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A Sampling of Those Who Want to Go to War with Iran

(To read the rest of our series, “The Case Against War with Iran”, please click here.)

Every now and then, Eric C or I will write a post and the other person will ask, “Who actually argues for this?” With that in mind, today we want to justify our series, “The Case against War with Iran”. We’ve broken down the voices into four areas, the four P’s: people, politicians, pundits and professors.

(A quick note for today’s post: many of the arguments for war with Iran have been debunked or rebutted in the blogosphere. We’re not making the case against war with Iran today; we just want to show how many people are arguing for it.)

(American) People

As often as we hold Olympic games, Israel threatens to attack Iran, bringing the U.S. along with it. To chart this, I went to Google Insights, and searched for the terms “nuclear weapons Iran” and, more importantly, “war Iran”. In the last two months, Americans have searched for those terms more than at any other time since Google started keeping records (which apparently only goes back to 2004. What gives Google?). The people have heard the war drums banging, and want to find out who wrote the beat.
And according to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans already support military action against Iran. A majority also believe the U.S. will “wait too long” to deal with Iran. (Though their questions tend to ignore the issue of “At what cost?”, as I’ll write about next week.) A Quinnipiac poll found similar opinions about Iran as well. If President Obama does decide to go to war, he can point to polls justifying his decision. However, a majority of Americans oppose a military strike on Iran, according to a World Public Opinion poll. Like many issues, the phrasing of the question can change the results, “wait too long” versus “favor a military strike”.

The point is: the American people are not united against war as they are with Afghanistan and were with Iraq. Americans love starting wars, and hating fighting them.


If the American people can hear the drumbeats of war, that must means politicians started banging them. And everyone knows who plays the role of Neil Peart: Republican presidential candidates. Take the words of their three major candidates for president:

If President Obama is reelected, “Iran will have a nuclear weapon and the world will change.” Mitt Romney (Or read his opinion piece on Iran here at The Washington Post.)

"We need to say to the Iranian government, the time is now. You will stop your nuclear production now." Rick Santorum

“The red line is now.” Newt Gingrich

While readers might deride those quotes as standard stump speech fare, campaign fodder for pro-war GOPers, presidential candidates aren’t the only ones in the Republican party banging the drums. Also unleashing epic war drum solos include the John Bonham’s of the political world, Republican Senators and Congressmen.

“There should be no daylight between America and Israel in our assessment of the [Iranian] threat.” Senator John McCain

"We need to make sure that this president is also going to stand by Israel and not allow his administration to somehow speak contrary to what our ally thinks is in its best interest." Representative Eric Cantor

“No greater threat exists to the security of Israel, to the entire region and, indeed, to the United States than a nuclear-armed Iran...The Iranians now face a choice to either meet their international obligations and rejoin the community of nations or violate their international obligations and face the consequences.” Secretary Leon Panetta

“And that is why, four years ago, I made a commitment to the American people and said that we would use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that is what we have done.” President Barack Obama

Oh, those last two were Democrats. I guess that makes them “Keith Moon”.


The politicians bang the drums, the people hear, and the pundits turn up the volume. A small sampling from the punditocracy:

“After speaking with many of the Israeli leaders and chiefs of the intelligence and the military, I have come to the conclusion that there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran during 2012, because Iran is getting too close to what was coined by Minister of Defense Ehud Barak as the zone of immunity.” Ronen Bergman, the senior political and military analyst for Israel’s most widely read daily newspaper.

“The United States should have the legal right to use military force when it removes dangerous threats not just to our security, but to regions and the world -- and that is, I argue, exactly what is posed by the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons.” John Yoo in National Review. Yep, that John Yoo.
Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, repeatedly and finally, Foreign Policy’sShadow Government” blog--again, repeatedly--all chimed in as well.

Professors (Academics)

Our final section covers the thinkers who give the pundits, politicians and people something to talk about: the professors and academics working for think tanks who chime in to say, “Let’s go to war with Iran.” (To finish the tortured analogy, I guess they build the drums?)

