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Our Inept Iran Hawks

Rod Dreher cites [1] a New York Times report [2] on extensive Iranian influence in Iraq. The report is correct when it says “Iran won, and the United States lost” as a result of the Iraq war. It is on much shakier ground when it asserts that “the 2011 withdrawal of United States forces…seemingly opened a door for Iran.”

Of course, TAC and other antiwar conservatives and libertarians were warning about removing a bulwark to Iranian power in the region before the invasion, and we continued pointing out the gains Iran had made in the years that followed. The process of “handing over” the country to Iran’s orbit was already happening while the U.S. was occupying Iraq with more than 150,000 troops, so it is hardly a new development and it would not have been prevented or undone by keeping 10,000 soldiers there. The prospect of Iranian power wasn’t our principal objection to the war, nor was it the most important, but opponents of the Iraq war could see very clearly before and after it happened that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would benefit Iran’s government.

Supporters of the invasion deluded themselves (or lied) when they argued that toppling the Iraqi government would undermine other authoritarian regimes in the region, including Iran’s, and they failed to anticipate [3] one of the most easily foreseeable results of the war they backed. Failing to anticipate likely consequences of war isn’t unusual for interventionists, but they were particularly inept in this instance. There is no question that Iran has far greater influence in Iraq after the war than it did before, but this was obvious a decade ago and was hard to miss even before that.

That is not a problem for the U.S. to “solve” now, but it is a direct result of stupid, aggressive policies that the people that now advocate for hostility towards Iran supported at the start of this century. One lesson to draw from all this is that hawks are notoriously bad at estimating the likely effects of their preferred policies, and the policies they support almost always backfire and produce worse outcomes. Hawks have had an uncanny knack for backing the policies that boost Iranian influence in the region after claiming that they will do the opposite, and that is one more reason why we should ignore their policy recommendations.

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8 Comments To "Our Inept Iran Hawks"

#1 Comment By Shocked But Unawed On July 17, 2017 @ 12:47 am

If I understand our foreign policy establishment’s position correctly, it’s Iran’s fault that we screwed up the Middle East and expanded Iranian influence by doing what regional clients like Israel and Saudi Arabia demanded of us, so, again at the behest of our regional clients, we should screw up the Middle East even more to get even with Iran for what we did at the behest of our regional clients.

Makes an oddly circular kind of sense, I suppose. Only if you’re working for the Israelis or Saudis, of course, but that seems to be enough for our foreign policy establishment … in any case thank God we never venture to do anything so tasteless as to factor in our own strategic goals or national interest.

#2 Comment By Adriana I Pena On July 17, 2017 @ 1:47 pm

Mr. Larison’s take on Iran Hawks brings to mind this observation by John Lucaks, that only in America someone whose predictions are consistently wrong can be a pundit.

#3 Comment By Omar On July 17, 2017 @ 3:04 pm

I think the word “hawk” has the connotation of a smart predator. We should call them dogs instead. Iran dogs.

#4 Comment By Adriana I Pena On July 17, 2017 @ 5:27 pm


Dogs? What have you got against dogs? They are good, faithful animals. They are friends.

Find another simile.

#5 Comment By Clifford Story On July 17, 2017 @ 6:44 pm

Paraphrasing a remark I read about NATO, they want us to intervene in order to manage the problems created by our past interventions.

#6 Comment By Adam Rosenthal On July 17, 2017 @ 7:31 pm

Why exactly are US hawks so obsessed with Iran? I mean, it’s a horrendous regime, but it’s not as bad as some others in the region, not least Saudi Arabia’s.

Is it purely fealty to Israel, the Saudis and the other Gulf states? Or is it also the inertia of politicians and analysts who came up under Reagan and are unable to update their priors? Or something else?

#7 Comment By Patrick On July 18, 2017 @ 2:15 pm


#8 Comment By Fred Bowman On July 19, 2017 @ 10:27 am

Imho, the US main problem in the Middle East IS and always will be, is giving in to the WANTS of it’s two parasitic clients states Saudi Arabia and Israel. A more even-handed approach to all parties in the Middle East would have prevented a lot of the unnecessary grief that is being experienced there. Unfortunately this is lesson that was never learned and apparently a lesson that will never learned by those in power in the US. To many “special interest” groups are going to make sure that particular “wisdom” is never learned.