With the current talk about “red lines” and promises that “all options are on the table,” this is a critical time to examine what a war with Iran might involve. Many proponents for military action seem to believe that a few well-placed bombs will thwart that country’s nuclear ambitions, and achieving the stated objectives will be relatively quick, cheap, and easy. For example, Matthew Kroenig’s Foreign Affairs article in 2012 argues that all the other options are more expensive and risky, and that conflict escalation is manageable.1 He is not alone in professing this school of thought.
Military-option proponents use examples such as the Israeli strikes on the Iraqi Osirak reactor in 1981 or the 2007 attack on Syria’s al-Kibar site as evidence that kinetic strikes can neutralize nuclear threats. In both cases these actions did not result in escalation of conflict, and those results may be responsible for creating the perception that the same will be true for Iran.