I like to listen to Podcasts during work and have recently been enjoying Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History" and "Common Sense" programs. Both shows benefit from Carlin's rapid and sharp delivery and I especially enjoy how he pillories politicians from both parties equally. On a recent show he made an observation that nicely fit some of my own thinking lately, namely that if the U.S. attacks Iran we will have a final, and very clear, indication that the leadership of this country is insane.
Turn on Sean Hannity on any given night and I can almost guarantee that a reference to stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions will come up. It isn't only the right wing that is beating the war drums- our dear leader, President Obama, has also (sort of) reversed his earlier statements on a nuclear armed Iran in 2009 (he hinted that it might be acceptable) to those he made in 2010 (he hinted that it might not be acceptable.) With a full on drubbing of the Democratic party on tap for the fall midterm elections, the possibility grows that the President just might move forward militarily to shore up his own dismal approval ratings.
War with Iran would be an entirely different animal than war in Iraq and Afghanistan. First of all, Iran is a large country- at nearly 640,000 square miles in area it is larger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. In fact, if you combined those two countries you could also add in France (actually, not a bad idea when you think about it) and Iran would still be larger. It is one of the 20 largest countries in the world and with 68,000,000 people is also one of the 20 most populous. The scale of the country makes it far more difficult in terms of targeting, and hitting, what is probably a very long list of military, communications and other infrastructure targets. It also makes it easier for the potential target of all of these massive air strikes, the Iranian military and government, to find places to hide and ride out the attacks.
Let's back up a second. Why exactly would we attack Iran in the first place ? Supposedly, the threat of a nuclear armed Iran is so frightening to Washington that it would justify a very nasty war that would produce far more casualties than anything we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can somewhat see the Israelis point of view- as a much smaller nation, diametrically opposed to the Iranian regime, a group of nuclear armed mullahs in the neighborhood is probably somewhat unsettling. But what strategic threat would a nuclear armed Iran pose to the U.S. ? If we are so worried about unstable regimes having nuclear weapons when are we going to bomb Pakistan ? How about next week ? Pakistan has the weapons in their bunkers, a massive humanitarian crisis from recent flooding and an intelligence agency that has actively worked against our efforts in Afghanistan. Throw in a big dash of unemployed young men living in poverty, whipped into a frenzy by religious zealotry, and you may start wondering why they don't start reworking the targeting maps.
As I have argued in previous posts, I say the best thing to do to the Iranians is let them have the bomb. Let them realize how utterly useless it is to throw billions of dollars down the drain to develop and deploy one of these expensive paperweights. The Iranians will quickly learn that MAD isn't just a magazine and that any use of nuclear weapons would result in their country being blasted back into the stone age. I don't agree, either, that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be in some great rush to use the bomb once he got it in his hands. Like all despots I would imagine that he knows its better to be a living despot than a dead one.
A war in Iran would quickly escalate into something far beyond what we have experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any strike on Iran would result in their Hezbollah proxies attacking Israel from Lebanon- which would result in Israel invading Lebanon while fighting the Iranians, which could draw in the Syrians, which could draw in the Russians, which could...well, you get the picture. The U.S. military has been stretched by fighting two wars and the prospect of the even crazier North Koreans threatening to start something with their neighbors to the south. You want a nightmare scenario ? Imagine the U.S. fighting the Iranians, cleaning up in Iraq, fighting in Afghanistan and the North Koreans suddenly deciding that it would be a great time to take advantage of the situation.
The U.S. is in the midst of one of the worst recessions in its history, the Federal debt has ballooned to unimaginable levels and I believe that the real unemployment rate lies a few dozen or so points north of what the government claims. Fighting an unecessary war, killing more of our best and brightist and inflicting violence against a population that is young and actually quite pro-American is insane. Better to let history run its course and hope that another series of uprisings similar (and larger) to those in 2009 topple and consign Ahmadinejad and his fellow religious nutcases to the ash heap of history where they belong.
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