If Romney Wins He Will Start a 5 Trillion Dollar War with Iran, and Lose It

The Nation recently featured an article by Jeremiah Goulka entitled, "Why Does Mitt Romney Want to Bomb Iran?" Among his points are that the Romney's foreign policy team is made up primarily of what The Daily Kos terms "knuckle-dragging ultrahawks." As Goulka puts it, "Obama has essentially loaded the gun and cocked it. But he has kept his finger off the trigger, pursuing diplomacy with the so-called P5+1 talks and rumored future direct talks with the Iranians. The problem is: Romney’s guys want to shoot." As they point out, this comes as little surprise to those who followed any part of the primaries. The real surprise comes when — unlike Romney, who thinks that Syria is Iran's route to the sea — you look at a map of the world.

The simple arithmetic is as follows: Iraq occupies 169,372 square miles, Afghanistan 251,772 — and Iran 636,372, more than 50% more than the other two put together. This terrain includes rugged mountains and the Dasht-e Lut, one of the driest deserts on Earth whose burning sands have reached temperatures as high as 159 degrees, the hottest surface temperature ever recorded on the planet. Its 75 million people are more than the combined population of Iraq and Afghanistan — and they are unlikely to greet us with flowers, remembering U.S. support for the Shah and his hated SAVAK, assassinations of scientists, or more recent moves toward acceptance of the peculiar, cult-like MEK, for example.

A quick bombing raid on six known nuclear facilities might set Iran back by as much as four years, according to a report by the Iran Project cited in a New York Times editorial. But it could also lead to Iran pursuing nuclear weapons openly and with more determination, or Iranian retaliation against the U.S. If this escalates to a regional conflict, the cost could easily exceed that of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, i.e. $4 trillion, maybe 6.  It could be even worse than that, because we should remember that Iran is right between Iraq and Afghanistan, and many residents of each may be sympathetic to the cause. Iran has a nominal GDP of $482 billion, compared to $144 billion for Iraq and just $18 billion for Afghanistan, which invites questions about what something more than covert support could do to reverse any successes our troops have made in the latter. The impact of Iranian cyberwar shouldn't be ignored either — not when manufacturers, seemingly eager to create any possible loophole for government snooping, build cars that can have their brakes slammed on remotely by anyone who dials up their built-in telephone. With Romney's vague economic plans more likely than not to increase the existing deficits, the costs of war would bring us rapidly toward levels of national debt that are truly unsustainable, requiring either a humiliating admission of defeat, or a Soviet-style collapse just like Pat Buchanon said.

Last but not least, we should remember that, like Afghanistan, Iran borders on Pakistan, whose people have begun to express opposition to U.S. drone strikes. If a future Iranian resistance were to make a practice of crossing into Pakistan for safety or to mobilize support, it might put even more pressure on Pakistan's rulers, and would seem to risk that this nation of 180 million people could end up being destabilized or pushed onto the side of those opposed to us. Together, the four nations have a larger population than that of the United States, occupy a third of its land area ... and Pakistan actually has nuclear weapons. That is the scenario we should really be worrying about.