To bomb or not to bomb, that is the question. We all know what Old Man Cheney wants. And pre 11/7, he would’ve gotten his way–eventually. But given the Democratic victory, the old coot is losing some traction after finding that his former trenchmates like Rumsfeld, Cambone and Bolton have each resigned their commissions.
When I first read this passage from today’s Maureen Dowd column (TimesSelect membership required) covering the Gates confirmation hearing, I felt a wave of relief pass over me:
In a remarkable shift from the mindless bellicosity and jingoism of the last few years, Mr. Gates said he did not favor military action against Iran or Syria.
While what she said is literally true, her statement is far too categorical compared to what Gates actually said:
SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): …Do you support — now we hear all these rumors about the potential for an attack on Iran, due to its nuclear weapons program, or on Syria, due to its support of terrorism. Do you support an attack on Iran?
MR. GATES: Senator Byrd, I think that military action against Iran would be an absolute last resort; that any problems that we have with Iran, our first option should be diplomacy and working with our allies to try and deal with the problems that Iran is posing to us. I think that we have seen in Iraq that once war is unleashed, it becomes unpredictable. And I think that the consequences of a conflict — a military conflict with Iran could be quite dramatic. And therefore, I would counsel against military action, except as a last resort and if we felt that our vital interests were threatened.
So you see that Gates indeed does not ‘favor’ military action against Iran or Syria. But he does not rule it out either. Now, if Gates were an honorable man as Rumsfeld was not, one might be able to characterize Gates’ statement as a fairly strong indication that he would not support bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities. But as just about everyone but the neocon ideologues know, these are not honorable people, not by a long shot. And we simply don’t know enough about Gates to assume he is. We can hope. We certainly know he’s likely to be more honorable than his execrable predecessor. But will Bob Gates agree to a military strike against Iran? He seemed to indicate he wouldn’t. But what he actually said leaves far too much room for doubt. And Maureen Dowd, in this sense, did not do his statement justice.
Don’t you just love the vanilla understatement of Gates’: “a military conflict with Iran could be quite dramatic?” You betcha. Just look at what Hezbollah did to the IDF. Even if you argue that the U.S. could avoid many of Israel’s mistakes and neutralize advantages enjoyed by Iran on the ground, a military attack is gonna be damn dramatic. The Iranians will make sure of that. We can’t even lick a fragmented Iraqi insurgency waged by covert operatives. How do we think we can lick a country? Even if we take out their nuclear plant/s, do we not think there will be a price to be paid? There is always a price to be paid when you project your military power against such an ‘enemy.’