Thanks Michael for the thorough response. A couple of things: Since you say we can’t know when an Iranian revolution will take place (maybe tomorrow, maybe ten years from now) and presumably favor staying in Iraq even if one doesn’t take place, your de facto position is that Tehran represents a problem that can be managed in Iraq with various more strenuous measures. That strikes me as entirely reasonable.
Meanwhile, you should re-read the Tracinski piece. It attacks Rubin’s position and, implicitly, yours. Tracinski says that if you think Tehran is the root of our problem in Iraq–as you do–you should favor forcible regime change:
But these leaders have so far avoided advocating the use of military force against Iran. No one is willing to follow the implications of the big picture to the only rational conclusion: we are already in a regional war with Iran, and we need to start fighting it as a regional war. And the most effective place to fight that war is at its center, by targeting the Islamist regime in Tehran.
Instead, our current policy is a bizarre, irrational holdover from the Cold War. In a New York Daily News op-ed, for example, Michael Rubin assures us that confronting Iran “need not mean military action.” Instead, he advocates a policy of stronger words, from beefed up Radio Free Europe-style broadcasts to rhetoric such as the “Axis of Evil.” His most telling recommendation is this one: “Just as Ronald Reagan championed striking shipyard workers in Poland in 1981, so too should Bush support independent Iranian trade unions.”
Rubin is advocating a strategy I have called Cold War II: fighting Iran the way we fought the Soviet Union, through indirect battles against insurgent proxies (the real parallel between Iraq and Vietnam) and through moral support for Iranian dissidents. But this is brinksmanship without a brink. The reason we had to fight the Soviets indirectly was because they had thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at us. There is no reason to fear such an escalation in a battle against Iran. In fact, the gruesome irony of today is that Iran may soon be able to threaten us with nuclear weapons–but only if we continue to act as if they already possessed a nuclear deterrent.
The fact is that we are fighting the wrong war in the wrong place–though not in the way critics of that war complain. We are trying to fight a regional war by limiting ourselves to a local conflict–and we are fighting that war in Baghdad, when it has its source in Damascus and Tehran.
There is only one way to correct this massive strategic blunder–and that is to go wide.
Finally, I hope for a revolution in Iran too, but in the meantime we have to work in Iraq to tamp down the Sunni insurgency and the civil war, neither of which strike me as primarily Iranian-sponsored phenomena.