Even though America is still bogged down in Iraq, the drumbeat for war with Iran has begun.
Presidential hopeful John McCain is at the forefront of this proposal, joking about how he would “bomb, bomb Iran.”
It is said that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. I’m not sure what this means for those who ignore recent history, but presumably it’s nothing good.
Once again, the nation, fearful of a Mideastern state acquiring nuclear weapons, is debating launching a war that is not necessary.
The consequences of a war with Iran, however, would be far worse than the invasion of Iraq.
Let us imagine, for a moment, how an attack on Iran’s uranium enrichment program would play out.
Let us suppose that the United States is able to annihilate the program with a minimum of American and Iranian civilian casualties. This seems unlikely, given that there are several sites, some of which are in major Iranian cities like Ishafan, involved, but we’ll ignore that for now.
Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons have been blunted temporarily. Except the Iranian government is still in power, and if they were not set on acquiring nuclear weapons before, they would certainly be after America illustrates how it can bomb Iran without Iran having any ability to respond in kind. All this would do is create an even more hostile Iran, still intent on acquiring nuclear weapons.
Such a situation would be, in some ways, familiar. In 1981, Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor, crippling Saddam Hussein’s atomic program.
Yet 22 years later, America invaded Iraq because, ostensibly, we were worried that Iraq was going to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Would an attack on Iranian facilities merely delay the fateful day when American troops invade Iran?
On the other hand, let’s suppose that a president decides to invade Iran. There are a couple of reasons this would be more difficult than the invasion of Iraq. Unlike the Iraqi military, which was largely crippled after the Gulf War, the Iranian military has rebuilt and acquired some modern weaponry.
While it would certainly lose a conventional war at sea and in the air, the economic consequences of Iranian missiles sinking tankers in the Persian Gulf would be, to put it mildly, unpleasant.
Moreover, while the United States could devastate Iran’s economy, it is unlikely to be able to secure Iran’s land borders.
Iran is also a larger, more homogenous nation than Iraq, without any group able to play the role of the Kurds and Shiites.
Iran’s terrain is also more favorable to defense than Iraq’s. Much of the country is fairly mountainous, in contrast to Iraq.
Another obvious possibility would be retaliatory strikes in America and at America’s assets abroad by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and other Shiite terrorirsts, such as Hezbollah. In short, an invasion of Iran would create a situation that would make Iraq look like a cakewalk.
None of this means a nuclear Iran is a good thing. But it’s not like dictatorships haven’t had nuclear weapons before. The world survived with Stalin and Mao in control of nuclear weapons, and the world will survive a nuclear Iran.
Rushing into war with Iraq proved to be a costly mistake. War with Iran would be a disaster.