The 'Iran can be contained' fallacy

As many analysts have been predicting, it appears that even if the Obama administration goes for another, tougher round of sanctions against Iran in the coming weeks, most of the administration has resigned itself to the idea of a nuclear Iran.

Their thinking is born of both a misreading of Iranian intentions and wishful thinking; that a "containment policy" of mutually assured destruction will work as well with the mullahs as it did with the Communists in Soviet Russia.

This presupposes that the Iranians will, 1) act rationally, and 2) see it in their national interest not to use the bomb.

Daniel Pletka, senior VP at AEI for foreign and defense policy, sees things a little clearer writing in the Washington Post:

Advocates of containment and deterrence suggest that Iran will be encircled by a "like-minded group" of nations bent on raising the costs of adventurism. This absurd notion rests on weak reeds in Europe and Arabs deeply hesitant to act. And who can blame the neighboring Arabs? Egged on by distant powers to cut Iranian access to banking and shipping, they suspect they will be hung out to dry by the next world leader eyeing a Nobel Peace Prize.Worse, the common notion of deterrence is ill-designed for the regime in Tehran. Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that today's Iranian leadership is fashioned from different cloth than the Soviets; after all, we are often reminded that the doctrine of mutually assured destruction worked with the Soviet Union for half a century. But even the most ardent hawks have serious doubts about U.S. resolve to "totally obliterate" Iran in the event of a nuclear attack on, say, Israel -- despite Hillary Clinton's threat, as a presidential candidate, to do just that. Rather, most see the usual hemming and hawing about "certainty," "provocations" and "escalation" as the far more likely rhetoric should such an event occur. And if we in Washington see it that way, why would the Iranians think differently?

Pletka demolishes the argument that even though Ahmadinejad might be crazy, he doesn't have his finger on the trigger. Today this may be true. But the factional shifts in power in the Iranian government make that idea a fool's notion of security. The fact is, we don't know who is really in charge most of the time and our intelligence so far has proven to be spectacularly wrong.

As for those who want Israel to do our dirty work for us:

Advocates of a containment policy suggest that in the absence of effective diplomacy or sanctions that deliver results, the stark U.S. options are acquiescence or military action. Privately, Obama administration officials confess that they believe Israeli action will preempt our policy debate, as Israel's tolerance for an Iranian nuke is significantly lower than our own. But subcontracting American national security to Israel is an appalling notion, and we cannot assume that an Israeli action would not provoke a wider regional conflict into which the United States would be drawn. 

The Obama administration finds itself in the ludicrous position of advocating a softer approach to Iran than our European allies. It's been nearly a year and all attempts at outreach have failed miserably. Iran has been playing us for the suckers we are and in a few months, when Israel is forced to decide whether to attack or not, their weak, uncertain policy will be exposed as the dangerous, delusional thinking it is.



As many analysts have been predicting, it appears that even if the Obama administration goes for another, tougher round of sanctions against Iran in the coming weeks, most of the administration has resigned itself to the idea of a nuclear Iran.

Their thinking is born of both a misreading of Iranian intentions and wishful thinking; that a "containment policy" of mutually assured destruction will work as well with the mullahs as it did with the Communists in Soviet Russia.

This presupposes that the Iranians will, 1) act rationally, and 2) see it in their national interest not to use the bomb.

Daniel Pletka, senior VP at AEI for foreign and defense policy, sees things a little clearer writing in the Washington Post:

Advocates of containment and deterrence suggest that Iran will be encircled by a "like-minded group" of nations bent on raising the costs of adventurism. This absurd notion rests on weak reeds in Europe and Arabs deeply hesitant to act. And who can blame the neighboring Arabs? Egged on by distant powers to cut Iranian access to banking and shipping, they suspect they will be hung out to dry by the next world leader eyeing a Nobel Peace Prize.

Worse, the common notion of deterrence is ill-designed for the regime in Tehran. Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that today's Iranian leadership is fashioned from different cloth than the Soviets; after all, we are often reminded that the doctrine of mutually assured destruction worked with the Soviet Union for half a century. But even the most ardent hawks have serious doubts about U.S. resolve to "totally obliterate" Iran in the event of a nuclear attack on, say, Israel -- despite Hillary Clinton's threat, as a presidential candidate, to do just that. Rather, most see the usual hemming and hawing about "certainty," "provocations" and "escalation" as the far more likely rhetoric should such an event occur. And if we in Washington see it that way, why would the Iranians think differently?

Pletka demolishes the argument that even though Ahmadinejad might be crazy, he doesn't have his finger on the trigger. Today this may be true. But the factional shifts in power in the Iranian government make that idea a fool's notion of security. The fact is, we don't know who is really in charge most of the time and our intelligence so far has proven to be spectacularly wrong.

As for those who want Israel to do our dirty work for us:

Advocates of a containment policy suggest that in the absence of effective diplomacy or sanctions that deliver results, the stark U.S. options are acquiescence or military action. Privately, Obama administration officials confess that they believe Israeli action will preempt our policy debate, as Israel's tolerance for an Iranian nuke is significantly lower than our own. But subcontracting American national security to Israel is an appalling notion, and we cannot assume that an Israeli action would not provoke a wider regional conflict into which the United States would be drawn. 

The Obama administration finds itself in the ludicrous position of advocating a softer approach to Iran than our European allies. It's been nearly a year and all attempts at outreach have failed miserably. Iran has been playing us for the suckers we are and in a few months, when Israel is forced to decide whether to attack or not, their weak, uncertain policy will be exposed as the dangerous, delusional thinking it is.



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