Military Force is Vital for Effective Diplomacy
I wholeheartedly disagree with Dr. Walt when he claims that a nuclear-armed Iran would be effectively deterred by the international community. While the United States and Israel may eventually dissuade Tehran from de-escalating its nuclear enrichment capabilities, such a success would certainly include a tremendous swath of concessions from major western powers. Without compromising the U.S. position towards rogue states (including Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, etc) and their militant proxies, it is hard to believe that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would simply abandon their offensive aspirations. Do we as Americans really want to sacrifice our integrity for the simple possibility of Iranian compliance? Even if such a diplomatic approach does work, how would the U.S. Government and the United Nations be able to enforce this provision? The Islamic Republic has already gone so far as to defy the collective power of international institutions…not to mention the basic tenants of universal human rights.
Some may argue that a U.S.-diplomatic campaign with Tehran’s clerical regime is better than no campaign at all. This could be true in some respects. However, if President Obama is absolutely serious in taming Iran’s nuclear program through deliberation, he must recognize that the option of military force must remain on the bargaining table. To quote a common phrase from former President George W. Bush, “all options must be on the table.” What Dr. Walt seems to miss is how powerful and influential a preventive strike is…such threats often have the ability to pressure adversaries into negotiation (whether they truly accept discussion or not). Without a military deterrent available to either the United States or Israel, Iran’s hardliners will continue to enrich uranium without any concrete consequences. Absent the dangers of force, what would hold back the Iranians from pursuing this reality? Would more economic sanctions do the trick (the same sanctions that have failed to curb Iran’s behavior over the last few years)?
On the issue of whether a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is possible without Arab anger and hostility, I see one solution…a successful Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. While I understand the difficulty of formulating a lasting agreement (given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to compromise), milking out a document that respects Palestinian human rights would have the effect of diminishing Arab resistance against the Jewish State. With Palestinians finally living free of Israeli occupation, Arab opposition to an Israeli military campaign would dramatically ease throughout the region. Such a development is certainly realistic… it is not a surprise that many of these same Arab powers have already expressed strong opposition to a nuclear-inspired Iranian power
Let’s not forget why Iran is continuing to increase its leverage in comparison to its Arab foes. Citizens across the region commonly view the Islamic Republic as a powerful country whose leaders “stand up” for the human rights of Muslims worldwide. Iranians are uniquely talented in fermenting widespread opposition to Jerusalem’s policies…thanks to their common references to the harsh Israeli treatment of Palestinian men, women, and children. Yet, with a two-state solution fixed, Tehran would lose a remarkable amount of this talent. No longer would the ayatollah’s and mullah’s of the Islamic Republic be able to quickly draw Muslim support against an Israeli preventive attack. With a certain amount of Iranian credibility gone, Prime Minister Netanyahu may be able to set back Tehran’s quest for a nuclear bomb…all the while salvaging his political career at the same time.
I admit that this formula is extremely unconventional and perhaps downright ridiculous to some who advocate unconditional dialogue. While I understand this position, it is foolish to believe that Tehran would purposely scratch its hard work purely for western investment and recognition. Supporters of diplomacy should applaud this recommendation: case studies have proven that missiles and bombs often lay the groundwork for constructive dialogue to take its course.
I leave you with one question that has yet to be answered… how long can the world wait before Iran finally gains the expertise to produce a nuclear device? Remember…the Iranians need not use the bomb in order to damage the overall security interests of the United States, Israel, and pro-western Arab governments. Just the possession of a nuclear device could trigger an arms race in the Middle East: a race that we can all agree would be extraordinarily unfortunate in the world’s most turbulent area.
-Daniel R. DePetris