On Tuesday morning, Americans woke up to the news that the U.S. embassy in Baghdad was physically assaulted and besieged — not by anodyne “mourners,” as the fine folks at The New York Times would have us believe, but by Iranian regime-supporting radical jihadists. The terrorists’ physical storming of the embassy was allegedly in direct retaliation for U.S. airstrikes conducted against Kataib Hezbollah, which is the Iraqi proxy for the broader Hezbollah terrorist group — itself a wholly owned and operated Shiite Islamist outfit of the jihadist Iranian regime. In many respects, Iraq is increasingly a mere Iranian satrapy.
Debate about how best to deal with the Iranian regime, which has been in a ceaseless state of war with the West since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, continues to percolate throughout American conservative discourse. Paleoconservative-leaning Buchananites, led by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, came out swinging hard against retaliatory American military action after the mullahs downed an American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in June. In September, the debate rekindled after Iran and its proxies launched an unprecedented attack against Saudi Arabian oil facilities. That Iranian attack against Saudi Arabia took place roughly a week after Trump’s dismissal of then-National Security John Bolton, who is famously hawkish on Iran.
The attack upon the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, much like the downing of the American UAV in June and the attack against Saudi oil facilities in September, ought to be viewed as the exhausted gasps of a regime that is truly hurting. Iranian inflation is increasingly off the charts and its entire macroeconomy is in a state of near-free fall, as the panoply of U.S.-imposed sanctions following President Donald Trump’s removal of the U.S. from the catastrophic Iran nuclear deal continue to hit the mullahs hard.
Many of those on the Left, such as Ben Rhodes — perhaps the single most emphatically unqualified person in the whole world to purport to talk credibly about the perils of the Iranian regime — would have us believe that Iran’s various attempts to lash out in frustration are the fault of the U.S. In peddling such utter tomfoolery, these capitulatory appeasers on the Left have found no shortage of allies among the ascendant forces of the isolationist Right.
It is important that conservatives get the issue of Iran right. And it is imperative that conservatives continue to properly view the Iranian regime as a uniquely evil geopolitical foe whose regional hegemonic ambitions and would-be nuclear program alike must be thwarted at every turn.
To be sure, it is long overdue for conservatives to soberly re-assess the inherently non-conservative intellectual hubris that undergirded much of Bush administration-era “neoconservative” foreign policy. But there is a very prudent middle ground to be attained, and the risk is increasingly greater than conservatives might overly recalibrate far too much toward the extreme isolationist end of the pendulum. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has called this hardened realism version of anti-Islamist hawkishness that of a “non-interventionist hawk,” and his approach is correct.
Friendly foreign policy 101 reminder:
Closely calibrated, narrowly targeted elimination of strategically threatening jihadist actors = GOOD.
Attempts to remake backwater third-world sharia hellscapes into Madisonian republics = BAD.
— Josh Hammer (@josh_hammer) December 31, 2019
There are a myriad ways that the U.S. could complement its crippling sanctions against Iran with closely targeted military actions in such a way as to be consistent with this thesis. Again, it is impossible to overstate just how pernicious the Iranian regime’s tentacles actually are. Over the past four decades, Iran has had its hands in more jihad committed against the West — by far — than has any other nation. The specific means by which the U.S. can, or should, push back militarily against Iranian aggression ought to be debated. But as famed Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz once said: First decide on one’s policy, then one’s strategy, and only then one’s tactics.
That was, is, and will always be sound foreign policy advice.
And it is crucial that an overarching policy of deterrence of Iran — by both financial and, if need be, closely targeted military means — remain the ultimate goal of American conservatives.