The Corner

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Containing Iran?


The Center for American Progress’s Matt Duss analyzes several recent pronouncements and articles and suggests that a consensus seems to be developing among conservative analysts in favor of containing Iran. This may be true. I’m still catching up on my reading after a long vacation in Peru and so appreciate Matt’s summary of others, but I’m a bit more worried that too many analysts are treating containment (or deterrence) as rhetorical rather than military strategies. Both containment and deterrence require detail preparation on which the Obama administration (and, frankly the Bush administration before it) has been unwilling to engage. I outline some of these challenges, here and here

The surest path to strategic disaster is to conclude that we can live with (i.e. contain and/or deter) a nuclear Iran because we are unwilling to raise the costs of nuclear-weapons capability to a level which the Islamic Republic cannot bear, only to then refuse to do the prep work necessary to enable containment or deterrence to succeed. Under such circumstances, it would not surprise if both Iran and Israel determined that Washington was not serious about its policies setting off a truly unfortunate cascade of events.

A Helsinki approach to Iran would be welcome; hopefully it won’t get caught in partisan animus.