Regardless of the goal, the end result would be more troops and ships in the region, more resources appropriated to fight new or revitalized terrorist organizations and more arms for allied countries, many of which are themselves unstable. The US’ stake in the Middle East would grow, undermining its attempts to free up assets for its professed “pivot” toward East Asia, where it hopes to balance China’s growing influence.
Living with a nuclear Iran would require expensive countermeasures and create significant risks. However, going to war to impede Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and containing the subsequent chaos — including oil-price spikes, increased regional volatility, and reduced US strategic flexibility — would be far more costly. If Obama stands behind his first-term declarations, the world will pay a very high price.
Geoffrey Kemp is director of the Regional Security Program at the Center for the National Interest. John Allen Gay is a program assistant for the Regional Security Program at the Center for the National Interest.
Copyright: Project Syndicate