Friday, November 28, 2008

The Obama Option

Given the latest tentative hints of worry from that tentative watchdog the IAEA about Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions, what can we make of this meeting? (Tip to No Clever Pseudonym)

President Bush is to hold White House talks with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday after publication of a nuclear watchdog’s report this week showing that Iran may have stockpiled enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb.

When the country most likely to be hit by an Iranian bomb but which has the second-best ability to strike Iran meets the country next in line for a mullah bomb but with the best ability to strike, people are bound to talk.

Look, after thinking we'd strike any time from about December 2004, I've long since given up trying to read the tea leaves about a potential American strike.

We have the best ability to take out the Iranian nuclear infrastructure and blunt their counter-strike assets.

But after being pilloried for liberating Iraqis from that brutal thug Saddam who was clearly prepared to cover his bluff about having WMD once sanctions collapsed, Bush was not about to go after Iran prior to their unveiling of a nuclear weapon. And even though I joke that Obama would get the Nobel Peace Prize for nuking Iran, he won't launch a preemptive strike based on Iraq-level evidence, no matter how justified we were under the circumstances.

The dilemma is that Israel has the motive to strike even if we won't strike. And we'll be blamed regardless. So we need to strike just to make sure the job is done right.

To cover all the basic problems, I think we are getting ready to strike Iran once they boast of their atomic weapons.

The various defensive systems we are putting together aren't, I believe, for the purpose of trying to deter or passively defend against an Iranian nuclear attack:

We won't rely on the mythical ability to deter crazed religious fanatics. But we won't try to defang Iran with a preemptive aerial campaign.

We will hope for a revolution inside Iran (do I hope too much to think we are actively working on this?) and in case we don't get that lucky, prepare for the moment that Iran's mullahs show their first nuclear missiles to the world.

Then we'll strike hard using advance penetrating precision weapons with a layer of defenses backstopping our effort to kill leakers, stretching from the Iranian target site back to our assets that might be struck. We'll use modified Sidewinders and AMRAAM on fighters over the enemy target to hit missiles in their boost phase, airborne PAC-3 missiles to strike missiles in flight once we know where the enemy missiles are headed, and ground-based point defense PAC-3s and area missile defenses based on land and sea. Add in airborne lasers later. Hopefully, we nail the missiles on the ground and if not, somebody on the ballistic arc manages a hit before detonation over the Iranians' target.

So after getting the Europeans to accept that they have to back us if their diplomacy fails, we'll use our shield to cover our strike against Iran's atomic arsenal and infrastructure. Our defensive systems will perform better when the Iranians are losing systems to our strikes and they must launch as fast as they can prepare them before losing them. This will make it more likely that Iran fires off missiles (whether armed with nukes, chemicals, bugs, or just HE to absorb our defensive missiles) one at a time rather than in salvoes.

That's my theory, anyway.

Remember, only Obama can go to China.