America’s itch to brawl has a new target – but bombs can’t conquer Iran

A post-imperial virus has infected foreign policy. We’ve been here before, we know the human cost, and now we must stop – Published on The Guardian, by Simon Jenkins, November 3, 2011.

This time there will be no excuses. Plans for British support for an American assault on Iran, revealed in today’s Guardian, are appalling. They would risk what even the “wars of 9/11″ did not bring: a Christian-Muslim armageddon engulfing the region. This time no one should say they were not warned, that minds were elsewhere, that we were told it would be swift and surgical. Nobody should say that.  

To western strategists, Iran today is exactly where Iraq was in 2002. The country posed no threat to the west. Yet “weapons of mass destruction” were said to be primed and had to be urgently eliminated. The offending regime could be subjugated by air power or, if not, by regime change. The cause was noble, and the outcome sure.

There any comparison ends. Iran is not a one-man, two-bit dictatorship, but a nation of 70 million people, an ancient and proud civilisation with a developed civil society and a modicum of pluralist democracy … //

… Revolutionary Iran should have been flooded with aid, trade and cultural attention. That is what happened in Pakistan and Indonesia. Neither is a model state, but they have a developed middle class and are not regarded as regional menaces. The US is not declaring war on Pakistan, though it and its nuclear weapons pose a far greater threat to America’s interests in the region than Iran.

Western bombs cannot conquer Tehran. America and Britain might be able to invade in sufficient strength to knock out nuclear bunkers, but they could not stop rebuilding, especially after a war that would radicalise the nation and make it far more antagonistic. The outcome might make Israel feel temporarily a little safer, but it would render both Israel and the west more vulnerable to terrorist and other retaliation.

A virus seems to be running through the upper echelons of Washington and London, that of a moral duty to wage war against perceived evil wherever it offers a bombing target. Anyone watching last month’s Republican primary debate in Las Vegas will have been shocked at the belligerence shown by the six candidates towards the outside world. It was a display of what the historian Robert D Kaplan called “the warrior politics … of an imperial reality that dominates our foreign policy”, a fidgety search for reasons to go brawling round the globe, at any cost in resulting anarchy. The spectacle was frightening and depressing.

British friends of America can see all the signs of another country in the throes of “losing an empire and not finding a role”, of a paranoid nervous breakdown. Britain has been there before. It should never go back. It has been warned. (full text).

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