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Pro-Con Case for Striking Iran Debated by GU Professors

March 20, 2012 – Two Georgetown professors went head-to-head yesterday in a public forum over whether the United States should engage in an armed strike against Iran, voicing the opinions they made in recent issues of the journal Foreign Affairs.

Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service sponsored the debate.

Matthew Kroenig

Matthew Kroenig

Matthew Kroenig, an assistant professor of government and a Council on Foreign Relations member, published an article in the January/February 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs titled “Time to Attack in Iran.”

In the article, Kroenig pointed out the dangers he believes are associated with a nuclearized Iran and called for a military intervention.

Pros vs. Cons

“A nuclearized Iran is unacceptable,” Kroenig said at the forum. “This could result in an escalation and eventually a nuclear exchange.”

In direct response to his Georgetown colleague’s article, Colin Kahl, an associate professor in the School of Foreign Service’s Security Studies Program, penned an article titled “Not Time to Attack Iran” for the the March/April 2012 issue of the same publication.

“In making the case for preventative war as the least bad option, Kroenig dismisses any prospect of finding a diplomatic solution,” wrote Kahl, also a senior fellow for the nonprofit Center for a New American Security.

Kahl said at the forum that Kroenig  “incorrectly characterizes the situation as grave and imminent” and dismissed his colleague’s notion that all other approaches have been exhausted, “leaving Washington with no other choice but to bomb Iran.”

No Good Options?

Colin Kahl

Colin Kahl

Kroenig did acknowledge that a strike would carry downside risks, including Iranian military retaliation and spikes in global oil prices.

The professor said, “we have no good options,” but argued that a U.S. strike against Iran is “the least bad option.”

Kahl said his colleague’s theory “ignores the severe economic strain, isolation and technical challenges that Iran is experiencing” and how those challenges are “regime crippling.”

He said these pressures eventually would entice Tehran to “return to the negotiating table.”

A Breach of Law

Kahl also warned that other countries could view a “unilateral preventive attack” as “a breach of international law” and “make post-war containment more difficult and costly.”

The professor said the Iranian threat is not yet “imminent” and until it is, “force is and should remain a last resort, not a first choice.”