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The Foolishness of Pursuing Regime Change in Iran

A certain amount of danger is unavoidable in a multinational world. And the dangers of trying to achieve total security are the worst dangers of all.

Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/Polaris/NewscomNazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/Polaris/NewscomHearing American policymakers talk about regime change is like watching Wile E. Coyote open a package of dynamite he ordered. No matter how clever his scheme, you know that sooner or later, he'll get blown up. He never seems to figure out that TNT is something to avoid.

Some people in Washington are sick of trying to get the government of Iran to change its ways—which include financing terrorism, punishing dissent, and supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad. They have embraced another idea: Help topple the rulers in Tehran in hopes of getting someone more to our liking.

This is a reminder of the maxim that for many people, the only use of history is to disregard it. The United States has a long history of fomenting regime change in other countries—including Iran, in a CIA-sponsored coup in 1953—and the results have generally been calamitous.

Yet its appeal persists. While he was in Congress, CIA Director Mike Pompeo endorsed the removal of the existing government. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for a "peaceful transition" to a new regime in Iran.

Among those captivated by the idea is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas). He told Politico, "I don't see how anyone can say America can be safe as long as you have in power a theocratic despotism."

How could America be safe as long as Russia was ruled by a blood-drenched Communist regime that enslaved half of Europe and had the capacity to destroy us in a nuclear holocaust? Through a strong military, firm alliances, and a missile arsenal that ensured our capacity to destroy it in return.

The same approach that worked against a hostile superpower could work against a hostile non-superpower. But there have always been Americans who yearn for perfect safety.

It's a snare. A certain amount of danger is unavoidable in a multinational world. And the dangers of trying to achieve total security turn out to be the worst dangers of all.

It was not Iran that spawned the scariest enemy now on the horizon—the Islamic State group. It was the U.S. occupation of Iraq after we invaded in 2003 to, yes, topple the government. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were among those who thought America could never be safe as long as Saddam Hussein was in power.

As it happened, America was safer with him than it has been without him. The invasion bogged us down in a bewildering civil war that left 36,000 Americans dead or wounded, destabilized the region, and expanded the influence of ... Iran.

The theocratic despotism in Tehran is stronger today than it was in 2003. "Iran not only lost an enemy when Saddam was hanged, it gained an ally in the new Iraq," wrote Thomas Ricks, author of two books about the war.

It also came out ahead when we invaded Afghanistan to bring down the Taliban government, another enemy of Tehran. Our reward was the opportunity to fight a war that has lasted 16 years and shows no sign of nearing the end.

Regime change in Libya didn't go so well, either. Because it was hard to imagine that anything could be worse than the vicious rule of Moammar Gadhafi, President Barack Obama saw no downside in using air power to bring him down. But success was fleeting. Soon, Libya was embroiled in anarchy and overrun by the Islamic State, with repercussions far beyond its shores.

"The instability in Libya and North Africa may be the most significant near-term threat to U.S. and allies' interests on the continent," Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of the U.S. Africa Command, said in March. A half-million of the refugees flooding Europe came from Libya. So did Salman Abedi, who killed 22 people in a suicide bombing in Manchester, England, last month.

Faced with a perennially hostile government, our best bet is to use pressure and diplomacy to moderate its behavior—as Obama did with the Iranian nuclear deal. It's not ideal, but it's the best of our bad options.

Relying on any means short of war to overthrow the government has little chance of working. Military force might be more effective, but it would mean full-scale war in Iran. Even if we were to win, the outcome would most likely yield more chaos, conflict and terrorism.

As Wile E. Coyote could attest, it's one thing to light the fuse. It's another to escape the blast.

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  • SQRLSY One||

    Go Steve go! Good article, short and to the point, and accurate as all git out!!!

  • SQRLSY One||

    Steve could have made his article / editorial MUCH longer, just by going back in time, and showing the LONG-LONG history of this exact same thing... Meddling usually (always?) turns around and bites you in the ass!!!

    Grand champion of all time, for USA, was getting into WW I, for no good reason... Tipping the scales against Germany-etc.. Result? Pissing off the Germans (who got badly screwed at end of WW I), causing WW II then... WHEN will we learn?

  • Libertarian||

    When will we learn? My first pass guess is "never." We're meddling or have meddled in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. But the mind-blowing fact is that, as Chapman noted, we have already meddled in Iran!!

  • Teddy Pump||

    And so far in the BS War on Terror we have intentionally deposed the secular leaders Saddam, Qaddafi & Mubarak, who while no angels, were at least a bulwark against Radical Jihadists & a protection for Christians & other minorities!!....Assad is also a secular leader we are trying to get rid of!!