For example:

- Matthew Kroenig in Foreign Affairs, “Time to Attack Iran

- Brent J. Talbot in the Journal for International Security Affairs, “Stuxnet and After

- The Bipartisan Policy Center in Meeting the Challenge: Stopping the Clock

- The Heritage Foundation

- The American Enterprise Institute

When enough people want war, call for war or threaten war, guess what might happen? War. So we’ve (hopefully) justified the series. On Monday, we start making the case against war with Iran.

three comments

I have been reading your series “The Case Against War with Iran” with interest and have some comments.

Firstly, I think it is important to define what you mean by war. This is important because I don’t think that even the most hawkish of commentators are in favor of an all out war with Iran, whereas I think many may support limited military action and specifically I think many would support “a precision strike against Iran’s nuclear enrichment and bomb making facilities”. By not being explicit in your definition of war, you are not making a case against limited military action – at least your readership can interpret things that way. I know that in your introduction you say: “the U.S. should not go to war (or limited military action) with Iran.”, but that is, as far as I can see, your only definition of what you mean by war.

On the issue of war itself, I have the following points:

1) America seems to have moved to a position where military action is a component of normal foreign policy, rather than a measure of last resort.

2) I’ve seen estimates that a military strike against Iran will delay its development of nuclear weapons by about two years. This means that military action commits America to further military action in a few years time.

3) America’s willingness to use military action as a component of foreign policy contrasts directly with that of China, which avoids direct intervention in other nations. This is to America’s long term economic disadvantage. We are already seeing lucrative mining contracts in Afghanistan being awarded to Chinese and Indian firms, rather than American ones. Continued use of and reliance on military intervention will play to China’s advantage and will hasten China’s economic overtaking of America. (And in the very long term America’s military superiority relies on its economic superiority.)

4) (I regard this as the most important point.) There are moderates in Iran. Ahmadinejad’s position has been challenged. Like many leaders suffering problems at home he tries to focus attention on external enemies. By threatening or taking military action America reinforces Ahmadinejad’s position at home and makes his replacement by a more moderate leader unlikely. A military strike against Iran virtually guarantees an anti-American government in Iran for the foreseeable future.

Martin, as to your most important point, about defining war we see a limited strike and a full invasion as roughly the same because good analysis shows Iran will treat the same.

This actually goes to a point we will make in future post, that the U.S. public considers dropping bombs from thousands of feet not war, because no one is really at risk. But to the people on the receiving end, it will feel very much like war. So while a limited strike might not feel like war, it will be war.

And as I will get to next week, a limited strike has almost the same possibility of provoking an Iranian response as a full on bombing campaign or attempted invasion. However, if I need to make that point more clear, than I will try to do that in next week’s posts.

To your last four points, I generally agree with each one. Which is part of the reason why continued U.S. saber rattling is such a problem. Point 2 and 4 are probably the most important. Iran has been about two-three years from developing a nuclear weapon since 2002. So what is bombing going to do except convince them to move centrifuges to a hundred hidden locations, and dig deeper and deeper bunkers to build bombs in? And if we radicalize the population behind Ahmadinejad, how does that help us at all?

Hey guys. I like reading your blog here, very helpful and succinct. Keep doing such great work.

I also like Martin’s comments, especially number 3. If the United States goes to war with Iran it falls further and further behind in development of infrastructure and improvements in technology. As I am living abroad I now fully believe that the technological/infrastructure gap between the United States/some of the developed world and the developing world has all but been erased. Specifically São Paulo verses Southern California.

Also, I do feel like an issue has been missing from the debate of war with Iran, and that is that the United States is already at “war” with Iran. If you put the shoe on the other foot, so to speak, if the United States received the types of economic sanctions and political isolation that Iran has been dealing with, I truly believe the United States would waste no time in “rage quitting” or declaring war on everyone. There is no way U.S. politicians would find direct meddling in domestic affairs acceptable.

Other than that I do find it interesting the variety of methods being put into use by the U.S. to put pressure on other countries like Iran. Methods such as internet/electronic sabotage, economic devaluation of currency, economic isolation, political posturing, unmanned drones, and generic soft power from media outlets. I would like to believe that wars of the future will begin to be fought only through the economy and technology, without the loss of human life.