Faster, Please!

London Times: The War is Already On

Gerard Baker reminds his readers of the basic fact, which is one of the central themes of “The Iranian Time Bomb”:

Of all the silly arguments that pass as conventional wisdom in this debate is the claim that the US would be crazy to start a war with Iran. It’s a silly argument because America is already at war with Iran. Every day US soldiers in Iraq are attacked by Iranian-financed paramilitaries, with Iranian-produced weapons in pursuit of Iranian political objectives. Iran is manipulating the Iraqi Government in ways that undercut the steady progress the US is making in Iraq.

The only real question about the next phase in this war is whether an escalation by the US, in a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, would further American – and Western – objectives, or impede them. The evidence is increasingly suggesting that the costs of not acting are equal to or larger than the costs of acting.

Baker doesn’t think war is inevitable, but he, like so many in the journalist pack these days, thinks we’re in a runup to war with Iran. Yesterday I was on a live tv hookup with hundreds of journalists gathered in Berlin, and their main preoccupation was to “avoid the errors of Iraq,” to challenge claims of Iranian involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, to refuse to provide support for a Bush Administration they see as bound and determined to bomb Iran.

Quite aside from the fact that “the errors of Iraq”–which usually means the belief that Saddam had WMDs–are more commonly believed than demonstrated, there are nearly thirty years’ worth of hard evidence of Iran’s war against us. If anything, this administration, along with every other American administration since 1979, has been excessively timorous in its lack of response to this declared war. Gerard Baker thinks he’s found an “aha!” in the latest DoD request for $88 million for the latest generation of “bunker busters,” but those bombs were requested, designed and constructed over a period of many years.

He suggests that the recent Israeli raid on Syria–and the lack of outrage in the “Arab Street”–must surely encourage anyone in the administration who is pushing hard for assaults against Iranian nuclear facilities. That may be true, if indeed there is anyone around the president who is actually pushing for assaults. If there is anyone, I am unaware of it, and frankly it’s tiresome to hear this view ascribed to the vice president by the likes of Seymour Hersh, whose predictions have set a new standard for failure over the last two years.

On the other hand, the great debate over Iran policy, such as it is, has been unfortunately limited to the Sarkozy options: Iran with the bomb, or bomb Iran. I am appalled at this short-sightedness. Those are NOT the only options, and you’d hope that prudent Western leaders would recognize that they have other choices, of which the most attractive must surely be support for the Iranian people to remove the regime.

Some time back, Secretary of State Rice was telling anyone who asked that our policy was not designed to change the regime, but to change the regime’s behavior. So she’s tried negotiations, both public and secret, and she’s trying sanctions, the latest of which were rolled out yesterday at the expense of the Revolutionary Guards Corps. Those sanctions have indeed been aimed at the regime, but I do not know a single case in which sanctions have led to changed behavior by any enemy regime, any more than their opposite–trade concessions and credits.

The central element of any sensible policy toward the Islamic Republic must be regime change. Fascist regimes, like their communist counterparts, do not change their essence, because they totally believe in the rightness of their cause and the inevitability of their triumph. The war with the Islamic Republic will be won or lost, but it will not be negotiated away as the mullahs convert to common sense and the love of peace.

That is why, paradoxically, those who loudly demand negotiations and bridle at the very thought of the president calling for regime change in Tehran and its sister city Damascus, are actually making war more likely. They are driving Western governments into the terrible trap of the Sarkozy options. Those of us who have long advocated non-violent revolutionary change in Iran are providing the best alternative to a war whose consequences, like all other big wars, are very difficult to foresee.