“Bomb, bomb, bomb – bomb, bomb Iran”

Never interfere when an enemy is committing suicide.

It seems to be a catchy tune that some people don’t get tired of humming.  Alex Kuperman is the latest.

There are lots of good reasons not to pursue this option, of which the most obvious is that it’s probably not technically feasible.  We can drop bombs, but it seems unlikely that doing so would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

But the strongest reason not to get into a military confrontation with Iran is that doing so would be a huge favor to the present regime, which is encountering more domestic opposition than it has since the revolution of 1979.  Now it’s not just the urban middle class that’s unhappy:  a big chunk of the clerical leadership has lost patience with the Supreme Leader, and most of them never had any regard for the President.  If Ahmadi-nejad has been even more provocative than usual recently, it may be precisely in hopes of provoking a showdown with the Great Satan, in hopes of getting a “rally-round-the-flag” surge in support at home.

William III is supposed to have said, about one of the non-jurors, “He is determined to become a martyr, and I am determined to frustrate him.”  That seems to be the game Obama is playing, though of course even if I’m right about that he can’t say so.  An attack on Iran now would violate Churchill’s principle of not interfering when an enemy commits suicide.

Patience, patience!   Regime change in Iran may be about to fall into our lap.

Update Dan Drezner finds the analysis in the  Kuperman piece “so radically incomplete as to  be f***ing insane” and wonders whether the Times ran it precisely in order to discredit the case for war.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

3 thoughts on ““Bomb, bomb, bomb – bomb, bomb Iran””

  1. Kuperman's analysis of what happened in the Balkans may be incomplete as Drezner says. However he made no assumptions that Iran would change its policy and he was explicit about that. His point was that we could bomb as necessary to destroy nuclear installations as they were reconstituted.

    On top of which Drezner points out that the opposition is as fervent in pursuit of nuclear weapons as the current regime, so it isn't at all clear that it would solve this problem, although it would certainly change our assessment of how dangerous it would be for the country to have them.

    In any case I don't think it can be a paramount concern of ours whether our policy on this helps or hurts the opposition. It needs to be set by our interests. The biggest problem with an air attack remains Iranian retaliation. Whether they can be deterred as Kuperman suggests is the critical issue here. It just isn't clear. If we had a reasonable belief it would work, prudence would probably dictate bombing now as he proposes.

  2. "Update Dan Drezner finds the analysis in the Kuperman piece “so radically incomplete as to be f***ing insane” and wonders whether the Times ran it precisely in order to discredit the case for war."

    Some people don't realize that the reason to air stupid policy proposals is to *credit* them, not discredit them.

    Once an idea has been repeatedly aired by 'respectable' outlets, it becomes credible.

  3. Iran presents a real conundrum for us, especially against the backdrop of the paired wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both controversial, perhaps especially Iraq, since the reasons for it remain far more controversial than the reasons of Afghanistan.

    As for Kuperman's view that we can bomb as necessary, if what I've read elsewhere is true, that might not work: even our most powerful bunker-buster bombs can't destroy some of Iran's nuclear installations, shielded as they are by many feet of rock in deep, underground complexes. Technically, we could use a large *tactical* device and destroy such an installation — I think. (Someone correct me if I am wrong, please.) Anyway, assuming that would work — what a disaster. Preemptive first strikes just flat don't wash — at all — in most countries today. In fact, I doubt even Iranians who might otherwise rally around the flag despite their hatred of the regime were we to make a preemptive strike would, in a different scenario, support their own regime making such a strike against, say, Israel. In fact, I doubt even all the regime's supporters, except the most wild-eyed fanatics who make Osama look like a Bertrand Russell or someone like that, would support a first-strike philosophy. The all-but-certain consequences are too unthinkable. (Can "unthinkable" exist by degrees???)

    I can think of one military possibility, all though it would be only a delaying tactic, unless we were prepared to repeat it until the Iranians gave up — if they did. That is, we *can* seal the entrances to these complexes with conventional bunker-busters and other smart weaponry, and can do so without a single pair of boots on the ground. And I bet if such a strike were made a volunteer one, whoever had to choose the pilots would be overwhelmed with eager pilots in both the Air Force and the Navy. After all, such missions are a big part of what they train for again and again and again. And a fair number of them are genuine warriors, in the sense we call the Vikings and Mongols true warriors. (Patton and Rommel are excellent modern examples of this sort of soldier.)

    Yes, the Iranians could and would just dig out once the bombing stopped . . . and we could bomb again.

    Of course, there's one point that greatly complicates this issue: the fact that the U.S., Russia, China and others themselves possess enormous nuclear power, military power. That makes it easy for many to criticize us for being hypocritical, for which there is, after all, some argument (much as I dislike admitting it). Not only do *I* not have any solution for that, but neither does anyone else, apparently. Maybe there isn't a solution.

    There's a partial parallel to be found in the climate debate, of all things. The "South" wants what we in the "North" had throughout the Industrial Revolution: the "right" to pollute. Iran is making the same argument regarding its nuclear program. But is that valid?

    I submit it's not. Why? Because I'm racist/elitist/nationalist? No, because I'm rational. Except for the U.S., none of the nuclear powers, not even undeclared Israel, has ever used a nuclear weapon. And the U.S. did only twice, over 64 years ago. In other words, the existing nuclear powers have proven themselves responsible for decades, and there's a strong argument that for the U.S. to have bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki was both militarily and morally superior to a conventional invasion, although no one else in the world had The Bomb at the time.

    Countries such as Iran and North Korea have not shown any evidence of ebing equally mature. The current Iranian president openly advocates the violent destruction of Israel, hardly a reassurance of restraint. As for Kooky Kim the Second, who knows what that nutcase might do? I am convinced that Iran will pursue nuclear arms, no matter what platitudes they utter; the temptation is simply too strong. [See: India and Pakistan recently, and China earlier.] And it's pretty clear they likely would give in to the siren's song to use a nuclear weapon, especially either (1.) against Israel or (2.) via a terrorist surrogate, against the U.S. or an allied country, especially a European one, or Japan/South Korea, Canada/New Zealand/Australia. But *especially* the U.S. mainland.

    There's a way to up the ante for Iran, too, though it's a harder PR sell. Bombing not just the entrance to their underground nuclear facilities, but their military bases, military ships at sea, communication centers, arms factories, power stations, hydroelectric dams (that one's debatable because of the certain deaths of innocent people), and certain vital government centers, especially intelligence ones. Not carpet bombing such as we used in World War II, but highly selective, targeted bombing — massive bombing.

    I'm just another guy on the street, but that would get my vote were my vote to count, IF push really does come to shove. And we're not there yet, not nearly enough for me to vote for it — yet.

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