The BBC World Service questions the authenticity of a leaked Israeli outline about a preemptive attack on Iran. To be fair, a number of powers want to hit Iran with a big stick. But while any strike would be a spectacular display of high-tech power, the consequences would be horrible. But what do I know? I’m just a guy who hates war.
I have commented in the past about the dangers of a Lets-Take-Iran-Out-Behind-the-Bar-And-Beat-The-Crap-Out-Of-Them scenario. You can’t destroy their nuclear capability without starting a shooting war. Let’s dissect the Israeli plan leaked to the media. The legitimacy of the cabinet brief is irrelevant: teasing an enemy with your capabilities is another form of leverage. For the sake of peacemaking, I hope the threats remain in words alone. There are always consequences to using even the most dazzling of military toys.
Cyber weapons: William Gibson warned you, didn’t he? Now you’ve got a hack program eviscerating your telecommunications, electrical grids and transportation hubs. Can Iran’s enemies really do that? Of course they can, and the damage will be severe. Will Iran retaliate with viruses? If they can’t repel your super-fast servers and encrypted code, they’ll sure learn from the attack and try it in the future. Cyber weapons will probably not be restricted to military targets, and that goes for either side.
Cruise missiles: You won’t want to know what launched them, but you sure don’t want them in your airspace. Cruise missiles are smarter than college kids. They have terrain-mapping capability that makes Google Earth look like a phone app. They can blow up buildings and factories, leave craters on runways and highways, and cut through the thickest bunkers. Fancy and expensive, but Iran also has their share of missiles. They’ll lob them at their adversaries without hesitation. Cruise missiles over blue water is also a major threat to naval forces. Despite your best defenses, missiles lead to an inevitable risk: one of them can always slip through.
Satellite reconnaissance: Lofty birds will burn valuable fuel to maneuver over the Middle East and spy on you from orbit. If the satellite data is fresh, fighter pilots and missile crews will find their next targets in a matter of hours. But how long can we play that game? Iran is nearly as big as Alaska. Weapons and troops can be moved on the hour, or even dismantled and concealed. Noob officers know not to stay in one place.
Questions you can’t answer
A concentrated attack would wreak havoc on the Iranian military and nuclear infrastructure. But advanced weaponry doesn’t settle a conflict by itself. War is churning, bottomless cauldron of questions:
- How far will my enemy retaliate?
- What do we do when civilian casualties rise above military casualties?
- How familiar am I with the enemy’s local geography and climate?
- Are civilian and military structures distinguished from each other?
- Can I sustain my fight with the fuel, food, and ammunition at hand?
- How does the enemy treat prisoners?
- What happens when I don’t destroy my adversary by the projected date?
- Can anyone help me if I get into trouble?
- Are my reserve troops properly trained for mobilization?
Once again, I’m just a fellow who despises the expanse of war. There is no easy way out of conflict. I would rather put my faith and support in political pressure and sanctions. The resentment and bitterness from my enemy are a small price to pay compared to violent rage and hate.