Commander Salamander got around to commenting on a post by one of the posters at the very popular Officer’s Club. The post in question suggests a “Desert Fox” strike as an option for dealing with Iran’s incipient nuclear capability.
The question of whether or not Iran will play diplomatic ball has been answered, they won’t. Now we have to ask “what next?”
As I’ve made clear before, I support a preemptive strike against any and all Iranian nuclear facilities, from their reactors right down to their heavy-water processing facilities. Before people get hysterical about invading another Middle Eastern nation and screaming “empire” until they are blue in the face, this is what I mean when I say “preemptive strike.”
The United States, striking from carriers in the Persian Gulf, bomber bases in Guam, and air bases in Turkey (long-time adversaries of the Iranians) should initiate a 3-4 day air campaign similiar to Operation Desert Fox against Saddam in 1998. The objective would be two-fold: knock the Iranian nuclear capabilities back to the stone age, and sting their military to the point where the Ayatollahs understand that their own bomb “just ain’t worth the effort.”
Commander Salamander doesn’t like the idea at all.
Iran is not Iraq. Iran has mitigated the ability to have their nuke program knocked out from the air. Like DF, we could make some great video out of it – and we might get lucky and not loose anyone (I wouldn’t be on it though) — but you will only make the problem worse. Everyone needs to face the facts that the only way you will destroy Iran’s nuke program is to have some guy with US flag on his shoulder, putting C4 around a door to get access to it. Oh, make that a few hundred guys doing that….supported by a few hundred thousand. If we are not willing to do that – then it is back to the future. My nukes trump your nukes. Pick you choice.
I didn’t like the idea back in January when I saw the original post, and commented:
If a single short campaign as you recommend is executed it had better not be as effects-free as DF was upon its intended Middle Eastern target. You want blown up things, not scorch marks–you want effects better than their own Air Force has had over the last month.
I think this suggestion is interesting but ignores that the effects can be interagency. DF didn’t do anything to banking systems or engineers. It didn’t do anything for recently fired or reassigned bad country diplomats. No satellites lost their terrestrial feeds, no young folks got “A Force More Powerful” CDs in Farsi, few Senior People got interesting phone calls in the middle of the night, no escape pod palaces mysteriously burned to the ground, no extended family interesting things happened, no Kalashnikovs wound up in hands not encouraging for supporters of stability.
And there’s a well we could send a message down, if you get my drift. We can parse the message right, in such a way that an not-evil imam would know and tell others that the twelfth imam got the message.
My comment about “their own Air Force” refers to a series of air disasters that in one case killed the ground commander of the IRGC and senior staff to include the senior intel officer and in another killed reporters and staffers as well as a Tehran apartment building–odd coincidences, that.
After thinking about the Officer’s Club post a little more, the more dumb a single strike-ex becomes.
- Israel’s Osirak strike, where they used TACAIR to destroy the Chirac-provided reactor, counterintuitively resulted in an acceleration of the Iraqi nuclear capability in ways that were more difficult to detect. The political effects were useful, but the stated effect wasn’t achieved.
- It is not stupid on the face of it to assume that we do not know where all the nuclear weapons generating capability is located. The stuff we do know about might well be in places that were designed with Osirak in mind–meaning a simple TLAM will not have an effect.
- The strike will not have the effect the United States actually wants. We want to avoid having an apocalyptic madman with nuclear weapons. This is not necessarily going to happen merely from a military strike; all aspects of national power and capability must be aligned towards a common goal, and just bombing someone with no other coordination outside DoD will not cause that alignment to magically occur.
Important Caveat Goes Here
Military action in support of a more integrated and long term effort is most emphatically not stupid. Violence in support of national objectives makes sense in certain frameworks, including frameworks that sound suboptimal on their face such as invasion and occupation. What I advocate is to consider use of military force as a tool in a bigger toolbox, and to consider the application of that force in a broader context than merely bombing certain known and sufficiently soft facilities.
It may well be that we have to respond to Iran’s stated intention, and their ongoing acts of war against Americans and their interests, in an overwhelmingly military manner. It’s just that we’ve learned that short duration bombing campaigns will no longer have the effect we desire against an enemy who learned its warfighting style by observing, absorbing, and exploiting such shocks.