Why not attack Iran?


I’m really not trying to be flippant about a war, but the sales campaign for an American and/or Israeli attack on Iran reminds me of anecdotes I heard about Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), called “Star Wars” by opponents. The anecdotes involved physicists or rocket engineers or some such category of persons (forgive the vagueness, but I’m remembering back almost 30 years) who made a game out of coming up with ways to defeat SDI. Their point was that the ways to defeat it were not merely much simpler than the system they had to defeat, but numerous.

Those stories came to mind when the reasons attacking Iran is a bad idea came quickly. There are enough that even before going in depth on any of them, you’re thinking “are we seriously thinking about doing this?” Incredulity has to give way to reality: we are. Well, some of us are. Some of us can think of a bunch of reasons attacking Iran is a lousy idea. I’ve elaborated more than I intended, but the point remains that when the reasons something is a bad idea come quickly when you first ponder the question, that’s a sign it really is a bad idea.

There’s one thing I did go into in depth about recently, that Iran has good reason to want its own nukes. I won’t repeat the whole thing, so the gist is Iran faces multiple threats from nuclear nations, including us. If Iran decides it needs its own bomb, then it’s going to pursue it despite sanctions and even despite attacks to slow it down.

There’s no thought to “then what?” If bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities doesn’t stop the program, or even slow it down significantly, then what? The neocons (yes, it’s the same bunch who sold the war on Iraq) haven’t answered that.

Iranian facilities will be hard to wipe out. If the answer to what happens if an attack fails is a sustained bombing campaign, has Iran not been hardening, hiding, and dispersing their nuclear facilities? If that won’t work, then what’s left? A nuclear attack? Great, prove they needed their own bomb, and prove it to everyone who might be on our bad side. An invasion and occupation? I suspect that’s what will be required to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Anyone ready to repeat Iraq in a country three times the size? And as long as I brought up the neocons…

These are the same people who sold the war on Iraq. The neocons aren’t necessarily wrong just because they were wrong on Iraq … so terribly, horribly wrong … and I can’t think of what they got right … but if they’re the people presented as experts, and we’re supposed to trust that they’ve thought this through and analyzed everything, seems like reason enough to say “no”. That these are the people (besides the GOP presidential candidates) Obama was referring to when he talked about the people who don’t consider the seriousness of starting a war, and don’t have to pay the price, should get even the Sunday morning interview shows rethinking things. Yeah, should.

Can we deal with one crisis at a time? It seems a good rule of them to never create a crisis, because crises tend to come unbidden anyway. An objection I had to invading Iraq was we were already at war in Afghanistan. We’re still there, in case anyone didn’t know, but in terms of new crises, I’m thinking of Syria. Syria has an actual crisis, a “people are being killed right now” crisis, a “something has to be done right now” crisis, and American conservatives are obsessed about — Iran?

Same question about Yemen as Syria by which I mean it has a crisis too. Maybe not as immediate as Syria, but actual Al Qaida are holding territory and the country could collapse into multiple civil wars, yet American conservatives are obsessed about — Iran?

Is it good for Israel? Speaking of Syria, it just amazes me that these people obsessed with Israel, and the Israeli government itself, are so intent on attacking Iran when there’s a civil war right-fricking-next-door. The Syrian government might not attack Israel to unite the country, or undermine the opposition, or draw the Arabs into a different war so they don’t intervene in Syria? This isn’t the crisis, but Iran maybe getting a bomb, maybe literally just one bomb, that’s the crisis?

Iran will retaliate, or do the neocons just think Iran will accept the inevitable and give up? Iran doesn’t have the same conventional forces we do, and probably can’t even hit back directly at Israel, but they increase their support of terrorist groups and attack inside Israel and the US. They could increase the support for the Syrian government. They could support insurgencies against governments we support. They could crack down harder on domestic opposition. Let’s look at that last one…

This could end the democratic opposition movement. I don’t see an attack having a good outcome for the opposition. Even the people who carried photos of the murdered Neda and defied the Basiji militia will be inclined to rally around the government when their country is attacked. The government may take the chance to delegitimize the opposition, if they don’t lose all restraint about throwing opponents in prison. If you want regime change, and you’re going to undercut the people who marched in the streets of Tehran, then who do you expect to become the next government? Will those fabled “Iranian moderates” of Iran-Contra fame materialize?

Everybody better get their own bomb. I realize the point is to make the point that if you try to make your own bomb, you’ll be attacked. The lesson however might be that we’ll attack people who don’t have their own bomb — so get yours before the missiles come your way because funny thing, nobody attacks nuclear-armed nations. There are good non-nuclear reasons not to attack Pakistan and North Korea, but guess which explanation every dictator in the world is likely to seize upon?

Weren’t we supposed to get worked up about the deficit? Funny how self-proclaimed deficit hawks think no amount of money is too much when they get to indulge their inner war hawk. And their outer war hawk. The cost of Iraq is very roughly already a $trillion. That’s more than was allocated for TARP. More than the Recovery Act. It’s also much less than an invasion of Iran is likely to cost, yet American conservatives are ready to get into a conflict with no real idea of where it goes and no thought about spending the money. Well, maybe we can trim a few million from food stamps. That should pay off the national debt.