When Did the War Start? Or Did It?
Almost everything you read about the “increasing tension” between Iran and the United States revolves around the rhetorical question, “will there be a war?” Whether it’s our own pundits or the Europeans who watch us, “war” seems closer every day. Look at the Guardian’s Simon Tisdall, for example:
This is how wars start, through a process of hostile rhetoric, mutual ignorance and chronic miscalculation. Anybody in Tehran following the impassioned US debate on Iran will be aware that an influential Washington constituency, aided and abetted by leading Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, favours military action sooner rather than later. For these American hardliners, it is no longer merely a question of destroying Iran's suspected nuclear facilities. Regime change is the name of the game because, it is argued, that is the only way to ensure Iran never gets the bomb.
If Mr. Tisdall knew as much about American politics as he should, he wouldn't have credited Romney and Gingrich with the notion that "regime change is the only way to ensure Iran never gets the bomb." That actually comes from the editorialists at the Washington Post. And if he knew as much about the origins of war as he should, he'd pay more attention to the Iranians' messianic vision of global power -- the quest for power being the central element in a nation's decision to go to war, as the great historian Donald Kagan writes in his magisterial On the Origins of War.
But no matter, Tisdall is certainly right to say that war talk is abundant nowadays, in Washington and Tehran. And it often includes Israel, as well. It's a depressing spectacle, because the pundits have systematically blinded themselves to the real context in which current events are unfolding, and this deflects otherwise serious people from thinking about the real world, which in turn means we do not have a serious strategy.
Serious thinking, and a serious strategy, must begin with the fact that the war is on. To repeat: the war is on. It's been on for three decades. Ayatollah Khomeini declared war on the United States in February, 1979, and the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been killing Americans ever since.
When they demonstrate in the streets and chant "Death to America!" what do you think they mean?
When they call us the "Great Satan," do you think that's the opening gambit in a negotiation to "normalize relations"? Iran and the United States had very warm relations before the 1979 Revolution, after all. The Carter administration desperately sought warm relations with Khomeini et. al.
The Iranian regime was not interested then, and there is no good reason to believe they are interested now. Yes, from time to time they are prepared to execute tactical retreats, but their war against us continues, yesterday in Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia, today in Afghanistan and throughout Africa (if our experts look carefully, they will see the Iranian claw at work in Nigeria, for example), and tomorrow in Latin America and within the homeland, in tandem with their friends in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and others.
To date, we have had various documented responses. On the battlefield, we have defended ourselves against Iranian-trained and -equipped terrorists and their IEDs and EFPs. We have spent billions of dollars to try to thwart or mitigate the effects of these "roadside bombs." As a visit to a military hospital will demonstrate, we continue to see terribly maimed soldiers and Marines under medical treatment, so, while we have made some progress, this remains a very real problem.