I don't want to be the one to disappoint Arthur Silber.
Currently every candidate for President, Democratic and Republican, supports "getting tough" with Iran. Many Democratic members of Congress do so as well. Whenever I mention "Iran" to Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the only one of my representatives who bothers to even reply at all--much less substantively--on the issue, I receive a canned reply which reads in part:
I believe that rigorous diplomacy, backed by effective sanctions, offers the best means of ending Iran 's nuclear enrichment program without a military confrontation.I guess I'm pleased to some extent that Senator Boxer wishes to avoid a military confrontation, but she is apparently so deeply deluded about both the morality and international politics of the situation that her wishes seem to be on a "Santa Claus" level of fantasy.
So let's look at the whole situation, from the top.
A military confrontation with Iran would be a Crime Against Humanity
Any military confrontation with Iran would entail a war crime and a Crime Against Humanity, specifically a war of aggression. A war of aggression is prohibited as a Crime Against Humanity both by international law and by ordinary human mortality. Saying we wish to do anything in particular to avoid a military confrontation is like saying, "We want to do thus-and-such to avoid rounding up (Jews, Muslims, atheists, liberals, brown-eyes) and putting them in concentration camps." This is a fundamentally moronic view: We want to avoid rounding up anyone and putting them in concentration camps for no other reason than that it is egregiously morally wrong to do so. We want to avoid confronting Iran militarily because it would be morally wrong to do so. Full stop.
By legitimatizing a military confrontation, even conditionally, Boxer (and every Democratic presidential candidate) fundamentally undermines the legal and moral argument. By explicitly keeping military action on the table Obama, Edwards and Clinton take the legal and moral argument off the table.
(Note: Barring a miracle, I'm not going to vote for Obama, Edwards or Clinton in either the primary or general elections because I would literally rather die than vote for anyone who would consider even hypothetically committing yet another Crime Against Humanity. Looks like I'm going Green or Socialist in '08. Were the idea not risible, I'd vote for the Anarchist party.)
The "argument" (howls of derisive laughter, Bruce!) for military action entails condoning military action in response to a hypothetical long-term risk rather than an actual, immediate threat. The blindingly obvious corollary to this argument is that any nation not utterly servile and submissive to our will poses some sort of hypothetical long-term risk to somebody.
The "risk" entailed by a nuclear-armed Iran is trivial.
In order for a nuclear-armed Iran to pose any sort of risk to anyone (i.e. Israel), we must posit much more than simply having nuclear weapons.
We must also suppose that every person in a position of leadership and authority in Iran, it's (more-or-less) elected government, its ruling theocracy, its military and, a substantial number of its people would be willing to perpetrate a Crime Against Humanity and go down as the first nation ever to initiate a nuclear war. (And only the second to actually use nuclear weapons in war).
We must also suppose that all these people would be willing to commit national suicide. It's entirely moronic to suppose that Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, et al. would be willing to fry in Israel's certain nuclear retaliation, removing not just themselves, not just Iran, but the entire Persian culture from the face of the Earth.
There is simply no rational basis whatsoever for these suppositions.
Iran would be stupid not to acquire nuclear weapons.
The United States has been actively hostile to the nation and people of Iran at least since the overthrow of the democratic government of Mohammed Mossadegh and the installation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1953. Furthermore, the United States collaborated with Iraq in the 1980 Iraqi invasion of Iran. Without comment on the morality or appropriateness of our actions, Iran has compelling reasons for considering the United States to be actively hostile.
No nation can escape the blindingly obvious conclusion that the only way to effectively resist U.S. coercion is the possession of nuclear weapons. North Korea? Harsh words. Iraq? Invasion. Who's left in the "Axis of Evil? Could it be... Iran?!
1) The United States' war of aggression against Iraq. 2) 200,000 troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan bordering Iran. 3) 106 U.S. forward operating bases in Iraq, including 14 "enduring" bases. 4) Two carrier groups in the Persian Gulf. 5) the obvious attempt of the Bush Administration to blame Iran for arming the Iraqi "insurgency".
Given these facts, the government of Iran must consider the possibility of United States aggression to be be both grave and imminent. It would be entirely irresponsible and verging on the insane to avoid the only course which could prevent such aggression: the threat of nuclear retaliation.
Iran doesn't really want nuclear weapons
Islamic morality, even with its manifest deficiencies, considers nuclear weaponry and nuclear war to be morally problematic. In 2003, Iran attempted to open negotiations which would have included its continuing commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It was only after this effort was peremptorily rebuffed by the Bush Administration that Iran closed its nuclear facilities to IAEA inspectors and began active pursuit of uranium enrichment.
Military action would raise both a conventional and nuclear Iranian threat.
Without a genocidal bombing campaign--possibly including our first use nuclear weapons--and/or a full-scale invasion on the scale of the invasion of Iraq, it is likely that the United States could neither prevent immediate conventional Iranian retaliation nor halt its nuclear weapons program. Worse yet, upon its eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons, Iran would be as justified as the United States was vs. Japan in using its nuclear weaponry to resist aggression and punish the aggressors.
Given all these facts, we cannot but consider the Bush Administration's active planning for a war with Iran to be not only savage and brutal, not only deeply criminal, but actually insanely deluded. We cannot but consider the only slightly less belligerent positions of many Democratic party leaders as moral cowardice or ruthless self-serving pragmatism and only slightly less deluded than Bush's position.