Many opponents of a nuclear deal with Iran simply won’t come out and say what they seem to be constantly getting at: that the United States should go to war. Well, kudos to the hawkish opinion pages of The Washington Post and the neoconservative scholar Joshua Muravchik for making just that argument in Sunday’s paper. Muravchik purports to explain how negotiations will never work with a regime like Iran’s (“akin to communist, fascist and Nazi regimes”), and that attacking is the only way to forestall an Iranian nuclear bomb. It’s good to see some of these anti-diplomacy hawks have the courage of their convictions.
There are other reasons to welcome Muravchik’s salvo, too. It makes the case for war, yes, but that case comes off as so laughably weak that one wonders how anyone not already ideologically committed to the notion could be swayed into supporting it. That makes the particulars of Muravchik’s argument worth delving into.
But first a word on the man. A fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Muravchik has the biography of a neoconservative archetype, moving left to right through socialist youth groups, the Scoop Jacksonite Coalition for a Democratic Majority, then finally into full-blown neoconservatism. His current and former affiliations, accordingly, read like neocon alphabet soup, including groups like AEI, WINEP, PNAC and JINSA, among others.
And this isn’t Muravchik’s first rodeo. A board member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, he aggressively pushed war there after 9/11. Since at least as far back as 2006, he’s periodically called for war with Iran. At the end of that year—as Iraq spiraled into its bloodiest period of chaos—Muravchik published two opinion pieces, one in the Los Angeles Times that began with the breathless declaration, “We must bomb Iran.” The headline was half as long: “Bomb Iran.” He repeated the call in, at least, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2014.
The latest reprise of Muravchik’s monomaniacal aim, in the Washington Post, carried a bit of a different title: “War with Iran is probably our best option.” Probably? So we—with Muravchik, it’s always “we,” the collected national mass to be dragged along into his follies—ought to go down this path again because he’s pretty sure it’s best for us! War is supposed to be a last resort; that doesn’t mean it’s “probably our best option,” but that it’s our only one. (In 2011, in a USA Today op-ed calling for—you guessed it!—war with Iran, Muravchik concluded that “force should always be a last resort, but perfect certainty that nothing else will work only comes when it’s too late.”)