WSJ's Bret Stephens Advocates Occupation Of Iran

February 08, 2012 4:28 pm ET — Walid Zafar

In his February 7th column in the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens, the paper's deputy editorial page editor, advocates bombing Iran's nuclear facilities. Stephens does not believe that a strike would end the country's nuclear program, as some hawks suggest, instead conceding that "a strike on Iran that sets its nuclear ambitions back by several years is at the outer periphery of Israel's military capability." He also acknowledges that many terrible things will happen if Iran is preemptively attacked but explains that those consequences are more of a reason to go big and aim for regime change. He writes:

[I]f Israel is going to gamble so much on a strike, it should play for large stakes. The Islamic Republic means to destroy Israel. If Israel means to survive, it should commit itself similarly. Destroying Iran's nuclear sites will be a short-lived victory if it isn't matched to the broader goal of ending the regime.

This morning, Stephens appeared on Fox News' Happening Now to talk about his piece.

STEPHENS: Israel should bomb Iran if it's going to strike decisively. If it's going to have a surgical attack that will set the Iranians back by six months or one year, then the question becomes, "Well, what's the point of that?" But if it's going to use a strike as a first stage in a broader program of regime change — joined by the United States — then that's worthwhile.


On Fox, Stephens went on to claim that "Iran, by the view of our own defense secretary, is within a year of having an effective nuclear capability," and added that the "window for Israel is closing."

But he wasn't being entirely honest. For starters, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have both said recently that they are unsure about whether Iran has even made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon. Stephens, who talks here about a nuclear capability, must understand that a capability is much different than having a usable device, much less a way to deliver it.

As has been pointed out repeatedly, a war with Iran would almost certainly convince the regime that it needs to turn its nuclear capability into an actual nuclear weapon to deter future attacks. In other words, the decision that hasn't yet been made by Iran's leadership will be made in the event of an attack. Stephens is advocating a policy that will make a nuclear-armed Iran a reality.

Stephens understands the holes in his argument, so instead he advocates for regime change. The only problem there is that the only way to achieve that from the outside is by invading the country and occupying it. Stephens doesn't use those exact words, but that's essentially the argument. It really is Iraq all over again.