Wednesday, February 29, 2012


It is so easy to forget all of the benefits that would come with attacking Iran, so let's list them (listicles are the hip thing on the web, right?):
  • Delaying Iran's nuclear development by sometime between zero and five years.  
Ok, is that it?
  • Proving that Israel and/or the US is willing to use force to protect itself/ally.
Oh, I guess that has been done before, huh?

Okay, so we have the key benefit.  Let's enumerate some of the costs:
  • Higher oil prices because every good war (and the bad ones, too) cause oil prices to rise.  Unless one is Russia or another oil exporter (Norway, Scotland, Nigeria ....), this is not a good thing. 
  • Iranian retaliation.  Whether it means missiles flying everywhere (well, in the region, despite the warmongers' assertions, ICBM's are not in their inventory) or closing the Strait of Hormuz temporarily or funding even more terrorist groups, Iran has options even after they lose a few nuclear development sites.
  • The US has re-antagonized a hunk of the world.  Good times.
  • The actual costs of the effort.  Has anyone noticed the US has a deficit problem?  Has anyone noticed that its military is mighty tired after exceeding the war cap for so many years?  
  • The Iranian regime is strengthened.  Anyone who believes that bombing Iran will lead to more dissent has never watched WWII movies about the Blitz nor has paid attention to the US bombing of Japan, Vietnam and other places.  This is not Serbia and this is not Libya.  

I am sure I am forgetting some.  One last question: what happens after the fighting ends?  


Colin Wight said...

Not that I'm arguing for military action, but let's look at how someone ( a resurgent neocon) might respond.

Higher oil prices - not a good thing. Depends who you are actually. As CEO of an oil company I'm all in favour.

Iranian retaliation. Let them go for it. Gives us an excuse to really hit the f*****ers hard. Same for straits of homuz. More funding for terrorist groups? You serious? How much much can they do, they are running out of Shia groups to support.

US antagonises the world. Oh really give me a break, who cares, they all hate us anyway.

Deficit? When did a massive deficit ever stop military action. We can always find money for more bombs, just don't ask for health care.

Iran strengthened. So what? Once we've kicked some butt it doesn't matter that the regime gains internal support. We've lived with the Mullah's regime since 1979, and we can do it for ages yet. So they'll engage in human right violations. Big deal, as long as it's against their own people it's not our problem. After all, if they want to support the mad b******s it's their fault.

Colin (call me Rove) Wight!

Anonymous said...

Forgotten costs:

Dead Iranians.

Or don't they count in your calculation?

Steve Saideman said...

Good point. But then again, Americans tend not to include dead foreigners in the cost/benefit calculations.

Anonymous said...

But this is your blog, not that of the US government, so you ought to consider it.

And it isn't just dead Iranians, it's maimed Iranians, bereaved Iranians, traumatized Iranians.

We cannot claim any form of moral consistency while on the one hand criticizing foreign governments, e.g. Syria, for killing and maiming people, and on the other hand completely ignoring the matter when we do the same.

Your treatment of the issue seems rather to ignore the moral factor, giving the impression that you view it from the perspective of what a philosopher would deem short term act utilitarianism. There's an awful lot more to it than that.

Steve Saideman said...

You raise good points--Iranians count, too, so we ought not be blase about war.

This post was strictly about the costs and benefits in a utilitarian manner. I tend not to make moral arguments--I am not all that well equipped to do so. I am also way too cynical to ever expect moral consistency in International Relations.