For the past couple of years I’ve enjoyed reading Reason's web site. Like many conservatives, I’m naturally sympathetic to many libertarian arguments.
But every now and then, they drop a clunker of an article like this one that shows these people are simply not serious thinkers when it comes to national security.
Right from the get-go author Steve Chapman reveals a serious inability to comprehend reality:
War on Iran: Israel wants it. Various Arab rulers want it. The Obama administration has not ruled it out. It may be inevitable, and it could come any time.
Hello? A U.S. attack on a Middle Eastern country that has not attacked us and poses no threat to our security, out of panic over alleged weapons of mass destruction? Haven't we tried that, and didn't we learn anything about starting wars we don't know how to end?
Words fail me. The magnitude of this level if denial is simply amazing.
There is simply no reason for this level of ignorance. After all, there is information about universities online for anyone with the ability to click a mouse.
Iran has been at war with us since 1979 when they seized our embassy in Teheran. They have been a leading sponsor of international terrorism and provide covert and overt support for our enemies.
Now I’m used to seeing this kind of tripe from peacenik loons with no concept of reality (“maybe they just need a hug”) but coming from a magazine that supposedly is dedicated to rational thought – you know, Reason – this is hugely embarrassing.
A preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities has long been on the wish list of American conservatives and the government of Israel. Now we learn, thanks to WikiLeaks, that Saudi Arabia and other Arab governments have also been clicking on the "Like" button.
Again with the caricature of conservatives as war-mongering fools. Let’s be clear: No one wants a war with Iran – not Israel, not the Saudis, not even those insidious Joo-loving Neocons the left constantly whines about. The question is whether we should fight now – when Iran does not have nuclear weapons – or later, when it does.
Skipping ahead, we see another standby of the Pollyanna School of Foreign Policy: Blind hope.
And for what? The assumption of hawks in the U.S. and Israel is that once Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will use them—that it is bent on wiping Israel off the map at any cost. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, is at the head of "a messianic apocalyptic cult."
But even zealots and despots have a powerful instinct for self-preservation, which Iran's leaders have exhibited many times—as in the war with Iraq, which they agreed to end after Iraqi missiles started landing in Tehran. The Iranians know that any use of nuclear weapons traceable to them would be sure to accomplish one thing: their annihilation.
What planet is this guy on? Iran’s rhetoric is entirely end-of-the-world nonsense. We aren’t the ones calling them fanatics – they are self-identifying themselves that way.
Chapman would have us believe that it’s all a clever ploy- that at the end of the day after delivering yet another “Burn Israel in Holy Fire” sermon, the Imams plug in their i-pods and listen to smooth jazz or something.
What this passage reveals is that Chapman – like so many libertarians – is simply incapable of imagining people who have motivations other than theirs.
Actually, that’s not strictly true: They are happy to assume that the Joos in Israel and conservative warhawks are completely loco, but the actual religious fanatics are simply misunderstood. Or something. There is a gap in logic here the size of the Grand Canyon.
Now consider this next brilliant bit of strategic analysis:
That prospect was sufficient to deter Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, both of whom were once regarded as madmen bent on world domination. Even fanatical regimes don't take actions they know will be fatal.
Ah, for the good old days of the Cold War, when we had the Doomsday Clock and the Soviets had thousands of warheads aimed at us while the ground Eastern Europe under their heel and spread mayhem in the Third World. Wasn’t that great?
Of course, we could have spared the world 40 years of terror and millions of lives had we been able to confront the Soviets directly, but gosh those nuclear weapons were real handy at stopping us. Chapman seems to get it, but only partly:
Nor would the bomb help Iran in pushing its neighbors around. More likely, it would push them even closer together in opposition to Tehran—and even closer to the United States. We, after all, have a bigger military than Iran's and a lot more nukes.
The only real value of acquiring an atomic arsenal is to deter attack and invasion. Iran was designated part of the Axis of Evil by President George W. Bush. One other member, Iraq, lacked nukes and was invaded by the U.S. Another, North Korea, had them and wasn't. Iran didn't miss the lesson there.
Give the man a cookie! He's almost there. Let me spell it out: with nukes Iran becomes become invulnerable. They can stop their war-by-proxy against both the US and Israel and go right to the direct attacks on our installations and citizens, all the while secure in the knowledge that their nuclear weapons provide them with an impenetrable shield. I can’t wait!
In the event that sanctions fail to dissuade Tehran from going nuclear, war is no answer. A better response would be for the U.S. to inform Iran that any use of nuclear weapons against anyone will elicit a response in kind. If our nuclear guarantee protected Europe against the Soviet arsenal, it can protect our friends in the Middle East.
Funny, I don’t recall libertarians really enjoying that whole military-industrial complex thing we had to sustain for 40 years, though. Do they really want the same kind of massive defense commitments we had to provide in Europe to be transferred to Arabia? When their taxes go up to pay for refurbished Pershing II missile batteries and the logistics to sustain them, are they going to go along cheerfully
As long as the viper is holed up, though, we would be wise not to crawl in after it. Even if you cut off a snake's head, it may still bite.
I got a better idea: kill the viper in the egg before it hatches. That’s what this is about – whether one waits until Iran has the bomb or not.
Like so many pacifists, Chapman does not address the real question. The question is not whether we want war - no one wants war. Indeed, the hawks on the right are determined to avoid it. The problem is, war is unavoidable because it is already going on.
Iran has been attacking us since 1979, just as Saddam Hussein continued to attack our forces long after the cease fire in 1991.
Now we can choose not to respond in kind, but we cannot ignore that it is happening.
So: Given that Iran continues to attack us both directly and indirectly, why in the hell do we think the mullahs will get more reasonable when they get their hands on the most destructive weapons ever created?
As I said, libertarians make some good arguments, and I'll continue to visit Reason, but arguments like this prove why they simply can't be trusted in foreign policy.