The US ordered airstrikes against Iran on Thursday—then cancelled the operation once planes were in the air and ships in place, the New York Times reports.

Why president Trump reversed course remains uncertain, but tension has risen as the US administration—and its regional allies—pursue increasingly hardline agendas towards Iran, which confirmed it had shot down a US surveillance drone.

National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo share aggressive approaches towards Iran. Bolton—a longtime hawk—advocates offensive action against Iran’s clerical rulers.

There are already legislative checks to military action. But introducing a temporal check between order and execution could create space for non-violent methods of conflict resolution, and allow further intelligence to accrue—perhaps reducing civilian casualties.

It could also limit the entropy towards all-out war, and mitigate the risk of illegal measures being taken, since more time enables better internal oversight.

However, such a policy may shackle the military executive just when swift action is deemed necessary—stripping countries of tactical advantages like strike speed. Some experts believe unfettered hardline attitudes are the correct tack with volatile states like Iran.

Enforcement could also prove difficult and lead to inequality, with some countries complying while others ignore the rule.

Beyond consulting lawmakers, should commanders-in-chief have to pause before launching an assault?

 

Credit for this article's header image goes to Getty.