Noah Millman does his best to look on the bright side of Trump’s nuclear deal decision:
Meanwhile, if Iran didn’t provide America with a clear case for military action, perhaps even hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton would be deterred from indulging his predilection for diplomacy via bunker-busters.
I would find this more persuasive if American hard-liners didn’t routinely try to use any pretext to agitate for military action. The development of Iran’s nuclear program has never provided a legitimate basis for attacking them, and it never will. Attacking Iran to damage its nuclear facilities (or for any other reason) would be obviously illegal and a breach of the U.N. Charter, but that hasn’t stopped hard-liners from demanding preventive war in the past and it won’t stop them from demanding it in the future. Just because a war is unnecessary doesn’t mean they won’t advocate for it and it doesn’t mean that they won’t start it. War is never inevitable, but reneging on the deal has made war with Iran more likely than it was.
There has never been a “clear case” for military action against Iran, but Iran hawks will be more than happy to make a morally bankrupt, confused one. Bolton specializes in doing exactly this, and now he is in a position to translate his awful arguments into action. Millman is making a very reasonable case that the weakening or collapse of the nuclear deal doesn’t have to lead to war, and I agree that it doesn’t have to, but the people that have wanted to kill the deal are not reasonable people. If they were, they would not be sabotaging a major nonproliferation agreement in the hope of stoking more conflict.
Besides being an important nonproliferation agreement in its own right, the deal has served as a significant domestic and international political obstacle to agitating for an attack on Iran. It removed the pretext that Iran hawks had been trying to use for a decade, and it showed how much more could be achieved in resolving the nuclear issue at much lower cost through a negotiated compromise. The agreement deprived threat inflators everywhere of one of their favorite bogeys. It demonstrated that Iran’s government was interested in self-preservation and once and for all exploded the stupid hawkish “martyr-state” myth that has played such a prominent role in many deranged arguments for an illegal attack. Reneging on the deal can’t undo all of that, but it is certain to encourage supporters of illegal preventive war and it gives ideologues including Bolton the opening to push for the war and regime change they have been craving for more than a decade.