Thursday, December 24, 2009

Worst Op-Ed of 2009? (updated)

I cannot honestly say whether this is the worst op-ed of the year, since I have not read that many, but it is very weak nonetheless.

It does contain the most questionable assertion/abuse of an analogy:
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.
 Iran is not Iraq, and it is not Afghanistan.  And the US ability to conduct regime change in Iran is pretty limited, given its existing commitments in the neighboring countries. And, if Iraq has taught us anything, it is not the first step that is the biggest problem but the next--what to do with a broken country?

It also contains the strangest assertion of the year:
(Israel could implicitly threaten nuclear counter-retaliation, but Iran might not perceive that as credible.)
Really?  Israel would not use nuclear weapons if a WMD was used against it?  This is an incredible threat?  Why should we believe Kuperman here?   What is the logic?  Evidence?  This major point is a parenthetical expression? 

The article basically says that the air strikes would probably not work,  but we should do it anyway.

Yes, political scientists should generalize from other cases, so there are lessons to draw from Iraq and Afghanistan for Iran, but perhaps the limits of military power might be one of them.

For a more thorough takedown and one in context, see Marc Lynch's blog.


paxamericana said...

This is pretty disappointing. I've read Kuperman's The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention and thought it laid out a convincing argument--or at least presented a useful check against the idea that an military force can simply swoop in and save the day without considering the logistics (and I'm someone who thinks we should have intervened in Rwanda). But this is just a series of unsupported assumptions strung together. Does he really think that that the NATO bombings in Bosnia is an apt comparison to a potential bombing of Iran? Are there a lot of neoconservatives at the LBJ School who have influenced his thought, or is this just bad cost-benefit analysis gone horribly awry?

Anonymous said...

I've known Alan for years, and this op ed took me totally by surprise. He's not usually one to be pollyana-ish about the efficacy of military force -- as pax notes, that's the core of his argument on humanitarian intervention. So how he now breezily says we could successfully bomb their program; that bombing would *help* the Iranian opposition; and that if needed we could just do regime change like Iraq/Afghanistan again (!!), I have no idea.