Paul Bonnifield: Statesmanship, not war
September 27, 2012
Placing the turmoil of the Middle East, especially Iran's nuclear program, into a high-profile political fracas is playing an extremely high-risk game with the nation's future. The Iranian question requires statesmanship, not military posturing. The recent moves by Israel's leaders to force the United States to establish a "red line" with Iran risks a full-fledged war. A red line simply is another name for an ultimatum. Surely it is not necessary to discuss the willingness of Iranians to commit suicide when they think it is necessary to protect what they consider sacred. They will not bow down before a military display by the United States. There is no question that they will fight to the death.
Iran has some very strong cards to play. Our economy, already under serious stress, cannot finance a long and difficult war that is likely to spread across a vast area. Armies marching and planes bombing quickly will draw Syria and Lebanon into open warfare with Israel. Egypt and Jordan will be forced to choose sides. There is no assurance they will join the United States and Israel. Egypt, with a powerful military, may choose to attack Israel. It will be all Israel can do to defend itself without American assistance. American troops will be tied down in Iran and cannot help unless the United States goes to condition of total war.
Russia will not sit idly and let the United States advance strong military forces on its southern border. Russia probably won't go to open warfare, but it will allow Iranian forces safe havens and military assistance. Iranians operating out of Russia would keep the war going for years. An attack by the United States on the safe havens risks war with Russia. Iranian forces also will find support among religious brethren in Iraq and Afghanistan. God only knows which side Iraq and Afghanistan will support.
China will not allow the United States to shut off its oil supply nor restrict its trade. The trade will include weapons. Rather than military action, China will apply economic pressure. Greater economic pressure on the United States would be tragic for America.
The unspoken question that must be considered: Is America willing to commit to a long, expensive and difficult war? The nation is weary of war. It is not willing to spend the next decade or more fighting another war. Enough is enough.
The United States has an obligation to Israel, and since World War II, the nation has proven it is willing to fulfill that obligation. But we are not obliged to risk destroying ourselves.
The complex conditions of Middle East diplomacy will not be resolved in 30-second sound bites in this year's political games. It may result in great harm to the nation.