Liberal Hawks and Iran

Ezra Klein asks what liberal hawks actually want to do in Iran and castigates them for "relying on a different tactic altogether: sheer vagueness." Klein limits the available options to two: invade or ... not invade. Liberal hawks are dodging the question, he writes.

It's an axiom on the left today that the president wants to invade Iran; when the president scoffs at that idea, liberals rightly scoff right back -- why should they believe him? Liberal hawks profoundly disagree; they believe that the reality, whether liberal non-hawks accept it or not, is that a military incursion into Iran is extremely unlikely -- the Bush administration seems to have shorn itself of all those policymakers (John Bolton, etc) who advocate direct action, now. They believe that Condi has won the battle against (allegedly) the invade-Iran hardliners like Dick Cheney.

In a sense, those who believe a military confrontation with Iran as inevitable misses a major point. We're already fighting Iran -- in Iraq, as Iran funds and arms some of the Shia militias and manipulates the Iraqi parliament through proxies. Liberal hawks want to continue that fight. Stabilizing Iraq in this case is their first offensive maneuver.

Maybe vagueness is deliberate. The U.S./Israeli threat of military action keeps some European countries at least somewhat interested in economic sanctions. Carrot-and-stick diplomacy has historical precedents. Occasionally, it's in our interests to say one thing and do another.

Why not directly call for sanctions? Many liberal hawks are wary of economic sanctions because severe sanctions can tip the regime into chaos and profoundly alienate the populace from the sanctioners.

BTW: there may be other options. The Atlantic's Jim Fallows collected a bunch of Pentagon/foreign policy/military types and ran a war game about what the options were in Iran.

Fallows weighed in again with his own thoughts on Iran a few months ago: