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Can Iran be Deterred?

1:33 PM, Feb 22, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
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Fareed Zakaria has an interesting -- though silly -- column up mocking Sarah Palin's suggestion that Obama get tough on Iran. It's interesting because Zakaria's grand solution to the deeply complex Iran problem is to simply lock them into a deterrence paradigm with the U.S. and Israel --more colloquially, his solution is to do nothing.

Can Iran be Deterred?

Deterrence could work, in a sense. But even during the Cold War, where mutually assured destruction reigned supreme, deterrence simply redirected warfare down other, smaller avenues like Korea, Vietnam, Latin America, Africa, Grenada, et al. In that sense, ownership of atomic weapons would free Tehran's terrorist proxies to unleash unrestricted warfare on Israel and regional U.S. forces. Israel's limited defensive options in such a scenario would be to assault, hold, and occupy territory in frontline border states (similar to Lebanon from 1982-2000). Therein lies the real danger in an atomic Iran: Introduce nuclear weapons into one of the most volatile regions on earth and violence becomes an inevitability.

Pundits like Zakaria have an annoying habit of acting like they have a monopoly on the desire for peace. In doing so, they restrict their ability to deal with foreign policy challenges which cannot be solved with long winded speeches and an equal amount of ink. Degrees of violence should have a vote in the consideration of pragmatic foreign policy, especially when national security is tossed into the mix. Play out the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons and every logical outcome ends with violence. Limited, controlled strikes like a Desert Fox style air campaign -- the very model for the just export of force during the Clinton years -- could rid the world of this mess in a few short days. It's a solution that shouldn't immediately be ruled out and needs to be treated cautiously, but seriously.

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