I hope by the time you read this, it is out of date. Frankly, I’m amazed as I write this it hasn’t happened already. I am dumbfounded that the Iranians have persisted, with no practical goal beyond harassments and humiliation, and I am exasperated that our usually strong leadership has allowed them to do so.
I hope that by the time you read this, the cruise missiles have already impacted; the stealth bombers have taken out radar and missiles sites; the land and sea blockade is in place … nothing moving in or out of an Iranian port and any road traffic that doesn’t risk death from above. I hope, by the time you read this, the destruction of Iran’s military infrastructure is underway.
Because we are magnanimous, and more importantly are concerned about the long-term price of oil, operations to reduce Iran’s oil production facilities can await a later phase. It’s not clear to me what the holdup has been. I know there are certain niceties civilized nations like to observe. Iran has made little pretense of observing them for a long time. Niceties we’ve observed to the point of allowing them to bind us.
Iran seized British sailors who were lawfully providing security in Iraqi waters. Iran has held and attempted to humiliate those sailors, in defiance of international law and the United Nations Security Council. The European Union, one of the few parties that might be expected to apply any economic leverage on Iran, in typical spineless fashion has declined to do so.
Iran of course has a long history of ignoring the former and being coddled by the latter, so none of that is much of a surprise. Perhaps, like a spoiled child whose tantrums and demands set the family’s agenda, Iran at long last needs to be shown some boundaries.
But this is not really about whether 15 British sailors and marines are freed, or placed on trial or live or die. There are a lot of military men and women being killed these days. Many of them by Iran.
Iran has been meddling with murderous results in Iraq and Lebanon, two countries it prefers to see wracked with war and instable. Iran has declined to cease and desist. Iran wants to force us out of Iraq in the most humiliating way possible. Iran wants to dominate Iraq and Lebanon. It wants to use them as part of its plan to encircle and ultimately destroy Israel. It wants to control as much of the world’s oil supply as it can. It has been working aggressively and criminally toward those ends for decades.
Therefore, it is time to take this opportunity to reduce Iran’s capacity to make war. Its nuclear sites, its military facilities. The roads and bridges it uses to transport the materiel and personnel of its demonic foreign policy. It is an opportunity the Iranians are giving us, on a platter. It is not clear to me why we are not taking it.
Iran has calculated that we won’t act in defense of British sailors. I can’t imagine why we would allow Iran or anyone else to think we would not support our allies who have stood with us in combat as forcefully as we would if those were our own sailors.
There are those who think the sailors may be harmed if we take forceful action. That may be. Iran needs to be made aware that that would be extremely unwise course of action. But in war, there are sometimes casualties, and the fate of millions of people in wartime cannot be held hostage by concern for a handful of sailors and marines.
Iran further calculates that both George Bush and Tony Blair are politically marginalized and incapable of action. I am not sure why the mullahs think that. I don’t think they have really been paying attention to what is happening in Washington.
The only obstacles at this point, theoretically, are an ostrich-like Congress, a war-weary American people, and a tired Army.
We’ve already seen that a nearly evenly divided Congress, incapable of taking definitive action, not only can but must be ignored. The Congress that cannot uphold its own votes has no mandate to dictate terms to the president, particularly in perilous times that call for strong leadership. The American people I talk to, many of them no great fans of our president and our ongoing state of war, are exasperated with the Iranians and with Iraq. President Bush can explain it all after he launches the attack. The road to victory in Baghdad runs through Teheran, and Teheran is doing everything it can to block that road. We need to engage Iran, just as the Iraq Study Group correctly stated. Just not in the manner that strangely myopic group advised.
As for the Army, we don’t need to engage in a land war with Iran. We don’t care occupy Iran. We simply need to neuter it. If Iran chooses to respond in bellicose fashion, that really won’t represent much of a change. A conventional response by massed Iranian forces would be entertaining. Guess who wins that one. The unconventional attacks have been underway for a long time, and any heightened aggressive action by Iran’s proxies in Iraq, well, that would be a gift. An opportunity to destroy them.
This is not about George Bush’s pride or Tony Blair’s pride. The shameful legacy of Jimmy Carter, the master of dithering failure and humiliation, should be history by now. It is about restoring peace to the Middle East. And that is not going to happen as long as the Iranians believe they can behave with impunity in the manner they have been as recently as yesterday, last week, last month, and last year, for the last three decades.
A little war could go a long way. A little war with Iran is the key to achieving peace.
Footnote: A number of people have wondered what happened to the spirit of Nelson, and have noted that it once would have been unimaginable that England and the Royal Navy could be humiliated as they have been over the past week. Nelson was a master of audacious, aggressive and innovative tactics. But some scholars believe Thomas Cochrane, his contemporary, could well have been Nelson’s superior at that game, but saw his career derailed by political enemies, who saw to it he was wrongly jailed on false charges.
Cochrane, unfortunately, may be the more appropriate historical example from British history now. With his first command, the100-foot sloop HMS Speedy, he captured 50 ships in a year. What should have been his greatest victory at Basque Roads was stolen from him by an admiral who held back the fleet.
Today, we have the ability to act, as both Nelson and Cochrane did despite compromised circumstances. The forces arrayed against us today have no less a goal that Bonaparte did, and need to be treated with the same contempt and unbridled aggression that he was.
Jules Crittenden is an editor and columnist for the Boston Herald.
Crittenden’s web page is at Forward Movement.