In a clip from an appearance this morning on MSNBC, the New York Times op-ed columnist argued that the U.S. could just take out the Iranian Navy if it felt like it with no repercussions, following an attack on a Saudi oil facility that did not involve the United States whatsoever:
By the way, we should not rule out targeted military responses against Iran if they are proportionate and it’s clear that it’s an effort to change Iranian behavior. It’s happened before in the past, in 1987 we sank the Iranian Navy without any consequences for the United States. We could do it again. We could signal to the Iranians that we do mean business, but we’d try to do so in a proportionate way that ultimately leads to a new and better negotiated outcome.
This isn’t the first time Stephens has argued for this kind of retaliation either: In a June op-ed, Stephens cited Operation Praying Mantis (as the aforementioned 1980s attack was known) as a model for how the U.S. should respond to attacks on two Japanese and Norwegian oil tankers—attacks which Saudi Arabia and the UAE couldn’t prove were carried out by Iran. In other words, Bret Stephens knows exactly one thing about the history of Iranian-American relations, and it happened when he was a teenager.
First off, let’s revel for a bit in the irony of a man who thinks being called a stupid asshole on Twitter is exactly like being guillotined so nonchalantly discussing a military action which would result in the immediate deaths of actual people as a “proportionate response” to an attack on Saudi oil facilities that resulted in zero reported deaths.
Secondly, aside from the fact that Stephens is citing something that happened over thirty years ago as evidence that the same playbook would work again, he’s either conveniently forgetting or straight-up ignoring the fact that Iran was in the tail end of a full-scale, eight-year war against Iraq at the time, which it fought using weapons sold to it by the United States in order to fund the far-right Contras in Nicaragua.
The circumstances have changed quite a bit since then. But hey, what’s fair is fair: If Bret Stephens really wants to carry out an attack on Iran’s naval capabilities this badly, he should join the Navy and strap his pasty white ass to a rocket and go wild. Otherwise, he should stick to what he knows best: haughtily quitting Twitter once a year and being the largest producer of bird cage liner in the tri-state area.