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Editorial: Among Iran options, one makes sense



Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and embittered Republican, is a voice in the wilderness when it comes to America’s 21st-century military adventurism.

As chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, Wilkerson had a front-row seat for the “weapons of mass destruction” charade that sent American troops to fight and die in Iraq. He talks of that time like a man still in shock over a trusted spouse’s infidelity. But from pain grows wisdom.

Last week, Wilkerson sat down with the Monitor’s editorial board to talk not only about the mistakes of the Bush administration – mistakes for which America and the world are still paying – but also the alarming push for war with Iran.

The way Wilkerson sees it, the United States has limited options in dealing with Iran. One is to continue containment by way of economic pressure. Another is diplomacy, which is made more difficult by the behavior of letter-writing Republican senators and pro-Israel Democrats.

The third option, military action, is the one that Wilkerson wants Americans to think long and hard about before they buy what the hawks are selling.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican candidate for president, talks of the military alternative as a line in the sand that’s simple to enforce.

“If you cross this threshold, you will face military action on the part of the United States,” Rubio said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

He’s talking, of course, about bombing Iran. Wilkerson has a pretty good idea of how that particular war game ends. A bombing campaign would drive the Iranian leadership underground, where they would accelerate the nuclear program. Once that happens, an invasion would become necessary and the United States would once again find itself at war in the Middle East. But this one would make the Iraq War seem like a skirmish.

Five hundred thousand troops. Two to 4 trillion dollars. Ten years. Those are the numbers Wilkerson says Americans must accept if they want to invade Iran.

Rubio and others who wish to extract votes by way of saber rattling should spend some quiet time alone assessing Wilkerson’s warnings. He’s certainly earned that courtesy.

In 1966, while a senior at Bucknell studying philosophy and literature, Wilkerson quit college to pilot helicopters in Vietnam. He later went on to join the faculty of the Naval War College and the Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Va. He is now an adjunct professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

He is, in short, a man who understands war from every angle. He understands politics, too, and what is driving the hawkish Iran rhetoric: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the defense industry. They are whispering in the ears of politicians, and it’s not difficult to identify those who have been seduced by their words. They are the ones who send open letters to foreign leaders and act as though Iran is somehow less democratic than “friendly” nations in the region, such as Saudi Arabia.

To put it simply, Wilkerson believes that it’s important for the good of the world that the United States cultivates a meaningful relationship with Iran. You don’t need his resume to see that as truth.

The art of diplomacy has marked the forward progress of mankind since the first victim of the first weapon of war fell dead to the ground. Be skeptical of any politician who claims the path to peace must run through fields of blood.