During his Jerusalem Post interview of 14 months ago, Mr. Lieberman at least mentioned the need “to encourage the reformist and opposition elements in Iran.” What would become of this idea, were the U.S. to bomb Iran?
To imagine that the Iranian people would react to an American attack with anything other than anger and a reflexive patriotism—both of which would likely benefit President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—flies in the face of all evidence.
American “encouragement” of Iranian reformists is a delicate issue at the best of times. This reporter, visiting Tehran last month, was struck by the degree to which even the harshest critics of Mr. Ahmadinejad were equally strident in their determination that the U.S. should keep its nose out of Iranian affairs.
And public opinion aside, the logistics of Mr. Lieberman’s plan are dubious. His notion of a single air strike to resolve the problem of alleged Iranian training of insurgents seems fanciful. Even if the accusation is true, presumably the Iranians could simply set up another facility elsewhere.
Perhaps the Connecticut Senator believes a one-shot approach would intimidate the Iranians out of further misbehavior.
But would Tehran be easily cowed, given its awareness of the U.S.’ plummeting stock in the region and the strain imposed on the American military by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? It seems at least an even bet that the Iranian response would be to strike back hard.
Mr. Lieberman seems to be falling into an old trap: the belief that superior military firepower can smoothly wipe out shadowy threats while carrying no adverse political consequences. The shortcomings of such an approach have been shown in the grisliest way to the U.S. in Iraq and to its ally Israel during last year’s disastrous incursion into Lebanon.
None of this is to deny that Iran is a threat to the U.S., to Israel and to the Middle East as a whole. The question is how that threat should be counteracted.
On Monday, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, told ThinkProgress.org, “I believe our efforts should be diplomatic in nature …. I know Joe means well, but I don’t agree with him.”
The previous day on Meet the Press, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “I think we should be talking to Iran, we should be talking to Syria. Not to solve a particular problem or crisis … but just to have dialogue with people who are involved in this region in so many ways.”
Dialogue and diplomacy do not make for especially magnetic rallying calls. But they are a much more sensible idea than the dangerous chimera of a short sharp shock to Iran proposed by Mr. Lieberman.
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