Lara Friedman writes: Discussion of military action against Iran is again taking center stage. It takes me back to a late September 2002 meeting, when I brought a former senior Israeli official to see the late Congressman Tom Lantos, then the ranking minority member of the House International Relations Committee. Our meeting focused on Iraq, with Lantos arguing passionately for pre-emptive U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein, who he compared to Hitler. Lantos dismissed out of hand our Israeli visitor’s suggestion that a war might be destabilizing to the region and to Israel, telling us (and this is close to a direct quote):
The Middle East is like a kaleidoscope. If you pick up a kaleidoscope and look through it, you don’t see anything special. But if you shake the kaleidoscope and look through it again, you see something more beautiful than was there before.
We were taken aback. One of the most powerful members of Congress — a Holocaust survivor with unchallenged moral authority — was saying, in effect, that the U.S. should wage war not to achieve a specific goal, but to shake things up, in the hopes that out of the chaos would emerge more attractive options.
Advocates of military action against Iran today are relying on a similar “shake the kaleidoscope” approach. Their arguments are predicated on the belief that all other presently available options are unacceptable. They believe that Iran is immune to pressure; that Iran will abuse diplomacy to run out the clock and go nuclear before the world can stop it; and that containment — learning to live with a nuclear or even a “nuclear-capable” Iran — is a non-starter.
Most war advocates concede that military action will at best delay — not stop — Iran’s nuclear program. Most admit that it will probably kill many innocent Iranian civilians — the same civilians whose human rights many of them also claim to defend (AIPAC’s simultaneous campaign for human rights in Iran, and its campaign for an ever-harder line on Iran, culminating in the current effort to get the Senate to adopt a pro-war resolution, is a prominent example of this phenomenon). And most acknowledge that an attack on Iran could be profoundly destabilizing to the region and could threaten U.S. interests around the world.
Yet their conclusion is that military action is nonetheless both desirable and inevitable. [Continue reading…]