Will President Obama Bomb Iran?

The title says it all.

Elliott Abrams, writing at The Atlantic, considers the possibility. First, there’s the policy:

If Iran acquires a nuclear weapon during his tenure, Obama would — in his own eyes — see the UN Security Council’s resolutions made a mockery, the International Atomic Energy Agency transformed into a joke, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty come to an end. Multilateralism a la Obama would be finished, for Iran would have proved the “international community” to be toothless or non-existent. So if the president means what he has repeatedly said about world affairs, what is at stake is whether he leaves a legacy of disaster — again, in his own eyes.

I seem to recall Walter Russell Mead advancing a somewhat similar argument about a month ago.

Then there’s the politics:

Should Iran acquire the Bomb in the next two years — the timetable Jeffrey suggests — Republicans will have an even stronger case that Obama has weakened our national security. The Obama who had struck Iran and destroyed its nuclear program would be a far stronger candidate, and perhaps an unbeatable one.

IMO the U. S.’s attacking Iran would be a tactical and strategic disaster, a blunder of tremendous proportion. Its sole redeeming feature would be watching journalists and bloggers who reflexively defend the president’s every word and deed twist themselves into pretzels.

FILED UNDER: General, , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    “If Iran acquires a nuclear weapon during his tenure, Obama would — in his own eyes — see the UN Security Council’s resolutions made a mockery, the International Atomic Energy Agency transformed into a joke, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty come to an end. ”

    and

    “Republicans will have an even stronger case that Obama has weakened our national security. ”

    If all this is true, hasn’t it already happened when North Korea–allegedly–created nuclear weapons?

    Why is this case altogether different? It seems to me that the big difference is that if Iran does acquire the bomb, they are less likely to use it than North Korea.




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  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Why is this case altogether different?

    (playing devil’s advocate) Because President Bush didn’t have the multilateral views that President Obama does and didn’t have to worry about attacks from Republicans that he was too soft on national security.

    Also, North Korea isn’t in the Middle East.




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  3. Herb says:

    “Its sole redeeming feature would be watching journalists and bloggers who reflexively defend the president’s every word and deed twist themselves into pretzels.”

    Well, I can’t wait to see all the Bomb-Bomb-Bomb-Iran types criticize him for the move….




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  4. john personna says:

    Non-issue. The real issue is, if someone else bombs Iran, how does that break for us?




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  5. ponce says:

    50 Quatloos says no bombing of Iran.




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  6. John RD Kidd says:

    “If Iran acquires a nuclear weapon during his tenure, Obama would — in his own eyes — see the UN Security Council’s resolutions made a mockery, the International Atomic Energy Agency transformed into a joke, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty come to an end”

    With respect, the IAEA and the nuclear NPT have already been transformed into a joke by the Israeli government who are estimated by US scientists to have amassed a huge, clandestine nuclear arsenal of between 250 and 400 nuclear warheads that are totally hidden from the IAEA inspectorate of the UN.

    This secret nuclear stockpile is clearly not merely for defensive purposes as its size is already estimated to be 90% greater than that required as a deterrent. It doesn’t require much imagination to visualize its true agenda – and that is the urgent problem for the international community.

    There can be but only one solution – the whole of the MidEast, in particular both ISRAEL and IRAN must be declared a NUCLEAR WEAPONS FREE ZONE, as a matter of urgency.

    Failure to pass such resolution by the UN Security Council will inevitably lead to nuclear war throughout the region, the firestorm of which will quickly spread to Europe and around the world. The oil price will double or quadruple and the economies of the world will go into free-fall. Thousands would likely perish and the world will have changed for ever.

    The UNSC must act !




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  7. Brummagem Joe says:

    Elliot Abrams, now there’s an objective source of comment on Iran and Israel.




