Friday, February 10, 2006

The Iran Problem

This entry started as a response to Teo's comments on my previous Iran post, but grew long enough to merit it's own post.

To Teo's point I don't think I would say this is the straw, but I think it helps bring into focus what we are dealing with. Fanatics have controlled Iran for over 25 years and have committed numerous ACTS OF WAR against the United States with no response.

Iran shows no sign of moderating. Just the opposite. We all see the news stories of President Ahmadinejad increasing the rhetoric against the US and Israel. Iran has recently restricted the access of the IAEA inspectors.

Diplomacy has been given a chance and has failed. The west is going to spend another year going through the motions of diplomacy by going through the UN. Even if China and Russia don't block sanctions, there is nothing in Iran's recent history to believe sanctions will do any good. Iran was embargoed after taking the US embassy in '79, but pointedly did not change its behavior. The True Believers did not care about the standard of living of regular Iranians.

I think regime change is the ideal solution, but I don't think it is likely to happen anytime soon. There were some signs of moderation in the '90s, but the recent "election" was so corrupted it was meaningless. The mullahs have reasserted control.

The basic question we have to face with Iran is will we live with this government having nuclear weapons?

If the answer is yes, we bluster and go through the UN and do nothing.

If the answer is no then we have to either destroy their capacity or change regimes (or both).

Notice there is no good or easy option listed above. That is the reality we face.

Doing something means acting militarily. Obviously this is a tough road. There are two different military options, airstrikes and all out invasion.

Airstrikes:

Can we do enough damage in a sustained campaign over a couple of weeks to set back the program? From what I have read I think the answer is yes. There is just too much equipment needed to enrich uranium and keep all of it underground, as well and the power and utilities to run the operation.

The downside of airstrikes are the potential Iranian countermeasures. Terrorist attacks in Lebanon? Iraq? The US? What if they use the their silkworm missiles to attack tankers in the Straits of Hormuz? Do we bomb those sights. Limited invasion to secure the shores of the waterway? This could escalate quickly into full invasion and all out war. My guess is that the Iranians won't take a bombing campaign without retaliating, but it may be manageable.

Regime Change:

Do we have the troops to invade? Can we build a large enough coalition to get the troop strength? I suspect the answer is no on the coalition. No other army in the world has enough troops that are combat ready and deployable to make a real difference.

I have read one proposal that the mission should be regime change only and no reconstruction. We drive to Tehran, chase off the mullahs and leave. We would hope the younger generation that hates the mullahs takes over and moderates. It's an interesting idea but I would not support it. Leaving chaos behind would be terrible.

I firmly believe that we cannot allow this government in Iran to get nuclear weapons. I think we have to take these whackjobs at their word when they talk about destroying Israel. No one believed Hitler when he said he wanted to kill all the Jews in Mein Kampf. I hope we have a learned out lesson.

I think airstrikes are the least bad option. There would be some reprisals, but probably manageable. I say this with full understanding that it could escalate. My reasoning is that it is better to have the fight now than in 5 years when Tel Aviv is a crater and Iran has nukes.

This is my thinking today. I am still wrestling with this. I am open to other options that I'm sure I have missed.

6 Comments:

Blogger Teofilo said...

Although you may be right, the example of North Korea shows that the only way to really stand up to the US is to have long-range missiles with nuclear capability. Wouldn't bombing Iran provide further incentives for nuclear proliferation to any government that opposes US foreign policy?

A separate question, North Korea seems much crazier to me than Iran, but now that they have the (or a) bomb, might they not act more rationally since they would expect nuclear and not conventional retaliation for any act of war on their part?

Related, is the concern with Iran that they would use the bomb to attack Israel, or that they would use the bomb to attack Israel if we attacked them - thereby tying our hands, or limiting US freedom of movement in the region? This being the case doesn't disqualify neutering Iran, of course.

12:20 PM  
Blogger hurtleg said...

"North Korea seems much crazier to me than Iran, but now that they have the (or a) bomb, might they not act more rationally since they would expect nuclear and not conventional retaliation for any act of war on their part?"

You say North Korea is much crazier, I'm not convinced that the threat of nuclear retaliation would deter the NK's from doing something. The Mullah's are the same way. In the '80s they took hundreds of thousands of casulties and fought on for years with no expectation of improving their standing. They are not rational. Classic deterence worked with the USSR because at the core they are rational.

