Pipes: Bombing for Political Expediency

Islamophobe Daniel Pipes makes what has to be considered the strongest case ever (and in a manner entirely consistent with his and other hard-line neo-cons notoriously cavalier attitude toward violence and war) for bombing nuclear facilities in Iran in his op-ed on National Review Online Tuesday. Obama should do it for political expediency.

In a nutshell:

“He needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a light-weight, bumbling ideologue, preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations.

Such an opportunity does exist: Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapons capacity.

…Just as 9/11 caused voters to forget George W. Bush’s meandering early months, a strike on Iranian facilities would dispatch Obama’s feckless first year down the memory hole and transform the domestic political scene.”

Pipes argues that the present moment is especially propitious for an attack. In addition to averting the danger of an Iranian-delivered electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) “utterly devastating” the U.S., he claims that the intelligence community is about to reverse its main conclusion of its 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran suspended part of its presumed nuclear-weapons programme in 2003; that recent polling shows that a majority of the U.S. public supports military strikes to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; and that “If the U.S. limited its strike to taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities and did not attempt any regime change, it would require few ‘boots on the ground’ and entail relatively few casualties, making an attack more politically palatable.”

Pipes’ is the latest contribution to a roiling debate among neo-conservatives about what to do in light of the ongoing post-election political turmoil within Iran, a circumstance of which Pipes in his article curiously takes no account.

Indeed, one of the movement’s chief — albeit more moderate — ideologues, Robert Kagan, warned in the Washington Post just last week against a military attack (by Israel anyway) against Iran precisely because it would destroy the best chances for “regime change” in the Islamic Republic’s 31-year history:

“It would be …tragic if Israel damaged the likelihood of political change by carrying out an airstrike against Iran’s nuclear facilities in the coming year. That would provide a huge boost to the Tehran regime just when it is on the ropes — and for what? The uncertain prospect of setting back the nuclear program for a couple of years?”

(To which hard-liner and former Jerusalem Post editor Bret Stephens implicitly replies in his weekly Wall Street Journal column Tuesday, “Seven Myths About Iran,” that setting back the nuclear program for a couple of years is eminently worthwhile. “(W)hat’s wrong with buying time?” he asks, adding that the notion that the Iranian public would react to an attack by rallying behind the regime was yet another “myth.” He goes on to suggest that the regime could suffer the same fate as the military junta — much loved by the neo-cons at the time — after Argentina’s defeat in the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas War.)

In any event, the debate among the neo-cons is likely fleshed out at a conference here February 11 (not coincidentally, presumably, the IRI’s 31st anniversary for which the Green Movement leadership is calling for major public demonstrations) that will be put on by Kagan’s Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the successor to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Among those presenting will be Kagan himself, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI); Reuel Gerecht, formerly of AEI, now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD); and ret. Air Force Gen. Chuck Wald of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), who, apart from John Bolton, has become perhaps the most influential bombing proponent. Other participants include Mehdi Khalaji (whose father was just released after being held for nearly three weeks in Evin Prison in Tehran) of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the ubiquitous Bill Kristol who will moderate the panels.

Unfortunately, Pipes is not on the agenda.

Here’s the entire program:

Iran: Prospects for Regime Change

Thursday, February 11, 2010
8:30 AM – 12:00 PM
1777 F Street NW

The ongoing turmoil in Iran almost nine months after 2009’s fraudulent presidential election raises questions about the continued viability of the Iranian regime. With a new round of protests expected in the coming weeks, the Foreign Policy Initiative will host a half-day conference on “Iran: Prospects for Regime Change,” on February 11th, the anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Leading Iran experts will examine the state of the opposition and discuss U.S. policy options. With a growing consensus in Washington that the actions of the Iranian regime make a negotiated settlement to the Iranian nuclear crisis unlikely, this timely conference will explore the prospects for change in Iran from within and what the United States should be doing to support Iran’s democrats and resolve the Iranian nuclear question once and for all.

Please RSVP by visiting here.

8:30 – 9:00 Registration and Breakfast

9:00 – 10:15 State of the Green Movement

Reuel Gerecht, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Mehdi Khalaji, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Ray Takeyh, Council on Foreign Relations

William Kristol, The Weekly Standard and The Foreign Policy Initiative

10:15 – 10:30 Break
10:30 – 12:00 U.S. Policy Options

Robert Kagan, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and
The Foreign Policy Initiative
Danielle Pletka, The American Enterprise Institute
Gen. Chuck Wald (ret.), Bipartisan Policy Center

William Kristol, The Weekly Standard and The Foreign Policy Initiative

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. Since Iran has NO nuclear weapons, and no nuclear weapons capacity, what would it take “to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons capacity”?

    About as much as it would take to “destroy the nuclear weapons capacity” of, say, Lichtenstein, or Monaco, or Switzerland. Nothing at all, since these countries also lack nuclear weapons or the capacity to make them.

    There IS a country in the Middle East that really DOES have nuclear weapons, hundreds of them. And the name of the country starts with the letter “I”. But it’s not Iran. And it’s not Iraq.

    But you won’t find out the name of this country from Daniel Pipes.

  2. It’s fascinating, albeit a bit scary, to watch the neocons in action these days. Does Pipes seriously think Obama will bomb Iran in order to improve his poll numbers? Even Bill Clinton wasn’t that self-absorbed. No, the president isn’t going that route.
    So why Pipes’ editorial Hail Mary pass? Anybody have a guess?

    And fancy Robert Kagan appearing as the voice of reason!

    You gotta give it to the neocons, nothing stops them. There was a slight pause in their act just before the surge in Iraq, when the U.S. position there seemed about to collapse ignominiously, but now they’ve recovered that peculiar brio they like to exibit. If Iraq goes south in 2012 (with Tehran’s influence replacing Washington’s as it moves in to secure the dominance of the Shia), will anyone remember who started us on that road? Certainly the neocons will blame Obama for failure in Iraq; the question is whether the rest of the country will as well.

  3. “Anybody have a guess?”

    I’ll hazard one. The neo-cons are making too much money on war mongering, and it’s always about the money, right? With their lucrative no-bids in their pocket that their Lord and Master Dick Cheney established they couldn’t possibly care less how many decent people of any race die as long as their accounts continue to bloat. Because in their simple minds the number of digits in your account is how you keep score! “Oh look! I’m winning!” “But what about all those dead and maimed people?” “Oh those numbers don’t come anywhere near my score, so all is well.”

  4. Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and now Iran; can any but a fool not see that we are in quicksand? And for what reason are we going on? So that the hateful “settlers: can steal more land? So that Israel can become a full flowered genocidal apartheid regime? The neocons are radical Zionists. Their hatred of the Muslims will destroy America and probably the World.
    It is time to cut the Gordian knot – declare Israel a failed experiment. Let the Jews who are willing to live shoulder to shoulder with the Arabs, stay and live in Palestine. Give the Westernized Jews who will not assimilate, generous support to leave. Even if it costs us a trillion dollars, it will be a wise investment.

  5. This is a case of the baby (Israel) crying for the candy from its mother (US) again. It got a pretty good taste of this candy when it attacked Gaza a year ago and Lebanon before that. The Israelis were literally jumping for joy at the sight of the slaughter. They couldn’t get enough of it. They thought it was the greatest thing they ever witnessed. Now they have their sights set on Iran and the prospects of millions dying under bombs and missiles. They know that if they keep crying for it the mother will eventually give in as she has always done. The baby has learned its lesson well, but what has the mother learned?

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