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  8. floyd says:

    The fact that Iran has, or soon will have, nuclear warheads is a foregone conclusion.
    Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly stated his plans for their use.
    The only questions left are… do we believe him, and do we care enough to do something about it?
    If so which will it be, prevention or retaliation?
    If we believe him,we can always hope that the people of Iran will do something about Ahmadinejad soon,and defuse the apparent inevitablity.




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  9. floyd says:

    Say, whaddaya bet , that when Iran proves to have the bomb , he will miraculously have aquired it during Bush’s tenure , leaving “W” to blame and “BO” without a whiff of responsibility.




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  10. mannning says:

    What if Iran attacks US facilities first? Do we bow down and say thank you?

    It is quite clear how that attack could come about. Israel attacks Iran first, and Iran retaliates, and includes America where they can by all means possible, just as their glorious leader threatened eariler.

    What should we do if Israel is not only unsuccessful in their attack, but they are under full attack from the likes of Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria? Does the US stand by and watch Israel go down? Does this President care? Do we people care? I do!

    What if this attack by the Islamic nations surrounding Israel takes place without any significant provocation by Israel? What does the US do then? Do we support Israel or not?

    Saying that a US attack on Iran is “a strategic and tactical blunder” is not a sufficient statement, and it comes close to being trivial. No situation can exist in which the US must not attack Iran? Silly! Under what conditions must we abstain, and exactly why? Under what conditions must we attack, and why? Then the picture becomes clear.




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  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    floyd says:
    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 21:19
    “The fact that Iran has, or soon will have, nuclear warheads is a foregone conclusion.
    Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly stated his plans for their use.”

    Ahmadinejad doesn’t run the country. He’s Iran’s Medvedev. Iran is run by the mullahs who aren’t in the least irrational. They want nuclear weapons, but have no intention of using them because they don’t need to any more than the soviet union did when it acquired them in 1948. Possession was enough to readjust the balance of power with the US.




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  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Saying that a US attack on Iran is “a strategic and tactical blunder” is not a sufficient statement,”

    The author of this comment probably assumed you had some grasp of the dire economic, military and diplomatic consequences that would ensue for this country should we start a pre-emptive war with Iran and didn’t think he had to spell them out. Your suggestion of a Iranian attack on the US is about as likely as Saddam Hussein attacking the US.




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  13. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    BG, you know less than nothing. Those folks believe stuff you cannot possibly know. I don’t know your source of information but I think you should stop using that bong to consult with that source. If Iran is allowed to develop a nuclear weapon there will be a nuclear war in the middle east.
    Who knows what will happen after than. Those people believe in the comming of a 12th Imam. For that to happen there must be the end fight. For them to achieve their religious purpose this must happen. You think you can negotiate them out of this? Then contemplate the idea of strapping explosives to your children and sending them off to martyr themselves. They have clearly stated their intentions. What part of what they had to say do you find unbelievable?




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  14. Dave Schuler says:

    I’ve written so much on this topic that, frankly, I’m tired of it. If Iran were to attack the United States we would and should retaliate. I think that any U. S. president including the incumbent would do so.

    But a preventive attack? That would be immoral, illegal, solidify the support of the Iranians around their present government, and muster regional and world opinion against us. It would be likely to draw attacks on us all over the region. Worse, nothing short of an attack aimed at destroying Iran rather than just slowing its nuclear program would be likely to have the desired effect, consequently a tactical blunder.




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  15. floyd says:

    Joe;
    Like the Congress runs the U.S.?
    Or do you think more like Axelrod and his minions?




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  16. Brummagem Joe says:

    “If Iran were to attack the United States we would and should retaliate.”

    Of course, but they are not going to. This entire discussion is not about Iran attacking the US, but Israel or the US launching a pre-emptive war against Iran. Fruitcakes like Bolton and Abrams who seem to spent too much time on mountain tops listening to Wagner seem to think there would be some benefit to the US or Israel in such a scenario which alone is prima facie evidence of a tenuous grasp of reality.




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  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Like the Congress runs the U.S.?
    Or do you think more like Axelrod and his minions?”

