Why are we talking about Syria when the real enemy is Iran?
Everyone agrees that a key central consideration behind an attack on Syria is the message it would sent to the mullahs in Iran. The idea is that weakness and fecklessness in the face of Assad’s barbarism du jour will somehow telegraph to the players in Tehran that it’s open season on building nukes.
There’s an easy solution to this quandary, and unlike hand-slapping the degenerates in Damascus it serves a clear American interest. Congress should authorize the use of force to topple the Iranian regime if it doesn’t dismantle its nuclear program.
A few cruise missiles taking out long-abandoned bunkers and empty buildings is not going to “send a message” to Assad, much less the mullahs. We might as well text him – you know the NSA has his number.
The problem with messages is that they are so easily confused. Anyone who has played “Telephone” as a kid knows that by the time it gets to the end, a message that starts out “Johnny has a red hat” will end up something like “Ted Kennedy stole my penguin.”
Now, complicate the natural ambiguity inherent in communication with layers of culture and language and suddenly nuanced, delicate diplomatic signals get wildly misunderstood. Ambassador April Glaspie thought she was subtly communicating to Saddam Hussein that America would be displeased if he violated Kuwaiti sovereignty. He took it as “Go for it” and pretty soon me and half a million other Americans were marooned out in the middle of the desert loading M16 magazines and getting ready to kick his tail back out again.
What message are the mullahs going to take from the President drawing a “red line,” followed by some threats, followed by a lengthy debate, followed by the President’s denial that he drew a “red line” in the first place, followed by close vote in Congress, followed by a few a few cruise? Probably not that screwing around making weapons of mass destruction is going to lead to their certain death.
So, why don’t we make that perfectly clear? Why don’t we authorize the President to go to war with Iran with the express purpose of deposing the sociopaths running the store? It sure beats letting a band of apocalyptic fanatics get nukes and stick them on top of missiles so they can launch the first strike in the final struggle to impose the caliphate with a nuclear detonation over New York City.
There is a huge virtue in clarity: “If you don’t dismantle your nuclear program to our satisfaction, we’re going to use all our diplomatic, informational, military and economic elements of power to ensure that you die.”
Well, maybe we don’t need to say “die.” The diplomats would balk at that – they hate clarity more than lawyers do. Maybe we could just say “depose, “ but we all know what happened to Saddam and Gadhafi after they got “deposed.” The mullahs have to have a pretty good idea what happens to people America puts its will toward driving from power.
All this fumbling about with Assad is just avoiding the real, and harder, issue. Sure, Assad is a creep of the highest order whose regime has been helping kill Americans since at least the Beirut Marine barracks bombing in 1983 up through the war in Iraq. It’s not a question of the morality or justice of attacking these punks. It’s solely a question of American interests at this moment, and with the opposition riddled with people just as bad as Assad’s bunch, it’s in America’s interest to stay out of their way as they battle each other. When Baathist fascists fight Islamofascists, the winner is the rest of humanity.
Focusing on Assad takes our eyes off the real target, and this uproar about sarin gas is a “Look, a squirrel!” moment that distracts us from the exponentially deadlier weapons of mass destruction the mullahs are assembling. Assad is merely Iran’s puppet, and we need leaders to take a clear-eyed look at the situation to figure out the real puppet master is, just like Vito Corleone did in The Godfather. Here, the mullahs were Barzini all along and Assad is just Tattaglia the pimp.
But whacking Assad, while satisfying and richly deserved, does nothing to advance America’s main strategic interest in the Middle East – the destruction of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its replacement with a pro-Western regime that is no threat to its neighbors.
It seems that a strike on Syria may well lead to a confrontation with Iran regardless, though when electronic communications carrying threats get intercepted and made public you have to wonder if the Iranians are trying to play us by sending a not-so-subtle message of their own.
But instead of shying away from a confrontation, we should forthrightly face our enemy. And Iran is our enemy – Iran has been at war with us since the hostage crisis of 1979. Except now, instead of dithering on the margins of our most dangerous strategic threat, we should tell Iran unequivocally that we are going to start shooting back.