It seems like only yesterday that Bob Baer, a former CIA case officer who was so good his own bosses decided to threaten legal measures against him to cover their own half-assed performance, was explaining that the American Government had failed to recognize the evils of the Iranian regime by the simple expedient of ignoring all the evidence. He wrote an excellent book with an excellent title–See No Evil–about the terrible suicide bomb attacks against us in Beirut in 1983, masterminded by the Iranian mullahs and carried out by proxies in Lebanon. It’s a must-read for anyone concerned about our intelligence services.
Now he’s returned to the subject of Iran. He’s written a new book–The Devil We Know–and he gives us a peek at it in Monday’s New York Daily News. He asks, as so many do, whether we’re going to attack Iran before the end of this administration. No way, he says, because the Iranians have us over an oil barrel. If we attack them, their counterattack will be too costly to us: oil prices will go into orbit, and our casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan will go at least sky-high. While putting forward this perfectly plausible argument, he presents us with a very odd sentence:
An angered Iran could punish us with thousands of extra casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, as Iranian-trained, armed and funded fighters flow back into the war zones with a vengeance.
The odd word is “back.” For as everyone knows by now, Iranian-trained, armed and funded fighters are abundantly present in “the war zones.” The notion of their “flow back” suggests that they’re not there now, which is false. Keep that thought a minute, I’ll be right back.
He then asks if Israel might bomb Iran. And the answer this time is yes, hell yes. Because, unlike us, Israel is threatened with potential annihilation from a nuclear-armed Iran. And since the Israelis have figured out that neither we nor the Europeans are going to do much of anything to save them, and since the debacle of the last Lebanon war has shattered the image of an invincible Israeli military machine, and since American influence is waning world-wide, chances are good that Hezbollah and/or Iran directly will soon unleash a vicious attack on Israel. Rather than wait for that unhappy day, Baer argues, the Israelis might well decide to go first.
I suppose they might, but I have real trouble imagining it. For years now, the likes of Symour Hersh and Gareth Porter have been warning us that the American (or American/Israeli, or just Israeli) assault against Iran is only minutes away, but I don’t think anyone this side of moonbatland believes it any more. I have real trouble with the notion that Tsipi Livni and Ehud Barack will order a desperate attack on Persia. The disaster in Lebanon, after all, is in large part their responsibility, and I don’t think they have any great desire to go to war with a country six times the size of their own. I think they’re going to keep asking the Western world to “do something,” and hope for the best. Or at least hope that any “solution” to this existential problem will fall to the next Israeli Government.
Baer, however, thinks the Israelis will attack, and he is pretty sure that the consequences will be terrible (see above: oil prices in orbit, casualties sky-high). So he comes up with a neat solution: “find a way to bring Iran back into the nation-state system.” A happy thought, to be sure, except that we’ve been trying to do just that for thirty years, and there is no reason to think that chances are better today than they were in the past. Indeed, on Baer’s own account, chances are worse, because Iran’s current war against us and the Israelis “has more to do with a weakened United States and Israel than with any plans to start World War III.” Perhaps so, but there is no obvious reason to believe it. Again, Iran declared war on us thirty years ago and has been waging it ever since. Baer’s own career and writing documents that. And if Iran was willing to attack us and Israel at a time when we were stronger, why should they shrink from pressing their advantage now, when they see us as a falling superpower? It doesn’t make sense.
Then he tosses the wild card onto the table: “I myself think a deal can be cut with Iran. During the last 30 years, Iran has gone from a terrorist, revolutionary power to far more rational, calculating regional hegemon.” Just looking at Iran’s behavior, you’d probably think the opposite (I sure do). Ten years ago, the mullahs at least pretended they wanted to be citizens of the world. They presented us with a president named Khatami who whispered sweet nothing into the ears of Western diplomats and intellectuals. Now they give us Ahmadinejad, who tells us he’s leading the Islamic world in a triumphant jihad against us. If anything, Iran today seems much more of a terrorist, revolutionary power than it was ten or twenty years ago.
I sympathize with Baer, as with all those who think we are facing the Sarkozy option: bomb Iran, or Iran with the bomb. He doesn’t want war with Iran, and so he calls for a deal. Unfortunately, such a deal–even assuming the Iranians would play along–would probably have the same result as Chamberlain’s wretched deal with Hitler, the one that prompted Churchill to say “you had a choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.”
We have war today, but it is a one-sided war, a war waged by them against us. Baer’s call for a deal, based on a false vision of the nature of the Iranian regime, is pure wish-fulfillment. Revolutionary regimes like Iran’s do not make strategic compromises with their declared enemies. There is no way out of this war, I’m afraid. We will either win or lose.
There is indeed a better way, which is to support the Iranian people, an overwhelming majority of whom want the regime brought down. But somehow that tried and true method, the one that brought down the Soviet Empire, and ended tyrannies from Manila to Tirana, hasn’t found favor among the master strategists. Bob Baer doesn’t even mention it in his article (I hope he at least discusses it in his book), and more’s the pity. He’d be a great guy to carry it out.