In a world that seems to grow more insecure and precarious by the day, there are always new issues arising to be greatly concerned about. Iran is a case in point. Led by a madman who hates the West, seeks the extermination of Israel, and is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons, it is not a situation that can be ignored. Hoping that it will just go away will not do. Therefore some hard thinking is called for.
Among the various options, there has been a lot of debate recently as to whether a military strike, at least on Iran’s nuclear facilities, might be in order. It is a question almost too horrible to ask. The consequences could be devastating. But the consequences of doing nothing could be equally devastating.
That is the argument made by American commentator Charles Krauthammer. Writing in the September 15, 2006 Washington Post, he lays out the pros and cons of such a scenario in “The Tehran Calculus”. The risks and costs of a military solution are very real indeed, he argues, and seem almost insurmountable.
Consider the economic costs: “An attack on Iran is likely to send oil prices overnight to $100 or even to $150 a barrel. That will cause a worldwide recession perhaps as deep as the one triggered by the Iranian revolution of 1979.”
Moreover, Iran could close “the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world’s exports flow every day”. This would send the world economy into “a deep spiral” which may take years to recover from.
Military costs would also be great. Iran would activate its terrorist proxies in Iraq and elsewhere, further escalating the terrorist attacks on the West, and further destabilising the Middle East.
Diplomatic repercussions would be predictable and loud. “There will be massive criticism of America from around the world. Much of it is to be discounted. The Muslim street will come out again for a few days, having replenished its supply of flammable American flags, most recently exhausted during the cartoon riots. Their governments will express solidarity with a fellow Muslim state, but this will be entirely hypocritical. The Arabs are terrified about the rise of a nuclear Iran and would privately rejoice in its defanging.”
The French and the EU will especially foam at the mouth: “The Europeans will be less hypocritical because their visceral anti-Americanism trumps rational calculation. We will have done them an enormous favor by sparing them the threat of Iranian nukes, but they will vilify us nonetheless.”
Thus the costs of a military strike will be very severe indeed. But what if we do nothing? What price inactivity and/or appeasement? “In the region, Persian Iran will immediately become the hegemonic power in the Arab Middle East. Today it is deterred from overt aggression against its neighbors by the threat of conventional retaliation. Against a nuclear Iran, such deterrence becomes far less credible. As its weak, nonnuclear Persian Gulf neighbors accommodate to it, jihadist Iran will gain control of the most strategic region on the globe.”
Iran with nukes will be an unmitigated disaster for the rest of the world: “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.”
Concludes Krauthammer: “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.”
Krauthammer merely lays out the pros and cons here. He leaves the final answers to others. I too defer to the wisdom of others here. But the prospects do not look good. Military solutions should always be a last resort. But when all other options fail, then there may be a time to act. Let us all hope that final solution is not called for. But let us also hope that a West blackmailed by a nuclear Iran is not the only other outcome.