  • Bgoptmst||

    Interestingly enough, we had AQ on the ropes prior to the invasion of Iraq. Iraq galvanized the poor angry masses of Yemen, amongst other places, and gave them a convenient way to jihad. AQAP thus became a power because of our actions, and that is a fact largely lost.

    I'm over simplifying things here because our relationship with the Govt of Yemen and our actions in that country have been complex, but you get the idea.

  • Teddy Pump||

    You are right as rain here!!!

  • El Oso||

    Toppling the government in Iran and not a mention of the role of the Izzies?

  • Teddy Pump||

    The Zio-Cons are always lurking somewhere in the picture!!!

  • spqr2008||

    If the mullahs were to suddenly drop dead of acute lead poisoning, or a smart bomb down their chimney, I wouldn't cry about it. But it's stupid to pursue those ends through any kind of invasion or bombing campaign against Iran. Personally, I think we should develop Kinetic Energy Weapons, then deploy those as necessary to retaliate for terror attacks on U.S. soil (which frankly wouldn't be often, since most of the recent terror attacks were from U.S. citizens).

  • BYODB||

    Even a stick fits into the 'kinetic energy weapon' category, you know. Basically everything fits that description.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Stun Guns?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Orbital mass drivers?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Did you read the article? It was specifically about pursuing regime change via non-military means. Which is potentially a good idea if the alternative is a non-jihadist entity.

  • Libertarian||

    But you're forgetting that the people proposing regime change are *experts.* From a Thomas Freidman column in 1999:

    "Because his profit margins are razor-thin, Mr. Bowlin, like Amazon, needs repeat buyers. Amazon gets them by offering useful information about books. Mr. Bowlin does it by offering any government-certified nonprofit organization a donation of 10 percent of the purchase price of any book that any nonprofit or its members buy through him.

    So the next time your broker tells you that this or that Internet retailing stock is actually worth some crazy multiples, just think for a moment about how many Lyle Bowlins there already are out there, and how many more there will be, to eat away at the profit margins of whatever Internet retailer you can imagine. It only costs them $150 a month and they can do it as a hobby!"

    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/02.....onyou.html

  • Libertarian||

    OT. Anyone else hear that laughing? I think it's Ben Carson.

    "Waters also told the crowd that the next time Carson went before the House Financial Services Committee, she would "take him apart.""

    http://freebeacon.com/politics.....town-hall/

  • Rhywun||

    "Stay woke," Waters said.

    LOLOLOL... what's next - her summer music playlist?

    a hero to millennial liberals, who call her "Auntie Maxine."

    *Kiff sigh*

  • Jerryskids||

    "I don't see how anyone can say America can be safe as long as you have in power a theocratic despotism."

    You referring to Chocolate Jesus or Cheeto Jesus?

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    ^This +1000

  • Karen24||

    Considering Cotton's own politics he could be talking to his mirror.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    The politicians see the fallout from a disastrous intervention as a feature not a bug, provided they can engineer it so the stink doesn't land on them directly. It's not just "never let a crisis go to waste", it's "if we don't have a convenient crisis, make one".

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    As Wile E. Coyote could attest, it's one thing to light the fuse. It's another to escape the blast.

    I like the analogy, but it fails in one respect: Wile E. Coyote is the only one who suffers for his mistakes. Not so with our Dear Leaders; they suffer none of the consequences and indeed get benefits.

  • Karen24||

    Thanks. Attacking Iraq was quite stupid, but attacking Iran is several orders of magnitude stupider for the reasons stated here.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    That's. it what Chaoman's article is about. It is specifically about avoiding PEACEFUL regime change in Iran. So under Chapman's logic, even if a more sane and possibly even benign group got traction and were in a position to displace the current regime, he would ignore them and not help. Even if such help were merely words of encouragement.

    Another shit article by this turd. Fuck you Chapma..

  • Not a Libertarian||

    Through a strong military, firm alliances, and a missile arsenal that ensured our capacity to destroy it in return.

    Were Libertarians actually in favor of "firm alliances" during the Cold War?

    I also imagine that there apprehensions of a "strong military" as well.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    "Hearing American policymakers talk about regime change is like watching Wile E. Coyote open a package of dynamite he ordered. No matter how clever his scheme, you know that sooner or later, he'll get blown up. He never seems to figure out that TNT is something to avoid."
    To be fair, that was before Elizabeth Warren stepped in to protect consumers from Big TNT. I'm pretty sure the regulatory costs bankrupted Acme.

  • ThomasD||

    Hearing American policymakers talk about X is like watching Wile E. Coyote open a package of dynamite he ordered.

