December 17, 2005
They May, But Can They?
Yesterday, Paul over at Power Line (the only Linotype I've actually met in person) wrote the following -- anent a Charles "the Sauerkraut" Krauthammer column on the looming crisis of Iran:
In my view, Krauthammer is wrong only in contending that "no one will do anything about it." It's hard for me to believe that the Israelis will stand by as Iran develops the capacity to incinerate its people. To be sure, the Israelis are loath to launch a unilateral preemptive strike against Iran. They would much prefer that sanctions be applied in an effort to coerce Iran into changing its behavior, and I believe they will afford the U.S. and the Europeans every reasonable opportunity to make this happen. But, as Krauthammer suggests, this track is unlikely to succeed. At bottom, the Europeans do not perceive Iran as a threat to them, and don't much care that they are a threat to Israel and to U.S. interests in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq. Accordingly, Israel has refused to rule out a preemptive attack against Iran and, in my view, is prepared to launch one if it runs out of other viable options.
I applaud Paul for his perspicacity in recognizing that something must be done about Iran... the problem is that Israel does not have the capability to "launch a unilateral preemptive strike" that would actually take out Iran's nuclear facilities. In fact, I'm not even sure that we have, short of completely annihilating every military and scientific site we even suspect exists with an apocalyptic rain of nuclear hellfire -- which is politically impossible, unless Iran launches at us first. (I don't even think the American people would accept us doing that if the Iranians launch only at Israel.)
I discussed this before in the Guillotine Gambit (and I discussed President Ahmedinejad's stability -- or lack thereof -- most recently in I Can Hear the Cuckoo Singing In the Cuckooberry Tree). The short version is that the Iranians learned well from the Iraqi disaster at Osirak, when the Israelis bombed and destroyed the nuclear breeder reactor that the French (gotta love 'em!) were building for Saddam to create nuclear weapons.
The Iranians have not concentrated all their baklava in a single Persian slipper; they have split the work up among a large number of facilities (we know of nine, but there are others), each of which is deep underground and hardened against even a nuclear attack. It would take a combination of nuclear bunker-busters (probably more than one per site) followed almost instantaeously by some massively heavy explosives, which could probably be conventional. I'm pretty sure the Israelis don't include bunker-busters among their "Temple Weapons," and in any event, they haven't done enough testing of precisely coordinated multi-weapon attacks on hardened sites... and for that matter, neither have we; we've been focusing our missile tests on ballistic-missile defense (BMD), for obvous reasons.
So it's a good thought, but I think the Israeli Defense Force, magnificent as it is, would be helpless in this particular situation.
The best military tactic is to do -- just what we're doing: work with the Israelis to continue development and deployment of the joint U.S.-Israeli Arrow BMD system, and work up plans for decapitating the mad dog that is Iran by surgical strikes, not on the hardened nuclear arsenal itself, but against the brains who would wield it.
Mullahcraticus delenda est!
(Perhaps some kind soul can correct my Latin, of which I have forgotten more than I ever learned.)
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 17, 2005, at the time of 1:04 PM
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Tracked on December 19, 2005 11:50 PM
The following hissed in response by: jd watson
It seems likely that Israel has bunker busters, courtesy of the U.S. There was a deal in progress a little more than a year ago for 500 bunker busters and other smart bombs (see here for instance), and then no more news that I could find. I presume the deal went thru with no fanfare.
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
You may well be right; they may have some of ours. But I'm skeptical they would really know how to use them. As I said, I'm skeptical that we really know how to use them, either!
I don't recall the Israelis doing any testing of precision strategic bombing; they certainly didn't use it back in the 1980s at Osirak... they did it the old-fashioned way, as I recall.
The problem is really that the Iranians haven't been stuck on Saddam-stupid with their nuke program, and there's little we can do to directly attack it with any real confidence.
