War with Iran? You fly over, drop a few hundred bombs, problem solved. Am I right?! That’s worked out so well for us in the past, why wouldn’t it work well now? Lots of reasons, actually — as I will get to in a moment. But Tom Cotton thinks that a bombing campaign against Iran would take only “several days.” Ted Cruz begs to differ. According to him, it might take a whole week. But John Bolton is on board. He says that Cotton is “exactly right.” You see, as military historian and geopolitical expert Mike Huckabee said, this nuclear deal with Iran would “put the whole world in a very, very dangerous place.” Yes, negotiated deals make the world dangerous. Starting World War III just makes us safe.
Wait a minute! Who said anything about World War III? These guys just told us that it would be nothing but sending in aircraft to drop some bombs. Clean and simple. Over and out. And we know from experience that such rosy predictions always turn out great. Remember all the rose petals that our troops were greeted with? Remember how right Dick Cheney was when he said, “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators”? Remember when he said the same thing that Tom Cotton and company are saying now, “I think it will go relatively quickly. Weeks rather than months”? How could anything go wrong this time?
We all know about white privilege. What we have here is America privilege. It is the delusion that America can do whatever it wants and no one will do anything about it. The idea that Iran would counter-attack just doesn’t occur to them. They don’t imagine that both Russia and China might be drawn in to defend Iran. Think that’s reaching? Consider this: Iran has already agreed on a negotiation framework that all the world is thrilled with except the American and Israeli right. So an attack on Iran would not be seen as an act of protection. It would be seen as what it would be: an act of aggression — and a worse one than the invasion of Iraq.
The National Interest has been writing a lot of good stuff about a potential attack on Iran. This is not some liberal rag. It focuses on realism — think Machiavelli — in international relations. It was founded by neoconservative Irving Kristol. The main thing is that it is not naive and it is not stupid. Last month, I discussed an article by Robert Farley, We Need to Think Before Bombing Iran. His major point was that we simply aren’t going to be able to bomb away Iran’s nuclear program. My point was that the unintended consequences were great.
Back in 2013 (and republished late last year, for obvious reasons), Geoffrey Kemp and John Allen Gay wrote, The High Cost of War With Iran. They brought up one point that has an interesting irony. One of the big claims about Iran is that it is the “biggest supporter of terrorism in the world.” Well, in the event of an American attack, Iran could step that up. As they noted, “[T]his will create uncertainty for any attacker—too violent to be peace, but not fully war. This state of affairs will put Iran on a more level footing with the United States…” Oh, and the massive America air campaign would only knock out the big parts of the nuclear program that we know about. And this would — Quelle surprise! — require further bombing campaigns in the future. Eventually, there would have to be a diplomatic solution — the kind of thing we are on the verge of now and that the hardliners in the US and Israel will never accept.
The authors also talk about how there is no actual evidence that Iran has a weapons program and getting a weapon wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. They would use it the way all other countries do: as a deterrent; they wouldn’t give it to terrorists (the idea that they would has always been ridiculous). But the meat of the article is how even a minor and short war with Iran would have enormous economic costs, “A $10 increase in the price per barrel of oil would take a billion dollars from American consumers in about five days.” For a Republican Party determined to cut food stamps, you would think they would care about such a major threat to the economy. What’s more, the hit to the Middle East oil supply would help out two other hated regimes of the conservatives: Russia and Venezuela. No mention is made of this, but that would provide Russia with all the more incentive to help out Iran in a war with the United States.
But these are just what military experts — backed up by actual military leaders — think. Despite what they say, people like Cotton and Cruz and Bolton and Huckabee don’t care about what the actual military says — unless it agrees with what they already want to do. But there are some conservatives who are being more reasonable. Shockingly, Bobby Jindal was more reasonable — claiming that he would want to hear from the military as to just how fast we could take down Iran. I don’t give him too much credit, because (1) he should already know; and (2) I’m sure he will change his position once he hears that the military isn’t keen on the strategy.
Carly Fiorina and John Kasich were both pretty gloomy on the prospect — more proof that they will never get the Republican nomination for president. The most sensible thing was said by Lindsey Graham, “I think a military attack on Iran opens up pandora’s box. You’ve got to assume the worst, not the best.” Is it possible?! Can a Republican actually learn? Well add Graham’s name to the list of Republican presidential nominees who are not serious. Of course, even the best of the Republicans just want to do nothing: no negotiations but no bombing. That’s a very bad solution. It only looks good compared to what most Republicans want.