Neocon Scholar Says Highly Disputed Call For Iran War Stands Undisputed

Republished by arrangement with Think Progress

Looking back on the run-up to the Iraq war, neoconservatives and their allies in the Bush administration took heavy criticism for engaging in “groupthink” that brooked no dissent. Bogus charges of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs constituted the most glaringly obvious example of this foible. Now, with Iran in the cross hairs, a prominent neoconservative scholar is falling prey to the same problem.

In a blog post yesterday on Commentary magazine’s website, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) scholar Max Boot goes beyond simply ignoring ideas with which he disagrees, and informs readers that no such credible ideas even exist. Boot’s article, headlined “A Powerful Case for Force Against Iran,” picks up on an article from Foreign Affairs magazine, CFR’s bi-monthly journal.

Boot’s fellow CFR scholar Matthew Kroenig, in an article entitled “Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike is the Least Bad Option,” wrote that “a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat.” Calling the piece a “powerful and sober article in favor of bombing Iran,” Boot writes that Kroenig “knocks down pretty much all of the objections [to bombing] that have been made.” Boot’s approbation should come as no surprise, since he himself has called for war against Iran. But the most shocking part of Boot’s post was his concluding line:

I have yet to see (have I missed it?) an equally detailed and convincing exposition of the anti-bombing side.

There are plenty of examples of good articles laying out the case against war with Iran. Some demonstrate that, while Boot prefers bombing, the multi-lateral U.N. nuclear sanctions shepherded by the Obama administration have actually slowed Iran’s progress. Some give realistic assessments of just what the (limited) benefits of a strike would be. Others give sobering assessments of potential fallout from such a strike. Just yesterday, Dr. Adam B. Lowther, a faculty member at the Air Force’s Air University, wrote a long article against bombing.

But what was most stunning about Boot’s conclusion was that the Foreign Affairs piece in question faced such harsh criticism from a well-known international relations scholar that Kroenig felt the need to respond. Harvard scholar Steven Walt wrote on his blog at Foreign Policy magazine’s website that Kroenig’s piece was “remarkably poor piece of advocacy,” and from there picked it apart for maximizing benefits of a strike and minimizing negative consequences. The devastating critique apparently compelled Kroenig to respond on Foreign Policy, followed by a less-than-satisfied rejoinder from Walt. (Others have weighed in on the spat, too.)

How did Boot miss this exchange over the very article he’s hyping in a top-tier magazine covering his very subject area? Boot’s claim raises the possibility that he willfully ignores counter arguments. But his parenthetical interjection — “have I missed it?” — suggests either he’s incapable of using Google or his reading list simply doesn’t cast a net wide enough to catch articles that don’t fit his ideological predispositions.

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.