    This, I think, is what is called a non sequitur




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  18. ponce says:

    “What should we do if Israel is not only unsuccessful in their attack, but they are under full attack from the likes of Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria? Does the US stand by and watch Israel go down? ”

    What could we do to save Israel?

    Iran has thousands of missiles that can strike Tel Aviv and we have credible anti-missile technology.




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  19. ponce says:

    Er, we don’t have credible anti-missile technology.




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  20. mannning says:

    Despite the august words of JB, and his sneering know-it-all attitude, Iran does represent a real threat, and for anyone to bank on the Mullahs for our security, and thus to heed the suggestion that they are not a threat, and for us to stand down now about it, they are the ones drinking koolaide–by the gallon!

    We have been there before, and we listened to the voices of wisdom and crap, of appeasement and pacifism–and spent lives over five years of global war for our head-in-sand stupidity. You put nukes in the hands of that crowd and we are in for it!

    The rational argument is: ” how are we going to stop it , and when.?”




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  21. mannning says:

    So you write off Israel, ponce-de-leon? Several million Israelis thank you very much.




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  22. Davebo says:

    Manning says…

    “We have been there before, and we listened to the voices of wisdom and crap”

    Easy on Wolfowitz, Cheney et all there dude.

    And all of us didn’t swallow the BS from those voices of wisdom and crap.

    Apparently many who did swallow hard learned nothing from it.




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  23. sam says:

    Manning why don’t you offer a rebuttal to Dave S’ s contention that a preventative strike against Iran would not be in our best interests. Respond explicitly, please, to the points he raises in his last comment above. I’d like to hear what you think the sequel of such an attack would be.




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  24. Michael says:

    What should we do if Israel is not only unsuccessful in their attack, but they are under full attack from the likes of Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria? Does the US stand by and watch Israel go down? Does this President care? Do we people care? I do!

    I don’t quite understand why the US would have any desire to defend Israel in a conflict in which it is the instigator and aggressor.




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  25. ponce says:

    “So you write off Israel, ponce-de-leon? ”

    As others have pointed out…why should America defend Israel in a conflict they start?




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  26. anjin-san says:

    > Manning why don’t you offer a rebuttal to Dave S’ s contention that a preventative strike against Iran would not be in our best interests

    Good question. Manning is starting to sound like he is Zel’s roommate.




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  27. Brummagem Joe says:

    mannning says:
    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 18:10
    “Despite the august words of JB, and his sneering know-it-all attitude, Iran does represent a real threat, ”

    Iran is about to launch an attack on the US. That certainly sounds like a realistic appraisal of the situation.




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  28. Brummagem Joe says:

    “and spent lives over five years of global war for our head-in-sand stupidity.”

    Ahmadinejad = Hitler. What else is there to be said?




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  29. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’m waiting with bated breath for Manning’s clear, concise explanation . . .




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  30. Jim says:

    Whether we should or should not attack Iran, it seems to me fairly likely that we will. I hope I’m wrong. However, all sides seem to some degree to be spoiling for a fight. Israel believes it is legitimately threatened, Iran feels that it is legitimately threatened, and the US feels that their interests and assets are legitimately threatened. Whether perception is reality or not, if all sides in a conflict are gearing up for a fight, it is hard to see anyone backing down. This reminds me a lot of 1990/91, in the build up to the First Gulf War. I know it isn’t the same, but it feels similar, with all sides pushing for a fight.




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  31. steve says:

    If the mullahs are irrational, then attacking them means that the Middle East is thrown into total war. They unleash their proxies, shut down oil shipments, etc. If the mullahs are rational, there is no need to attack them. Fairly obvious choice here. Their usage of proxies and avoidance of direct confrontation with the US and the fact that they know Israel has lots of nukes suggests rationality. Wonder how the rest of Islam takes to the idea of having the Dome on the Rock bombed?

