As I and many others have noted, there are increasing signs that the administration has decided or has nearly decided to launch an air and sea attack on
Under the Cheney-Addington interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, there is no need for any Congressional consent to such an action by the President. In any case, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force of
The rationale for such an act of war is likely to be that it is necessary to prevent a terrorist state from acquiring nuclear weapons. Any hint of Iranian compliance with international demands would interfere with the campaign. Hence part of the PR campaign that has started for the war will consist of attacks on Mohamed El-Baradei and the IAEA, as in 2002-2003 over
The Bush-Cheney policy on
The Bush administration discarded an opportunity to expand cooperation with the government of President Muhammad Khatami after the
The advocates of war claim that the Iranian regime is a monolithic, revolutionary regime whose aim is destruction of world order and in particular the
In part thanks to them, we are now dealing not with the Iranian Gorbachev, but with the Iranian Putin, who is rather worse than the original. Nonetheless, the Iranian power structure still includes people with a range of views, from conservative realist to reformist, with whom it is possible to engage, if an agenda of regime change did not sabotage any efforts on their part. I meet with such people regularly. Certainly the Iranian democratic opposition has made clear its opposition to forcible regime change.
There is an alternative to war, but it has to start with an end to regime change as a policy goal. There are then a number of areas, such as counter-narcotics in
The alternative of war will have terrible effects including:
- No support for the U.S. from any country but
Israel(though Saudi Arabiaand other Arab states may not be too unhappy) and the demolition of whatever still remains of the ’s international standing except as a warmaking power; that reputation will also quickly dissipate as this war, too, fails to achieve its objectives. U.S.
- Rapid deterioration of security in (at least) Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; note that much of the support for Benazir Bhutto, whom the U.S. hopes will help shepherd a political transition in Pakistan, comes from Pakistani Shi’a, who will turn violently anti-American in the event of an attack on Iran; northern Afghanistan is also under the de facto control of groups supported by Iran against the Taliban; the government of Iraq in Baghdad will oppose an attack on Iran, but our new friends in Anbar province, whom President Bush visited on Labor Day and who fought Iran for Saddam Hussein, will support it and maybe even volunteer to fight.
- Gasoline prices may reach $7/gallon within a week and probably go higher rapidly, especially if
Iranmakes even partially successful attempts to block the Strait of Hormuz.
- Either there will be a movement of national solidarity against invasion in Iran from across the entire Iranian political spectrum, or (less likely)
will collapse into some kind of civil disorder, with nuclear materials littered about. Iran
- Hizbullah and Hamas will unleash missile attacks and perhaps suicide bombings on
Israel, and Israelwill respond harshly in Lebanonand (at least). Gaza
- Such an attack will also have other unpredictable consequences, which I will therefore not try to predict.
What course of action do I suggest?
The immediate goal for Democratic presidential candidates and the Democrats (and sensible Republicans) in Congress should be to use the power of the legislative branch to prevent the administration from launching a war. I can think of two possible ways to do this:
- Pass an Act of Congress stating that the 2001 AUMF does not authorize a preemptive strike against
Iran(or a strike in response to an alleged provocation – recall ). In this case, Congress would claim that war with Tonkin Gulf requires new authorization. Iran
- Cut off funding for any war with Iran not specifically authorized by Congress in accordance with the law after September 30, when spending starts out of next year’s budget. Presumably they won’t be able to start the war by then and rely on the “support the troops” argument.
In coordination with this immediate response, responsible leaders in both parties should articulate an alternative policy toward
Under different leaders, the U.S. could start work on such a détente today. It will take years and it cannot advance much while Bush-Cheney and Ahmadinejad are in power. But we should not let them destroy such opportunities for the future.