On the 30th anniversary of the ill-fated Soviet invasion of Afghanistan another lesson in armchair military sophistry graces the op-ed pages of the New York Times. This time around it’s not Benny Morris who is calling for military aggression against Iran to stop its nuclear program but another armchair general from the academy, Alan Kuperman. In his editorial titled“There’s Only One Way to Stop Iran”, Kuperman yells “Charge!” from the safety of his office at the University of Texas, Austin.
Kuperman claims to recognize the risks involved in the United States bombing Iran’s nuclear sites, writing: “[M]ilitary action could backfire in various ways, including undermining Iran’s political opposition, accelerating the bomb program or provoking retaliation against American forces and allies in the region.” But having acknowledged the potential costs of such a reckless, aggressive, and illegal military action, Kuperman then goes on to advocate just that: “[M]ilitary strikes could work . . . [and] Iran’s atomic sites might need to be bombed more than once to persuade Tehran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Citing bogus “lessons” from “history” and ignoring how real people in the real world respond to being bombed, Kuperman sees a political benefit in Iran in the form of a bolstered opposition movement resulting from the U.S. aerial assault. Kuperman doesn’t see Iranians responding to the bombing of their homeland by taking to the streets and chanting “Death to the Great Satan!” But rather, he sees grateful yokels outside yelling “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
In a fit of macho chest pounding Kuperman states: “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.” Which raises the question: Has Kuperman been paying attention at all to the course of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan? And if he has he should then explain explicitly (instead of implicitly as in this piece) if he truly believes that the United States could “oust” the Iranian regime “in weeks.” If he’s suggesting that outcome then he needs to explain exactly how the United States military would accomplish this feat.
Kuperman also suggests that the Iranians are already “aiding America’s opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan,” which is a novel interpretation of Iran’s relationship with the Shia government of Nouri Al-Maliki in Iraq, as well as the long history of bitter antagonism between the fanatically Shia Iranian government and the hyper-Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan. Again, one must wonder if Mr. Kuperman is paying any attention at all to the region where he is advocating the use of military violence as a kind of panacea.
More macho chest thumping follows as Kuperman writes that U.S. air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities would “remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate.” Here Kuperman’s recipe for success might require nothing short of the systematic, prolonged, and savage bombardment of a nation of 70 million people.
Kuperman never mentions the potential cost in civilian deaths in Iran stemming from such an assault that might anger the population. The air strikes Kuperman fantasizes about are so surgical and precise they won’t even skin the knee of an Iranian child.
And after urging the United States military to do the dirty work Kuperman believes there would be an international deterrent effect from the U.S. military aggression “because the American military has global reach, air strikes against Iran would be a strong warning to other would-be [nuclear] proliferators.”
Yeah, Alan, that could happen — but it also could create a strong incentive for other nations to get their hands on nuclear weapons ASAP to deter American (or Israeli) aggression like the kind you advocate.