Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Monday, January 17, 2005

Iran: Part II

Dave made some more extensive comments on the whole Iran thing. Like him, I'm assuming (for some reason) that the factual predicate of the article is sound, and then discussing the implications. But that assumption is not necessarily grounded in reality, so take that into consideration.

Dave takes issue with my post on one point:

"Where I disagree with my good friend is in his second point, where he writes 'a few well-placed cruise missiles could knock out military installations without unneccessary destruction.' I fear that the challenge is much greater."

And he later makes a point I should emphasize: "much depends on how you define 'victory.'" I didn't define "victory," so shame on me.

Under the circumstances, I'm not talking about the military conquest of Iran. My previous analysis assumed that we don't have the ground assets to make an invasion a good idea (and a few minutes looking at a map of Iran should shore up that assumption). When I refer to victory, I'm only talking about keeping the U.S. as safe as possible. We only care about Iran getting nukes because that threatens our safety and that of our allies. If that threat is neutralized, or even significantly delayed, then I'm willing to declare victory.

To that end, I hold to my theory that relies on "a few well-placed cruise missiles," because if gut their ability to project power, we give ourselves all the time in the world to prepare a more comprehensive strategy. That's why I think we should sink their navy: naval forces are a very effective means of projecting power. And when I refer to a few well-placed cruise missiles, I'm not talking about hitting their tanks, barracks, or even airfields. These are instruments for seizing and occupying land, not for the projection of power.

The most effective use of cruise missiles, then, is to target silos that house long-range ballistic missiles, and facilities for the development and storage of nuclear weapons. We stop Iran from getting the extra-territorial gimmes, and buy ourselves all the time we need.

It may be a happy result that popular revolt will ensue, and that moderate Iranians will take courage from the destruction of military forces in the hands of their oppressive government. That may be the case, but my theory doesn't rely on it, and is therefore more sound than a theory that relies on predictions of what the locals will do (always a tricky exercise in prognostication).

I concede to Dave's criticism that things are more complicated than I am making them out to be. First, there are political ramifications that I haven't even touched upon, let alone dealt with in the necessary depth. There must be some justifiable predicate to casually chucking explosives into a sovereign nation, and that predicate must be sufficiently hyped up by the Commander-in-Chief who wants to pull the trigger. That strikes me as unlikely.

Secondly, it's one thing to casually discuss hitting all the necessary targets to eliminate Iran's ability to project power, and another thing entirely to actually do such a thing. Of course, good intelligence is a necessary pre-requisite, and that's why I saw the previously-linked article as a positive thing.

Third, I didn't discuss the blowback from such an operation. Dave points out that any direct retaliation against U.S. forces will probably lead to Iran's sound and decisive defeat, but that the influx of Iranian hard-liners could tank Iraq's hopes for stability.