Joe* emails: It seems obvious to me that Israel should strike Iran, and immediately.
The high upside is destroying for a generation the hopes of Islam to hold the Levant hostage with a nuclear weapon capability and possibly destabilizing the Persian psycho/theo/corrupt-cracy.
The downside is as follows:
Iran retaliates in a way that affects not only the Jewish state, but the entire world. Let’s imagine that it goes as far as it can take that tack – it closes the straits of Hormuz, attacks ships in the Persian gulf, maybe shoots up a couple soft targets in the US and Europe. Against that threat or reality are three supercarriers in the Persian gulf, a president who wants to get reelected, and a Congress who would only find fault if Obama pussified the response. So, for Israel to worry about a devastating threat to the rest of the world is foolish. If Iran does that, it will result in Iran looking like some of the streets in south Robertson (why Jews live in that area which is infested by some truly awful types stupefies me).
Iran retaliates only against Israel, rejecting an attempt to link the situation with the rest of the world (Saddam was not successful at linking his invasion of Kuwait with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and I do not think Iran would succeed in such linkage). So, what does Iran do.
First, it unleashes holy hell from Lebanon in the form of 10,000 – 50,000 rockets. I think Israel is prepared to sustain hundreds, perhaps thousands of civilian casualties, and I do not think Hezbollah can sustain as long as a conflict this time – Israel is much better prepared and Syria is a much weaker player as a supplier, it has its own problems.
Second, Hamas unleashes hell from Gaza. Again, a limited event. Gaza would run out of rockets pretty quickly. Again, there would be Israeli civilian casualties.
Third, Iran and its proxies strike at Jewish targets. This seems almost childish and petty, but it is the style of the Muslim to attack the weak. I would think this would be fairly short lived – at some point the world would tire of bombs going off at all hours, and Iran’s oil weapon, the weapon that allowed Palestinians to do this for close to 50 years, is not that strong given that Saudi Arabia will pump oil to keep the price stable.
Fourth, a possible unknown of Iran already having a bomb and taking out an Israeli city and killing 100,000 Jews. This would prove the necessity of the strike because Iran was in fact willing to use the bomb even though it faced destruction. This would lead to an escalation that would have Obama missing golf and even fundraising to end the crisis. But not before Israel launches a nuclear fusillade against Tehran, so that at least something good would be accomplished.
So, I think Israel goes for it. The worst case scenario is it does not work and hurts Israel in the form of civilian casualties. I think the odds are that Israel succeeds, and there is a cost of casualties, but there is really no way to avoid it.