Why we should not bomb Iran

[Counter-point: Why we should attack Iran]

In endorsing bombing Iran as a neat way to address Iran’s nuclear program, Matthew Kroenig makes the case that the theoretical nightmare of a nuclear Iran could be more or less eliminated, and that even if that can’t be fully accomplished, the bombing could buy time. But the logic of his argument does not acknowledge that the facts on the ground are not so clear.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran’s intentions with nuclear technology are not definitively known. Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Jan. 8, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made clear that he does not believe Iran is working on the bomb.

However, we do know, as Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in a recent column in The Atlantic, that a “potentially out-of-control conventional war raging across the Middle East” could “cost the lives of thousands of Iranians, Israelis, Gulf Arabs and even American servicemen.”

And that makes the decision against war a no-brainer. As Goldberg put it:

“Now that sanctions seem to be biting — in other words, now that Iran’s leaders understand the President’s seriousness on the issue — the Iranians just might be willing to pay more attention to proposals about an alternative course.”

That alternative course would be an attempt “to try one more time to reach out to the Iranian leadership in order to avoid a military confrontation over Tehran’s nuclear program.”

In short, dialogue.

The United States, to this day, has never attempted a true dialogue with Tehran. Even under President Barack Obama, all we have done is issue demands about its nuclear program and offer to meet to discuss precisely how the Iranians should comply with those demands.

That is not dialogue, and it’s not negotiation; it’s an ultimatum.

The one attempt at dialogue (i.e., a discussion that involves give and take by both sides) was initiated by the Iranian government in 2003. That was when it proposed, according to the Washington Post, “a broad dialogue with the United States … everything was on the table — including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.” In exchange, Iran wanted normalization of relations with the United States.

As is well known, the United States did not respond. Not a word. In fact, we chastised the Swiss intermediary who delivered the offer for having the temerity to do so.

It was the Unted States, not Iran, that spurned a process that could have led to improved relations.

Rather than diplomacy, we’ve pursued a policy of sanctions, which we escalate every time the war lobby demands them.