June 2 2003
Did we, to borrow Churchill's phrase, kill the wrong pig?
So it would appear. For the War Party is already beating the drums for war on
Iran, using the identical arguments they gave us for going after Saddam Hussein
– i.e, the ayatollahs are backing al-Qaida and Iran is developing weapons of
And, on both counts, as this column has long argued, the case against Iran as a
supporter of Islamic terror and seeker after the bomb was always stronger than
the case against Saddam. The War Party's problem is that its credibility has
taken more hits than the Nebuchadnezzar Division of the Republican Guard.
The War Party told us Iraq had huge stocks of biological and chemical weapons,
that Saddam was building nuclear weapons, that he had a role in 9-11, that he
was harboring al-Qaida, that victory would trigger democratic revolutions across
the Middle East, that Iran would be intimidated by our "shock and awe" campaign.
None of this is panning out. A month after victory, Iran and North Korea are
conducting crash programs to build atomic weapons and – or so we are told – the
mullahs are back in the terrorism game, aiding al-Qaida in carrying out that
triple-bombing in Saudi Arabia.
So, the War Party has a problem. Having spent a year telling us Saddam was a
Hitler who must be destroyed lest we all perish, it is going to have a difficult
time generating that fear, loathing and iron resolve a second time.
Moreover, neither North Korea nor Iran is as "doable" as was Iraq in the term
used by Paul Wolfowitz. A large slice of the U.S. Army is now tied down
pacifying Iraq's 23 million. Scores of thousands of veterans of Operation Iraqi
Freedom have come home to families that have no wish to see them sent off to war
The "Mission Accomplished" banner has already flown from the Abraham Lincoln.
There are insufficient forces in the Gulf to invade and defeat an Iran that is
three times the size of Iraq and does have missiles and chemical and biological
weapons. After Afghanistan and Iraq, America is, psychologically, unprepared for
another major war, especially against a nation the size of Iran.
Should we undertake war on Iran, there is surely no doubt as to the outcome. But
few believe it would be a "cake walk," with only 125 U.S. dead and Iran's
capital falling with only token resistance.
Why, then, this outburst of bellicosity? The president has no constitutional
authorization from Congress to go to war with Iran. No NATO ally, not even the
Brits, would fight beside us. And we have no binding U.N. resolution we can
claim to be enforcing.
If we are not ready for war, why the war talk? Or do we now believe that our
words will intimidate the ayatollahs – even though the lesson of what we did to
Iraq, right next door, did not?
The painful truth: The "Bush Doctrine" is now being defied by both surviving
partners of the axis of evil, Iran and North Korea, despite what we did to Iraq,
and the president has few cards left to play, other than big casino.
Should Pyongyang build and test an atom bomb, how do we keep it from becoming a
nuclear power? Sanctions have not disarmed it. China refuses to join an embargo.
What options are left, except a blockade or a pre-emptive strike on North
Korea's nuclear plants, obliterating them, even if it means using atomic
weapons? Perhaps that is what the Pentagon request for a study of the uses of
atomic weapons below five kilotons is all about.
But what would an act of war on North Korea do to the South?
As for Iran, the War Party appears to have miscalculated badly. The whipping we
gave the Iraqi Republican Guard not only did not intimidate the ayatollahs, it
caused them to reach this not unreasonable conclusion:
Axis-of-evil nations with nuclear weapons, like North Korea, get U.S. attention
and respect. Axis-of-Evil nations without nuclear weapons, like Iraq, get JDAMs
and the 101st Airborne. Therefore, Iran must acquire nuclear weapons or Iran
must prepare to accept dictation from the Great Satan.
Once again, the action-oriented Americans failed to think it through. Like
Britain, which went to war in 1939 to save Poland and prevent Hitler's
domination of Europe but ended up – after six bloody and bankrupting years of
fighting – with Stalin running Poland and Stalin dominating Europe, the United
States, with its war on Iraq, seems only to have accelerated that very
proliferation of nuclear weapons we fought the war to prevent.
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