Matthew Yglesias points out that the Weekly Standard is gearing up for war with Iran. As he notes, the two articles he cites are a combination of fantasy (would air strikes actually destroy Iran’s nuclear program? No one knows. Oh well…) and insanity (thousands and thousands of people could die? Oh well…) But for sheer nuttery, it’s hard to top William Kristol’s editorial on the subject:
Given Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s recent statements and actions, it should be obvious that it is not “a sign of humanity’s moral progress”–to use Blum’s phrase–to appease the mullahs. It is not “moral progress” to put off serious planning for military action to a later date, probably in less favorable circumstances, when the Iranian regime has been further emboldened, our friends in the region more disheartened, and allies more confused by years of fruitless diplomacy than they would be by greater clarity and resolution now.
Virtually no one, of course, thinks it’s unequivocally moral or non-problematic to “appease the mullahs,” as Kristol terms it. The people making the case for engagement just think it’s the rational thing to do—the thing that will get fewer people killed and cause fewer catastrophes. (Plus, engagement is far more likely to help Iran eventually liberalize than bombs and sanctions will—we’ve seen how well that worked for Cuba.) Sometimes foreign policy just doesn’t have a “pretty” choice that will make everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. But notice also that Kristol says we need to act right this very instant. Bombs can’t wait. Yet right before that, he says this:
That action would be easier if the situation in Iraq improved–which implies an urgent push to make progress there, with the deployment of more troops if necessary. Planning for action in Iran would be somewhat easier if the president finally insisted on a far-too-long-delayed increase in the size of the military. It would be easier, too, under the leadership of a new, not-discredited defense secretary in whom the president would have confidence, since he has surely (if privately) lost faith in the current one.
That’s a nice fantasy. Set aside the fact that there aren’t “more troops” we can magically send to Iraq, and even if they were, they likely wouldn’t do much good—the ongoing civil war almost certainly isn’t something that “more troops” can quell. But how on earth would an “increase in the size of the military” help with Iran? Training troops and expanding the active service takes years and years. If we need to act immediately, as Kristol demands, then any expansion of the military is completely irrelevant. Iraq isn’t going to get better immediately. A newfound invasion force isn’t going to materialize immediately. I can’t tell if Kristol’s truly insane or just badly confused, but either way, it’s disturbing that this sort of stuff gets taken seriously.