Angelo Codevilla replies: Bombing Iran is a bad idea
Goldman’s demographic analogy between Iran and pre-1914 France applies. No sensible person can dispute that wars decided sooner tend to be less destructive than ones that gather force long before they break out. Moreover I agree that, should the current Sunni/Shia world war not be decided (if ever it can be) until either or both sides possess nukes, this war will end up nuclear. Nevertheless, I disagree with Goldman’s conclusion that the best thing for everyone – above all for us – is to bomb Iran’s nuclear program.
One immediate reason is, of course, that bombing the program can only set it back, not destroy it. The program’s indestructible part is the society’s technical expertise. The society’s will is also not vulnerable to bombing. It deepest source is the sense (correct) that Shia are threatened by Sunni.
I doubt that Goldman would argue that America’s interest lies in the Sunni defeating the Shia in this world war.
Goldman makes one factual error: The U.S. did not force a Shia government on Iraq. That was the natural, inevitable consequence of the demise of a Sunni dictatorship in a land where three out of four Arabs are Shia. (The Kurds having departed the instant they could.)
Goldman’s accurate assessment of Iran’s impending demographic troubles undervalues what may be its biggest asset in the Sunni/Shia war, namely the existence throughout the Sunni world of substantial Shia populations that are willing, even eager, to act as “fifth columns” against their sovereigns. This asset will surely counterbalance Iran’s demographic decline to some extent – perhaps to a very great extent.
At any rate, Iran surely intends its development of nukes as a deterrent by which to protect these subversive assets-in-place within the Sunni world. Alas, it may have other intentions as well.
Iran’s drive for nukes can be throttled most severely by the kind of secondary trade boycott that the U.S. government used against its enemies in WWII but has not used since. Were the U.S. government to institute such a boycott, how long would it be maintained? The best answer is: “until the Iranian people manage to get themselves a government that is not interested in nukes or in harming the West and its Israeli outpost.” But that eventuality must await the subsidence – if not the end – of the world war now in progress.