From The new York Post, July 17, 2008, by Ralph Peters:
MY greatest worry on Iran's nuclear threat to civilization isn't the military option. It's trying that option on the cheap.
...Military strikes must be the last resort. Even a successful attack would panic oil markets, interrupt supplies to an unknown degree and make enemies of the Iranian people for another generation.
But the fanatics in Tehran may leave us no peaceful alternative. In that case, the most disastrous thing we could do would be to launch an economy-model attack.
If forced to strike, we have to do it right. ...[There is no] chance that the Israelis could handle Iran on their own ... the Israelis lack the capacity to sustain a strategic offensive against Iran - or to deal with the inevitable mess they'd leave behind in the Persian Gulf. Israel's aircraft could do serious damage to Iran's nuke program, but the US military would face the potentially catastrophic aftermath.
Without compromising any secrets - the Iranians already know what we'd need to do - here are the basic requirements for smacking down Iran's nuke program:
* Take out Iran's air-defense and intelligence network to protect our attacking aircraft.
* Take down its national communications network to degrade its military reaction.
* Strike dozens of dispersed nuclear-related targets - some of them in hardened underground facilities, with others purposely placed in populated areas.
* Hit every anti-ship-missile installation along Iran's Persian Gulf coast and the Straits of Hormuz. The reflexive Iranian response to an attack would be to launch sea-skimmer missiles against oil tankers and Western warships. The Iranians know that oil's now the world's Achilles heel.
* Destroy Iran's naval capacity, including small craft, in the first 24 hours to prevent attacks on shipping (expect suicide attacks, too).
* Immediately take out all of Iran's long-range and intermediate-range missiles - not just those that could strike Israel, but those that could hit Saudi, gulf-state or Iraqi oil refineries, pipelines, port facilities and oil fields . . . or our installations in the region.
* Hit the military's key command centers in Tehran, as well as regional headquarters, with special attention to the Revolutionary Guards' infrastructure.
* Expect three to six weeks of intense air and naval fighting, followed by months of skirmishing and asymmetrical warfare. And Iraq will heat back up, too.
Screw up the effort, and today's oil prices will double or triple, with severe downstream shortages showing up in a matter of weeks - every oil tanker's insurance will be canceled immediately, even if the Straits of Hormuz remain open (unlikely).
And we'll be in the global doghouse.
... We still want to win wars without hurting anybody, by just breaking the other guy's toys. And that's never going to happen.
If we have to fight, we have to fight to win.
Take down Iran's nuke program? I'm damned certain of one thing: If we start this one, we'd better get it right from the first shot.
Ralph Peters' new book is "Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."