Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 5, 2006
WAR: Bombing Iran: How Tough, How Smart?

Kevin Drum is hearing signs from both sides of the Atlantic that the momentum is building towards a US-led bombing and special operations campaign against Iran's nuclear program. (h/t: Henke). Drum's conclusion:

If Democrats don't start thinking about how they're going to respond to this, they're idiots. We don't always get to pick the issues to run on. Sometimes they're picked for us.

Drum also links back to something he wrote in February:

Democrats ought to figure out now what they think about Iran. After all, we've got the Ken Pollack book, we've got the referral to the Security Council, we've got the slam dunk intelligence, and we've got the lunatic leader screaming insults at the United States. Remember what happened the last time all the stars aligned like that?

So: What would be the Democratic response if (a) Bush asked for an authorization of force against Iran or (b) simply launched an assault without asking Congress? The chances of this coming up as an issue this year are strong enough that it would be foolish not to be prepared to deal with it.

Of course, I've been asking a similar question for some time now. Now, Drum is a serious guy, but implicit in his framing of the question is what we already know: you have to speak in tactical-electoral terms to get Democrats to pay attention to a serious threat to national security, at least one that could require a potential solution other than hosting "talks," signing treaties or expanding the federal payroll. If Democrats genuinely support military action as an option, they should get out in front and help build bipartisan support for that course. In other words, govern. And if they oppose, they should get on the record as early as possible as to why - do they doubt the existence of Iranian WMD programs? Do they think we should learn to live with a nuclear Iran? Do they seriously expect us to believe that some solution short of force will work? If you actually wanted to prevent a confrontation rather than sitting back and scoring cheap political points, that's what you would do.

How tough are the Democrats prepared to be? How smart? How much you want to bet they're not going to tell us?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:42 PM | War 2006 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)

I thought it was only a joke when Democrats mocked Bush supporters in 2004 by chanting, "four more wars." But that seems to be where you're headed Crank.

The Iraq War will end up costing this country at least a trillion dollars - half in direct spending and half in lost workforce, veterans benefits, etc. We've already lost 2,300 soldiers and ten times as many are wounded.

And we've got nothing to show for it. Do you really think the same option is available with Iran? If so, you are completely removed from any sense of reality. Sorry.

What can we do? Isolate Iran's leaders from the world community: reach out to other Arab countries, lean heavily on Russia and China to join in. And most importantly, work to lessen the world's dependenace on OIL!!

Yes these are long term solutions and don't get the adrenalyn pumping like war, but we tried war and it got us nowhere, so that option is no longer realistically available.

Posted by: patrick at April 5, 2006 10:04 PM

Is there any real reason to believe the Iranian nuclear program could be taken out by strategic bombing, as the Israelis did to Saddam's program ? I've been under the impression that would not be viable (and of course, even that would carry some risks). If not, we are talking about starting a second pre-emptive war, which is something that I would hope the GOP could not be counted on to rubber-stamp.

Posted by: Jerry at April 5, 2006 10:23 PM

Guys, did you read Crank's post? He's not debating the various policies America can or will eventually adopt to deal with this problem, but rather questioning whether the Democrats will come out w/ a credible policy of their own at the earliest opportunity, as was Drum. One of the biggest problems that the Democrats faced in the '04 elections was being caught in the position of having to criticize Bush over the war after having supported it in Congress, on the record. What Drum and the Crank are implying is that if the Democrats do not come out w/ their own plan as to how this issue can be resolved, then they will be in the same position that they've been in for the past few years now, which is spouting different versions of the same tired refrain they've been using for years now: Bush sucks. And if that is once again what their national security policy amounts to, then this November will be a repeat of November '04.

Dominance by any one party over the long term is fundamentally unhealthy, and this is especially true when the party in question consists of numbskulls like the current Congressional Republicans. The problem is that the Congressional Democrats haven't offered America anything better; the perception of the public is that the basis of largely all their policies over the past four years or so has been "Get Bush". This has to change, finally, if the Democrats are to make any headway in the next two general elections.

Posted by: Tom at April 6, 2006 12:37 AM

Long term solution? Kevin, in the long term, we are all dead.

Posted by: roGERTHIS at April 6, 2006 2:09 AM

Tom's right. The issue that Kevin Drum mentioned is not Bush. The issue is a country led by a president who openly calls for Israel's annihilation and is hell-bent on acquiring nukes in the opinion of the world community. Diplomacy has been tried. Bush waited for the EU to dissuade Iran and was criticised for that. Russia and China are not going to let the Security Council act. It is a fair question now to ask the Democrats what they would do about this.

Posted by: jimbo at April 6, 2006 4:43 AM

I'd agree that we can't feasibly occupy Iran. I've been meaning to post on this for a while but haven't had the time. Basically, our military options are either (1) a quick bombing campaign (I'm not enough of a military expert to say whether this can be done, but Drum's posts are dependent in part on Wesley Clark saying it's do-able, and as much as Clark is a political crackpot I assume he knows of what he speaks here) or (2) an invasion without the kind of lengthy occupation we have had in Iraq. Neither is a great option, but the "long term solutions" ignore the fact that they will have nukes soon (if they don't already) and once that happens, the whole balance of power in the region changes to our detriment.

Posted by: The Crank at April 6, 2006 10:52 AM

And most importantly, work to lessen the world's dependenace on OIL!!

That's all fine and dandy, but that does not address the danger if Iran developing nukes. As far as I know, North Korea has no oil, yet they still were allowed to develop nukes during the Clinton administration...

