by Malou Innocent and Jonathan Owen
The Republican presidential hopefuls, Ron Paul excepted, would prefer a more bellicose response to Iranâ€™s nuclear aspirations than President Obamaâ€™s current stance.
But a more aggressive policy could lead to another war in the Middle East, or at least a regime in Tehran more committed to seeking a nuclear bomb.
Basic Assumption is Flawed
The assumption that a short war of limited strikes will keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is flawed. Damage to Iranâ€™s nuclear program from such a strike would be modest, likely requiring more strikes in another few years or a longer-term presence on the ground.
James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, said an attack on Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities would set back its nuclear program by one to two years. U.S. military action every few years is an unmanageable strategy.
Iran Not an Imminent Threat
Even with a bomb, Iran is not an imminent threat to America’s security.
Worse, attempts to stop Iranâ€™s program militarily will bolster its resolve to pursue a nuclear deterrent. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the military solution will make Iranians â€œabsolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons.â€ He continued, â€œ… they will just go deeper and more covert.â€
So if Iran lives to fight another day, with the ayatollahs still standing, hawks in Washington will surely argue that the U.S. cannot afford to show weakness â€” and that our credibility depends on staying behind to create a friendly state in Tehran.
It would be a slippery slope from this to a wider war.
If that is the case, Iran, a country with two-and-a-half times the population and four times the territory of Iraq, will not be a cakewalk.
Malou Innocent is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute. Jonathan Owen is a former Marine infantry officer. This article appeared in New York Daily News on March 8, 2012.