    Where X is equal to:

    Healthcare reform
    Welfare reform
    Criminal Justice reform
    etc.

    Government is inevitably about solving the problems government created.

  • BYODB||

    Well since 'real' Libertarians don't believe in borders, a regime change in Iran would really just be like ousting a Governor out of office since clearly Assad is within our one-world government that all real Libertarians endorse. We're well within our rights to bomb or shoot anyone on planet Earth since they fall within our jurisdiction. Is this not what 'no borders' means?


    /sarc

  • ThomasD||

    It is a curious sort of inconsistency that people so enamored of 'open borders' when it comes to importing labor get so hard lined about the exporting of other aspects of our society.

  • BYODB||

    If there are no borders, we are in fact obligated to remove leaders all over the planet who do not respect the natural rights of our citizens-of-the-world.

    Ergo, removing Assad from power is an obligation of all true Libertarians.

    I'm sure someone will come along momentarily to mouth some words about how I misunderstand the concept of open borders and what it would mean for the real world. I look forward to it.

  • ThomasD||

    Or why some 'libertarians' are all about a national UBI, because that is essential to human dignity, but aren't so hot on providing clean drinking water to the rest of the hemisphere.

    Because, apparently, that's a luxury.

  • BYODB||

    Yeah, it's bizarre for a group who believe taxation is theft could ever support a UBI. If you believe in the UBI, sorry, you ain't Libertarian. You're a god damn Commie. ^_-

  • mtrueman||

    It's not borders - rivers, mountain ranges etc - Libertarians oppose. It's that If you don't believe in the free movement of goods, people, and ideas across these borders, then you are something other than a Libertarian.

  • ThomasD||

    Clean water, or the resources necessary to provide such, are not a good?

  • mtrueman||

    Maybe you should ask an economist. My understanding is that a good is something in demand in the marketplace. The cleanest water in the world is the ice pack of Greenland. Without a demand for this water, I don't think it's a good.

  • ThomasD||

    "Because it was hard to imagine that anything could be worse than the vicious rule of Moammar Gadhafi, President Barack Obama saw no downside in using air power to bring him down."

    OK. I'm not sure if Chapman realizes just how bad this makes Obama look.

    Because, when considering a continent chocked full of failed states, quite often due to first world interventions, it would be monumentally idiotic to not see the potential downside from toppling an established African government.

    I also suppose having some personal knowledge of the nature of political instabilities in the region might have proved a benefit, but apparently I'd be wrong.

  • BYODB||


    Because, when considering a continent chocked full of failed states, quite often due to first world interventions, it would be monumentally idiotic to not see the potential downside from toppling an established African government.

    Yeah, stupid Russia getting involved in the Middle East way before we were. How dare they screw up the region! It's almost like this place has been involved in a proxy war between two major states for decades! Of course, we should studiously ignore the conflicts that have been raging there for hundreds if not thousands of years because those fit none of the major narratives regarding the Middle East on either side of the political spectrum.

    /sarc

  • mtrueman||

    ""The instability in Libya and North Africa may be the most significant near-term threat to U.S. and allies' interests on the continent," Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of the U.S. Africa Command, said in March. A half-million of the refugees flooding Europe came from Libya. "

    Iran is irrelevant to the issue of refugees from Africa, supposedly the most significant security issue the USA faces. As they say, cooperation and diplomacy will be needed rather than the usual aerial bombings. Over the last decade or so, Iran has improved relations with the USA, China, Russia, Iraq, Turkey, the Taleban and most recently Qatar. None of that will change USA's difficulties with Africa's refugees, but they've illustrated Chapman's point. One of Iran's major challenges is dealing with the smack flooding into the country thanks to the CIA and Afghan's entrepreneurial warlords. Closer relations with the Taleban seem to be helping their troubles.

  • BYODB||


    Over the last decade or so, Iran has improved relations with the USA, China, Russia, Iraq, Turkey, the Taleban and most recently Qatar.

    And yet, no examination of the how that's possible considering the incredibly disparate goals of each one of the countries you just mentioned. Interesting.

    What would you say is the common interest with all of those countries? Could it be that their interest involves a nuclear armed Iran? Naaaah. I'm sure Israel has nothing to worry about. While I tend to think that having nuclear weapons makes a country more sober in it's foreign policy and aggression, since that's been what we've seen thus far, I don't consider it a guarantee.

    What does a nuclear armed theocracy do, one wonders? Perhaps we shall see. Either way, it's not heartening that a theocratic form of government refers to the United States as 'the Great Satan' while forging nuclear weapons. It's even worse for Israel when the rhetoric coming from Tehran is...considerably worse than 'Great Satan'.

