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Boot on "Iran's Long War"

4:06 PM, Feb 8, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Max Boot has an interesting post on the Commentary blog about "Iran's long war" with the United States. Boot writes that "in the view of some analysts, the fanatics are in Washington not Tehran. Some of our most eminent foreign-policy thinkers seem to think that supposedly trigger-happy hawks in America are a bigger threat to world peace than terrorism-sponsoring mullahs in Iran."

Boot then quotes eminent foreign-policy thinker Zbigniew Brzezinski:

"A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a ‘defensive' U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan."

Boot goes on,

But I take exception to the premise of their argument and of Brzezinski's, which is that if the U.S. were to bomb Iran, this would amount to starting a war out of the blue. In reality, Iran has been waging war on the U.S. for a quarter century, from the 1979 hostage crisis to the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut to its present policy of supplying Explosively Formed Projectiles--i.e., highly potent landmines--to Shiite and possibly even Sunni insurgents in Iraq who use them to blow up American armored vehicles, killing or injuring the occupants. A U.S. attack on Iran would not represent the beginning of a war; it would merely represent belated recognition on our part that a war is going on.

That isn't to say that military action is the right course. For the time being, I would prefer more political, economic, and diplomatic pressure, which already seems to be taking a toll on President Ahmadinejad's popularity with the Iranian political class. But my fear is not that we will respond too belligerently but that, as in years past (including during the first six years of the Bush administration), we will respond too supinely--that we will continue to do nothing, beyond a few tartly worded statements, about the growing Iranian threat. That really will make war more likely.

David Bosco at FP Passport offers another interesting take on the "legality of attacking Iran."

The use and abuse of the legitimate doctrine of preemptive self-defense has been well documented. In light of Iraq, the United States would have a very hard time making such a claim stick. But Israel, interestingly, has a stronger case (what with Iran's military support for Hezbollah and the threats to wipe Israel off the face of the map). Could the United States legitimately piggyback on Israel's claim to preemptive self defense--making it collective preemptive self defense?