Much better to go after the men who would use it.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at December 17, 2005 5:17 PM
The following hissed in response by: RBMN
The fact that nothing overt has happened (to Iran) yet, might be an indication that some kind of (well-supplied) coup is in the works. Or, even if a (hypothetical) coup doesn't work, a close-call might goad Iran into attacking Israel, even before Iran has a deliverable nuke. I guess we can all figure out the rest of that hypothetical case, if Israel gets attacked by Iran.
The following hissed in response by: RonC
From an Israeli military source I've heard that indeed they have 'deep penitration' weaponry ready for use 'soon' - in a 'coordinated' attack on not only the munitions, but on the people behind the use of nuclear munitions. Much beyond that was not verbalized, but the implication was that the attack was expected to be successful if it is launched. In addition, they have had delivery and followup capability for some time now - a fact that I didn't know until recently. If I'm not mistaken, work toward this ability has been under way for more than a year, with US assistance.
Time will tell - and if I don't miss my bet - time is getting pretty short.
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
I don't doubt your word; but as to your source, to quote the immortal Casey Stengel (alav hashalom), I'll believe it when I believe it.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at December 18, 2005 5:20 AM
The following hissed in response by: Cynic
"In my view, Krauthammer is wrong only in contending that "no one will do anything about it." It's hard for me to believe that the Israelis will stand by ..."
Going by the Tchernobyl fallout, even the Dutch and French had contaminated produce (which they tried to dump on Brazil for one), I think that any Iranian attempt at nuclear fun and games is going to be lots of fun for everybody in the area and not just the Israelis.
If the US and the Europeans hope to get a pass by leaving it all to the Israelis they may be in for a shock.
The following hissed in response by: RonC
I'll believe it when I believe it.
Yeah.. me too. I have little doubt that US-Israel efforts have been sharply focused on a nuclear-capable Iran, and that India is involved in the same scrutiny.
What I’m not sure of is Iran. First, I don’t think they are that close; second, I can hardly believe enough Iranian leadership would be dumb enough to subject themselves to certain decapitation by a possible joint US-Israel-India co-op.
The following hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi
Dafyyd, the biggest problem is that, (i think there are 26 possible sites), and some are located under population centers like universities. By bombing universities we will alienate your prospective allies, the iranian student population.
The following hissed in response by: Texas Jack
Dafydd, are you saying nuclear bunker-busters (atomic weapons), or nuclear-bunker (storage site) busters? If the latter, I helped make the metal cases for several thousand 2000 lb penetrator bombs for the USAF and a couple of thousands for other countries. They can be set up as smart or dumb, and I've seen films of some of the tests. You would be surprised at what these things will penetrate. Remember (Iraq I) the film of a bomb hitting the top of a multi-story building and exploding in the basement? These are not the only penetrators avalable either. I remember some specials we forged/machined for a special target....
The following hissed in response by: hunter
As to the training, I am betting that Israeli pilots have been training to use BB's here in the states as well as in the Israeli training facilities for awhile.
My hope is that our conveniently at hand resources in the region will be able to be brought to bear against Iran. I wonder if the Iranian tyrnats will do like the Argies did after they got humiliated in the Falkland Islands and collapse? It is funny how these big bad tyrannies, when confonrted on a timely basis, tend to be shown as good for not much more than the repression of their own people.
No ME country has ever been able to conquer and hold anything in the post WWI era, and no ME country has been able to sustain utself in a war against anything other than a fello ME country for more than a very brief period of time.
Iran may be able to break that record, but I doubt it. My bet is the election was very staged, and that the support for the Islamofascists will evaporate when real pressure arrives.
The following hissed in response by: SDN
Actually, it will only take 1: pick a facility in a relatively small town and nuke it. Then cover Tehran with leaflets giving a 24 hour deadline for the mullahs to be handed over and the nuke program dismantled, or we (us/Israelis) turn every population center over 100k into a glowing crater.
The problem is that pretty much everyone in Iran agrees with Krauthammer: we won't do anything, because we don't have the will. I think Hiroshima and Nagasaki provide valid precedents: once the Iranian people are convinced we're serious they'll want to turn over the mullahs.
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