Sarah Palin recently spoke about Iran, Obama and terrorism on Fox News. While we are currently involved in two wars, Palin seems to think that a third war (against Iran) would be something we should do. She said:
“Say he decided to declare war on Iran or decide to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel–which I would like him to do. That changes the dynamics of what we can assume will happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today, Obama would not be elected.”
While support for Israel does make sense (Israel is a consistent American ally in the region), attacking Iran does not seem to be a very good idea.
Three reasons this would be a bad idea are Iraq, Afghanistan and the economy. In other words, we are already bogged down in two wars and our economy is in bad shape. Starting up a third war might well be beyond our means. Two factors that tend to break empires are overextending the military and overtaxing the economy. As such, we should give considerable more thought about the matter before sending tanks into Iran.
Of course, it could be argued that the consequences of not attacking Iran will be far worse than then consequences of attacking. People have argued that Iran is close to getting nuclear weapons and hence we must attack them.
Of course, we have never operated on the principle that we will invade countries to prevent them from getting nuclear weapons and it is not clear why Iran should be the exception. Also, if we a adopt the principle if attacking countries who might get nuclear weapons, then it would make sense to also go after those that already have these weapons. However, this does not seem to be a very good idea since it would probably start a nuclear war.
It might be argued that the time to strike is before a country has nuclear weapons. After all, if someone is reaching for a gun, the time to hit him is before he gets to it. It also makes sense to fight people who do not have guns rather than those who do. Likewise with nuclear weapons in place of guns.
This analogy does work well when you know the person reaching for a gun intends to shoot you. If a person is reaching for a gun because so many other people have guns and having one is a status symbol as well as means of deterrence, then attacking seems far less reasonable. After all, attacking will certainly start a war and allowing the person to get his gun unmolested might not lead to a fight. So far this approach has worked-after all, we are currently living with a world on which many folks are toting nuclear weapons. If we can live with them, the argument goes, we can live with a nuclear armed Iran.
However, some folks claim that the leaders of Iran are religious fanatics and that they will start a nuclear war as soon as they can get the weapons.
If this were true, then this would be a matter of great concern. Going back to the gun analogy, if you saw a madman lunging for a gun while screaming about slaughtering all the heretics/infidels/non-believers in the name of Jesus/Allah/Santa Claus, then shooting him before he can grab that gun would probably be a good idea.
This leads to a critical factual issue: are the people who call the shots in Iran crazy religious fanatics who intend to start a nuclear war as soon as they get weapons?
The answer seems to be “no.” While the leaders in Iran talk the religious talk and act in theocratic ways, they seem to be very similar to all leaders: concerned about power, corrupt, and very much interested in the things of this world. As such, it seems unlikely that Iran would switch from being a fairly pragmatic political player to being an apocalyptic madhouse simply because it gets the bomb.
I could, of course, be wrong about this. Maybe they are dreaming of burning the world in nuclear fire for the glory of God. Maybe Obama
Also, there are other reasons to be concerned about a nuclear armed Iran, such as their willingness to provide weapons to terrorists. But this possibility must be weighed against the cost of attacking Iran and maintaining a sustained campaign to prevent them from acquiring such weapons. Ironically, launching such an attack could make the United States even less safe by providing even more motivation for terrorism and creating even more fear in the Middle East that America has no qualms about attacking Muslim countries.