Peter Howard of the American University looks at the "intensity of debate within senior Administration circles about how to address Iran's nuclear program" and then discusses the likelihood of a US-Iran war from the Poli Sci perspective. He points out that it is dangerous to have two armed forces so close to each other and that we should
never underestimate the role that stupidity and bad luck play in the unfolding of history. Anything can happen.
That said, is a war probable?
I don't think so.
Every major explanatory tool / theory we have in IR / Security, save one, suggests no war. To be clear, this is not a political or policy recommendation against war, but IR theory / Security Studies offering a theoretical prediction on future outcomes.
Your base realism / strategic analysis suggests no war. Iran is big and strong (stronger than Iraq pre-invasion), offering a more robust deterrent. The US is weaker--though the US flanks Iran with ongoing military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, those two ongoing wars have stretched the US military about as far as it can go in its current configuration. As any military person around town will tell you, we're stretched very very thin just to keep up the surge.Read his entire post "Bomb Iran?" at Duck of Minerva.
The domestic / liberal explanations similarly suggest no war. When Bush went into Iraq, he had a pliant public, a cheerleader Congress, bureaucratic support within the government, and significant public approval. Today, none of that exists. (...) Who among the R-10 do you see lining up for a full-on war, and how do you see even the most modestly competent D campaign responding? Its one thing to spout campaign rhetoric of I'm the Tough Guy (tough on crime, tough on terrorists, tough on proliferaters)--there are votes to be won there--but its another thing to be the war candidate--there are only votes to be lost there.
The only analytical tools in the IR kit that leaves open the possibility of war are the individual / psychological / group-think ones. Its still possible for key actors to misperceive the situation and massively screw things up. More likely, though, is that there remains a core of true believers, blinded by ideology, within the administration that necessarily include the President and VP. (...) Even if Bush and Cheney wanted a war, I just don't see how they could sell it and get the necessary support within the government and within the country to make it work.
I mainly agree. I am concerned about stumbling into war as a result of increased tension, tougher rhetoric, psychological warfare and just simple mistakes and miscalculations.
What happens if Iran tries to arrest US rather than British sailors for allegedly entering Iranian waters? If Britain pulls out of Iraq soon, then the US will probably have to patrol the coast. A small incident (easily based on an honest mistake) might lead to some crisis that increases the likelihood of war.
And then there is Iran's alleged arming of US enemies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, while the CIA has allegedly received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, and the Tehran regime is insecure enough to arrest some Iranian-American academics. As Peter said in the beginning "never underestimate the role that stupidity and bad luck play in the unfolding of history."
Atlantic Review on : US-Iran: War or Negotiations?
For the first time in nearly five years a senior American official (Christopher R. Hill) traveled to Pyongyang on June 21, 2007, reports the New York Times: The United States&rsquo; chief nuclear negotiator began a surprise two-day visit to North Korea to