Lee Smith, writing in Tablet:
In late May, at a major security conference in Tel Aviv, former Obama Pentagon official Michelle Flournoy assured her mostly Israeli audience that a military strike against Iran was very much on the table. But she hastened to add that “any military strike in its most wildly successful incarnation” would set back Iran’s nuclear weapons program only one to three years.
That one-to-three year caveat has become more than an estimate. Over the past several years, as Defense Sec. Leon Panetta, his predecessor Robert Gates, former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and other officials have recited it at press conferences and think tanks, it has become received wisdom.
But is it true? It’s hard to believe that the United States lacks the military might to destroy the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program—if not in one campaign, then in a series of campaigns to ensure that it doesn’t get the bomb.
“I always felt the time frame was very conservative,” (Ret.) Gen. Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the United States Army, said. “My judgment tells me that if we did something as devastating as we could do, taking down their major sites, which also means their engineers and scientists, I think the setback would be greater than five years. I don’t like to read too much into people’s motivations, but at times when we don’t want to do something, we build a case in terms of our interpretation that it is too hard or it isn’t worth the payoff.”
Whole thing here.