In his article in the New York times yesterday, Mark A Heller points out that
This week, the European Union went to war against Iran. There was no formal declaration, of course, nor even any undeclared use of military force. But the E.U. decision to place an embargo on Iranian oil imports, ban new contracts, and freeze Iranian Central Bank assets is effectively an act of war and may very well result in the military hostilities that sanctions are meant to forestall.Barack Obama seems to be excited about that, and perhaps only because he thinks he has to keep up with a couple of his war hawk competitors from the Republican presidential race. A few days ago, Robert Wright wrote
Today President Obama was all aglow about the new sanctions on Iran announced by the European Union. Surprisingly upbeat for a man who is being led into war by his political opponents!
I can hear the armchair warriors (e.g., Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum) responding...now: "Well what's wrong with a humiliating, unilateral Iranian climb-down?" Nothing, except that humiliating unilateral climb-downs tend not to happen in the real world. For all the talk about how sanctions are supposed to bring about a "diplomatic solution," there has been little mention of a basic rule of diplomacy: If you want your demands met, you should give your adversary a face-saving way to meet them.
The United States gave no face-saving measure to Japan 70 years ago, and it got us attacked at Pearl Harbor. Heller says it is likely that
the military confrontation that many Europeans have sought to avoid will become unavoidable, even if Iranian decision makers do not delude themselves into thinking that they would ultimately prevail.
Before such courses of action are discounted as unrealistic scare-mongering or dismissed on grounds that they would be self-defeating, it might be worth recalling that Imperial Japan did not attack the United States because it was physically attacked by the United States but rather because it was being economically squeezed (as Iran may well be squeezed now) to the point where it felt that war was preferable to slow-motion strangulation. And it made no difference that many Japanese military leaders, including Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, chief planner of the attack on Pearl Harbor, believed that Japan’s ultimate defeat was foreordained.
It's much easier, after you've painted someone as less than human, to claim that they have no intention of having diplomatic talks with you. In this case, actually however, Iran does want to talk it over. Only one Republican presidential candidate--Ron Paul--has the sense enough to see and welcome this.
So far as I can tell, the position of...three [of the] people who might be the Republican presidential nominee [Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum] can be summarized as follows: (1) If Iran doesn't meet our demands we must bomb it! (2) We must make demands that are essentially impossible for Iran to meet! The rest, as they say, may be history.
If that's true, and if one of these three becomes president, it will have been very ironic that Newt Gingrich recently called President Obama "the most dangerous president in our lifetime."
The war between Japan and the United States was completely unnecessary. Hundreds of thousands of people unnecessarily died in the conflagration. A war between Iran and the West is equally unnecessary and would likely result in far more unwarranted deaths.