Railing Against the Pirates of Tehran

Fred Thompson (or, more likely, a staffer) made his blogging debut at Redstate yesterday afternoon, warning of the dangers of the propaganda victory Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got from taking 15 British marines hostage. He is disgusted with the weakness shown by the international community in this affair: “The UN Security Council summoned its vaunted multilateral greatness to issue a swift statement of sincere uneasiness. The EU, which has pressured Britain to rely on Europeans for mutual defense instead of the US, wouldn’t even discuss economic sanctions that might disrupt their holidays. Even NATO was AWOL.”

Yet, despite tough words about “pirates” and “Islamo-fascism,” Thompson offers little in the way of concrete policy.

We need to understand this and use every means at our disposal, starting with serious and painful international sanctions, to prevent Iran’s rulers from becoming the nuclear-armed blackmailers they want to be. Unfortunately, we are hearing demands that we abandon the people of the Middle East who have stood up to Islamo-fascism because they believed us when we said we would support them.

If we retreat precipitously, the price for that betrayal will be paid first in blood and freedom by the Iranian people, the Kurds, the Afghanis, the secular Lebanese, the moderates in Pakistan and the Iraqis themselves. And America’s word may never be trusted again.

Of course, nobody of any consequence on the American political scene is advocating the abandonment of Israel. Further, “serious and painful international sanctions” will harm Iran’s “educated and freedom-loving people” much more than the ruling regime. There are already a pile of UN resolutions making it illegal to aid the Iranian nuclear program, so it’s far from clear what help more would be.

The plain truth of the matter is that there are no good options here. Iran’s nuclear facilities are scattered and buried deep enough to make their destruction from the safety of a B-1 bomber virtually impossible. A military invasion would likely have more negative consequences for the region than a nuclear armed Iran.

So, beyond railing about how bad it would be if Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs got nukes, what to do? I’ve not yet heard or read anyone who has any good ideas. Fred Thompson included.

Judging from the reaction in the Right Blogosophere, though, tough but vague words are apparently quite appealing.

  • Ed Morrissey asks rhetorically, “could he have picked a better way to enter the race, as far as the conservative blogosphere is concerned?”
  • Kathryn Jean Lopez gushes that “you can’t help but be struck by how much like one of us Fred Thompson sounds.”
  • Don Surber: “Apparently, Fred Thompson is trying a novel approach to the 2008 presidential race: He’s actually going to stand for something. . . . Finally, someone in the race is saying what needs to be said: Ahmadinejad endangers the world. “
  • Kim Priestap has a long tribute to Thompson’s skills as a communicator.
  • Emperor Misha swoons, “Just imagine how inspiring it would be to have somebody in the White House with a pair. It’s been 19 long years since the last time that happened.”
  • Even the ostentatiously moderate Joe Gandleman is impressed, say “His post … needs to be read IN FULL.”
  • As a bonus, he’s making the other side mad. Mark Kleiman summarizes Thompson’s post: “He thinks it’s just awful that the latest hostage crisis was resolved without anyone getting killed.”

I realize that it’s still over a year and a half until the election and that Thompson isn’t even officially exploring his candidacy yet. Still, it’s impressive to get this much buzz out of a column that says so little. Red meat without any actual meat, as it were.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. don surber says:

    Thanks for the link. I initially thought it was staff-written too. But then he’s a lawyer. They tend to write well. Whoever wrote it: This needed to be said by someone in authority.

  2. Beldar says:

    A military invasion would likely have more negative consequences for the region than a nuclear armed Iran.

    Surely you jest.

    My working assumption is that if the Iranians get a nuke, they’ll use it. I’m not just worried about them using a nuke to ratchet up their regional leverage.

    You have a different working assumption?

  3. James Joyner says:

    You have a different working assumption?

    Yep. Remember, Joe Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Jong Il, and the Pakistanis had/have nukes. Nobody has popped one off.

    The mullahs may be crazy but they’re not irrational. Using a nuke would assure their destruction, as Israel or somebody will turn them into a glass parking lot. Short of using it, conversely, having a nuke increases Iran’s prestige and security.

  4. Anon says:

    Assume for the moment that this really was a PR/propaganda win for Iran. What I wonder about is: Do we care? Does it actually hurt our interests, and if so, how much?

  5. G.A.Phillips says:

    Have any of you ever read the teachings of Muhammad? Iran’s leadership are true believers and they must be stopped now. James, none of the leaders you have named worshiped a god that says the only way to become a true believer is to Kill the infidel in his name, it is the only way they can, all others fall short of the glory of their god.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Judging from the reaction in the Right Blogosophere, though, tough but vague words are apparently quite appealing.

    Ha! Nearly fell out of my chair on that one… you need to be more careful on Sunday mornings if you’re going to slip in stuff like that in your posts…

  7. Beldar says:

    Using a nuke would assure their destruction, as Israel or somebody will turn them into a glass parking lot.

    Israel would if it still could; we probably wouldn’t respond with nukes to an Iranian nuclear strike on Israel.

    But the real problem is that the currently rational Iranian leaders may become entirely irrational when they’re on the brink of being overthrown by the Iranian people. And using a nuke then might well cement them into power, if those leaders could avoid being cemented into the green glass over Tehran.

    Short of using it, conversely, having a nuke increases Iran’s prestige and security.

    Perversely, having a nuke makes it possible to use one, and encourages power-mad gamesmanship that might end up in it being used.

    More (respectful) dissent on my own bandwidth. Thanks for the thoughtful post, though, Dr. Joyner, and the prompt response to my earlier comment here!

  8. Mikey NTH says:

    Perhaps Thompson’s statement received such a reaction despite having no “red meat” due to the other candidates speaking even more and saying even less.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    James, you know that I agree with your assessment of the rationality of the Iranian regime and that I believe that (politically acceptable in the United States) military force against Iran would be unlikely to achieve much in the way of outcomes favorable to the U. S. However, there is one major problem problem with the theory that we share.

    Let’s say, hypothetically, that the Iranians are known with 100% certainty to have nuclear weapons; they’ve tested a weapon and invited inspectors to see the weapons they have on hand. Farfetched, I know, but let’s pretend. If Iranian President Ahmadinejad (or any other loudmouth in the regime), were to make noises about erasing Israel from the map of history or some such, the Israelis would have complete moral justification in launching a preemptive attack (including thermonuclear) against them. Knowledge of capability; reasonable knowledge of the imminence of an attack.

    An Iranian nuclear weapon in the hands of the feckless Iranian regime would put the entire region on a hair trigger.