A Not-So-"Convincing" Case For War With Iran

January 10, 2012 2:53 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Council on Foreign Relations fellow and Iraq War proponent Max Boot has been agitating for war with Iran for some time now. So it comes as no surprise that he's penned yet another piece, this one over at neoconservative flagship Commentary, in which he argues that "the most effective option is to use force."

Boot has correctly admitted in the past that such a move would only delay Iran's nuclear program by no more than a few years, but apparently that doesn't matter as much to him as showing the Iranians who is boss. (As many have argued, military strikes are likely to convince Iran that they need to fast-track their nuclear program.)

In this recent piece, Boot highlights an article which he believes to be the most "powerful," "detailed and convincing exposition" in favor of war. He writes:

In the pages of the latest Foreign Affairs, Matthew Kroening [sic], a former staffer at the Department of Defense who is now a colleague of mine at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues the case for air strikes. In the process, he knocks down pretty much all of the objections that have been made against them. That doesn't mean we have to strike tomorrow; there is still time for sanctions to work-but not much time.

Boot concludes, "I have yet to see (have I missed it?) an equally detailed and convincing exposition of the anti-bombing side."

Perhaps Boot should familiarize himself with one of the major search engines. If he'd done a simple search, he'd discover that in the weeks since Kroenig's piece first appeared on the Foreign Affairs site, there have been several articles pointing out the many logical inconsistencies, overly optimistic predictions, and contrived conclusions of this apparently "detailed" piece. (As for general arguments against the idea of bombing Iran to end its nuclear program, there are hundreds!)

As Foreign Policy's Stephen Walt notes, Kroenig's case for war is made by "assuming everything will go south if the United States does not attack and that everything will go swimmingly if it does." The National Interest's Paul Pillar is equally direct, pointing out that Kroenig's argument is "so far removed from anything resembling careful analysis that one would hardly know where to start in inventorying its flaws."

As we've noted here, Kroenig's entire premise is based on a false choice: Either we strike now or prepare for "a possible nuclear war" in the future. But that ignores the many other options on the table, including actual diplomacy, which has yet to be tried in any meaningful way. "The possibility of a diplomatic or containment solution," American Security Project's Michael Cohen notes, "doesn't really enter into the equation."

The most ironic bit comes at the end, in which Boot points out that the Kroenig piece he admires so much was published in Foreign Affairs, which, he explains, is "hardly a journal known for warmongering." That would be interesting, indeed, if it weren't the case that Foreign Affairs is published by the Council on Foreign Relations, the same outfit that employs not only Boot and Kroenig but also the likes of James Lindsay, Ray Takeyh, and convicted Iran-Contra felon Elliott Abrams. Like Boot, they have all argued for war. Even the president of the think tank, Richard Haass, a self-proclaimed realist, has written in favor of regime change.