January 22, 2006

Another Iran question

Back before the Iraq Attaq, I was deeply skeptical of the wisdom of an invasion, but, unfortunately, I didn't fully buy into physicist Gregory Cochran's now-confirmed logic on why Saddam couldn't possibly be building nuclear weapons.

I did ask, however, why, rather than invade, we couldn't just blow up any Iranian nuclear laboratories with cruise missiles or JDAM bombs. Back then, the neocons scoffed that airstrikes were impractical since the wily Saddam had a country the size of California in which to use his countless billions in oil smuggling profits to hide his vast underground Dr. Evil-like laboratories. And what about the deadly radiation fallout from blowing up his vast plutonium stockpiles? The only feasible American response, they said, was invasion.

Well, that all turned out to be hooey -- Saddam barely had any money and had no high tech WMD laboratories, underground, above-ground, driving around in mobile homes, floating in Zeppelins, or wherever.

But now that the American public has gown wary of invading countries that begin with I-r-a, the neocons are telling us that no invasion of Iran would be necessary to root out Iran's entire nuclear infrastructure. We could just do it all push-button style from the air.

Perhaps, but considering that Iran is not the size of California, but is instead more than twice the size of Texas, and has a GDP (in purchasing power terms) about six times that of Iraq, why have the neocons suddenly become so confident in the power of airstrikes alone? Or is promoting airstrikes just a way to get us into a war with Iran that will eventually require a ground war too?

By the way, is there much evidence that Iran is gearing up for nonstop aggressive war? According to the CIA World Factbook, Iran's military spending in 2003 was $4.3 billion dollars (compared to America's planned expenditure of 370.7 billion, which I imagine came in higher due to to the expenses of the Iraq occupation). That was all of 3.3% of Iran's GDP, which doesn't suggest fanatical militarism to me.

In case you are wondering, Israel's military spending was $9.1 billion, which was 8.7% of GDP. Iran's main (perhaps only) military advantage over Israel is in potential quantity of cannon fodder (as it showed in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war), but that's no threat to Israel because Iran doesn't share any borders with Israel. (Iranian cannon fodder would be more of a problem for the U.S., since we have 150,000 troops in neighboring Iraq, who, in case the U.S. attacks Iran, might come under either guerilla attack from Shi'ite sympathizers in Iraq or by conventional attack by the main Iranian army.) The current claim that Iran threatens to overtake Israel in a high tech arms race seems laughable.

The simplest explanation for why Iran would want a nuclear bomb is the most plausible: it wants a deterrent against American and/or Israeli aggression. Considering that we launched a war of aggression against Iraq just three years ago, it's hard to conceive why any Iranian patriot wouldn't, all else being equal, want a deterrent.

By the way, if the crazy Shi'ite fundamentalists in Iran are such a threat, why did we start a war to put the crazy Shi'ite fundamentalists in Iraq into power? Just asking ...

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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