  • mtrueman||

    "And yet, no examination of the how that's possible considering the incredibly disparate goals of each one of the countries you just mentioned."

    Not all that disparate, they all hate America. That's all you need. If you have any evidence that Iran is developing nuclear arms, then you should contact the authorities immediately. From the CIA on down, nobody but neo cons and their stooges believe that Iran is secretly developing these weapons. You may have information vital to national security, so you really should consider sharing it. Not with me, or any Iranian, of course, but with true hearted normal Americans.

    "a theocratic form of government refers to the United States as 'the Great Satan' while forging nuclear weapons"

    Again, you seem to be claiming that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Assuming you are not simply parroting neo con talking points, and that you actually know what you are talking about, the less time you waste chatting on this board, the better. Contact your local representative with the information you have.

  • BYODB||

    Yeah, I'm sure that Iran only avoided all of the pesky requirements to report their Uranium related activities because they forgot that they were a part of the NPT. That's the ticket.

  • BYODB||

    Oh, and for the record I don't support regime change in Iran because I don't give a shit about Iran. Even if they end up making nuclear weapons, I'm pretty sure we can handle it even if they somehow manage to glass a city or two which is enormously unlikely.


    The thing is, for me, if you look at the available evidence it is more likely than not that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. If you don't believe that they want nukes, than consider we gave their Jewish enemies nukes. You think they're going to just let that stand and not pursue that option? If so, you are woefully naive.


    They want to wipe the Jews off the face of the Earth, like most other nation-states in the region, and if they want to accomplish their stated goal they're going to need nuclear weapons to make it happen. The Jews have already proven that their military is far more bad-ass and organized than anyone else in the area.

  • mtrueman||

    " if you look at the available evidence it is more likely than not that Iran is developing nuclear weapons"

    What available evidence? Is it something available to you and not the CIA who looked into the matter and found no such evidence. I really can't tell what you mean.

    If they want to leave the NPT to develop nuclear weapons, they can pull out easily just as North Korea did when they decided to continue their programme.

    And getting rid of the Jews in Israel doesn't require nuclear weapons. What Iran has stockpiled in perfectly conventional weaponry is adequate enough to destroy their airports and cities and send their population to huddle in bunkers or scurry back to Europe.

    "The Jews have already proven that their military is far more bad-ass and organized than anyone else in the area."

    Again with the neo con talking points. Israel was chased out of southern Lebanon twice by a militia without an airforce, without a navy, without tanks, nuclear weapons or American support. What they excel at is brutalizing a civilian population under its occupation.

  • Teddy Pump||

    I agree with U 100%!!!!

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Goddamn Mtrue, that is one skewed, fucked up fantasy world you live in.

  • Bgoptmst||

    To your point are the Iranians suicidal? A nuclear strike at Israel would be suicidal for the nation and people of Iran. The Iranians are good at playing brinksmanship, but over the last couple of decades they have stopped their provocations short of open warfare. Even when they were getting belligerent in Iraq (OIF) when SOCOM made it uncomfortable on the Iranians they backed off because they have no real urge to get in a conventional war with us.

    Evidentially, their Revolutionary guard doesn't like no-knock raids in the middle of night.

  • Teddy Pump||

    Qaddafi had to assassinated because he was going to create a Pan-African currency backed by Gold & thus, HildaBeast lied about a humanitarian crisis there as a reason to bomb Libya....Benghazi was just a smokescreen, the real crime was her lies....Meanwhile, Klingon lackey Sidney Blumenthal was in Libya while all this was going on, trying to make moolah for himself & the Klingon Foundation once Qaddafi was gone!!!

  • Hank Phillips||

    Sounds like Steve just wants PEOPLE 2 DIE!

  • Bgoptmst||

    America would be well to take a Real Politik view of the world. I would offer chaos is the real enemy of freedom and open markets. There are plenty of despotic rulers in the world, but it is unrealistic to think that overthrowing them would cause strong democratic institutions to sprout up over night.

    We also need to remember we created Iran by keeping an unpopular Shah in power. Our leaders also need to realize that while ISIS is bad the results of Assad being overthrown aren't pretty (ie: Libya). The only winners in a war to overthrow Iran's leaders is the Saudis. If they are keen to do it then let them pursue whatever war they have the stomach for.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    Like Iraq under Saddam, Iran poses no danger to the US, but it threatens you know who.

  • Pyrrho21C||

    Excellent article, but note that dynamite is stabilized nitroglycerin while TNT is trinitrotoluene ;-)

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