There have been a lot of questionable reflections on the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq. The most egregious was probably this tweet from Donald Rumsfeld, which served as a reminder to be thankful that he is no longer in government.
Unfortunately, our government still contains many people who are misinterpreting or outright ignoring the lessons of the Iraq war. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), one of the lead sponsors of a dangerous new bill on Iran, provides a prime example.
Sen. Menendez is one of the lead sponsors of a bill that could lay the groundwork for war by pledging military, economic and diplomatic support for a hypothetical Israeli attack on Iran. As I’ve written before, this comes as part of a pattern of hostile actions by Congress of the type that can lead up to military action. It’s mind-blowing that Menendez would claim that this is based on lessons learned from a disastrous war, rather than fitting right into the same shortsighted pattern fueled by misinformation and fear-mongering.
Menendez is right to raise the questions that must be raised before starting a war but were ignored before the war in Iraq:
Third, use of force is deadly serious business. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, and we cannot make assumptions about best-case scenarios. In Iraq, we learned that lesson the hard way as misplaced hopes about being “greeted as liberators” and “Mission Accomplished” gave way to a decade-long war that took the lives of more than 4,400 of our brave fighting men and women and cost as much as $2 trillion.
If we are compelled to take military action against Iran, we must establish clear and achievable objectives. We must weigh the risks alongside our interests. We must have a realistic exit strategy. We must have strong support from the American people. And, above all, we must exhaust all other options before contemplating the use of force.
However, he quickly abandons that cautious note by implying that force against Iran might be an appropriate response in this case:
Iran is a different story. While the lessons of Iraq should teach us to be wary, we should not withhold reasonable action until it is too late. The International Atomic Energy Agency has thoroughly documented Iran’s dangerous and growing nuclear program. The centrifuges are spinning, and the window for a diplomatic solution is closing. As President Obama has made clear, all options are on the table.
Apparently Menendez missed DNI Clapper’s recent testimony (and what US intelligence has been saying for the last several years): they do not believe Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon. If that decision were made, we would know and would have time to act. Stirring up fear with images of spinning centrifuges and ratcheting up the pressure by pledging support for an attack is irresponsible. It’s even more frustrating when these moves from Congress undermine delicate negotiations that could actually make progress in resolving tensions.
It’s shameful to use the anniversary of a tragic war to push an agenda that moves us closer to what could be an even more devastating conflict. Congress needs to get out of the way and make room for diplomacy with Iran.