Some thoughts about Charles Krauthammer’s Holocaust Doctrine announced today.
1. Only Israel? Krauthammer swallows whole the Likudnik eschatology, filled with “apocalyptic” mullahs just itching to wipe Israel from the map. But he might consider checking in with some of the Sunni governments in the region, who are very concerned that Iran’s aggressive intentions–if such exist–are directed at them. He might especially talk to a Saudi or two. In any case, this notion of publicly announcing that we would only protect Israel has the effect of reinforcing the regional view that we’re only interested in two things: oil and Israel. Bad move.
2. Why announce anything? It would probably be a better idea to quietly let the Iranians know that if they use the bomb pre-emptively against anyone, we’re coming after them…and to let them know that we won’t pre-emptively come after them or support any attempt by Israel to do so. We should also let the Israelis know that pre-emptive action against Iran–note, pre-emptive action–would lead us to sever all financial aid unless there are clear signs (as in 1967) that an attack is forthcoming. The Bush Administration, and neoconservatives in general, spend entirely too much time blustering threats. The same message can be delivered quietly, and more effectively, without the public saber-rattling, which wins us very few friends in the world.
3. Who says Iran has any intention of nuking Israel? If the mullahs dropped the big one, they would likely wipe out as many Muslims–including their Hizballah allies in southern Lebanon–as Jews. They would also wipe out the third most sacred Islamic shrine in the word, the al-Aksa mosque. The main reason why Iran wants the bomb is as a deterrent–against Israel, which already has one, and against the United States, which seems more aggressive against countries that don’t have bombs (Iraq) than against countries that do (North Korea). A secondary reason is national pride (the Indians and Pakistanis have one) in a country always embarrassed by its inability to live up to its historic grandeur.
4. The attempt to enrich uranium is a matter of profound concern, and U.N. sanctions–no matter how laughable Krauthammer says they are (remember, he also thought U.N. inspections for WMD in Iraq were laughable)–are a sign of global disapproval, which according to last year’s National Intelligence Estimate, is one thing to which the Iranians respond. But we’re not even sure that the Iranians have restarted their bomb program, abandoned in 2003.
5. There’s some truth to the crazy Mullah theory. Ahmadinejad has a mystical, extremist spiritual advisor. Luckily, Ahmadinejad has nothing to do with either Iranian foreign policy or the bomb program. In fact, since the U.S. handed Iran a dominant position in the region on a platter, the Iranians have played their strong hand subtly and well, with a sure sense of how much kibbitzing in Iraq they can get away with. Would that the U.S. played the game so well–but we don’t because ideologues like Krauthammer insist on going around wantonly threatening countries, announcing our pre-eminence in the world, which–as the Chinese know–is precisely the sign of a weakling. We may well have to take military action against Iran at some point, and they should know that. But without all the chest-thumping. (Krauthammer should note that the Israelis haven’t said very much at all about their intentions toward Iran, but everybody knows what they have and their willingness to use force, if necessary. That is how strong nations act.)
Update: More on Iran’s intentions in Iraq from two regional experts.