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Thinking the Unthinkable: War With Iran

Author: Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy
March 3, 2010
American Interest

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"Do not even think about bombing Iran," wrote Michael O'Hanlon and Bruce Reidel in yesterday's Financial Times.  Pointing out that the US has two unpopular and unfinished wars in the region already, and that the damage from any military strikes on the Islamic Republic would be unlikely to do enough damage to its nuclear program to justify the military and political cost, and also that Iran would have many opportunities to retaliate against US interests in the region, they urge President Obama to take this option off the table completely.  Living with a nuclear Iran won't be fun, but it's better than the alternatives, so let's start making plans for the inevitable.

I actually agree with O'Hanlon and Reid that military strikes against the Iranian nuclear program aren't likely to get us anywhere good, but that doesn't mean we can stop thinking about them. Sixty-one percent of Americans asked called Iran's strength a ‘critical threat' in a Gallup poll last month;  an additional 29 percent said the Iranian threat was ‘important.'  With 90 percent of the public feeling threatened by Iran - at a moment when nothing special was happening - it's not clear to me that domestic politics will allow the Obama administration to steer clear of hostilities with Iran even if it wants to.

Maybe it's a consequence of the Bush administration; we seem to be assuming that America can opt out of war if the White House can just keep its cool.

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