Dalia Dassa Kaye at the Foreign Policy website argues that bombing Iran is a “bad idea.” She’s absolutely right. It’s a bad idea, except all the others are worse. As Prof. Kaye observes,
The aftermath of an attack could be devastating militarily and politically. It could unleash a wave of Iranian retaliation against U.S. forces, allies, and interests. Iran maintains a wide array of levers across the region, including militia groups it has trained and funded, that it could employ to retaliate against U.S. forces or diplomatic personnel, particularly in countries like Iraq. Iranian missiles have ranges that can reach Israel and all its Gulf Arab neighbors, including those hosting U.S. military forces.
There’s nothing new about this danger. The estimable Adm. Mike Mullen made a similar warning in a March 16, 2009, interview with Charlie Rose. Mullen said: “What I worry about in terms of an attack on Iran is, in addition to the immediate effect, the effect of the attack, it’s the unintended consequences. It’s the further destabilization in the region. It’s how they would respond. We have lots of Americans who live in that region who are under the threat envelope right now [because of the] capability that Iran has across the Gulf. So, I worry about their responses and I worry about it escalating in ways that we couldn’t predict.”
That’s right: our nation-building campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan put tens of thousands of American soldiers in places where Iranian-backed terrorists could hurt them. And as Lee Smith wrote last week at the Tablet webzine, Iran has effectively deterred the United States, and America thus has become Iran’s “key ally” in its campaign to acquire nuclear weapons. How about a 9/11 with a nuclear weapon in a major American city? It was misguided to turn American soldiers into potential hostages to Iranian terror. It’s a hundred times MORE misguided now to pull our forces out of Iraq: we need the capacity to deter Iran from swinging its weight in Iraq and turning it into a Persian satrapy. (The Baghdad government might not like this, but if we really want to, we have ways to persuade regimes like this to cooperate.)
Iran has terrorized the United States, and inevitably will acquire nuclear weapons — unless it’s stopped. At that point its terror capacity will multiply a thousand-fold, because its terrorists will operate under a nuclear umbrella. So the argument boils down to this: Iran is a terrorist state ready to murder American citizens and American allies all over the Middle East and around the world. Which means that we had better not stop them from acquiring nuclear weapons, because then they might be mad at us, and hurt us. What does that imply about what a nuclear-armed Iran might do?