Should the United States Go to War with Iran?
Overview/BackgroundFor the past four decades, the fundamentalist Islamic regime of Iran has been a militant hotbed of anti-American and anti-Western terror in the Middle East. Many consider it to be the true birthplace of modern Islamic terror. In the late 1970s, Ruhollah Khomeini led a fundamentalist takeover of the pro-Western government, leading to, among other things, the storming of the U.S. Embassy in November of 1979. Fifty hostages were taken and held in captivity for 444 days. The rulers of Iran have been feverishly anti-American ever since, right up to the current head, a man by the name of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is known to be actively pursuing the illegal construction of nuclear weapons, and who has said that he believes the entire state of Israel should be "wiped off the map." Iran is known to actively sponsor Islamic terror groups such as Hezbollah and has been accused repeatedly by the U.S. military of aiding terrorist insurgents currently trying to thwart the creation of a democratic government in Iraq.
Given Iran's nuclear ambitions and history of terrorist support, President Bush has turned up the heat lately. A concerned international community has largely joined in the effort. Countries such as Britain, France, and Germany, among others, have tried for years to negotiate a diplomatic solution. Various levels of sanctions have been attempted, but tougher sanctions that might truly put some pressure on Iran have been opposed by Russia and China, who are both intertwined in the Iran economy.
The drumbeats of war are starting again. Is a military solution the right way to deal with Iran?
- Iran is, without a doubt, the biggest state supporter of terrorist groups in the world.
Many consider Iran to be the birthplace of state-sponsored terrorism. Rogue regimes like that in Iran have no way to compete militarily with powers such as the United States, so they often funnel money and intelligence information to psychopathic groups like Hezbollah that are committed to the destruction of Israel and other Western-style democracies. The leaders of Iran are all devout Shiite Muslims that publicly support the methods of terrorists such as those that attacked America on 9/11. If ever there was an appropriate target for the "Bush Doctrine", which promises action not only against terrorists but the states that sponsor it, it is Iran.
- It is openly defying the world in building nuclear weapons, and fanatical religious powers are less likely to be deterred than a secular power. Iran could also pass this new technology to the terrorists they support.It seems that every day, Iran claims to reach a new milestone in its quest to build nuclear weapons. Some people think this isn't a big deal since several countries have nuclear weapon technology. However, the big difference between these countries and Iran is that all the current nuclear powers are either stable, rational democracies or are countries that can be deterred by mutual assured destruction. In other words, North Korea isn't stupid enough to ever use its nuclear weapons since they will be wiped out by a retaliation. However, in the case of Iran, death is glorified. Killing in the name of Islam is seen as a cause for reward in the afterlife for the fanatics. The 9/11 terrorists reveled in the fact that they were soon to be rewarded with 72 virgins in heaven. In a culture where death is glorified, what is there to deter the Iranian leadership? An even worse scenario may be if Iran passes this technology to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Hamas, or Hezbollah. What is there to deter these groups from using them? How will we even be able to trace the originator of a terrorist bombing that involves nuclear weapons?
- Iran has openly called for the destruction of the U.S. and Israel, saying more than once that Israel should be "wiped off the map".It's no secret that Iran and pretty much every Muslim terror group is committed to destroying Israel and regaining what they view as their land which is currently "occupied territory". Ahmadinejad has even used the exact words that Israel should be "wiped off the map". Is it reasonable to put nuclear weapons in the hands of such a person? After witnessing millions of death in the Nazi Holocaust, does such a potential scenario seem so far-fetched? Anti-Semitism is as prevalent in the Muslim world as breathing.
- Iran is supporting the Iraqi & Afghanistan insurgencies and is making stabilization there near impossible.Iran is in effect fighting a proxy war against the United States already by
- Many U.S. soldiers would be killed and wounded. An already exhausted U.S. military has already lost thousands of men and women in a war that's likely to be much easier than that of attacking Iran. Most of the technology that's being used to kill American troops such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) is being supplied by Iran. How many soldiers will be killed if this technology is used first hand by the masters? Iran is likely to be better financed, more organized, and better prepared to fight than Iraq; thus, things are likely only to get worse for the U.S. military.
- A large number of civilians would likely be killed and wounded. There are a wide range of estimates as to the number of civilians killed in Iraq. Some reach the hundreds of thousands. Do we want to repeat this scenario, especially when so much of the population is young and pro-Western?
