A Really Bad Idea: A ‘Limited’ War with Iran
The author challenges the assumptions of recent calls for military strikes against Iran, arguing the advocates of military action dramatically underestimate how Iran would respond and how quickly the conflict could escalate.
Iran most definitely is not. Indeed, in part because Washington obligingly removed the main regional strategic counterweight to Iran by ousting Saddam, Tehran’s power and influence has been on the rise for the past decade. It has significant allies and clients in the region, especially among its Shiite brethren. Hezbollah is the most notable one, but pro-Iranian elements in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain are not trivial assets. Tehran could make life in the Middle East even more miserable for the United States than it is currently, and the clerical regime would have every incentive to do so in response to air strikes on its nuclear installations.
The main fallacy in the professed hawkish case for limited war is that the United States would be in complete control of the escalation process. The reality is that Iran could greatly escalate the military confrontation. And one cannot imagine people in Congress like Tom Cotton, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham (or the warhawk contingent in the news media) keeping their cool and adhering to a limited war agenda if Tehran or its clients retaliated by attacking a U.S. ally in the Middle East—much less if such an attack killed Americans.
The instant that such an incident occurred, the current proponents of a limited war would demand a full-scale U.S. military campaign to overthrow the Iranian government. And at that point, we would be in a new Middle East war that would make the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts look like minor skirmishes.
Regardless of whether the U.S. or Israel initiates a strike against Iran, Iran is likely to strike back against Israel as well as escalating its overseas operations against U.S. and western interests which will only escalate the conflict to a broader regional war.