Monday, January 16, 2006

Invading Iran


With the increasing buzz over invading Iraq, it is good to see that at least one proponent of invasion understands the choices - and cost. Although outlining four alternatives ("head in the sand", stronger diplomacy, attack by Israel, or attack by the United States), NRO's Victor David Hanson is quite obviously a proponent of U.S. attack, a short-term war without occupation.
The fourth scenario is as increasingly dreaded as it is apparently inevitable — a U.S. air strike. Most hope that it can be delayed, since its one virtue — the elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat — must ipso facto outweigh the multifaceted disadvantages.

The Shiite allies in Iraq might go ballistic and start up a second front as in 2004. Muslim countries, the primary beneficiaries of a disarmed Iran, would still protest loudly that some of their territories, if only for purposes of intelligence and post-operative surveillance, were used in the strike. After Iraq, a hit on Iran would confirm to the Middle East Street a disturbing picture of American preemptory wars against Islamic nations.

Experts warn that we are not talking about a Clintonian one-day cruise-missile hit, or even something akin to General Zinni’s 1998 extended Operation Desert Fox campaign. Rather, the challenges call for something far more sustained and comprehensive — perhaps a week or two of bombing at every imaginable facility, many of them hidden in suburbs or populated areas. Commando raids might need to augment air sorties, especially for mountain redoubts deep in solid rock.

* * *

Economically, we should factor in the real possibility that Iranian oil might be off the global market, and prepare — we have been here before with the Iranian embargo of 1979 — for colossal gasoline price hikes. This should also be a reminder that Ahmadinejad, Saddam, Hugo Chavez, and an ascendant and increasingly undemocratic Putin all had in common both petrodollar largess and desperate Western, Chinese, and Indian importers willing to overlook almost anything to slake their thirst. Unless we develop an energy policy that collapses the global oil price, for the next half-century expect every few years something far creepier than the Saudi Royals and Col. Moammar Gadhafi to threaten the world order.
Although Hanson argues that these choices leave us "holding and circling while waiting for a break in the clouds, he asserts,
Still, there are two parameters we should accept — namely, that Iran should not be allowed to arm its existing missiles with nukes and that Israel should not have to do the dirty work of taking out Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
In other words, he's ruling out maintaining the status quo, all-but-ruling-out diplomacy (which he understandably views in skeptical terms) and ruling out an attack by Israel....

It is interesting, though, that Hanson omits the fifth possibility - a full-scale invasion and occupation of Iran. Were we not in Iraq, he certainly would have raised that possibility. As we are in Iraq, he doesn't raise it presumably because he knows it is not realistic under our present circumstances. Which might mean that, instead of taking potshots at Democrats, he might have had to close by questioning whether the Bush Administration's choice to go to war in Iraq left us in a position where we are unable to reasonably respond to the Iranian nuclear threat.

If Bush follows this proposal, invading Iran only to the extent necessary to eliminate its nuclear program but leaving its theocracy in place, perhaps Jenna can eventually run for President with an implied promise to "finish the job".

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