Bombing Our Way Into Their Hearts

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CATO's Justin Logan flags an interesting exposition by former Bush administration official Elliott Abrams on the question of bombing Iran:

...we are not talking about the Americans killing civilians, bombing cities, destroying mosques, hospitals, schools. No, no, no – weʹre talking about nuclear facilities which most Iranians know very little about, have not seen, will not see, some quite well hidden.

So they wake up in the morning and find out that the United States is attacking those facilities and, presumably with some good messaging about why weʹre doing it and why we are not against the people of Iran.

Itʹs not clear to me that the reaction [is] letʹs go to war with the Americans, but rather, perhaps, how did we get into this mess? Why did those guys, the very unpopular ayatollahs in a country 70 percent of whose population is under the age of 30, why did those old guys get us into this mess.

I'll say this, it's not clear to me either. But intuitively, I'm thinking Abrams is wrong here for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the question of how close Iran's nuclear work is to civilian infrastructure.

But more broadly, the idea that the Iranians will react to a U.S. attack on their country by turning on their leaders strikes me as a stretch. When the Iranians attacked a Marine barracks in Lebanan through their proxies in 1983, the U.S. did not rise up in anger against President Reagan. Indeed, even today, this attack is considered proof of Iran's implacable belligerence.

What's more, we have a very recent example of Abrams' thesis being disproved in both Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza last year. Terrorist elements in both countries were bombarded from the air, yet neither have suffered dramatic swings in public support - certainly nothing decisive. Londoners didn't revolt against Churchill during the blitz, nor did the Japanese turn on the Emperor despite amazing levels of carnage.

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