    Steve




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  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    The question is whether the math is the same in Israel. If the Likudniks come to a different conclusion, what do we do? We’ll see the attack early on, long before the Israelis reach targets. Do we call them off? Do we engage them? Do we give a green light to the Saudis to allow Israeli overflights? One hopes this has been thought through and unambiguous positions conveyed to Israel.




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  33. James M. says:

    Dump Israel Now.




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  34. Lou says:

    “I don’t quite understand why the US would have any desire to defend Israel in a conflict in which it is the instigator and aggressor.”

    Third’ing this comment.




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  35. mannning says:

    Try very hard to follow this:

    Scenario 1:
    1. We, the US, do not start a preemptive war against Iran.
    2. Israel does attack Iran, and does a very good job of it using EMP weapons up front..
    3. Iran responds by activating its surrogates, because that is all they can do (EMP damage).
    4. Iran plus surrogates attack Israel AND US personel and facilities.
    5. We join the action to stop the carnage wherever it occurs.

    Scenario 2
    1. We, the US, do not start a preemptive war against Iran.
    2. Israel does attack Iran, but does not have EMP weapons, which allows Iran to use its resources to fend off the attack or blunt its effectivenes. Iran declare war.
    3. Iran activates its surrogates and pits Israel against Hezballah, Hamas, and Syria, together with missiles from Iran.
    4. Iran plus surrogates attack Israel but not US.
    5. Question: what does the US do? Support Israel passively or actively, or not at all. I say we support actively by punishing Iran.

    Scenario 3
    1. We the US do not start a premptive war against Iran.
    2. Israel does, etc
    3.Same
    4.Iran plus surrogates attack Israel AND US Facilities and personnel
    5 We join the action.

    Scenario 4
    1. we do not start a preemptive war
    2. Israel does not start a preemptive war.
    3. Iran uses its nuclear weapons and blasts Israel off the map.
    4. Do we retaliate for this or not? I say we do.

    Other scenarios?

    My whole point has been that we do not control Israel, that Israel will attack Iran sooner or later, and that whether we join the action depends upon whether Iran and its surrogates attack US personnel and facilities. If Israel does not succeed, or is in serious trouble from the surrogates, then the question becomes what do we, the US, do about it? Do we allow Israel to go down or not? If we allow Israel to go down, do we retaliate against Iran for it, or do we simply ignore the event?

    There have been lots of analyses as to the preferred route of attack by Israel. Most conclude that they will use many routes, but dominately the “middle route” over Jordan and Iraq. The US has recently stated that they will not prevent the IAF from overflying Iraq. Jordan may well stand down from this also, If not, they will not provide a serious obstruction to the attack, and would lose what they put up. Overflight of Syria is a great obstacle, and it is too near Israel to use EMP fully without disabling Israeli assets. My own opinion is that Israel must try to neutralize Syria in the process regardless, since they will join the fray almost immediately anyway. How the Israelis handle Hezballah and Hamas is a good question that I can’t answer.
    Another question I can’t answer is will the Israelis use nukes, other than the EMP type, either strategic or tactical, if they are pressed hard? My only thought is–yes, what have they to lose?




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  36. Brummagem Joe says:

    “My whole point has been that we do not control Israel, that Israel will attack Iran sooner or later,”

    However, we do exercise disproportionate influence because we could cripple their war effort in a heartbeat. And the second point is highly problematic although I will concede that if most of what Goldberg in the Atlantic says about the mindset of the Israeli leadership is correct then they do appear to have some serious psychological problems. However, it’s fairly obvious from your comments that you have little concern about what is actually in the interests of the US which is surprising since you’re a US citizen presumably. When even George Bush wasn’t prepared to sign off on the bomber boys fantasies which you seem to share it seems unlikely the Obama admin is going to give them the green light. And since they almost certainly have contacts in the Israeli leadership who will give early warning of any pending craziness then they will nip it in the bud regardless of any whining from the likes of Gaffney and Kristol who do not reflect the opinions of most American jews who have much more commonsense and 80% of whom voted for Obama.




