Thursday, February 16, 2012

When Hard Liners Are Wrong

In a recent robust discussion on the blog Seraphic Secret I argued the point that the United States should look for a "third option" when it comes to Iran. Allow me to explain. I fully accept that a nuclear Iran is an unacceptable security risk, particularly for Israel, and that if necessary military action should be taken to prevent it from happening. However an air strike against Iran might not succeed in destroying Tehran's nuclear programme and even if it did it could result in a wide range of conventional and unconventional retaliations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Israel and the Persian Gulf which could all have devastating consequences both in terms of human life and for the global economy. This is why I believe a third option is required, one which would remove the threat without war. The Israeli attempt at a third option appears to be a bold plan to wipe out the team of Iranian scientists working on the programme. Five unfortunate souls have so far been assassinated. An American third option is likely to be in the form of some kind of secret opening to Tehran in which they agree to verifiable abandon the nuclear option in exchange for economic incentives. However the hardliners in Washington and Israel seem to think that this is all cloud cuckoo stuff and that the Iranians are committed to obtaining the bomb and will only be stopped when they are forcefully confronted. Mr Avrech on Seraphic Secret quite reasonably pointed out that the Israeli attacks on the Iraqi (1981) and Syrian (2010) nuclear facilities met with zero retaliation. He went on to quote historian Niall Fergusson's recent article in the daily beast where he articulately makes the case that Iran's ability and will to retaliate is significantly overestimated. I was beginning to lose heart in my argument and in my own mind I was starting to concede that military action may be the right thing to do.

The Fog Of War
But later that evening something occurred to me. There has in the past been a much more tense and dangerous nuclear stand off. One in which much more hung in the balance than the fate's of Israel and Iran. The stand off in Cuba in 1962 is generally seen as the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war. And on that occasion the hard liners got it wrong. During the Cuban Missile crisis it appeared that the safe and responsible option was to attack/invade Cuba before the nuclear war heads arrived on the island and the missiles became active. Kennedy decided against this opting for a blockade instead leading to a chorus of calls that he was a weak liberal who was incapable of standing up to the Soviets. Now watch this truly astonishing clip from the 2003 documentary Fog of War where Kennedy's since deceased Secretary of Defence Robert Macnamara explains how he found out in 1992 upon meeting with Fidel Castro that the nuclear war heads were already on Cuba at the time of the crisis.



To sum up, after the Kennedy administration successfully negotiated the removal of the missile sites without war, US Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis Lemay continued to argue that the US should bomb Cuba. Had he been listened to at any time during the crisis or indeed after it, I would probable never have been born. Perhaps the lesson is that the US should have a better intelligence capability. But I think the real lesson is that if there is a third option regarding Iran, all involved should try damn hard to make it happen. Because what if Niall Fergusan, Robert Avrech, John Bolton and other hardliners are wrong.

2 comments:

Robert J. Avrech said...

Ted:

Thanks so much for taking opart in our discussion. You opinions are always welcome.

If we are wrong, then there will be serious consequences.

However, Iran going nuclear is not acceptable. Period. Thus, the Democratic western world, and the fascist Gulf Arabs, must accept the fact that if a third solution cannot be found—and Israel would prefer a non-war scenario—then limited war is the best method of thwarting the genocidal-yearning mullahs.

Imagine if Iraq or Syria had become nuclear powers.

The world should get down on their knees and thank Israel for their amazing raids.

Ted Leddy said...

Robert

Thanks for the kind words.

I have no problem with your description of the situation and I fully agree with your analysis as you have just put it. What I do want to say is that when it comes to war, I have no time for and am thoroughly unimpressed by bluster and bravado which is what I constantly hear from John Bolton, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich and others.