The Corner

National Security & Defense

Force Should Not Be a Last Resort

In response to Pryor and The Bishops

Reihan, I was with you in this typically fine post right up to the end. But in your last sentence you state: “A military strike might ultimately prove to be our best or our only option, but as the debate over Iran continues to unfold this year and next, it is vitally important that conservative candidates make it clear that war is their last resort.”

I respectfully dissent. In 2005, the Bush administration embraced a European-led diplomatic strategy that seemed to imply military strikes were off the table in the near term. Iran is now on the threshold of nuclear weapons because of this catastrophic allergy to the use of even minimal force as part of a diplomatic strategy. At the risk of sounding belligerent, it really might have helped our diplomacy a bit if Iran had some reason to be afraid of our aircraft carriers. They have had none since 2005. And those things are really expensive. 

The war-is-a-last-resort catchphrase appears humanistic on its face. But in the 1930s, that did not turn out to be such a humanistic strategy after all, as Germany went about turning the straitjacket of Versailles into a position spring-loaded with overwhelming offensive advantages. In fact, that humanism got like 50 million people killed. Perhaps letting a bunch of messianic Islamist extremists assemble all the elements of nuclear weapons in the interests of humanism also risks turning out to be not so humanistic?

Candidates should on the contrary be making it clear that if they could do it all over again, they would not have embraced a policy of leaving force as a last resort.

Mario Loyola is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the director of the Environmental Finance and Risk Management Program of Florida International University, and a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute of George Mason University. The opinions expressed in this column are his alone.


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