Jonah Goldberg

That's especially the case for our enemies and "friends" in the Middle East who are invested in the continuation of tyranny, terrorism and the status quo. It's not that the Iranian Shiite regime is particularly popular with Arabs or Sunnis or its neighbors in general. But the collapse of that theocracy at the hands the Iranian street would deal a crippling blow to Islamists everywhere, proving that what normal Muslims want is freedom, prosperity and normalcy, not righteous totalitarianism.

Moreover, Iran is Al-Qaida's best friend - and probably the Iraqi insurgency's, too. The Iranians have been sowing discord in Iraq since before Saddam's ouster, and an end to their mischief would go a long way toward stabilizing Iraq. It would also have a profound teaching effect on the entire region that democratic change is inevitable and that everyone should get onboard the freedom train.

There's no end to the potential upside to a democratic transition - even a bloody one - in Iran. The Iranians could no longer give safe harbor to leaders of Al-Qaida or support terrorist attacks on U.S. interests. And, oh yeah, it might stop Iran from procuring nuclear weapons.

It may be necessary to use military force to remove the nuclear threat from the Iranians, but it would be a colossal mistake for America to see the nuclear issue as the only thing driving American policy - or, for that matter, to regard military force the best tool of American policy. Critics of the Bush Doctrine and the Iraq war complain, almost entirely disingenuously, that Iran and North Korea were bigger threats to America than Iraq. That's debatable at best. What is irrefutable, however, is that Iraq was an easier target than either Iran or North Korea.

When the rebels attacked the Death Star in "Star Wars," there was a reason they attacked at the battle station's weakest point. Iraq was the Axis of Evil's weakest point. The hope for many of us was that toppling Saddam would set off a chain reaction that would bring the whole thing down.

That can still happen. Critics who lament "instability" in the Middle East miss the point entirely. Instability - the right kind of instability - is exactly what we want. The signs are that the Iranian regime is coming apart. Whether it's inches or miles from the tipping point is impossible to tell. But what is obvious is that without the West's active pressure on the mullahs, and even more active support of the freedom fighters, the tipping point may never come.

So please, start paying attention. I will.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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