Michael Smith, how can you not agree that military strategy isn't based on a cost-benefit analysis? You advocate it yourself: you feel that the 'benefit' of bombing the hell out of Iran (your conception of 'victory') exceeds the 'cost' of the blowback (potentially tens to hundreds of millions of new recruits for militant Islamist groups, and yet another country the US has to either occupy permanently (which would likely involve a draft), or else allow to become a terrorist sanctuary).
Pete, I suppose a more accurate statement of my position is that I oppose using "cost/benefit" as an excuse for inaction or "limited" action -- which is generally the intent of those who invoke it.
The cost/benefit argument that is advanced is almost always based on these premises: 1) that there is a continuum between "no force/no response" and "total force/total response", and that America can militarily operate anywhere along that continuum; and 2) that the risks to America increase with increasing use of force. Once this second premise is accepted, it then leads to the argument that America only go to war by finding the optimum point along that continuum, and then use no more force than necessary.
This is followed by depicting the benefits of any proposed action as tenuous at best, while the costs are protrayed as apocalyptically high.
This kind of thinking has led us to an endless series of half-fought, limited conflicts that have cost the lives of many, many thousands of Americans and untold billions in treasury. It has led to, at best, the stalemate of the Korean War, and at worst, ignominious defeats both large and small, such as the Vietnam War, Somalia, Lebanon, and countless others. It has led to the tragically incomplete, partial victory of the First Gulf War and the subsequent betrayal of the so-called marsh Arabs, who responded to our call for an uprising against Hussein only to be slaughtered, all of which led to a decade of policing no-fly zones .
In every case, the leftists/pacifists/America-haters were able to summon sufficient fear of "blowback" to convince the powers that be that America should not employ her full military might. In Korea we were told we dare not smash the Chinese in North Korea because there are too many of them and they'll overrun the South unless we let them have the North. In Vietnam we were told that we dare not invade and destroy North Vietnam because of the potential response of the USSR and/or China. In the first Gulf War we were told we dare not go into Iraq because it would inflame the "Arab street" who would then devour Israel.
Now we are told we dare not destroy the very center of Islamic terrorism -- Iran -- because of the potential of "tens to hundreds of millions of new recruits for militant Islamist groups, and yet another country the US has to either occupy permanently (which would likely involve a draft), or else allow to become a terrorist sanctuary"
In the first place, we need not occupy anything. Annihilate Iran and forget it, except for satellite reconnaissance and the occasional flyover. As long as what remains has no chance of developing nuclear weapons, it is not a threat to us.
In the second place, if all the mid-east terrorists wish to congregate in what's left of Iran, good, we'll go back in a couple of years and send them all to paradise.
In the third place, I am unable to summon any fear of the populations of nations like Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia, populations that cannot even defeat the microscopic nation of Israel, despite starting three wars of aggression against her and spending billions of oil-dollars on weapons. If they want to flock to Iran, let 'em.