Real conservatives hate war. War is the most expensive activity the state can engage in. Its outcome is always uncertain. Only revolution is a more powerful agent of social and cultural change, change conservatives exist to oppose (and war may be a prelude to revolution). Large standing armies are both an enormous expense and a threat to the rule of law. No wonder Edmund Burke, when Parliament was debating a possible war in the Low Countries, exclaimed, “A war for Antwerp? A war for a chamber pot!”
President Obama was thus right in both senses of the word when he said on August 5th of his deal with Iran, “Let’s not mince words: The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some sort of war–maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.”
The President was right because, in the end, we have two choices: a deal with Iran, or war with Iran. There is no evidence we could negotiate a better deal than the one the Obama Administration got. All the (well-financed) debate you will hear and read over specific terms of the deal are irrelevant. If we reject it, for whatever reason, we are on course for yet another war in the Middle East.
If Congress rejects the Iran deal, Iran will see no path to removal of the economic sanctions that hurt not just the regime but the Iranian people. The Iranian public will agree with the radicals that American enmity is implacable. The regime and the people will come together in favor of a greatly expanded nuclear program, one that will include numerous nuclear weapons and delivery systems for them. They will be able to purchase both the know-how and the systems themselves from Noth Korea, which has them now and would probably be happy to sell them tomorrow. That could reduce Iran’s “break-out time” to weeks.
Given the (unwise) statements by American political leaders across the spectrum, including President Obama, that the U.S. will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, such action on Iran’s part would mean war. None of our leaders has the courage to say that an Iranian bomb is no threat to the U.S. and that we are not going to start yet another war on behalf of a certain small Middle Eastern country. The current leadership of that country and its agents here are always happy to fight to the last American soldier.
Some voices in Washington will argue that a war with Iran would be a naval and air war, which we could win easily at small cost. That assumes the Iranians are stupid enough to play our game. I doubt they are. We have thousands of American troops within easy reach of Iran, in Iraq and Afghanistan. One phone call from Tehran to the Shiite Iraqi militias would be enough to round up the roughly 3000 American soldiers in Iraq tomorrow and turn them into hostages. American troops in Afghanistan would be a longer reach, but one that would be easy enough if Iran were to make a deal with the Taliban, which so far it has fought against. An alliance with a lesser enemy against a greater is an old strategic gambit. The world’s oil supply would be another American hostage: plan on oil at $300 a barrel if you can get it.
President 0bama’s deal with Iran is right diplomatically and strategically. It is also on the right politically, i.e., it is conservative. No real conservative can want another Middle Eastern war, especially after we have lost two. That may point to the likely outcome of a third. The Pentagon has learned nothing from its failures.
Meanwhile, Jeb Bush just announced that he has learned nothing from his dumb brother’s failures and would like to repeat them. According to the August 12th Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jeb said he would fight ISIS in Syria by uniting
the moderate forces fighting IS in that country and for U.S. troops to “back them up as one force.”
“And we should back that force up all the way through — not just in taking the fight to the enemy, but in helping them form a stable, moderate government.”
Why not? It worked so well in Iraq.
Ironically, Jeb made his modest proposal of turning Syria into Switzerland in a speech attacking Hillary, who is equally enthusiastic about “humanitarian intervention”.
Obama has stayed out of Syria, except for the usual bombing, and out of other Middle Eastern wars, at least after the debacle in Libya. Perhaps he learned from that blunder. Bush, Clinton et. al. seem incapable of learning, even from many blunders. At least when it comes to questions of peace or war, Obama is the real conservative.