- World opinion, which is already heavily anti-American, would only get worse, with Iran garnering sympathy. Most countries in the world view the Iraqi invasion as an illegal war. The U.S. is frequently seen as an imperialist bully forcing their will on the rest of the world. As we've seen with Saddam Hussein, what happens before the war is likely to be completely forgotten or overlooked. Since the war started, how many news stories can you remember seeing chronicling life of Iraqis under Saddam? Saddam ran one of the most vicious regimes in history, yet the Americans are still largely seen as the villains in this whole war. Thus, an invasion of Iran is likely to generate more hatred for the United States and generate sympathy for the evil, destructive regime of Iran.
- With a largely fundamental Muslim population, an Iran guerilla war could be ten times worse than what it is in Iraq. The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s proved more than anything just how fanatical the Iranians can be if their country is invaded. Hundreds of thousands died fighting the superior military power of Iraq as human waves of "martyrs" were sent to sacrifice themselves against the approaching tanks. Iran is very much a fundamentalist religious population, unlike the secular society that dominates in Iraq. As such, death and sacrifice is glorified far more. Thus, a guerilla war fought in Iran is likely to get far worse than the already difficult situation in Iraq.
- Younger pro-American & pro-democracy parts of the Iranian population may turn against us as they rally to defend their country. Western culture and values are popular with the younger generation. Iranians that escaped the repressive regime of Iran tell of a largely pro-American population that longs for democracy. However, like almost all people around the world, Iranians are patriotic. They may turn against America and defend their own country in the event of an invasion.
- The U.S. military is already strained and occupied in Iraq & Afghanistan. It took a "surge" of American troops in 2007 to really start getting any results in the rebuilding of Iraq. Troops are already spread thin to not only Iraq, but Afghanistan and other hotspots around the world. Recruitment of new soldiers has plummeted. How can we possibly take on a military task that could be far worse than the war in Iraq?
- There are less costly solutions like deterrence and sanctions. We could also allow Israel to do our dirty work or battle covertly through the CIA. War should always be the option of very last resort. It would likely cost hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives. Far cheaper options are available such as sanctions and a CIA-led covert war. Sanctions that cut off oil, military, and other resources going to Iran are by no means a quick fix. They take time to be effective, as they wear down the will of those that are punished. Because so much of the population is pro-American, a covert war led by the CIA and internal Iranian groups opposed to the current regime may be able to topple the government from the inside. A combination of other solutions seriously need to be tried before we undertake such a destructive step as another war.
- Rogue regimes like North Korea are more likely to stir up trouble with the U.S. military tied up in Iran and Iraq. We've already seen how Hugo Chavez wiped out democracy in Venezuela while we were occupied in Iraq. What's going to happen to other shaky governments and rogue regimes when the U.S. military is tied up fighting in two Middle Eastern countries? Their main deterrent threat would be somewhat powerless to stop them. Would this mean the toppling of more democracies? The invasion of other countries? The ignoring of several treaties and U.N. mandates?
- The cost to the U.S. taxpayer would likely be in the hundreds of billions, money which could be spent on education, homeland security, etc. The United States has already spent in the hundreds of billions in Iraq. That cost may eventually reach or exceed a trillion dollars. Who knows how much a war with Iran would cost, as well as the inevitable retaliation? We have so many other needs to address such as a social security system approaching bankruptcy, a 9-trillion dollar national debt, a strained military that needs to be built back up, a worsening education system, and on and on. We simply can't afford another war, nor can the rest of the world which is so heavily dependent on the U.S. economy.
- Iran has close connections to terrorist groups around the world and is likely to unleash these groups in the
event of an invasion.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of a war with Iran is what would happen if Iran unleashed all its terrorist
resources to Western nations? In other words, what would happen if the individual members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad,
Hezbollah, Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, and countless other Islamic terrorist groups were
unleashed in the United States?
We haven't had a terrorist attack in America since 9/11, but how would you like to see suicide bombers blowing
themselves up in shopping malls? How about busloads of kids exploding on the way home from school? How about
stinger missiles being launched against civilian aircraft? How about rockets fired randomly into civilian towns?
All of these are popular attack methods against Israel but has yet to be brought to the United States. The
endless possibilities are too terrible to imagine.
Related LinksWill Israel Attack Iran?
The Costs and Benefits of Preventive War Versus Deterrence
Iran Sanctions: Pros and Cons
The Iran Dilemma
Will America Attack Iran?
Pros and Cons of Attacking Iran
Our Common Enemy
Iran Policy is a Calculated Risk
Written by: Joe Messerli
Page Last Updated: 01/07/2012