The conservative press, and reportedly the White House, are chomping at the bit to bomb Iran. A much better idea would be to bomb Iceland instead, in a "shock and awe" spectacular that could be staged as a win-win-win deal all around, even for Icelanders.
"Why Iceland of all places?" you might ask? "Why not some other country, like, say, Pakistan or Nepal?" Let me count the reasons.
First, Iceland is an ideal target. You either hit it, or you hit the ocean. Not so if we bomb in regions where all countries look the same from above. Accidentally bombing countries we currently are not at war with might be misinterpreted by them and, worse still, trigger one of Condoleezza Rice's much-feared scowls.
Second, Iceland is much closer than Iran. Our pilots could lift off stateside in the morning, bomb Iceland at noon, fly to the United Kingdom for a night of English theater or pubs, load up the next day with ordnance kindly kept there for us by the ever helpful Tony Blair and bomb Iceland again on the way home, returning stateside for supper. It's an efficient way to do a war.
Third, the CIA recently reported having seen "a swarthy man order yellow cake from an equally swarthy waitress" in downtown Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. Though the waitress brought the man vanilla cake, the transaction could easily be construed by the United Nations as something far more sinister and in need of bombing.
Fourth, while America abounds with boisterous patriots, too few of them volunteer for our armed forces to securely occupy Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran — which has been hugely embarrassing for a superpower. Iceland has a population of only 300,000 or so. With luck and added military pay, we might scrounge up enough additional warriors to do that country properly.
If we unleashed Shock and Awe in Reykjavik, we would generously compensate Iceland to the tune of, say, 275 percent of that country's $14 billion 2006 GDP — a mere trifle in our giant federal budget. Furthermore, we would build, at our expense, an exact pre-bombing replica of their pulverized city, albeit with 21stcentury American plumbing and electronics. Could any reasonable people resist such generosity? And even if Icelanders irrationally did, we would, as noted, have the troops to make the Icelandic people accept what's good for them. What could Syria do about it?
American companies — such as Halliburton and Bechtel — would be given the customary sole-source federal contracts to (a) rebuild Reykjavik after the Shock and Awe show and (b) build a giant subterranean bomb shelter in the mountain range south of Reykjavik before the show, to shield Iceland's population and art treasures from the exploding ordnance our bombers and ships would deliver. These contracts would substantially raise the firms' earnings per share and, thus, their stock prices. Much enriched shareholders would reward the firms' executives with well-deserved, million-dollar bonuses. As The Wall Street Journal would tell you, that added wealth would make America stronger.
Similarly rich rewards would accrue to the folks producing the ordnance. Think about it! Every time a U.S. soldier or Marine fires an artillery shell in Iraq, and every time a U.S pilot drops a smart bomb or missile there, some employees, shareholders and company executives at home book sizeable financial gains from the event. The same would hold true in the Iceland incident. War always begets millionaires (and now billionaires) by the bushel. [Recall the heartwarming story of the wealthy U.S. manufacturer of bulletproof vests who in 2005 threw for his teenage daughter a reported $10 million bat mitzvah in New York.]
As is their wont in modern war, America's television channels would dispatch their reporters to Reykjavik ahead of "shock and awe," giving armchair patriots a bomb-by-bomb, missile-by-missile account of the spectacular, ably assisted by sundry mothballed generals. Let's face it: While we are a peace-loving people merely seeking to export our splendid way of life to the rest of the world, we do love our "shock and awe" television specials. Indeed, "shock and awe": Iceland could be made so captivating as to trump even American Idol.
But wouldn't American taxpayers be the losers, you may query? They would if we were dumb enough to tax-finance the venture. But chances are that Japan and China would gladly finance the Iceland thing just as they have gladly financed our ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan so far. True, our kids and theirs might one day have to repay that foreign debt; but kids don't vote and therefore don't count in forging U.S. fiscal policy.
So there you have it. By doing Iran, we might just embarrass ourselves once more, as we have by doing Iraq. Why take that chance? A debt-financed bombing of Iceland would (1) modernize that country, (2) (2) create wealth in our economy, (3) demonstrate our military might abroad and (4) be cheaper. It's win-win-win all around. Uwe E. Reinhardt is the James Madison Professor of Political Economy and a professor in the Wilson School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.