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August 23, 2006

The One Conjecture

Belmont Club wrote about Three Conjectures. Simple man that I am, I have only one.

I wrote this to an email correspondant and figured I'd post it. He wrote he was depressed and that World War III is coming. So am I, and yes it is.

Back in January I was talking up the End of the World and, seriously, people at parties would say, "Give them your Iran speech." Because they wanted me to depress other people, kind of like the worst party trick in the world.

I think we get all psyched about our technology, but the fact is the greatest war technology in history was created in 1945, and the Iranians are about to get it. They're 60 years behind us-- so what? The past 60 years we've made incredible advances, but mostly in terms of fighting war more surgically and humanely. And frankly, I don't know if that's really the best way to win wars. The best way to win a war remains to drop a nuke on a city (or smuggle it in). Everything since then is just trying to find conventional, humane methods that can approach the same level of effectiveness. And we ourselves are 40 or so years from developing any non-nuclear strategy that is as effective as the simple and direct nuclear one.

So, a year from now, the Iranian madmen will be, for all real purposes, our equals in warfighting. Or our betters, as they, unlike us, are not afraid to use the best weapon available.

What can be done about this? Almost nothing.

There are those who contend that Bush will not leave office without solving the Iranian nuclear crisis -- that, unpopular or not, he will give the world a parting gift of a de-nuclearized Iran. I doubt that very strongly. I think Bush is a gambler, and sometimes daring, but I think he's been chastened by the world's (and America's) reaction to the War in Iraq and I think he's satisfied he's pushed America to the outer boundaries of its willingness to stave off nuclear holocaust and can push no further. I think he'll kick the can down the road to his successor, who will also not likely do much of anything.

What would it take to de-nuclearize Iran? For starters, the "reconstruction" plan is off the table. There will be no attempt to restore order to Iran. Our experience in Iraq has demonstrated that this is too bloody and too difficult a proposition. Therefore, were we to act militarily against Iran at all, we would leave it in chaos and violence and yes, full-on civil war. This is something I can live with just fine, but the fact we would in fact "break it" and yet announce we ould not fix it from the get-go is enough to put most Americans off of such an undertaking.

Iran has three times the population of Iraq. Any Iraq-style occupation would require far more troops than we have now. A draft would be required, and the American people are not willing to contemplate a draft. They'd rather, I'm pretty sure, take their chances on Boston, LA, DC, or NYC going up in a plume of nuclear fire before they'd permit a draft.

So that option is out.

The only possible military solution would be a punishing and inhumane aerial bombing campaign to destroy not only all of Iran's military capabilities, and known nuclear laboratories, but all centers of state control and economic production as well. This would be accompanied by a ground invasion, not an occupation -- a blitz of tanks and APCs moving in long columns to seize as much of Iran's nuclear equipment and materiel as possible, and capture what few scientists we could before they were all smuggled out of the country to be given safe haven with Al Qaeda. That's not quite as scary a prospect as it may seem, as scientists still need a state funded laboratory to build a nuke.

After accomplishing those limited goals, we'd exit, or at least retreat to bases inside the country to let the Iranian civil far fight itself out. Of course we'd assist by arming the moderates and bombing the radicals, but essentailly we'd let them butcher each other until they themselves had won their own war. No more exchaning American lives for foreign Islamic lives; quite frankly, not only is the trade not worth it, but we just don't have enough American lives to spare.

Would that work? I think it's got a decent chance of working; a state essentially knocked back into pre-industrial, pre-modern economic squalor and civil war won't have the resources, or the organization, to continue threatening the world.

The one drawback is that if it fails, we have given Iran all the pretext it needs to nuke our cities, but this is mitigated by the fact that they don't need an pretext, and are going to use the bomb as soon as they get a dozen of them anyway.

It would be a decent plan, if not for the fact that America simply will never agree to it. It would be a nasty thing but, from our perspective, a relatively painless thing, but I doubt the American people are willing to take the necessary steps to ensure their own survival at this point.

There are two many in this country who are determined to take the course of appeasement, and take a wait-and-see-attitude about whether or not America is really all the poorer for losing three or four of its greatest cities.

So, the one conjecture is this: Iran is getting the bomb, and they're going to use the bomb, and there's not a damn thing we will do about it.

After this happens, which it will, conservatives can reap the political rewards of it all, and perhaps finally have a nation where appeasement of bloody-minded apocalyptic death-cult manicas is finally discredited, and we finally comprehend this isn't all just some neocon Cowboy fantasy.

But I'd have preferred such a situation without having to lose New York City. I like the city well enough, and love several of the people there, but it seems that there are some quite willing to accept its extirpation from the face of the earth if it buys them a little temporary convenience, a little temporary "peace," a little temporary goodwill from Europe, and a little temporary preening that we are "better" than our enemies, though not, alas, as many as we once were.

Breaking Bitches Update: Mort Kondracke mentioned a fact I wasn't aware of: Iran is a net importer of gasoline. Certainly this must be due to a lack of refinement capability; they don't lack oil itself.

An embargo -- or, rather, a full on naval blockade, with blocking on land routes in Afghanistan and Iraq as well -- might have some effect, and might destabilize the regime before this comes to pass; but I doubt it. External threats and misery opposed by external forces tends to increases support of a leader, not sap it.

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posted by Ace at 11:17 AM

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