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  37. mannning says:

    I daresay that we could not cripple their war efforts in a heartbeat. Israel has been preparing for such a conflict for years, and has been carefully divorcing themselves from essential, baseline military supplies from the US, such that supplies on hand should be sufficient for a war of a certain duration. The longer they have to prepare the more independent they become, such as to develop and produce their own equipment, stockpile and have refineries to produce their own fuel. It has been a standing policy for years not to become totally dependent upon the US, because they are quite aware of the twisting tides of anti-semitism in the US, and especially within certain groups. Israel accepts much aid from the US gratefully, but their ultimate goal is to stand on their own, and they are prepared to do so now.

    They have used the Swiss model for years, where the Swiss have prepared for a war of 6 months, planning on support coming within that time…from NATO, the US…etc. Israel, however, must rely only on themselves in the final analysis; hence, their development of nuclear weapons for the last resort, when it becomes clear that they will run out of conventional supplies to defend themselves, or are being overrun well before that happens.

    Therefore, to say that the US possesses the ability to stop Israel from defending themselves in a truly dire moment is simply hogwash. They will do what they think is necessary.




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  38. mannning says:

    @JB

    What in hell does my US citizenship have to do with objective analysis of the Israeli-Iran situation? That is a totally unwarranted slam.




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  39. mannning says:

    I have expressed my opinion at key steps in the scenarios I gave above. Fundamentally, I see our role as entering the conflict to stop the counter-aggressions by Israel’s neighbors and Iran, and further nuclear or conflict-widening responses by Israel. We cannot stop the first attacks by Israel, in my opinion. Whether this could be done rapidly under the UN flag or not is probably a no, if only because of time. We may well see this UN blessing as an absolute necessity, and hence delay our operational start while the UN Security Council debates the issues. Russia and China would be vitally important to either neutralize or bring into this operation of ours, but lacking that, we must proceed anyway. Time is of essence, but there may be days involved.

    Otherwise, we will have a ME conflagration that may not stay limited, with a hard-pressed Israel possibly electing to use its nukes wherever they are threatened, which would be a disaster for many innocent ME people, and ultimately ourselves, if this triggers a more general war—a more general nuclear war.

    In this process of attempting to cut off the conflict, we would undoubtedly be tagged by the Islamic nations and the Socialist/Communist nations with aggression ourselves. Fine, those are words, and the people we save will live to hear them, and to compare their options that we provided them–namely life. Some days you cannot win everything.

    Any delay, such as the UN debate might cause, or our inability to bring an adequate force to bear in a timely fashion, would work against Iran, as the Israeli attacks would keep going until they know that we can enforce a truce, which they would realize by the rapid buildup of our naval air power in the area in a matter of days. I would hope that the combination of real power in the area and very strong diplomatic efforts through all channels results in a stand down on both sides very rapidly.

    If I see through my crystal ball clearly enough, the Israelis would take advantage of the relatively few days they have, because of the diplomatic and logistical delays inherent in the situation, to knock out as much of Iran’s nuclear and military capabilities as they could before standing down at our forceful insistence, and under our protection. So much for the air and long-range missile war. Looking back at this, one sees that Iran did get its punishment, by Israel.

    The ground and missile war that would be raging is quite another matter. Hezballah and Hamas would not be brought to a standdown by air power, although Syria might well.
    Some form of international force would have to interpose itself between Israel and these nations that has the necessary teeth to compel conformance to the standdown, and to stop the missiles from flying. The usual UN force is a farce.

    This is yet another critical problem to be solved, and it would be in the best interests of all parties to solve it quickly. There are some interesting ideas on how to accomplish this task, such as to sprinkle some number of third-nation soldiers throughout Israel, Lebanon and Palestine, with the clear understanding that if harmed ny opposing misiles, they will be revenged rapidly and fully, Israel included. Better ideas may be out there somewhere.




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