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Justification for acting against Iran is moral and not political

Reader comment on item: How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran

Submitted by Stuart Fagin (United States), Feb 10, 2010 at 09:26

Iran will, under no circumstances, give up its nuclear ambition peacefully. Sanctions cannot work because (a) they require an unachievable unanimity among major nations, and (b) Iran will realize that any burden brought about by sanctions is temporary and destined to be lifted soon after they test a nuclear weapon; perhaps two years away. As former US Ambassador Bolton has noted, we are now down to two options: military action, or attempting to coexist peacefully with a nuclear-armed Iran. The latter is impossible and will inevitably result in a nuclear detonation against a western target, probably via a terrorist group.

So, Dr. Pipes is certainly correct in advocating military action that would destroy the sites engaged in this enterprise. However, I believe it unwise to describe the action in terms of the political benefits that would accrue to President Obama, as Dr. Pipes does here. I presume Dr. Pipes does not justify the attack the military action from this standpoint, but is merely recognizing a consequence of the action. Even so, the biases of the world media against the west are such that they will certainly seize upon such consequences, and discussions of them, to impugn western motives.

Rather, the military attack is justified because the west cannot manage terrorist threats by acting passively. This is the central lesson of 9-11. We must act to preempt the threat, or the threat will materialize. Moreover, promptness is required because a nuclear-armed Iran immediately imperils the existence of a democratic ally, Israel. It is immoral to stand aside and force Israel to stand alone as this threat materializes. By pursuing diplomatic sanctions, a strategy with no prospect for success, this is exactly what we are doing.

Finally, to act preemptively is to employ the Bush Doctrine. For this reason it is doubtful that the Obama administration will ever do it. The foreign-policy decisions of this administration are driven by the need to set itself apart from its predecessor. The more unintelligible the decision, the more this seems to be true. Witness the ending of CIA interrogations, the closing of Guantanamo, a civilian trial for KSM. Perhaps most important is the Obama administration vision that past brutish behavior by our foreign adversaries has been mainly induced by the aggressive demeanor of the Bush administration. So the solution is to act otherwise. In this way George W. Bush is surely the most influential figure in determining Obama foreign policy.

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