On Monday I touched on the impracticality and infeasibility of the alleged Iranian plan to initiate war with Israel, specifically with a nuclear strike. There simply is no way to spin this in Iran. Even a conventional weapon strike on Israel would trigger a massive military response from Israel, NATO, and Uncle Sam. A nuclear strike against Israel would result in Iran resembling the surface of Mercury within 24 hours. Whether nuclear or conventional, American or multinational, the response would reduce Iran to the Stone Age and doubtlessly involve many thousands of deaths.

It doesn't sound like something sane people would do, and I despise the neocon "(Insert tinpot dictator here) is a Hitler! He is bent on national suicide!" rhetoric. But disregarding that argument leaves me at a loss to explain their recent missile tests. From the earliest days of the Cold War, missile and warhead tests have been nothing but an exercise in dick-waving and saber-rattling. You do it to give your enemy second thoughts, to instill fear, to give evidence of a "credible deterrent." And what kind of idiot would believe that Western Europe and the U.S. are going to be impressed by short- and medium-range ballistic missiles of primitive design and minimal accuracy? Iran isn't rattling a saber so much as they are rattling a wet noodle. Their current missile technology roughly approximates America's in 1955.

So they're not trying to intimidate us. They are showing off an offensive capability. It could not be considered a deterrent unless the leaders of Iran are literally retarded. So, like North Korea, I am convinced that the government in Iran is composed entirely of unstable, unpredictable morons who now have effective delivery vehicles for a variety of weapons. Since a diplomatic solution is unlikely, I think we're on the path to another military one (with both of those countries, but let's focus on Iran for now). Sure, maybe we'll get lucky and Iran will undergo internal upheaval. The current government barely made it through an election a few months ago. But of course we can't bank on that happening.

Here we see the ultimate folly of our misadventure in Iraq. We simply don't have the manpower, the resources, or the national will to engage in another military escapade in the Middle East. We pissed all of those things away in Iraq while legitimate threats festered in other countries. So what can we do? The answer is simple: we can do the only thing we're any good at doing. We will bomb the everloving shit out of Iran, cripple it, and walk away. Think Gulf War I instead of Gulf War II.

I think that at some point in the next two or three years Iran's belligerence will get to the point that policymakers will decide to act. But rather than get engaged in another ground war, they will punt on "regime change" and simply reduce Iran to smoking rubble. They will provide years and years worth of footage for new series on The Military Channel: bombs laser-guided down chimneys, unmanned Predator drones swooping in to level villages, and night-vision footage of smoldering weapon stashes. They will decide that their only concern is disarmament. They will be more than happy to let the current batch of lunatics stay in power so long as they're neutered. Every inch of Iran's nuclear and military infrastructure is already pre-targeted. It makes too much sense, especially given the depletion of our ground forces, for spineless American politicians to choose any other option.

Think about it. What are we good at anymore? We positively suck at "spreading democracy" and all that horseshit. We've failed at regime change for 100 years. We haven't had a meaningful diplomatic success in decades. We are good at sending our aircraft carriers (of which we have about 95% of the total global supply) to the shores of some unworthy opponent and bombing the sweet holy fuck out of them. Anything that comes before or after that is beyond us. We have military technology, especially of the aeronautical and blowuppable kind, that is light years beyond what the rest of the globe can field. Applying it is our only talent nowadays.

Civilian casualties will be horrific (after all, every video of a bomb surgically flying into a window hides a hundred other videos of bombs missing by half a mile) but we'll do what we usually do and lay the moral culpability for them on Iran's leaders. Look what you made us do! Look at how little they care for the lives of their people! The only silver lining is that I fundamentally believe that Iranians are decent, reasonable, and pragmatic people, and as soon as they realize they are all about to be used for USAF target practice it could spur a change in the country's political system. But if I had to put my life's savings on it, I'd call Vegas right now and say "$53.12 on air strikes in Iran by 2011."


I have some readers who are much older than I am, and this image should look familiar to anyone born before 1970.

This is the projected effects of nuclear fallout on the continental U.S. after what a Soviet nuclear strike would most likely have looked like. The average person assumes that nuclear war is about killing as many of the other side's civilians as possible. In reality the first two or three waves of targets are all strategic and military with the odd major city thrown in (Moscow, D.C., and New York would most certainly have fried in the first strike because of their economic and political value). But the Commies would have been far, far more interested in striking Grand Forks, ND and Omaha, NE than Chicago or Los Angeles. Their goal would have been to destroy as much of the U.S. retaliatory capacity as possible, which would lead them to the vast ICBM fields scattered across the Great Plains, Strategic Air Command in Omaha, and Cheyenne Mountain in rural Colorado, a.k.a. NORAD. Of course there is no possible way that the Soviets could have destroyed enough of our ability to wage war to prevent themselves from being destroyed in the return fire. The inverse was also true, which is often suggested as the reason there was no World War III. But I digress.

In targeting the vast empty middle of the U.S. a theoretical limited Soviet strike would seem to have spared a good portion of the population. Unfortunately those dozens of high-megaton explosions in the Plains would have generated enough fallout to irradiate everything and everyone downwind – which just happens to be about 75% of the American population. So people who were spared being fried in an explosion would get to enjoy a slow death from radiation poisoning. Unpleasant stuff to say the least. It may take historians a century or two to figure out A) how humanity came so close to letting it happen and B) how in the hell we managed to avoid it.

Now consider Iran.

We are well aware that Iran's leaders talk a good game, especially when the topic is Israel. They go on about "pushing Israel into the sea" and wiping the country from the face of the Earth and blah blah blah. And the global concern over the Iranian nuclear program is focused mostly on Israel. No one seriously thinks Iran could deliver a nuclear weapon to the U.S. or even much of Europe, recent short-range ballistic missile tests notwithstanding. But let's say Bill Kristol and all of his like-minded colleagues are right. Let's take the leap of faith and assume that Iran can enrich enough plutonium to assemble a working warhead. They can deliver it with some accuracy and they intend to use it against Israel.

Such an attack, if it hit a major city like Tel Aviv, would kill a vast number of Israelis; 50,000 would not be an unreasonable guess, not counting radiation poisoning. It would also irradiate about half of Iran when the winds carried all of the radioactive dust eastward. A larger-scale attack – several warheads hitting multiple sites in Israel – would only compound the problem. So one of three things must be true:

1. The Iranian leaders are suicidal fanatics who are willing to kill a good portion of their own people (not to mention all of their Muslim brothers in Jordan, Syria, and other nations which would be blanketed with fallout) to inflict some damage which fall far short of destroying Israel. Would it be a terrible loss in Israel? Of course. But factoring in the NATO response, which we must imagine would be swift and utterly devastating to Iran, they would be committing national suicide to inflict a couple hundred thousand deaths on Israel.

2. Iran does not understand what nuclear fallout and/or wind are.

3. This is all just bullshit posturing and bold talk from an unstable regime full of unstable people who realize that their proposed actions would fail to accomplish the goal of destroying Israel while bringing swift and utter destruction to all of Iran.

Accepting #1 requires one too many drinks off of the right-wing demonization-of-enemies Kool-Aid. To say that this is their strategy is just an updated version of "The bloodthirsty Commie will stop at nothing to kill every last freedom-loving American." Since #2 is highly dubious, that sort of narrows it down…