Posted by: Mark at April 6, 2006 11:38 AM

Bush isn't going to let Iran have nukes. He's said it repeatedly and I read a post a while back on a blog that quoted Rice, Cheney and the WH press sec all using the same word about Iran's ambitions in the same week; "unacceptable". That word has a very specific meaning in diplomacy, and one has to assume they wouldn't have all come out using it at the same time if a decision had not been reached. The idea that they are moving towards a military strike to address the situation or that it might happen sometime soon is quite plausible to me.

What that might look like is certainly beyond my knowledge but my guess (and fervent hope) is it will not involve any ground troops. Among other reasons I don't think we have the resources to do that at this point.

I don't think they are moving towards "war" but I think it is highly likely they are seriously considering military strikes. Perhaps that's a difficult distinction though considering if we make the strikes the ball is in Iran's court.

What are the Dems going to do? Who knows, but Drum makes a good point that it might be a good idea to figure that out now. My guess is they will wait to see what Bush does or wants to do and oppose it. Easy prediction, that.

Posted by: Dwilkers at April 6, 2006 11:39 AM

It is interesting that the Clinton administration is brought up in this discussion. In light of the recent revelations that the Clinton administration transferred nuclear technology to Iran (not just China) that allowed them to make significant strides in their nuclear program. That backs his party into a corner when it comes to now taking that regime on. The Dims have an ongoing stratigy of not taking a position on anything, that way they are not wrong. To bad that doesn't really work in the real world.

Posted by: maddirishman at April 6, 2006 11:49 AM

"they will have nukes soon (if they don't already)"

American & Israeli intelligence sources say that Iran's between 5 and 10 years from this point.

I agree that a nuke-armed Iran is deeply worrisome, but I wonder from where you guys are getting your intelligence info?

Posted by: Mike at April 6, 2006 12:00 PM

I happen to believe that Iran is a lot closer to developing a nuke that we think, unfortunately.

Intelligence has been wrong before. We discovered after the Cold War that the intelligence estimates were off regarding actual Soviet military strength, and more recently everyone was dead wrong about Iraq having WMD's.

I also recall that soon after Iran elected its president, there was a series of helicoptor crashes that killed the president's guards, but not him directly. I always wondered if those crashes were coincidence, or some sort of operation by an intelligence service somewhere. I would like to believe that it is the latter, and there are some very covert operations being planned - and perhaps executed - that have not been leaked to the New York Times yet...

Posted by: Mark at April 6, 2006 12:32 PM


So what you're saying is, if I follow you, that we should bomb Iran, while still engaged in Iraq & Afghanistan, based upon:

1. Your gut feeling;

2. The fact that the pre-Iraq War intelligence incorrectly said that Iraq had the WMDs that we later found out they did not have; and

3. a "mysterious helicopter crash that killed Ahmedinejhad's guards.

Hmmmm. You're gonna call me one of them there America haters, but I'm just not convinced.

Posted by: Mike at April 6, 2006 3:45 PM

RE: " As far as I know, North Korea has no oil."

Every situation is different, but keeping the likes of Russia and China focused on disarmement becomes a lot less challenging when Iran can't seduce them with scarce oil. Not too mention the allure of petro dollars to all the world.

Posted by: patrick at April 6, 2006 9:44 PM

re the effectiveness of bombing Iran's nuclear capabilities-

Its doable. Of course we can bomb (and/or compromise/destroy via special ops) those facilities we're aware of. The worry is that we're not aware of all facilities. How good is the intel, in other words.

Another consideration is the goal. Degradation of capabilities is the best we can hope for. We're certainly not going to occupy Iran, and absent that we'll be stuck- in Rumsfeld-ese- with some known unknowns: whether we hit everything, is one; how long it'll take them to start up again is another.

So, whats the risk/reward? The reward is a significantly degraded Iranian nuclear capability. No small thing. Risks are potential responses, to include making Iraq even more challenging and counterattack from conventional or unknown nuclear weapons. The first of these- Iraq- is probably a bigger problem than the latter, b/c its far more likely.

Posted by: seamus at April 7, 2006 9:18 AM


Good points.

But I still stick to my original concern: until we get some firm sense that Iran is within 5-10 years of developing a nuclear device, why are we talking about this?

I'm aware of no intelligence that says they're any closer than those 5-10 years.

Posted by: Mike at April 7, 2006 9:34 AM

"15-20 is better than 5-10" is the simplest answer. Is it worth the candle? Tough question.

Posted by: seamus at April 7, 2006 11:37 AM


I respect your honesty, and agree it's an important debate.

But, man, you'd think the Adminstration and it's supporters would have learned the lessons of war-under-false-pretenses by now.

But with the rhetoric contradicting the intelligence, I guess not.

Posted by: Mike at April 7, 2006 11:43 AM

I'm one of the increasingly few who think the casus belli were not so much false, as poorly presented. A matter of emphasis, one might say.

W/ Iran, as w/ Iraq, the soundest justification is enforcement of international law.

Posted by: seamus at April 7, 2006 12:17 PM

How many of you that want to start a war with Iran are going to volunteer?

Let's go....up and at 'em....what are you doing behind a keyboard?

Posted by: Dan at April 7, 2006 5:34 PM

And all of this has what relation to basbell?
Just asking.

Posted by: Craig Clemens at April 8, 2006 12:36 PM

Patrick's email is dead, FYI

Posted by: Craig C at April 8, 2006 12:50 PM

Bas Bell? George's brother? Buddy's son?

Posted by: seamus at April 8, 2006 2:38 PM
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