The Buzz

Sugarcoating an Iran War

The March issue of Commentary contains an article on Iran that displays an internal contradiction so glaring as to be almost comical, except that it could be tragic. It says Iran’s policy “intransigence,” particularly on nuclear weapons, is “setting the stage for a military conflagration between Iran and the West.” This conflagration, writes author Sohab Ahmari, could be an all-out land invasion but more likely will be a “limited intervention aimed at delaying the mullah’s nuclearization drive.” Either way, he writes, regime change could be the likely result, a result he clearly favors.

Ahmari goes on to say that regime collapse in Iran “represents a historic chance for advancing democratic development there and, by extension, the wider Middle East and North Africa.” Sound familiar? Ah, yes, sounds like the run-up to the Iraq war. But Ahmari then goes on to demonstrate how the West can prevent the kind of societal chaos in Iran that emerged after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He concludes: “Provided the correct measure of Western support, however, Iran’s unique societal dynamics and history can help stave off some of the pitfalls of Iraq.”

Within a paragraph, however, he repeats: “The likelihood of an all-out Western land invasion aimed at toppling the mullahs is low. But a limited military intervention aimed at destroying their nuclear facilities may nevertheless precipitate regime collapse.”

So here’s the question: If “the West” avoids a ground invasion but precipitates a regime collapse through air strikes, how can “the West,” from outside Iran, guarantee a smooth transition to democracy following such a profoundly destabilizing event? Ahmari spins a scenario at great length on how this could be done, but it has the ring of wishful thinking about it. In fact, it can’t be done, as Commentary no doubt knows.

Thus, this seems to be just another example of pro-war commentators spinning optimistic scenarios designed to lull people into thinking that a war with Iran would be quick, smooth and painless. It wouldn’t be, and Commentary couldn’t make it so. And hence their call to arms, as this flawed entry attests.