But has this policy, the diplomatic equivalent of shooting first and asking questions later, really resulted in the lessening of violent Islamic extremism in the Middle East? Though the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan went well in their early stages, it soon became clear that the plan for the reconstruction of those nations ignored the complex political arrangements lost in the simplified presentation of a single enemy in the case for war.
Now the same false premise of a monolithic enemy is again being sold in the case against Iran. The media always portrays Iran as a monolithic Islamic regime under the firm rule of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yet Ahmadinejad is himself the target of aggressive censorship by Iran's supreme religious leaders, who openly regard him as a political rival. [See New York Times' article here]
Ignoring Iranís internal political conflicts allows the certain assumption that Iran would embark on a suicidal mission to annihilate Israel. Against this view, informed officials see the motives of the Iranian regime as more nuanced. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently stated in an interview that he believes Iran to be a rational actor.
How can we learn the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan? Question our presuppositions of Iran's hostile intentions. We need to abandon the bipartisan policy of launching attacks against nations based on tenuous assumptions of their unified aggression and without hard evidence of the threat they pose.
Commentary by Christina Tobin, founder and chair of The Free and Equal Elections Foundation, a group whose mission in part is to actively engage the public in government matters.