdom in Iranian culture is as strong as it is because of their Shi’ism and their comemoration of the death of Husayn (Hossein), whom they revere as their second imam. When Helprin babbles on about Iranians being “martyrdom-obsessed,” he wants to give the misleading impression that this a country and a regime intent on dying. The regime, like any other regime, is intent on self-preservation.
If the regime is so “in thrall to medieval norms,” wouldn’t it be worth mentioning that there is a fatwa against the use of nuclear weapons? I suppose Westerners who still believe in the concept of a just war are likewise “in thrall to medieval norms,” but I’m sure that Helprin isn’t limited by anything so antiquated. Indeed he isn’t. Helprin is happy to list all the many means available for an unprovoked attack on Iran:
Much easier before Iran recently began to burrow into bedrock, it is still possible for the U.S., and even Israel at greater peril, to halt the Iranian nuclear program for years to come. Massive ordnance penetrators; lesser but precision-guided penetrators “drilling” one after another; fuel-air detonations with almost the force of nuclear weapons; high-power microwave attack; the destruction of laboratories, unhardened targets, and the Iranian electrical grid; and other means, can be combined to great effect.
Helprin continues to fantasize that all of this has something to do with “defending ourselves,” which he justifies by proposing a number of far-fetched and alarmist scenarios in which Iran will strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. He concludes his farrago of nonsense and propaganda this way:
Relying solely upon his oath, holding in abeyance any consideration of politics or transient opinion, and eager to defend his decision in exquisite detail, he [the President] should order the armed forces of the United States to attack and destroy the Iranian nuclear weapons complex. When they have complied, and our pilots are in the air on their way home, they will have protected our children in their beds—and our children’s children, many years from now, in theirs.
In addition to arguing for an unjust war, Helprin also manages to ignore Congress and the Constitution in all of this. As he sees it, a war with Iran should be an arbitrary one launched by the executive alone. Let’s also be clear that starting a war against Iran has nothing to do with protecting American children and everything to do with killing Iranians for no good reason. Helprin’s op-ed is an unusually disgraceful contribution to the agitation for an Iranian war.