During my conversation with Norman Podhoretz last week, I asked him to explain how he thinks an American attack on Iran, which he advocates, could actually be carried out.
"The forces are in place and all you have to say is ‘go.’ said Podhoretz, a father of neoconservatism and a senior advisor to Rudy Giuliani. “You could wake up tomorrow morning" and it could be done.
After acknowledging that he was not a military man, Podhoretz offered that the attack should be carried out by air, with no commitment of ground troops, and the sooner the better.
If America doesn’t do it, he said, Israel probably will, but the U.S. military is much better equipped–in terms of technology and logistics–to get the job done. (He cited an MIT report which suggests that everything would have to go flawlessly for the Israelis to pull the bombing off.) He said that bombers could be dispatched from two nearby aircraft carriers or missiles could be launched from submarines to take out the roughly 18 known above-ground nuclear facilities.
"We could get all the above grounds ones," he said, adding his opinion that “there is no technical problem about getting them out.”
Podhoretz thinks Israeli intelligence agents probably know where the underground facilities are, and that American bunker-busting munitions could knock them out. He ruled out any nuclear assault "under the present circumstances," and thinks opponents of military action against Iran have raised the specter of nuclear warfare only as a way of demonizing advocates of the bombing.
And what of the inevitable Iranian response, which would likely manifest itself in attacks on vulnerable American allies?
It’s already happening, he said, with surrogates like Hezbollah staging frequent attacks on Israel. A more serious counterattack could be mitigated with tactical steps like blockading the Strait of Hormuz between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
"The worst-case scenario is everything bad will happen," he said. "The worst-case scenario of letting them get the bomb is even worse."
When I asked him how pressing the bombing was, with some estimates saying the Iranians were years off from attaining nuclear capabilities, he offered the following:
"The CIA says five years. The CIA has been wrong about everything. I don’t see why we should think that they are right about this. Some Israelis I know say nine months – a year before the point of no return is reached. I think the responsible course is to accept the low-ball estimate."
He added, "At worst it seems to me we could retard their progress for five or ten years. And who knows what could happen in five or ten years."