We can applaud the White House for at last getting Moammar Gadhafi. His execution at the hands of Libyan rebels closes a dark chapter in history, one that saw the murder of hundreds of U.S. citizens — most spectacularly in the Lockerbie bombing of 1988.
Yet when one considers Gadhafi’s career of anti-American terror, a larger and even more dangerous assault on the United States becomes ever clearer: the Islamic Republic of Iran’s decadeslong war against America.
Given Tehran’s efforts the past several years in Iraq and Afghanistan, the clerical regime and its Revolutionary Guard cohort are likely responsible for more American deaths than Gadhafi. The White House is rightly proud to have brought down Gadhafi without risking the lives of American ground troops.
The administration believes Libya is a new model for projecting American power. "What we’re moving towards," says deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, "is a far more targeted use of force in which we apply direct power against al-Qaida and those who pose a direct threat to the United States and then galvanize collective action against global security challenges."
But that is not the way it is going to go with Iran. Instead, the United States is going to find itself in a large and destructive conflict with the Islamic Republic.
The plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in a Washington restaurant shows that the Iranians are getting bolder. But American elites have become even more elaborate in their efforts to explain away Iranian intentions. In effect, we’ve executed a disinformation campaign against ourselves, in which we keep saying the water that is about to come to a boil is only getting a little warmer. The Iranians, though, see it rather more clearly: The Americans have deterred themselves and will pull back even further once we have acquired the bomb.
Iranian aggression and American wishful thinking will bring not peace, but war. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will be furious when we finally take action against the Iranian regime.
The Americans did nothing to stop us before, they will rightly note — not when we bombed their embassy in Beirut and the Marine barracks, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not when we plotted to kill the Saudi envoy regardless of American casualties in the U.S. capital.
One day soon, however, the Iranians will cross the line, and America’s president will have no choice but to retaliate — even if the Iranians have the bomb. There won’t be time then for the "collective action" prized by President Barack Obama and his deputies. The time for collective action is now.
Collective action does not mean bringing the unmovable Russians and Chinese on board. It means going after Revolutionary Guard camps. It means destabilizing Iran’s ally Syria by creating a no-fly zone there that protects the Syrian opposition and helps bring down Bashar Assad.
Collective action means using every possible method and tactic to destabilize the Iranian regime by working with allies inside and outside of Iran. It means doing everything possible to ensure that Khamenei, stripped of his clerical robes, is the next Middle East dictator dragged from a hole in the ground.
Lee Smith is senior editor of The Weekly Standard, from which this article is adapted.