The latest upsurge in calls for military action against Iran began with a piece in Foreign Affairs by Matthew Kroenig, a former analyst at the Pentagon and fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, titled “Time to Attack Iran.” The U.S. should carry out limited strikes on Iran’s key nuclear facilities, Kroenig argued, and could “reduce the political fallout of military action by building global support for it in advance.” “By building such a consensus in the lead-up to an attack and taking the outlined steps to mitigate it once it began,” Kroenig wrote, “the United States could avoid an international crisis and limit the scope of the conflict.”
The Internet quickly worked its magic, as numerous writers dismantled the elements of Kroenig’s argument. Among the most effective and devastating rebuttals came from Kroenig’s own former Pentagon boss, Colin Kahl, who wrote that Kroenig’s “picture of a clean, calibrated conflict is a mirage. Any war with Iran would be a messy and extraordinarily violent affair, with significant casualties and consequences.”
Regardless of its weaknesses, Kroenig’s piece opened the floodgates to calls for military action against Iran. Indeed, in a great demonstration of the Overton Window theory, many advocates of war have suggested that Kroenig did not go far enough, and that we should not settle for less than the end of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This is not to suggest that debates over the appropriateness of military action should be the exclusive purview of the military. But when the overwhelming consensus among those in the business of war is that such action would have hugely negative consequences, that should tell us something. It should also tell us something when those who disagree do so entirely on the basis of best-case scenarios.
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