(Sept. 16. ) If someone more stable than Donald Trump were president, that president would be able to make a strong case for a surgical, limited, but devastating air strike against Iran.

Even Trump should consider such a strike, if he is willing to follow certain protocols. Iran’s Sept. 14 drone attack against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia was not a mere nation-against-nation dust-up, but an assault against the global economy. As the nation with the greatest wherewithal to retaliate without escalating the retaliation into a full-scale regional war, the United States is well positioned to teach Iran a lesson it won’t soon forget.

My colleague Tom Rogan, to whose expertise on military matters I often defer, argues otherwise. He writes that the U.S. should support a retaliatory strike by the Saudis. I think that is a very dangerous proposition. If Saudi Arabia does so, its long rivalry with Iran, relatively equal strength, and regional proximity all would make it far more likely that the result would be a full-scale war between the two. The bloodshed, the blow to world oil supplies, and the potential for multiple horrendous, downstream consequences all might be quite high.

Nonetheless, Rogan is right that somebody “must deter Iran from believing these kind of attacks won’t invite retaliation.” And: “Those responsible, almost certainly Iran’s hardliner-faction aligned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, must face significant consequences. Absent those consequences, the hardliners will be encouraged to keep believing their escalation is clever… And Iran will regard America and Saudi Arabia as weak if this incident goes without a response.”

The U.S. has the capability to penetrate Iranian air defenses, cripple a few Iranian facilities with highly targeted air strikes, and leave without providing Iran an obvious target at which to hit back. Iran does not have the force-projection capabilities to strike back at the U.S….

[The full column is here.]

 

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