The Duck of Minerva

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My favorite futurist on an Iranian-US conflict

July 3, 2006

[Updated 7.4.06] John Robb peaks into his crystal ball to see what might happen if the US moves forward with a strategic bombing campaign against Iran (discussed in the new issue of the New Yorker by Sy Hersh). He relays some interesting possibilities, although I must say that much of what he talks about was echoed by others in the lead up to the Iraq war, and certainly the reverberations from that conflict have not been as severe as predicted.

However, there are certainly significant differences between Iraq 3 years ago and Iran today–particularly when it comes to Iran’s capacity to damage global oil markets and, therefore, the global economy. I think many who are hawkish on Iran have drastically underestimated the coercive capacity Iran holds in reserve, mainly because they focus on the military balance and fail to truly understand how fragile the world oil market is today.

Additionally, I think critics of the hawks are failing to see that the point of strikes might not be to “get everything”, but merely to signal resolve on the part of the US–even without a legacy of defying UNSC resolutions, even with the legacy of failed US intelligence on WMD programs, even with the US seriously bogged down in the Iraqi conflict, the United States has the capability and the will to punish states who continue to proliferate against the wishes of the West. This isn’t to endorse the hawks position (I don’t such a signal is necessary, nor is it worth the costs we possibly might have to endure), but merely to point out why the logical argument that we don’t know where all the targets are may not make much difference to them.

Update 1: Go check out this excellent post over at Defense Tech on Iran’s Airforce and the possibilities for a US victory

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Petti is Associate Director of Insights and Analytics at Alexion . Previously, he served as Lead Data Scientist in the Decision Sciences group at Maritz Motivation and a Global Data Strategist and Subject Matter Expert for Gallup.