Podhoretz vs. Will

The problem with George Will’s disappointing column on the deal with Iran is that it assumes Iran can be contained/deterred. Substantial evidence to the contrary can be adduced. Norman Podhoretz adduces some of it in “Strike Iran now to avert disaster later.” Podhoretz recalls:

As Bernard Lewis, the leading contemporary authority on Islam, put it in 2007, to these fanatics “mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already [from the Iran-Iraq war] that they do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. . . . They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights.”

Nor were the rulers of Iran deterred by the fear that their country would be destroyed in a nuclear war. In the words of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who brought the Islamist revolution to Iran in 1979: “We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. . . . I say let this land [Iran] go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.” (The quote appeared in a 1981 Iranian collection of the ayatollah’s speeches. In later editions, that line and others were deleted as Iran tried to stir up nationalistic fervor amid the war with Iraq.)

And here, speaking in particular of a nuclear exchange with Israel—that “cancer” which the mullahs were and are solemnly pledged to wipe off the map—is the famous “moderate” Hashemi Rafsanjani, in an Al-Quds Day sermon at Tehran University on Dec. 14, 2001: “Application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.” Mr. Rafsanjani, an earlier president of Iran, is the sponsor and mentor of its current president, that other celebrated “moderate,” Hasan Rouhani.

Podhoretz holds himself out as an advocate of the old consensus on Iran’s nuclear program holding (in the words of John McCain) that “the only thing worse than bombing Iran is letting Iran get the bomb.” Podhoretz does not mention George Will, but Will is definitely an advocate of the new consensus against which Podhoretz now contends:

Adherents of the new consensus would have us believe that only two choices remain: a war to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or containment of a nuclear Iran—with containment the only responsible option. Yet as an unregenerate upholder of the old consensus, I remain convinced that containment is impossible, from which it follows that the two choices before us are not war vs. containment but a conventional war now or a nuclear war later.

George Will has yet to make the case that Iran can be contained (deterred). He rightly places little if any credit in the agreement Obama has arrived at with Iran to do the job of containing Iran’s nuclear program. Will owes it to his readers to make the case that the mullahs are subject to deterrence as he uses the term.

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