Most alternatives better than bombing Iran
There is an idea bouncing around Washington these days that is both irresponsible and dangerous and, if it were to be adopted, would present the United States with a host of new problems.
It is a proposal to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions by bombing that country, thus opening a new front in our war on terror. Leading Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani supports the idea, and vice president Dick Cheney also backs it. To his credit, President Bush has sought to stay away from it to this point, although some of his statements on Iran ‘ talking about Iran and World War III ‘ have been careless.
Before we go any further, let’s clearly indicate our position on Iran. That nation’s actions and its government’s statements on the nuclear question and a host of other subjects as presented by the ever-grinning President Ahmadinejad are stupid, dangerous and provocative. Taken together, they make almost anyone worry about what Iran may do. This means the United States has all the more reason to act thoughtfully and carefully in dealing with the problem.
So why is bombing such a very bad idea? Let us count the ways. All we have are intelligence estimates to the effect Iran is developing nuclear weapons. This is what we had before the Iraq War began. We relied on them, and they turned out to be completely false. Doing it a second time flies in the face of reason.
But assuming the estimates are correct, Iran is believed to be three to eight years away from acquiring a weapon. We would seem to have time for a number of talks on various subjects on various levels.
If we were to decide to bomb, we would be faced with a number of problems. Iran’s nuclear facilities are spread out over a large area. They are underground, they are hardened against attack and are heavily defended. I am no ordnance impact analyst, but I assume these facts mean there is a possibility of failure. So what would we do then, attack again and perhaps again or do what should be regarded as the unthinkable, employ nuclear weapons?
Thus, the possibility of failure is real. But let’s say we do achieve some measure of success. Would this stop Iran or only slow it down while making it more determined than ever to succeed? Our attack would have only postponed the problem, not solved it.
What changes in U.S. foreign relations can be expected if we were to undertake such an attack? We can expect to find ourselves extremely isolated, even from some of our traditional allies. Much of the world would refuse to accept the idea the United States had no option but to mount an attack on the third Muslim nation in less than decade. We can expect the U.S. military, already stretched near the breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan, to have major new difficulties as Iran sought to retaliate.
We are already dealing with significant problems in Pakistan and between Turkey, the Kurds and the Iraqi government. We should expect these to jump to new levels of confusion and difficulty, as the man on the street in the entire Muslim world reaches new levels of rage against America. The relationships between Iran and Russia and Iran and China will strengthen.
Iran, which is now badly divided over its government’s policies, will close ranks, uniting against the foreign assault. The current rule by radical Muslim clerics would probably be assured for at least the next half century.
The Persian Gulf, through which a good portion of the world’s oil flows, could well become a battlefield as it did during the infamous tanker wars of the 1980s. The price of oil, now at $100 a barrel, could easily increase another $50 or even double with disastrous effects on the world economy in general and the U.S. in particular.
In summary, to act on probability rather than fact in a situation where failure is a real possibility and where even partial success brings down a world of trouble on our heads is completely unacceptable and should not be considered by thinking men and women.
The underlying problem will remain no matter how we approach this situation. As nuclear technology becomes more and more available, what should this country do when another nation is seeking to build atomic weapons?
In the past, we have had a policy of accepting what we felt we could not change. When Russia developed the bomb in 1949, we accepted it. The same happened with China, Pakistan and India. Currently, we are negotiating with one of the more irresponsible nations, North Korea, to end its nuclear weapons program. This has not been easy, but it now appears we are moving toward success.
Why shouldn’t we follow a similar course in Iran? Perhaps if we wait a while and back off a bit on the pressure, we will allow them time to modify some of their more extreme positions and begin serious talks with the rest of the world. It is not a sure thing but just about anything is better than bombing Iran.