Sunday, November 21, 2004

No Options in Iran

I just finished reading James Fallow's article in the most recent Atlantic Monthly, "Will Iran be Next?" (Available online only to subscribers.)

In it Fallows and the Atlantic Monthly conduct a war game with the likes of David Kay, Kenneth Pollack and others, concerning possible scenarios for a military strike in Iran. They discuss three options: a limited strike against nuclear facilities, a reciprocal assault on Iranian military forces, and a full-scale invasion of Iran to affect "regime-change." I don't think it's giving away too much to say that they conclude that the options are bad, worse, and the worst.

The essential conclusion is that, thanks in large part to our commitment to Iraq, whatever options we might have had before the invasion are now greatly limited. A strike against the facilities in no way guarantees that we will get all of the weapons. A "warning" attack on Iranian military forces, to intimidate Iran into dropping their program, only invites retaliation. And a full scale military invasion, though technically possible, is so unfeasible as to be out of the question.

Their conclusion? Our only choice is diplomacy.

I'm sure that somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon there are people running exactly such war games, in greater detail and greater intelligence. They may arrive at slightly different conclusions as to our knowledge of Iran's programs and capabilities in destroying it. But the essential facts cannot be changed. We are bogged down in Iraq. Our military options are slim. And Iran has a stick of their own, in the ability to further destabilize Iraq by inciting the Shia to revolt(or worse, offering their support to groups like Al Queda.) Of course, the administration had all of the information on the costs and risks of invading Iraq, but chose to dismiss the people who tried to present it, or downplay or ignore that evidence once they heard of it. Since the people who made those decisions have only been rewarded for their strategic blindness, there's really no telling what they may do now. The only hope is that they have perhaps learned something from their mistakes, and may be more cautious to rush into a military engagement that would be even more disastrous then the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

1 comment:

adam said...

Yes, several analysts have said that even just attacking nuclear facilities wouldn't change much, just drive it underground.