Senator Lindsey Graham recently spoke about neutering the Iranian military. He predicted that such an operation would result in unconventional attacks against the United States (mostly terrorist operations). However, he seems to prefer that sort of retaliation to allowing Iran to complete its nuclear program.
Iran is in many ways an enemy of our own creation. While the British laid much of the groundwork with their imperial approach in the middle east, we backed the Shah and his police state. This, among other things, helped bring about the Iran of today: an Islamic state that professes hostility against America and a desire to exterminate Israel. Oh, they also want the bomb.
Of course, what was done cannot be undone, so we must look to the future to solve the problems we have with Iran. We have been trying isolating Iran and using embargoes. This seems to have had little meaningful effect and the people hurt most by the embargo seem to be the middle class (the folks most likely to make Iran more moderate). Our main foes, the Revolutionary Guard, seem to be doing quite well-they are, by many accounts, running the black market and pulling in considerable amounts of money.
One option is to “neuter” Iran as Graham has suggested. While our military is bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, we should have the capability to defeat Iran’s conventional naval, air and land forces. In any case, I’m sure Israel would be happy to get involved.
Of course, the obvious question is “what then?” This question was clearly not asked when we invaded Iraq and the consequences of that are quite evident. We cannot, I suspect, afford to try to occupy Iran. Smashing their military would no doubt cost us in terms of our relations with certain other countries.
Also worth considering is that with a demolished conventional military, Iran might consider relying on non-conventional means of defense or offense. Ironically, a “neutered” Iran might pose even more danger if the leadership felt the need to retaliate by providing terrorists with nuclear material. Of course, a “neutered” Iran might be sufficiently cowed and elect not to antagonize the United States.
Another option is to continue on the current path. This has served to keep things fairly stable-albeit with various incidents. This will allow things to go on as they are. While this does not seem like an optimal solution, it does seem to be a viable option.
A third option is to change the existing policy in ways that do not involve neutering. For example, the United States could push to change the sanctions so that the middle class is able to thrive better. It might, in fact, be in our best interest for that middle class to grow.
In any case, the future will ( as always) be what it will be.