Mitt Romney is tired of hearing President Obama threaten Iran in only vague terms. Enough of this "all options are on the table" stuff. Obama, Romney says, should declare that "we are considering military options" and "they're not just on the table--they are in our hand."
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Romney will get some support next week when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington: Netanyahu will ask Obama to say publicly that "the United States is preparing for a military operation in the event that Iran crosses certain 'red lines'."
Before signing on to this mission, could we get some clarity on what exactly this "military operation" will ultimately entail?
There are two main schools of thought about how air strikes on Iran would work out. Most Americans seem to envision something cleanly surgical--a few days of bombing runs and then we get that "mission accomplished" banner out of the closet. A smaller number of Americans--notably including a lot of national security experts--realize that Iran would probably retaliate, possibly in ways that drew America into a sustained and even far-flung conflict.
What too few people emphasize, it seems to me, is that these two scenarios don't exhaust the possibilities. Even if air strikes don't draw us into an instant conflagration, they could drag us into a long-term conflict with Iran that winds up with American boots on the ground. In fact, when you think about the military and political logic of the situation, the invasion and occupation of Iran is the most likely long-term outcome of bombing regardless of what happens in the short term.