Will We Invade Iran Someday?

| Thu Mar. 1, 2012 12:49 PM EST

It's never been clear to me that we could actually do a substantial amount of damage to Iran's nuclear program merely by engaging in a few days of bombing runs. Even eight years ago, the best guess among national security types seemed to be that it would take a couple of weeks of concentrated effort, and it must be harder by now. I guess we could still do it, but surely we're talking about a fairly long-term mission. Several weeks at best, maybe even months.

But even if I'm wrong about that, Robert Wright argues that the inevitable endgame for all this is a ground invasion anyway:

According to experts I've talked to, Iran would probably react to bombing not by burying its nuclear facilities deeper, but by dispersing them much more widely....So even if we were willing to make additional bombing runs on an annual basis ("mowing the lawn," as some call it), we could never be confident that Iran wasn't producing a nuclear weapon. The only path to such confidence would be to invade the country and seize the instruments of state.

Would we actually do that? Probably. In justifying the initial bombing, President Obama will have driven home how unacceptable an Iran with nuclear weapons is, thus establishing as a kind of doctrine that America will never let Iran acquire them....Doctrines can be abandoned, of course, but only at some political cost. And this one would be an especially unlikely orphan when you have a president who (being a Democrat) is insecure about his national security credentials and, on top of that, is insecure about his pro-Israel credentials. Of course, if Obama loses in November, then, one or two years down the road, it won't be the creator of this doctrine who is in the White House. But in the event of a Republican presidency, adherence to such a doctrine is pretty much assured anyway.

Maybe so — though this begs the question of how we'd launch a ground invasion. We've already pulled out of Iraq, and within a few years we'll be out of Afghanistan too. So where do we launch this ground invasion from? Marine landings via the Arabian Sea? That would be a helluva job even for the biggest navy in the world. It seems like there's a missing step or three here. How is this all supposed to play out in the end?