Max Boot’s essay in the new issue of Commentary covers a lot of ground, including this statement of what-ought-to-be-but-isn’t-the obvious:
Syria and especially Iran have been waging a proxy war against the United States in Iraq that could well end with Iran as the dominant player in most of the country. By means of the Jaish al Mahdi and other front groups, Tehran is doing in Iraq what it has already done with Hizballah in Lebanon: expanding its sphere of influence. Why should Ayatollah Khameini and his inner circle voluntarily put a stop to a policy that appears to be achieving their objectives at relatively low cost?
Tehran might veer from its belligerent course if it feared serious military and economic retaliation, ranging from an embargo on refined-petroleum imports to air strikes against the ayatollahs’ nuclear installations. But with a few brave and prophetic exceptions like Senator Joseph Lieberman, who has continued to call attention to Iranian aggression, there is scant political support in the United States for such a tough policy, however justified it may be.
The key to stability in Iraq is deterring Iran from its present course. And while Boot is correct that there is little vocal support for curbing Iranian aggression, that is because the case has not been made for the necessity of getting tough with the mullahs –a case that begins with the facts about the number of Americans being killed by Iran.