The real threats to us, and how to deal with them, that is. Lots of well-known former foreign policy/national security officials don’t, or feel obliged to appear “realistic” (diplospeak for “don’t do anything, keep talking”). Some former military officers do, although only up to a point.
Three duly respected policy professionals, Denis Ross (Obama’s — and plenty of others’ — Middle East guru for a few years early on), Eric Edelman (Bush’s under secretary of defense and earlier ambassador to Turkey), and Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations (who recently published a very important story detailing the background of the Iranian occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran in ’79), tell us it’s time to get tougher with Iran:
[It’s] time to acknowledge that we need a revamped coercive strategy, one that threatens what the Islamic Republic values the most—its influence in the Middle East and its standing at home.
the United States should consider a political warfare campaign against Tehran to complement its economic sanctions policy. The administration officials and its broadcast services should draw attention to the unsavory nature of the theocratic regime and repressive behavior. Such language will not just showcase our values but potentially inspire political dissent.
A regime stressed at home and under pressure abroad may yet consider the price of its nuclear intransigence.
Think of hope as a material formed in a crucible over time by a series of successful terrorist strikes against the West and Western-affiliated countries in the Middle East. Since violent actions filled this crucible, only a violent military counterresponse can crack the crucible and empty it of hope. The object of a campaign against hope is not necessarily to kill in large numbers but rather to find the greatest vulnerability and shatter it dramatically and decisively.
The terrorist’s greatest source of hope today comes from Islamic State battlefield successes in Syria and Iraq. A defeat there cracks the crucible. The question is how to do it with enough drama and speed that terrorists the world over lose hope and become passive. From any perspective, the Islamic State enclave in Syria is militarily unassailable. But Iraq is a different story.
I certainly agree with the general’s main point — defeat of the enemy is very important, and when we defeat them it is not just a gain of terrain but also an ideological and political victory for our side — I think his context is too narrow, and I don’t share either his pessimism on Syria or his surprising optimism regarding Iraq. I remain perplexed at the failure of our policy elite to advocate all-out political and military support for the Kurds. They are pro-Western, they are tough and brave, and their enemies in the region are ours: above all, Iran, Turkey and Syria. They are the most effective force against ISIS. Our failure to do more for them is yet further evidence of Obama’s grotesque alliance with the Iranians, from Syria and Iraq all the way down to Yemen.
In like manner, I don’t get the optimism about Iraq, which is effectively at the mercy of Iran, and therefore a totally unreliable force.
Why not go to the source, as my late boss General Alexander Haig loved to intone? Tehran is the source. Unmentioned by Scales, pigeonholed by the three gurus as a negotiating challenge rather than the terror master of the world, its defeat should be the West’s central mission.