Iran has been at war with America since November 4, 1979, when Iran seized the U.S. diplomatic mission in Tehran. Since then Iran has been behind numerous terrorist attacks, including the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 American servicemen, 220 of whom were Marines.
This was the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima (2,500 in one day) of World War II and the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the 243 killed on 31st January 1968 — the first day of the Tet offensive in the Vietnam war. The attack remains the deadliest post-World War II attack on Americans overseas.
Reagan's response was in effect the same as Carter's response to the hostage crisis: nothing. America continued its pragmatic policy of hoping to appease Iran and avoid war.
The war has continued to this day. In Iraq Americans are being killed by weapons provided by Iran. And yet, we continue to respond with the same pragmatic appeasement as we always have. Currently, our state department is hoping for a "diplomatic" solution with Iran. It seems that as long as Iran keeps the killing of Americans to an acceptably low number our government will continue to appease on a day-to-day basis.
Iran is the fountainhead of totalitarian, militant Islamic fundamentalism. As Leonard Peikoff put it in "End States Who Sponsor Terrorism,"
If one were under a Nazi aerial bombardment, it would be senseless to restrict oneself to combatting Nazi satellites while ignoring Germany and the ideological plague it was working to spread. What Germany was to Nazism in the 1940s, Iran is to terrorism today. Whatever else it does, therefore, the U.S. can put an end to the Jihad-mongers only by taking out Iran.
Only by ending decades of being a "paper tiger" by destroying Iran's regime of the mullahs will Islamic fundamentalists understand that we are serious about fighting back in the war they started against us.
When America invaded Afghanistan and Iraq after September 11, 2001, I supported those actions. Not only were the Taliban and Saddam Hussein dangerous, anti-American dictatorships, but by gaining Afghanistan and Iraq we would have Iran surrounded. We are now in an excellent strategic position to finish off Iran.
I knew that Bush's justification for attacking Iraq was a confused mixed bag. As Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute puts it,
U.S. troops were sent, not to crush an enemy threatening America, but (as Bush explained) to "sacrifice for the liberty of strangers," putting the lives of Iraqis above their own.
Unlike Mr. Journo, who holds that invading Iraq was worse than doing nothing, I held out hope that Bush would go on to attack Iran. That hope has now been crushed:
A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.
As Peter Baker and Robin Wright put it in the Washington Post, the NIE report is "A Blow to Bush's Tehran Policy."
The new intelligence report released yesterday not only undercut the administration's alarming rhetoric over Iran's nuclear ambitions but could also throttle Bush's effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency.
Norman Podhoretz notes that the report's conclusion is the opposite of what they concluded just two years ago. He thinks the intelligence community is being too safe in light of their embarrassing mistakes regarding Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. And worse:
But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations.
This report comes at a moment when the idea of attacking Iran was beginning to gain some momentum. As Robert Tracinski wrote on September 23, 2007,
For more than a year now, I have been arguing that war with Iran is inevitable, that our only choice is how long we wait to fight it, and that the only question is what cost we will suffer for putting off the necessary confrontation with the Islamic Republic.
Now, finally, there is evidence that some of our leaders are beginning to recognize the necessity of this war and are preparing to fight it. And so for past few weeks, as I have been documenting in TIA Daily, the newspapers have been filled with rumors and speculation about an American air war against Iran.
How is it that the greatest state sponsor of terrorism remains untouched by the "war on terrorism?" It is because America lacks clarity of thought about the war and is guided by faulty philosophical premises. This philosophic failure is not primarily the fault of the anti-American left -- if the right thought clearly and well about the war the left would be ignored and forgotten -- no, the problem lies with the Republicans who claim to be fighting terrorism.
60 years ago we soundly defeated fascism and left Germany and Japan free countries in four short years. That was before the rise of the New Left, altruism and multiculturalism. You could think of WWII as the last gasp of America's Enlightenment heritage of individualism and rational self-interest. Today we're incapable of fighting a serious war and doing what it takes to destroy the enemy.
This latest NIE report effectively stops our war effort as a result of our confusion of purpose. Imagine that Bush had said, "Saddam is a dictator who threatens America and we have right to destroy all dictators who threaten us. We will use Iraq as a base from which to destroy all states that sponsor terrorism." Everything would be different today. The UN would have squawked, as it is full of dictatorships that hate America, but who would care?
Instead, the Bush administration unwisely fomented WMD's as a cause of war in Iraq because it deferred to "world opinion" and wanted the UN to endorse the invasion. Bush set the precedent in Iraq: America would not pursue its self-interest, but would let the UN set the terms of the war. Since WMD's seem to be the UN-approved justification for war, a report that says Iran has halted its nuclear bomb program means the world would shriek if America now attacked Iran. Never mind that our intelligence is uncertain or that Iran might restart its program tomorrow.
What does this mean for the future? The enemy lives on to attack us another day. Sooner or later he will attack. As Andrew McCarthy writes,
Khamenei has reaffirmed that "Death to America" is Iran's motto, Ahmadinejad says a world without America is achievable, we have 30 years of evidence of the Iranian regime acting on those assumptions...
Iran is ideologically committed to destroying the Great Satan, America.
A liberal once told me that America must learn to live with terrorism as Israel has. To this altruistic liberal America seriously asserting itself and destroying our enemy was inconceivable. To the left our only conceivable future is one of long-term terrorism appeased by American sacrifice to the rest of the world.
I worry about what "learning to live with terrorism" would do to the American character. Cynicism and defeatism would spread through our culture as it did in the Hellenic Age and in the Roman Empire. I fear that mysticism would spread as Americans react to hopelessness in this world the way Augustine reacted to the sack of Rome.
[Augustine's The City of God] was written soon after Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. This event left Romans in a deep state of shock, and many saw it as punishment for abandoning their pagan religion. It was in this atmosphere that Augustine set out to provide a consolation of Christianity, writing that it was the City of God that would ultimately triumph — symbolically, Augustine's eyes were fixed on heaven, a theme repeated in many Late Antiquity Christian art forms.
Hopelessness and cynicism would be good for the worst elements of the right and the left. They would increase mysticism and religion; and they would play into the New Left's project of replacing America's heritage of individualism with collectivism and statism.
When you think of the long-term stakes in this war, it really would be better for us to take it seriously and win the damn thing. We cannot afford to "learn to live with it." Such a lesson would cost America its soul.
(NOTE: This was my 600th post.)