Andrew has responded to Bret Stephens’ latest, and he makes a number of good points, but I am left wondering something: why does every debate concerning aggressive war center on pragmatic considerations of whether it will “work”? Why give any deference to proponents of so-called “pre-emptive” war that isn’t pre-empting anything? Why should we permit them to set the terms and define the limits of the debate? Obama isn’t “making” Israel go to war against Iran, not least because the “threat” from Iran is vastly exaggerated and Israel’s security would not be significantly undermined if Iran did acquire a nuclear weapons capacity. When Iran is far away from acquiring such weapons, how much smaller is the Iranian “threat”?
It is true that America has no interest in another war in the region, and an attack on Iran would expose our forces and allies to serious retaliatory strikes, and it is also true that Muslims worldwide would be incensed at the sight of yet another U.S.-led and/or backed war against their co-religionists. It is true that the economic consequences of such an attack, no matter which state carried it out, would be severe and politically ruinous for the incumbent in the White House. Andrew is also right that deterrence and containment will be enough for U.S. and allied security in the event of any Iranian acquisition of a nuclear bomb. That said, why do we object to aggressive war this way? Why don’t we simply insist that aggressive warfare is the crime that the Allies defined it as over sixty years ago?
The most significant assumption Stephens makes in his op-ed is that Israel has a perfect right to do whatever it thinks necessary to guard against any possible threat, no matter how chimerical or far-fetched, and that it is the task of the United States government to change Iranian behavior to prevent an unprovoked Israeli attack. No other state is granted this sort of exceptional treatment in its dealings with regional rivals as Israel is, and Washington exempts no other state so completely from the requirements of international law as it does for Israel. At no point does Andrew challenge Stephens’ baseless claim that Iran is just a year or two away from possessing a nuclear weapon. ElBaradei has made it clear that this is fiction. Why does Andrew take seriously that Stephens is interested in the “disarmament” of Iran when Iran has no nuclear weapons of which it can be disarmed?