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War is not the ‘best option’

18 March 2015


Thomas L. Knapp :
"What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons?" asks Joshua Muravchik in the Washington Post ("War with Iran is probably our best option," March 13). It's a serious question that deserves some critical parsing before following Muravchik to his conclusion that "[t]hat, in fact, is probably the reality."
What, precisely, does Muravchik mean by "reality?" He seems to go with the definition offered by an unnamed George W. Bush aide to writer Ron Suskind in 2004: "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality-judiciously, as you will-we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out."
In non-Muravchik reality, the US and Israeli intelligence communities say Iran doesn't seem to have an active nuclear weapons program. The International Atomic Energy Agency, while publicly less sure, has reported no evidence of such a program. Why should we believe Muravchik instead of them?
In non-Muravchik reality, Iranian "Supreme Leader"  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that pursuit or possession of nuclear weapons is a sin against Islam which his regime will never commit. Anti-Iran hawks like Muravchik insist we must take Khameini at his word when he threatens to destroy Israel or plant the flag of his Islamic Republic atop the White House. Why shouldn't we take him at his word on this as well?
In non-Muravchik reality, Iran has cheerfully gone along with, even offered, various proposals to furnish its civilian reactors with enriched (but not weapons grade) material while forgoing enrichment itself-a concession it's not obligated to make under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Finally, in non-Muravchik reality, the US has spent the entirety of the 21st century at Muravchik-approved war or proxy war in the Middle East and central Asia, leaving things worse rather than better in each and every instance.
Afghanistan. Iraq. Libya. Yemen. Syria. Where the US goes to war, it inevitably leaves radical Islam, rather than stable democracy, empowered and emboldened behind it. If we're searching for irresponsible belligerence in the region, our gaze must necessarily come to rest on the stars and stripes.
And if Iran does develop nuclear weapons ... well, so what? That genie's been out of the bottle for 70 years and isn't going back in. Yes, Iranian nukes would change the regional dynamic. But that dynamic sucks. Perhaps it's time for an Iranian counterweight to Israel's regional nuclear monopoly.
The "best option"-for America, for Iran and for the world-is for the United States to simmer down, take war off the table, and learn to mind its own business.

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