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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

08 February 2006

Striking Iran?

Edward Luttwak, a fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, writes in today’s Wall Street Journal: “The bombing of Iran's nuclear installations may still be a bad idea for other reasons, but not because it would require a huge air offensive. On the contrary, it could all be done in a single night. One may hope that Iran's rulers will therefore accept a diplomatic solution rather than gamble all on wildly exaggerated calculations.”

To be honest, I am a bit surprised by the furor that surrounds the idea that America should strike Iran’s nuclear installations. I thought that with the Iraq experience so recent in memory, policy makers would be more humble about the extraordinary power of military solutions. I would also hope that people would recognize that the merits of a military strike depend as much on the day after as they do on its feasibility and elegance.

When Israel attacked the Osirak plant in Iraq in 1981, thereby delaying Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program, Iraq was already engaged in a war with Iran; it was distracted, in other words, by other worries. To strike Iran’s installation would be the culmination of a policy which started in Afghanistan and continued in Iraq: it would be the most obvious step to convince Iran that America’s interests in the region are fundamentally hostile. That it would energize a population and offer Iran diplomatic cover are obvious reasons to pause and think about the military option; but the more important reason to think twice is to wonder whether, on the day after, America will be able to deal with the Iranian response, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and elsewhere. Iran will fight for its survival, while America will fight for vaguely defined goals of democracy and freedom. It’s not hard to think that with such a limited vision for what happens next, America should seriously rethink the attraction of attacking Iran militarily.

References:
Edward Luttwak, “In a Single Night,” Wall Street Journal, 8 Feb 06

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