Why is it that those wishing to see military action against Iran tend to end their analyses the moment the bombs strike the republic's nuclear facilities? This is somewhat reminiscent of the short-sighted planning that went into the Iraq war, which taught us that stuff happens as a result of our actions. The hawkishness of folks like Mr Bolton is based on the idea that Tehran is an evil, unpredictable forcefor example, Mr Bolton dismisses the argument that a nuclear Iran could be deterred because "Iran's theocratic regime and the high value placed on life in the hereafter makes this an exceedingly dangerous assumption." What, then, should we assume about the mullahs' response to a direct attack on their country? To use the words of Mr Bolton, surely pre-emptive military force (whether carried out by America or Israel) would set up another "stark, unattractive reality"the very real possibility of a regional war. Perhaps that does not tip the scale in favour of the largely-toothless alternative option. But it should certainly be part of the debate.
The neoconservative mindset is less concerned with real-life effects and consequences of actions than with the a priori ideological propriety of such actions. That was, in so many ways, my own profound error in the buildup to the Iraq war. I was far more content congratulating myself for the high morality of ridding the world of a monster like Saddam than examining the exact details of the WMD intelligence or the precise plans for occupying Iraq after victory.
I was thinking like an ideologue, not like a conservative. I have learned my lesson. But when, like Bolton, you are dealing solely with abstractions and raw force, learning lessons is for wusses.
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