Consequences of the Military Option

On the radar: Obama urges caution on Iran policy; Why bombing Iran would mean invading; a Conventional-only bomber?; Russia, the reset, and Putin’s return; and a Nuclear bomber for kids.

March 2, 2012 | Edited by Mary Kaszynski

Obama on the military option - “I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff,” President Obama said in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg. “I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are.”

--While noting that there is “a military component” to the administration policy - in addition to political, economic, and diplomatic components - the president urged caution. “At a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally, [Syria,] is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as a victim?"

The “surgical strike” myth - “The invasion and occupation of Iran is the most likely long-term outcome of bombing,” writes Robert Wright in The Atlantic. “Even if we were willing to make additional bombing runs on an annual basis...we could never be confident that Iran wasn't producing a nuclear weapon. The only path to such confidence would be to invade the country and seize the instruments of state.”

U.S., Israel to talk Iran - When the Israeli Prime Minister comes to Washington on Monday, expect “wary intrigue as Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama try to sort out their differences, in timing, messaging and strategic bottom lines, on how to grapple with Iran,” Ethan Bronner writes for The New York Times.

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Weighing the nuclear mission - Asked whether he would consider a conventional-only bomber, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith replied, “I haven’t made that decision yet...Do you really save that much money by saying that we’re going to not have a nuclear bomber? I don’t know.” From Global Security Newswire.

”Clear and Present Safety” - “More than 60 years of U.S. diplomatic and military efforts have helped create a world that is freer and more secure. In the process, the United States has fostered a global environment that bolsters U.S. interests and generally accepts U.S. power and influence. The result is a world far less dangerous than ever before,” write Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen in Foreign Affairs. “ Now, [the U.S.] needs a national security strategy and an approach to foreign policy that reflect that reality.”

--On U.S. nuclear policy, Zenko and Cohen write, “The demise of the Soviet Union ended the greatest potential for international nuclear conflict...[China] is eminently deterrable and not a credible nuclear threat; it has no answer for the United States’ second-strike capability and...more than 2,000 nuclear weapons.

Iran vote update - “Faithful supporters of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei flocked to the polls early on Friday but most reformists stayed home, saying the parliamentary election was meaningless,” Reuters reports.

Keeping the bomber affordable - If the Air Force can’t keep the cost of the new bomber under $550 million per plane, they’ll have to cut it, according to Air Force chief of staff Gen. Schwartz. This could prove difficult, Wired’s Spencer Ackerman notes, as [the Air Force]” is really, really bad at keeping its planes affordable.”

Putin Redux - Russia’s elections this Sunday are almost certain to return Putin to the presidency. What will this mean for the U.S.-Russia reset? “The most likely future is one of increasingly modest results from the reset driven by less (but not zero) cooperation on Putin’s part and more obstreperous limitations on the Obama administration’s room for maneuver imposed by Congress or public opinion.” writes Amb. Ross Wilson of the Atlantic Council.

China’s new launch pads - Satellite images show that China is setting up launch units for its newest ICBM in Central China. As old missiles with shorter ranges are slowly replaced, “a greater portion of the Chinese missile force will be able to target the continental United States, perhaps twice as many by 2025,” Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists notes.

--“But even then, the Chinese force will be small compared with that of Russia and the United States.“

Dempsey: Iran is rational - Testifying before the House yesterday, JCS Chair Gen. Dempsey stood by his assessment that Iran is a rational actor: “The key is to understand how they act and not trivialize their actions by attributing to them some irrationality. I think that’s a very dangerous thing for us to do.” From Eli Clifton at Think Progress.

Nuclear toys - The Atom Bomber, a classic toy airplane: because it’s never too early to learn how to drop atomic bombs. From Gizmodo.