It is stunning – stunning! – that the Washington Post publishes the screeds of a man so thoroughly discredited as John Bolton. Bolton’s Op-Ed in today’s WaPo, advocating for the immediate bombing of Iran (“Israel's decision of whether to use military force against Tehran's nuclear weapons program is more urgent than ever”), is a terrifying, deceitful and invective-filled piece. In sum, it is what we’ve come to expect from Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations.
The point of Bolton’s Op-Ed is that time is out, or is nearly out, and we must, or the Israelis must, bomb now and force regime change. This is also the point of his June 26, 2009 Op-Ed in the L.A. Times. It is the point of he made a year ago in a July 15, 2008 Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal. It is a point he has made frequently – and for quite some time. And every time he makes it, the “time is now” to bomb Iran.
In today’s twist, the time to bomb Iran is now because the uprising in Iran is over and, that the uprising occurred at all, simultaneously demonstrates: that the regime cannot be dealt with; that if we could deal with them, doing so would be an abomination; and in the uprising’s wake, no policy or regime change is forthcoming.
It would be a convincing argument, were it not nonsense. First, given that Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami have just gone out on a limb in open defiance of Khamenei, I think they would be surprised to discover that the uprising is over. Moreover, as Colin pointed out in comments to Kennedy’s post a few days ago, the 1979 Revolution took place over more than a year and experienced periods of relative quiet; I am not yet willing to declare this uprising over.
Leaving aside the relatively difficult question of whether the Iranian uprising continues, we are left with this notion that the regime can’t be dealt with, that dealing with it would be an abomination, and that no regime or policy change is forthcoming. As I argued here, it may well be an abomination to negotiate with the Iranian regime in the wake of its crackdown but the crackdown itself changes nothing of the essential calculus governing Iran’s relationships with the United States, Israel and the rest of the world. Iran is and remains a rational actor, self-interested state. Khamenei remains a leader that seeks, at bottom, the preservation of his position and his system of government. Such regimes can be dealt with, have been dealt with, and indeed are the basis for traditional realism.
Finally, Bolton seems to still be gripped with the delusions that pervaded neoconservative circles before the invasion of Iraq. He seems to suggest that a newly installed regime will give up Iran’s nuclear program simply by virtue of it being a new regime. He also explicitly suggests that a public diplomacy campaign will convince the Iranians not to hate us for bombing them. Like the idea that the Iraqi people would greet the US invasion with cheers and roses, this argument ignores Iranian nationalism. It also ignores history. Iran did not begin its nuclear program under the current regime. No, Iran first started its nuclear program under the Shah. Khomeini initially gave up the quest for the bomb, believing it to be anti-Islamic. The current regime began the program in the wake of the devastating Imposed War. Never mind that every nation is entitled to the pursuit of nuclear power – as opposed to nuclear weapons – under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.