In Chuck Hagel, President Obama is appointing a vociferous and public opponent of any military strike to stop the Iranian nuclear program–whether by the U.S. or Israel. For instance in 2006 he said, “I would say that a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option. I believe a political settlement will be the answer. Not a military settlement.” Just last year he said: “There will be a lot of killing. These things start and you can’t control. They escalate. They always do and they always will.”
Contrary to what he said, a strike on Iran is indeed a “feasible” option (it could be carried out successfully either by the U.S. Air Force and Navy or by the Israeli Air Force), but in one sense he is right–both the U.S. and Israel need to think carefully about all the ramifications of a military strike on Iran are and act only if there is no chance of stopping the Iranian nuclear program by peaceful means. But here’s the problem: The only way to stop the Iranian program by peaceful means is to act as if you’re ready to go to war. Only then is there any chance of the mullahs giving up their nuclear-bomb project. This is in many ways similar to the paradoxical logic of deterrence during the Cold War–only by showing an absolute willingness and ability to wage nuclear wage could the U.S. prevent a nuclear war from breaking out.