President Ahmadinejad's rhetoric keeps getting stepped up, I'm not sure he is rational and can be contained or detered.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Germanicu$ said...

"I think airstrikes are the least bad option. There would be some reprisals, but probably manageable. I say this with full understanding that it could escalate."

I think you misunderestimate the blowback. And even if you don't, I certainly don't trust the current administration to anticipate the fallout of a bombing campaign of Iran; for their many seeming virtues, anticipation is not their strong suit.

"My reasoning is that it is better to have the fight now than in 5 years when Tel Aviv is a crater and Iran has nukes."

Seeing as how your "reasoning" is based on speculation, it's not really "reasoning" at all. Like roulette or the stock market, pre-emptive war is based largely on a fallible calculation of the likelihood of future events.

If this ethos is going to drive foreign policy, so be it: but we'd better have a whole shitload of money ready for when the calculation goes wrong. And we're already running way in the red for our previous (mis)calculations.

2:04 PM  
Blogger hurtleg said...

"Seeing as how your "reasoning" is based on speculation, it's not really "reasoning" at all."

I agree, it is a judgement based on the information we have today. There is no way to know if it is right or wrong. M

y judgement is that it is better to deal with the problem today than hope it goes away. It is possible that 5 years from now a velvet revolution could occur in Iran and we get a reform minded pro-Western government. My judgement that the likelyhood of this happening is extremely small, I think it is much more likely that we have a hostile, slightly unhinged government with nukes.

I am the first to admit I could be wrong. Reasonable people can look at the same information and reach differenct conclusions. This happened with Iraq and will probably happen with Iran.

As I have said before, after 9/11 my tolerence for risk has gone done. This is why I believe in more aggressive preemptive action (as does the president and a majority of the country).

2:15 PM  
Blogger Germanicu$ said...

"My judgement is that it is better to deal with the problem today than hope it goes away."

And so bombing is "dealing with it", and not "exacerbating it"? You seem genuinely concerned about getting results here, not just bombing for bombing's sake. But if the result you wish to achieve is a less bellicose Iran, doesn't it stand to reason that engaging them in military conflict is precisely contrary to your objectives?

How about reducing the appeal of nuclear weapons by starting a giant worldwide initiative to elimimate all nuclear weapons stockpiles? Last I heard, we (that's America we, not Iran we) were developing more nuclear delivery systems.

Or how about working on winning the hearts and minds of that "younger generation that hates the mullahs"? Encourage moderates to take back their country from the whackjobs, like we did with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan or the Kurds in Iraq?

Or how about sending them the products of freedom, like Happy Meals or something? Hugo Chavez is beloved by America's poor now that he gave them all that free oil.

Like your ideas, mine are off the cuff - I'm sure there are better ones out there. But notice mine don't involve killing people. Yours almost certainly do. And the people who would die wouldn't be the Mullahs, believe that.

4:49 PM  
Blogger hurtleg said...

"if the result you wish to achieve is a less bellicose Iran"

I don't want a nuclear armed bellicose Iran. We have lived with a bellicose non-nuclear Iran for 25 years.

"How about reducing the appeal of nuclear weapons by starting a giant worldwide initiative to elimimate all nuclear weapons stockpiles?"

Utopian fantasy. If the US destroyed every nuke in its inventory it would give rogue states an even greater incentive to get these weapons. Besides, the genie is out of the bottle. You can destroy the weapons, but everyone still has the ability and know how to rubuild without much warning.

"Or how about working on winning the hearts and minds of that "younger generation that hates the mullahs"? Encourage moderates to take back their country from the whackjobs"

I think this is the ideal solution if it were feasible. The problem is that from everything I have read the mullahs will have nukes before the reformers are stong enough to overthrough them. From what I can tell there really is no organized opposition to the mullah's. It strikes me as wishfull thinking that this will happen in time.

"Like your ideas, mine are off the cuff - I'm sure there are better ones out there. But notice mine don't involve killing people. Yours almost certainly do."

Agreed, but your ideas also don't solve the problem. I don't think they will keep nukes out of the mullahs hands.

If you believe that a few dead Iranian nuclear scientists is worse than the mullahs having nukes, then you should oppose the bombing. I disagree with this judgement.

10:42 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home