Let’s pretend we are living in a sane and normal era with a sane and normal U.S. government. In that context, read the following paragraph from the Wall Street Journal and then let’s think out loud about it.
“The top U.S. military officer accused Iran…of shipping new supplies of deadly weapons to its militia allies in Iraq, in what he described as Tehran’s bid to take credit for forcing American troops to go home….`Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups which are killing our troops,’ said Adm[iral] Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. `There is no question they are shipping high-tech weapons in there…that are killing our people. And the forensics prove that.’”
Let’s begin with an abstract approach. The government of Country A is sending weapons to forces attacking Country B. Country B is in fact pulling out of territory and doesn’t want a war. Nevertheless, Country A is escalating its aggression so it can claim the withdrawal as a great victory. Why? Because the government of Country A doesn’t want peace; it wants to destroy Country B and hates it so passionately that no conciliation is possible.
Wow, this is so familiar! Where else in the Middle East have I heard about this pattern?
Back to the Iraq case. What does the United States do about the fact that it has proof of a war being waged against it by Iran? I’m not proposing the United States go to war with Iran at all. That would be a mistake, no question about it. But how about a few time-tested activities like these:
–The United States stages some covert operations to discomfit Iran’s regime? Some economic sabotage, a few oil fields or factories have…problems. The message is: If you want this to stop, don’t attack us. You escalate; we escalate.
–The U.S. government tells all of its allies, trading partners, and anyone it can influence that sanctions against Iran of all types are going to go to the absolute maximum and that Washington will tolerate no breaches, including from China, Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
–The U.S. ambassador to the UN goes to the General Assembly (as Ambassador Adlai Stevenson did over the Cuban missile crisis) and presents the evidence of Iran’s terrorism in Iraq and aid to al-Qaida, demanding strong action.
–The U.S. government tells the Turkish regime to stop cooperating with Iran. Will the Turkish government get angry and claim that its sovereignty and dignity have been violated? Yep. And then, if the costs are high enough, it might back down in some material ways.
–The president of the United States goes on television and says, “My fellow Americans….” to lay out the case against Iran, including the “forensics.” He explains that even though America does not want a conflict that one is being forced on it by its enemies. And then he lists Iran’s allies in this anti-American effort: Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah. He will tell the American people what U.S. intelligence has known for years: that Iran is sheltering al-Qaida leaders and letting them use its territory as a safe haven from which to organize attacks against Americans.
–And in line with that presentation, the United States tells Israel that it supports stronger sanctions on the Gaza Strip; refuses to recognize or give aid to a Hizballah (Syria, Iran)-dominated government in Lebanon (which has just officially taken office); gives strong support to the Lebanese opposition; breaks relations with Syria and does everything possible in terms of sanctions against that government while supporting the democratic elements in the opposition.
I suspect that not one thing on this list will happen. The problem is with the specific government now in place in the White House, not the fact that it is a Democratic Party president or a supposedly liberal president. In the background is the dominant ideology nowadays in the United States which throws out the window all of the traditional attitudes and tools used by previous presidents–realpolitik, deterrence, power politics, supporting your friends, and punishing your enemies.
One might call it a combination of proud-to-be-weak, America-is-too-evil-to-be-a-world-leader, old-fashioned appeasement, and left-wing “neo-conservatism.”
A government that will not protect the soldiers it has sent into danger by acting against those who would kill them does not deserve to lead those troops. Admiral Mullen knows it (his statement above sounds like a plea for help from Congress and the American people) and so does the recently resigned Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and so does everyone who works at the Pentagon and serves in the U.S. armed forces. But they cannot speak publicly because they are serving. That’s the real “Don’t ask, don’t tell policy.”
Go back and read that paragraph about what Mullen said. Revolutionary Islamism, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and others are at war with the United States. America needs a president who recognizes that fact and will do something about it.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org. His articles published originally in places other than PajamasMedia can be found at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com