Tuesday, February 16, 2010

war with iran?

While attention remains focused elsewhere, there are increasing signs that the US and/or Israel are prepared for military action against Iran. Some of these are obvious: the placement of allegedly defensive missiles in the Gulf States, an increased pace of Israeli-American meetings, vague warnings about "even tougher" sanctions which may be a euphemism for military force. Some are a bit more opaque. The other day Secretary Clinton--not known for careless talk--suggested that Iran was becoming a military dictatorship rather than an Islamic democracy. A political science lesson, or a calculated effort to delegitimize the Iranian regime?

I have maintained for some time that military action against Iran would be morally justified. The harder question is whether it would make sense. I am less concerned here with our supposed inability to destroy the Iranian nuclear sites, which I think is exaggerated, than with the absence of an obvious "exit" strategy. Put simply, there is no obvious midpoint between a measured attack and an all-out war with the Iranians, which would essentially mean an arch of uninterrupted war from the Mediterranean to Pakistan. This is especially true if Israel uses tactical nuclear weapons as is now suggested. Is Obama willing to countenance this, or will he prefer to live with a nuclear Iran? It's not clear the Iranians will give him a choice.


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