Sunday, January 22, 2006

There are a number of ways to lose credibility in a time of crisis...

One way is to ignore the problem, as Clinton did with the threat of terrorism. Another is to slap a band aid on the problem and pronounce it solved, as Clinton did with North Korea's pursuit of nuclear power. A third way is to declare reasonable responses to the problem to be worse than the underlying problem, as the Democrats and ACLU are doing with their criticism of the NSA's monitoring programs.

And yet another way is to recommend a solution that has no chance at all of solving the problem...

This is what Ivo Daalder and Phillip Gordon, Senior Fellows at the Brookings Institution are doing with their calling for using sanctions against Iran instead of military force. As one would expect from a bureaucrat mindset, their op-ed has a lot of words, has the obligatory tough talk ("... if Tehran refuses to back down, it must pay a price"), but, at its core, is simply a recommendation to take action that simply won't work.

And the reason that sanctions won't work, as I've said before, it that there exists no sanction that will lead to the Mad Mullahs giving up their nuclear programs. Their nuclear dreams (of having weapons and being able to use them against their enemies) are so strong that they're willing to put up with anything in order to make that happen. The ope-ed authors call for a ban on foreign investment... but who really believes that would be sufficient for the Mad Mullahs to back down? They'll put up with their athletes not being able to participate in the Olympics. They'll put up with an oil embargo (Hussein put up with one and he was far less fanatical than are the Mad Mullahs).

And even if there was a sanction that would force Iran to back down, there is no chance of such a sanction being imposed by the international community. China and Russia simply don't fear the consequences of Iran having nuclear weapons, so there's little chance they'd ever go along with tough sanctions. Germany and France are making too much money in Iran for them to go along with tough sanctions.

And, finally, even if there was a sanction that would force Iran to back down AND one that the international community was willing to impose, there is no chance that it wouldn't be violated by those more interested in making money than in saving the world. Just as Marc Rich dealt with Iranian oil during an earlier embargo, just as French and German companies were violating sanctions levied against Iraq, just as the corrupt and incompetent Kofi's Klowns at the UN took money to look the other way while Hussein violated the terms of the sanctions levied against him, so too will there be those who will help Iran evade the sanctions levied against it.

It's not that the military action I propose is guaranteed to work... it's that military action is the only action that has a chance of working.

Interestingly, one of the reasons the op-ed authors argue against using the military is their fear of Iran's response to a military attack against their nuclear facilities. They claim that Iran will launch terrorist attacks against our troops in Iraq, that Iran could threaten oil shipments flowing through the Straits of Hormuz. I'd agree that neither of these is desirable... but this line of argument is akin to saying that you shouldn't use force to stop someone from attacking your sister because they might in turn sue you... for whatever Iran might do in response to a military attack is a whole lot less troublesome than the alternative outcome of having Iran accomplish its goals of obtaining nuclear weapons.

Why is that so hard for these supposedly smart guys to understand?