Campaigning Republicans are banging the patriotic and Israel-first drums for a preventive war against Iran, allegedly to stop it from deploying atomic weapons: though how this is supposed to work without a full-scale invasion and 20,000 American dead is left studiously unclear. “Surgical” air strikes, perhaps? Pillar:
As Richard Betts remarks in his recent book about the American use of military force, anyone who hears talk about a surgical strike should get a second opinion.
All that would do is make Iran absolutely determined to get the bomb.
(Back-of-envelope guesstimate: coalition military casualties in Iraq from Gulf War II and the occupation stand at 4,804, all but 300 or so American. Iran has 2½ times Iraq’s population and 4 times the area. Its armed forces have not been degraded by any equivalent of Gulf War I and the subsequent sanctions. There’s no equivalent of Kurdish secessionism or the Sunni/Shia split, and the Iranian army and populace would be united. An invasion of Iran would not aim at the simple decapitation of an autocracy in its capital, but would need to secure and destroy a good number of dispersed and concealed nuclear facilities, fighting over far more rugged and defensible terrain.)
At the same time the Republicans are treating a gasoline price of $3 a gallon as a shameful assault on the American Way of Life. What do they think would happen to the world oil price when Iran closes the Straits of Hormuz to commercial shipping (they can’t easily close it to the US Navy, but they can make tankers uninsurable), and launches a wave of sabotage attacks on US refineries, LNG terminals and other oil and gas infrastructure? They would, IMHO, be entirely justified in doing so, in response to a naked act of aggression.
[Update 9/04: Matt Yglesias dots the i's on oil prices.]
This project is nuts.