Duss: Joe Lieberman and What if Strikes Don’t Work?

At Think Progress’s The Wonk Room, Matt Duss has a post up about Joe Lieberman (I-CT)’s speech yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations about the next steps for the U.S. regarding Iran, namely, that the military option is a “real and credible alternative policy” to diplomacy and sanctions.

Duss writes that Lieberman ignores a central question in his push to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites: “It’s entirely unclear that the U.S. can, even if it decides to do so, stop Iran’s nuclear program through military means.”

When asked at CFR if he was suggesting the U.S start a third large-scale war in the region, Lieberman responded,”Nobody is talking about invading Iran” and that “we’re not talking a war.” Apparently bombing a country is not an act of war.

But Duss points out that a virtual conga line of top U.S. military brass have said strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities will only delay — not end — Iran’s nuclear program (emphasis in original):

As Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman General James Cartwright stated in testimony to the Senate Armed Services committee in April, strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities would, at best, only delay the Iranian nuclear program for a few years, while at the same time solidifying Iranian domestic support for the regime and removing any hesitancy that may have existed over the necessity of obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Gen. Cartwright was then pressed by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) on whether the only way to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear capability was “to physically occupy their country and disestablish their nuclear facilities?

Gen. Cartwright answered: “Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, that’s a fair conclusion.”

Gen. Cartwright’s comments track squarely with those of retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, who, in discussing the various scenarios and likely consequences of a strike on Iran, concluded: “If you follow this all the way down, eventually I’m putting boots on the ground somewhere. And like I tell my friends, if you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.”

Which brings us to Iraq and Afghanistan, two disasters for which Joe Lieberman bears as much responsibility as any American politician. As Eli Clifton helpfully points out, Lieberman is now simply repurposing his Iraq arguments for Iran. Which is, of course, what all the neocons are doing. (No, these are not particularly imaginative people.)

I might argue with Duss’s last point: Neoconservatives can indeed be imaginative when it comes to ways to sell wars, as well as in their overestimation of U.S. abilities to accomplish their ambitious goals for military action.

It appears air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities are for neocons the 2010 “cakewalk” incarnate to a “liberated Iraq” — that strategy of preemptive aggression sold under the pretense that the goals at hand can be easily accomplished and, as Lieberman appears to put it, the United States can “manage” consequences.

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Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.