In today’s Christmas Eve edition, the New York Times‘s editors have given nearly half a page to nuclear hawk Alan J. Kuperman to make a lengthy (and extremely misleading) argument that the U.S. should bomb nuclear facilities in Iran.
Is this our Happy Christmas gift from the NYT?
We have reached the point where air strikes are the only plausible option with any prospect of preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.
Kuperman takes for granted that Iran is pursuing the acquisition of nuclear weapons, though this claim has never been made by the responsible authorities at the International Atomic Energy Agency. But that is not the only way in which his article is misleading, inaccurate, and/or grossly irresponsible.
He does, in an extremely cavalier fashion, write that,
As for knocking out its nuclear plants, admittedly, aerial bombing might not work. Some Iranian facilities are buried too deeply to destroy from the air. There may also be sites that American intelligence is unaware of. And military action could backfire in various ways, including by undermining Iran’s political opposition, accelerating the bomb program or provoking retaliation against American forces and allies in the region.
But despite those risks, he then rushes to assure readers that,
history suggests that military strikes could work. [He cites the precedent of Israel's 1981 strike on Iraq's Osirak reactor, though noting that it did not immediately end Saddam's nuclear weapons project...] Analogously, Iran’s atomic sites might need to be bombed more than once to persuade Tehran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
As for the risk of military strikes undermining Iran’s opposition, history suggests that the effect would be temporary. For example, NATO’s 1999 air campaign against Yugoslavia briefly bolstered support for President Slobodan Milosevic, but a democratic opposition ousted him the next year.
Yes, Iran could retaliate by aiding America’s opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it does that anyway. Iran’s leaders are discouraged from taking more aggressive action against United States forces — and should continue to be — by the fear of provoking a stronger American counter-escalation. If nothing else, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the United States military can oust regimes in weeks if it wants to.
Let’s just look at the last two of those claims I underlined.
Firstly, where is the evidence that Iran is currently, as he claims, “aiding America’s opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan”? There is none. In fact, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the US and Iran are currently both acting on behalf of the same local forces– and against the same local forces– rather than confronting each other.
If the Tehran regime chose to take actions to oppose the U.S. mission or deployment in either country, the effects on the lives of American service members would be dire, indeed. Thus far, it has not. Kuperman, quite simply, either does not know what he’s writing about here– or else, he knows what’s talking about and is consciously lying to his readers.
Secondly, his argument that U.S. “can oust regimes in weeks if it wants to” (and therefore, that it could and should do so in Iran). Once again here, the guy betrays his gross ignorance and/or mendacity.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington’s wars of forced regime change were made possible only because of the Iranian government’s active cooperation in the project– as James Dobbins, Hillary Mann Leverett, and numerous other former administration insiders have made abundantly clear.
So if the current U.S. administration were to even contemplate launching a war of forced regime change against Tehran (which, by the way, I don’t think it’s about to do)– what external forces would aid it in the venture?
None… Except Israel. And that would really make the effort a winning one in the world arena, wouldn’t it? (Irony alert there, folks.)
Also, there is just about nothing Israel could contribute, either militarily or politically, that would provide any significant aid to a US military campaign against Iran.
Earth to Alan Kuperman: The US military and national treasury are already stretched to near breaking point by the ongoing deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. From where would you propose the Pentagon pull the extra forces, or the Treasury pull the extra billions of dollars, that would be required to launch a war of forced regime change against Tehran, as well?
And while we’re about it, how many of your own children or grandchildren are you volunteering to go and fight in these wars, Alan Kuperman?
Kuperman’s tagline tells us, quite amazingly, that he’s “the director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas at Austin.” But to my mind, this argument he’s making today poses a real and present danger to the American people’s real interests– in the Middle East region, and in the world.
(Oh, and despite that fancy-sounding title, let’s note that Alan Kuperman makes no mention at all of the one power in the Middle East that already has a large, very capable, and quite unregulated nuclear weapons arsenal.)
Kuperman’s arguments are, as I noted above, inaccurate and very, very dangerous. So why is the NYT giving space to this belligerent screed?
That, I can’t answer. I will note, though, that in the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq, the NYT as a whole– both the news and opinion sides– gave considerable support to the pro-war party. And afterwards, no-one there paid any professional price for the extremely misguided (and often actively mendacious) belligerency they displayed in the pre-war months. Judith Miller did pay a bit of a professional price for some of her actions– but notably not for the very shoddy and actively biased reporting job she did on Iraq’s WMD programs in the many years leading up to 2003.
And no-one else that I know of in the U.S. public domain has paid any professional price for all the work they did actively arguing for the invasion of Iraq, including by producing and peddling extremely skewed and ill-sourced analyses of the status of Saddam’s alleged WMDs programs that, after the invasion of March 2003, turned out to be just flat-out wrong.
That includes Alan Kuperman, among the many others who “took for granted” in those days in their argumentation the proposition that Saddam had a very active and advanced WMD program underway…. And thereby helped push our country into the invasion of Iraq that subsequently brought so much grief and loss to the people of both countries.
Maybe we should have had some kind of a nationwide process to hold accountable all those, inside and outside government, whose flawed analyses helped take us into that war. Such a process could have shown the way that “professionals” in so many walks of life here in the U.S. all collaborated in the project to push us into the war against Iraq.
But we never had such an accountability process.
At least this time, as the U.S. public ponders the question of “what to do regarding Iran”, let us not make the same mistake again, of listening to the advice and “analyses” that are coming from almost exactly that same, extensive bunch of belligerent characters once again.
If we do, this time around the negative consequences for our country would be 20 or 50 times worse.
Plus, the possibility of negotiating a real de-escalation of tensions with Iran still certainly exists. Our country’s interest lies in making a deep commitment to those negotiations.