Thursday, February 05, 2009

the unthinkable option

NYTimes | When it comes to Iran, the choice of metaphor is limited. The United States’ role in the 1953 coup here that deposed the Middle East’s first democratically elected government lives in memory. Any U.S. attack would propel 56-year-old Iranian demons into overdrive and lock in an America-hating Islamic Republic for the next half-century.

From Basra through Kabul to the Paris suburbs, Muslim rage would erupt. The Iranian Army is not the Israeli Army, but its stubborn effectiveness is in no doubt. Rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas, and newly tested Iranian long-range missiles, would hit Israel.

Chaos would threaten Persian Gulf states, oil markets and the grinding U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. war front, in the first decade of the 21st century, at a time of national economic disaster, would stretch thousands of miles across the Muslim world, from western Iraq to eastern Afghanistan.

It is doubtful that a bombing campaign would end Iran’s nuclear ambitions, so all the above might be the price paid for putting off an Iranian bomb — or mastery of the production of fissile material — by a year or so.

In short, the U.S. military option is not an option. It is unthinkable.