Richard Holbrooke, former Ambassador to the U.N., and former Assistant Secretary of State to the U.S., spoke last night, November 27, at the Toronto Design Exchange and outlined the reasons he thinks an attack on Iran won’t happen on Bush’s watch.
Holbrooke was in Toronto by invitation of the Donner Canadian Foundation, which is connected in the U.S. to the Woodrow Wilson Centre. He was introduced by Allan Gottleib, former Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Holbrooke’s talk centered on the thesis that the Bush administration has made many mistakes in its foreign policy over the last seven years. On this point there was little disagreement among the audience on this point.
When Mr. Holbrooke addressed the issue of whether or not the U.S. will bomb Iran and its people he did not speak of this action in terms of the U.S. nation bombing Iran. He spoke of it in terms of the Bush Administration bombing Iran.
He then went on to list four reasons as to why he thought that the Bush Administration would not bomb Iran.
1) The nuclear installations, the putative causa belli of such an operation, are dispersed and built deep underground and so could not be sufficiently damaged to be put out of commission this way.
2) Much of the U.S. military is diametrically even vehemently opposed to embarking on a third "adventure" (Ambassador Holbrooke’s word) when the first two are far from over.
3) Such an attack may well serve to unite the people of Iran behind Ahmadinejad and thereby make the nation of Iran even more of a "destabilizing force in the region". (Again Holbrooke’s choice of words)
4) The U.S. would further isolate itself from the international community as Holbrooke
could not envision even a single one of America’s allies joining in such an action.
What he did not mention much less lead with was the following. Absent a Security Council motion legitimizing an attack on Iran such an attack would be a crime against peace. What this means is that beyond the immorality of such an act such an attack would be in violation of international laws to which the U.S. is signatory, and make the U.S. guilty of the supreme crime in international law: The crime of a war of aggression.
After this signal absence Holbrooke then went on to categorize Iran as "the most pressing problem nation" for the U.S. and the "most dangerous country in the region". He accused the President of Iran of being "the world’s most virulent anti-Semite" and a "holocaust denier", and he cited the Iranian Revolution as being a central cause for the rise of fundamental Islam in the region. He further accused the Iranian government of fomenting terror worldwide and of providing IED’s (improvised explosive devices) "that are killing Americans in Iraq".
One must assume that when Holbrooke is speaking on the record and for public attribution, as he was last night, he was choosing his words not so much out of a deep sense of personal belief as he is speaking so as to reflect the general/bipartisan consensus that exists in the halls of U.S. power.
JEFF BERG can be reached at email@example.com