Friday, September 15, 2006

The costs of war with Tehran vs. the costs of a later war with Tehran

Krauthammer lays out the costs of attacking Iran's nuclear production sites. It's a grim listing of blood and coin.

On the other hand, in his final paragraphs he notes the cost of doing nothing:
Then there is the larger danger of permitting nuclear weapons to be acquired by religious fanatics seized with an eschatological belief in the imminent apocalypse and in their own divine duty to hasten the End of Days. The mullahs are infinitely more likely to use these weapons than anyone in the history of the nuclear age. Every city in the civilized world will live under the specter of instant annihilation delivered either by missile or by terrorist. This from a country that has an official Death to America Day and has declared since Ayatollah Khomeini's ascension that Israel must be wiped off the map.

Against millenarian fanaticism glorying in a cult of death, deterrence is a mere wish. Is the West prepared to wager its cities with their millions of inhabitants on that feeble gamble?

These are the questions. These are the calculations. The decision is no more than a year away.
One can quibble with his time frame (presumably he cites one year because no president wants to pass such a judgment on to his successor. If Iran is seemingly bargaining in good faith at that time no strike will come), but not with the potential risks we face if Iran should get a bomb.

This of course is where the doubt comes in. As Iran approaches the bomb, we in the West will be increasingly likely to see the threat as merely one potential among many; Iran can aid in this deception by behaving in a more moderate manner. When faced with conflict, we too often just hope for the best. This was fine when our enemies had only conventional weapons. It won't do in the face of a belligerant, nuclear-armed Tehran.