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Mares: The Intervention Debate

05/10/12 5:55PM By Bill Mares
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(Host) Pressure is mounting for collective military intervention in Syria and Iran. But writer and commentator Bill Mares is a former teacher and state legislator who thinks that Americans must first determine whether or not this kind of action would be truly in our national interest.

(Mares) Back when I taught American foreign policy to high school students, we began the first day of class by trying to define our country's national interest. In language that anyone could understand, we broke the concept down into three parts: economic, ideological and strategic or military.

In the last ten years, we've fought two wars, spent millions of dollars, and lost thousands of lives. We're still emerging from the worst recession since the Great Depression, with our human and physical infrastructure hollowed out like a Halloween pumpkin. We like to consider ourselves the one remaining superpower, but many think we're increasingly beginning to resemble the description of the Soviet Union in its twilight: Burkino Faso with rockets.

That doesn't seem to bother war hawks like Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman. To them, a Syrian intervention would be just another regime-change, like the ones that toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Moammar Kadafi in Libya. At the same time, some Israeli leaders and their supporters in the U.S. are promoting a preemptive strike against Iran to forestall its nuclear arms program.

I worry that from an economic standpoint, a U.S. attack on Iran would send oil prices sky high, kill our fragile economic recovery, and harm the entire global economy. And I think it's ironic that many of the people yelling loudest for an attack are also pounding President Obama for not keeping oil prices low - as if he had that power to begin with.

Ideologically, such an attack would be simplicity itself - the Great Satan against one of the Axes of Evil. But then why not attack North Korea, which actually has the bomb?

Meanwhile, as syndicated columnist William Pfaff writes, "Israel's political right, chiefly the Likud party and the settlement parties with their supporters in America, is now politically dominant in Israel. He also writesIt apparently has two goals: the destruction of Iran as a major military power, so as to preserve Israel's regional military supremacy; and the effective annexation of what remains of Palestine. This cannot be achieved peacefully." End quote.

If Israel wants to attack Iran, we can't prevent them. But I question whether we should join them. Containment worked during the Cold War because of the concept of mutually assured destruction. Iranians know an attack on Israel would be suicidal.

If it is determined that military intervention is in our national interest, we would still have to decide whether to take action in cooperation with the United Nations and other international coalitions - or act unilaterally, as many interventionists advocate.

It seems to me we should not out-source the question of what's in our national interest to another country.

In short, we need to decide if we have a dog in this fight - or not.


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