Via Jenifer Rubin, I see this video of Barack Obama making the argument — popular in liberal foreign policy circles — that Iran does not pose a serious threat because it is much smaller and spends a tiny amount on defense relative to the United States. What Obama does not seem able to grasp, or at least doesn’t want to engage, is that in an era of asymmetric warfare, dramatic differences in size do not matter as much as they do when fighting a conventional enemy. On 9/11, 19 men armed with box cutters killed more civilians on American soil than the Soviets or Nazis did, with all of their weaponry.
Asymmetric warfare is especially effective at neutralizing size advantages when the more powerful country is civilized and seeks to protect innocent life. In a conventional war, Israel would obliterate Hamas and Hezbollah because it has a more advanced military, but when both groups are willing to launch rockets at Israel, hide behind women and children, and store weapons underneath hospitals, those groups remain formidable because Israel isn’t willing to indiscriminantely bomb those areas. And what better example than Iraq — where U.S. forces have been battling insurgents for five years — to demonstrate why size isn’t everything?
“If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn’t stand a chance,” Obama said. That would be absolutely true in a conventional war, and it would be true if America were willing to use its nuclear arsenal to level Iran, or at least use non-nuclear devices to carpet bomb its cities. But in reality, if Iran posed a serious threat and America tried to act, it would have to avoid using its most powerful weapons and be careful to prevent civilian casualties.
Iran is the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world. Right now, Iranian weapons are killing Americans in Iraq via insurgents and overrunning a U.S.-supported government in Lebanon via Hezbollah. They are financing Hamas, which threatens Israel, a nation that Obama has recently taken to calling an American ally. And all of this is without them having nuclear weapons.
Sure, Iran is unlikely to create a world without America or Israel. It’s not likely to be able to restore the Caliphate and turn the U.S. into an Islamist state. But it sure as heck has the potential to do a lot of damage in the process of pursuing its insane goals, even if its military is puny compared to the Soviet Union.