Leading Foreign Policy Experts Conclude War With Iran Would Be a Grave Mistake

Over the last couple of months, more and more articles have appeared discussing whether Iran should be attacked. Based on consensus among security experts, international law theory, and recent history, there is zero genuine grounds for debate about this question. The answer is plain and simple: no.

In an op-ed New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof mentioned a couple of experts who have said attacking Iran is a bad idea. First, Michèle Flournoy, who just stepped down as the No. 3 official in the Defense Department said: “We are in the middle of increasing sanctions on Iran. Iran is already under the most onerous sanctions it has ever experienced, and now we’re turning the screws further with sanctions that will touch their central bank, sanctions that will touch their oil products and so forth.’’

Then, Anne Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor and former senior State Department offical in the Obama administration said, “I don’t know any security expert who is recommending a military strike on Iran at this point.”

Patrick Lang, a former head of Middle East affairs for the Defense Intelligence Agency, noted, “Unless you’re so far over on the neocon side that you’re blind to geopolitical realities, there’s an overwhelming consensus that this is a bad idea.”

Reuters concluded the same in an recent article: ‘’The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.’’

Besides the words of experts, a closer look at the debate that academics are having about what international law should look like for actors planning to wage ware on another country is interesting. The framework academics have focused their debate around is better known as the Just War Theory. A theory that specifies conditions if it’s just to go to war, sets conditions of how a war should be fought and how a war should be ended. The first element of the theory is also known as Jus ad Bellum, a set of criteria that are to be consulted before engaging in war. The essential six elements of Jus Ad Bellum are:

-       Is it a just cause?
-       Is it a proper authority that is starting a war?
-       Is the war fought with the right intention?
-       Is there reasonable prospect of success?
-       Is the war proportional?
-       Is it a last resort?

Listen to Michael Walzer, philospher and author of the book called Just and Unjust Wars


All of these questions are legitimate when you make the hard decision of going to war knowing people will die, children will die, and (families') lives will be devastated on both sides. None of these questions can be answered with a simple ‘yes,’ but they stimulate a healthy debate about the reasons for going to war. I do not think a lot of PolicyMic contributors can answer all of these questions at this moment and say: ‘Yes, let’s go to war, it is legitimate and just.’ At this moment, we are not able to answer most of these questions with an answer even close to a 'yes.' Waging war with Iran right now therefore will be a violation of the principles of international law. 

Experts say attacking Iran is not a good idea, IR theory shows why it's not the time to go to war, so what about history? If you watch the Bush and Iraq DVD called ‘How we waged war with Iraq with the help of Colin Powell,’ there is only one answer left: Waging war on Iran is not a good idea.

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Koen Machielse

Studied International Relations at the University of Amsterdam and Political Communication at the University of Antwerp. Interned in New York City where i wrote reviews of international off-broadway shows at a press office in Greenwich Village and worked for The villager, a community newspaper in lower Manhattan. I

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