As for the belief that sanctions, an international campaign of delegitimation and “shaming Iran by listing off its numerous human rights violations” would suffice to dissuade the Iranian leadership from proceeding on their avowedly determined course, the evidence to date does not seem encouraging. The mullahs don’t shame easily, especially as they are convinced they are doing the divine will. They are exceedingly adept at feigning negotiations to stave off international pressure. And with the assistance of Turkey, China, Venezuela, Austria and other culprit nations, sanctions can, to a significant extent, be circumvented.
Such impractical recommendations demonstrate just how far from reality our self-proclaimed experts tend to live. Or, for that matter, how far from Iran. As Philip Weiss points out in The Huffington Post, Pollack is an “Iran expert who’s never been there, doesn’t speak Persian, and has only dribs and drabs of Arabic.” He is, plainly, the kind of “Iran expert” who puts the farce in Farsi.
What we are witnessing here is a colossal bankruptcy of imagination coupled with an overweening arrogance and a pie-in-the-sky worldview. If Pollack and his professional kin are misguided, what they will see in the sky when they look up one day from their conference notes and briefing papers may not be pies. Perhaps it’s best not to promote oneself as some sort of “expert” or guru but to rely instead on cognitive depth, common sense and a reasonable alertness to the world as it is.
In summing up, Kay concedes that a punitive assault against Iran might be satisfying “on an emotional level” and “has the ring of moral clarity.” But, he continues, deferring to the forum’s chief pedagogue, Pollack “reminds us that all the moral clarity in the world doesn’t erase today’s military realities, nor the lessons of yesterday’s bombing campaigns.” Now what lessons might these be? one wonders, given the rather obvious objections to such timid and conventional thinking docketed above.
Is Pollock by some chance still stuck in Vietnam mode? But it was not the bombing campaign there that proved ineffective; the war was lost owing to poor planning, lack of will and domestic dissent. If he is thinking post-Vietnam, other factors should prevail. Operation Opera against Osirak is, as likely as not, what made Desert Storm feasible in the first place. Operation Orchard against Syria was a blessing to all, except Bashar Assad, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-il. And Operation Allied Force against Serbia, a bombing campaign that lasted several months, certainly worked well enough.
Kay concludes that, “as things now stand,” military action against the Iranian program “would do more harm than good.” This is no doubt yet another “sobering insight”—although not one shared by more credible authorities such as Reza Khalili, Emmanuel Sivan, Kenneth Timmerman, Frank Gaffney, chair of the Congressional EMP Commission William Graham, Ronen Bergman, author of The Secret War with Iran, and Louis Rene Beres, professor of International Law at Purdue University and author of Force, Order and Justice. These men do not give themselves airs as specialist virtuosos or policy wonks, but manifest variously as thoughtful, experienced and scholarly observers of a complex situation.
Beres condenses in two short sentences their collective position concerning the Iranian problem: “Tehran’s new nuclear status could coincide with an unshakable leadership belief in the Shi’ite apocalypse. Here, Israel would face… a ‘suicide state.’” And so might the rest of us. For a nuclear exchange in the Middle East may not stay in the Middle East and would clearly have incalculable repercussions.
Now this is a sobering insight indeed.