Sunday, April 16, 2006

Richard Clarke: Against all solutions 

Kerry advisor and anti-terrorism expert Richard Clarke has an op-ed piece in The New York Times this morning that exemplifies what is wrong with the approach of most Democrats to national security. Clarke argues that any attempt to bomb Iran would backfire, in that Iran has many means by which it could retaliate, and that it is not at all clear that the United States could achieve "escalation dominance, the condition in which the other side fears responding because they know that the next round of American attacks would be too lethal for the regime to survive."1

Clarke's enumerated concerns -- they are all too familiar to anybody who has been reading the work of people who have been thinking seriously about the Iran crisis -- are valid, and they trouble me as well. The problem is that his essay does not say what the United States should do about the intersection between Iran's hideous government and its all-but-admitted nuclear weapons program. Not only does Clarke not say what we should do (as opposed to what we should not do, which he is quite explicit about), he does not have the stones to say that he thinks we should resign ourselves to a nuclear Iran and work on a plan to contain it.

Richard Clarke is one of the leading Democratic "experts" on terrorism, and one of the most visible credentialed critics of the Bush administration's strategy and tactics. If John Kerry had won in 2004, he would probably be on the National Security Council instead of writing op-ed pieces. We are entitled to know whether or not he thinks the United States can tolerate a nuclear Iran and, if it cannot, what we should do to prevent it.
1. Although off the main topic of the post, I note that Clarke proposes here a "straw man" objective against which all proposed policies would fail. The goal of escalation would not be to eliminate the regime -- at least I hope it would not be -- but elimination of the nuclear program and an agreement by the regime to an intrusive inspections system that would prevent its revival. By claiming that the target of American escalation is regime change, Clarke sets up an impossible objective for American air strikes. It is a disingenuous argument, and he knows it. He gets away with making it, though, because the Bush administration has at least flirted with the "regime change" rhetoric with regard to Iran, notwithstanding the urgings of the British and others that we back away from it. We have, in that we are now talking of "regime transformation," the term we use in North Korea. That language is code for advocating that the regime change its attitude, rather than its essential character or even the particular people in charge. Much as I would like to see the regime in Iran change, only Iranians are going to be able to do that, and I hope that the United States does not declare it as American policy.


By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Sun Apr 16, 11:03:00 AM:

Rush to war again, eh people?

It's fascinating that you don't spend much time exploring and evaluating how many different diplomatic tactics and strategies are available to us. We have the best diplomatic corps in the world, or at least we once did.

Iran wants a secure Iraqi border.
They want to keep the oil revenue flowing.
The gov't wants to maintain power.

There's a lot to work with here diplomatically, so why the rush to war? And don't quote me Ahmadinejad's rhetoric - I've read it. I know he's a scary dangerous man. And should diplomatic efforts fail, then maybe we can spend some time talking about military solutions. But the rush to war based on "Bush's" doctrine of pre-emption is zero-for-one.

So, to all you gung-ho fighting keyboarders, how about helping me figure out what the hell we're doing diplomatically over there?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 16, 11:04:00 AM:

It sounds like many in the West are already intimidated by Iran.

Please read our post on the subject:

Is Iran already intimidating the West?.

The Iranians can stop wasting money on their nuclear program; perhaps they are already achieving the intimidation they desire.


By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Apr 16, 11:50:00 AM:

Screwy, I'm not proposing a rush to war, and I don't disagree with Clarke's substantive criticisms, plus several he didn't name. But if you are going to reject one idea for dealing with Iran, you need to either propose another solution or declare that we will have to live with a nuclear Iran so we had better get to the task of figuring out how to deal with that eventuality. Clarke does neither and, to boot, he defines the theoretical objective of U.S. military action so totally that it could never succeed. It may be correct that the costs of air strikes would far exceed the benefits, but Clarke does not even say that. He just harps on the costs out of context, without considering the context. This is the kind of strategic thinking that we are getting from Democrats these days.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Apr 16, 11:52:00 AM:

Oops. I meant to say, "He just harps on the costs out of context, without considering the consequences of not acting."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 16, 12:34:00 PM:

"Iran wants a secure Iraqi border.
They want to keep the oil revenue flowing.
The gov't wants to maintain power."

You left out just one thing - they want to annihilate Israel and murder as many Jews as they possibly can.

Some people say this is mere "rhetoric". What, exactly, is the evidence to support that point of view? There is plenty of evidence that they mean every word they say. People said the same thing about Hitler, "just rhetoric" because that is what they wanted to believe. And no, Godwin's law does not apply when you're talking about people who have explicitly announced their intention to murder millions of Jews.  

By Blogger geoffgo, at Sun Apr 16, 12:39:00 PM:


I don't get it. If bombing their nuke facilities is an overt act of agression, against which the Mullahs will declare wat (AGAIN), isn't regime-change the explicit intent of the first act. Otherwise, you have Desert Storm redux.
It occurs to me, given all the splodeydopes worldwide that the mad mullahs have proportedly arrayed against us as retaliatory strikes, that we're facing another in for a penny, in for a pound scenario.  

By Blogger Harrywr2, at Sun Apr 16, 01:23:00 PM:

Could not the head Iranian Nutter's comment that "Israel is like a dead tree" be possibly(emphasis on possibly) the equivalent of "Castro has one foot in the grave".

I.E. We want Castro gone, but there is no need to actually take action.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 16, 02:39:00 PM:

"Could not the head Iranian Nutter's comment that "Israel is like a dead tree" be possibly(emphasis on possibly) the equivalent of "Castro has one foot in the grave".

I.E. We want Castro gone, but there is no need to actually take action."

Evidence, please, that this is anything but wishful thinking. One small difference: the people wishing Castro gone are not homicidal psychopaths on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 16, 06:12:00 PM:

I suppose that CLARK wants us to sit down and play a game of chess with them?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 16, 06:59:00 PM:

At the risk of seeming barbaric or simple minded, I suspect strongly that the only course of action that we can take that is reasonably likely to prevent Iran from accomplishing something truly appalling with nuclear weapons sometime in the relatively near future is to do something fairly appalling to them - something rather verging on genocide, with a fair bit of Iran rendered uninhabitable for a good long time to come. This is, to put it mildly, an unattractive option, sufficiently unattractive, in fact, that I rather doubt we would ever do it......at least in time to save Israel. Putting faith in diplomacy, unfortunately, strikes me as being somewhat, well, obtuse. Judging from past behavior, it appears rather likely that the mullahs and their creatures would simply say whatever they felt might sound good enough to our left to obstruct our right, do precisely what they like as secretly as they can manage, and then kill a bunch of people when it suits them to do so....and laugh at us, as well. After all, it's worked pretty well for them so far.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Apr 17, 11:55:00 AM:

At this point whatever Bush proposes the left will oppose, and take the other side of the issue.

Bush should simply propose the opposite of what he intends to do, get the Dems to take the bait.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Apr 18, 07:44:00 PM:

Hahaha! That just might work.

"The position of this administration is to allow Iran to get nuclear weapons, at their own leisure, as is their right as a sovereign nation."

Dems: "This administration is too soft on Iran, we demand action now! Fire Rumsfeld!"

"Sweet. Give me a declaration of war."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Sep 29, 12:59:00 AM:

Its sure a good thing we did,nt get KARRY THE SCARY in the whitehouse he would have us surrendering to the terrorists  

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