5. Just a few — real — red lines. We also could accept the hopeless situation but silently adopt a few red lines that reflect only U.S. interests: Iran cannot have the bomb and should expect something quite bad if it is on the verge of a nuclear test. We ensure that Israel is well supplied so that it can continue its deterrence against its enemies. That is about it.
Our moral and occasional non-military material support would not be for a Middle Eastern general X, reformer Y, or Islamist Z, but simply for the idea of consensual government — not one-time plebiscites — and the rule of constitutional law. To the degree that this is absent, we would be indifferent to the country in question — not necessarily hostile, but non-supportive. To the degree that there is real progress toward such a goal, we would give encouragement and limited aid.
In this fifth option, we would expect the worst in a world of misogyny, tribalism, anti-Semitism, religious fundamentalism and intolerance, dictatorship, and statism. Meanwhile, we would ensure that our fiscal house is in order, become energy independent, and not promise any help we could not deliver or threaten anyone whom we are not willing to attack.
I think most Americans would favor this last option, but at this point a complete break from the dysfunctional Middle East would be a close second.
I suppose that destroying one of the two great well-springs of Islamic jihad assaults on America is right out, then? Bomb the Iranian refineries, destroy their military infrastructure, and drone the Mad Mullahs and their regime henchman into oblivion. The leaders and regimes who create and deploy Muslim jihadi savages against us pay no personal price for doing so. Perhaps we could change that.
And if we could set that example for Iran, it might serve as encouragement for their Sunni counterparts in Saudi Wahabbia to reform their ways as well.
If not, well, we have lots of planes, bombs, and drones. No need to risk boots on the ground if our intention is to punish and destroy, rather than impose a “democracy” nobody there seems to actually want.