Iran Blowback

Here’s a disturbing thought about the Iranian situation. Obviously any possible military action in Iran would be substantially easier, public-relations-wise, if we were able to do it with broad European support (operationally it might be more difficult). But place oneself in the mind of a German Chancellor or French President or–especially–a Danish prime minister. If a significant number of Muslims in Europe and the Middle East are willing to burn embassies and engage in widespead boycott activity because of a CARTOON, imagine what they’ll do when we do “two weeks and 4000 air sorties” of war in Iran. Whatever courage any of these Europeans might show in the face of such a possible response will, probably, dwarf that of leaders in the Middle East, whose regime control could be at stake. Apparently the US is relatively insulated from this sort of decentralized response–at least we have been so far–and this gives us much greater capacity to act purely based on military strategy. But we should add to Mark’s “what should the Democrats do” question–“given the probable blowback in the streets to an Iranian military action, should we even ask for/expect significant European support or cooperation?” Put another way–how much do Democrats really care about multilateralism? Is it a normative requirement of military action, as some in the party seem to suggest? Or is it just a matter of good manners between allies, that we should ignore when the political pressures facing them are more severe than those facing us?

My sense is that, for the foreseeable future, Europeans will get less and less willing to support us in actions like Iran, both because of the Iraq screw-up and because of probable domestic disturbance that will accompany their support. In short, we should count on this being unilateral–how does the Dem-blogosphere feel about that?

Author: Steven M. Teles

Steven Teles is a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of American Politics. He is the author of Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Politics (University Press of Kansas), and co-editor of Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy (Cambridge). He is currently completing a book on the evolution of the conservative legal movement, co-editing a book on conservatism and American Political Development, and beginning a project on integrating political analysis into policy analysis. He has also written journal articles and book chapters on international free market think tanks, normative issues in policy analysis, pensions and affirmative action policy in Britain, US-China policy and federalism. He has taught at Brandeis, Boston University, Holy Cross, and Hamilton colleges, and been a research fellow at Harvard, Princeton and the University of London.