Friday, July 14, 2006

U.S. Military: One Up, One Down


An interesting article by Seymour Hersh in last week's New Yorker, Last Stand: The Military's problem with the President's Iran Policy. Overall it was heartening to me to read that the military, of which I was a part for 22 years of my life, isn't solely populated with right wing ideologues who are foaming at the mouth to do the bidding of this administration. No, indeed, it seems that there are people populating the ranks who are trying to realistically assess what we should or shouldn't do with regard to an exercise of military power, and who are also a bit fed up with how this administration misuses those it gets information from.

Hersh reports that military leaders in the Pentagon are sending signals to Bush that they're not in favor of military action in Iran. The reasons are many, but they boil down to first not being sure where the targets are, and given that this would have to be an air campaign, i.e. we'd be bombing the country, it's pretty certain that any such bombing campaign would result in Iran entering into Iraq in a significant way with the result being many American and Iraqi deaths and God only knows what end result, but whichever one you can think of isn't pretty.

The military brass is also put out by the fact that the "nuclear" option was put on the table, which made it into the press some weeks ago. The idea was to us nuclear "bunker busters" to get to the buried Iranian nuclear facilities. Of course where those facilities are exactly isn't known, but the Bush administration was indirectly trumping the possibility of using nukes to get to Iranian nuclear materials. It turns out that the military was asked to provide all possible options, which in this situation included the possibility of using bunker busting nukes. Apparently that wasn't intended to mean that this was an option the military seriously considered, though that didn't stop the Bushies from putting it out there as if it were, and this ticked off the Pentagon brass.

An interesting twist on this for me is that the military’s stand on Iran is not unanimous. Indeed, the Air Force feels it can do the job well enough and is all for dropping bombs. In this case it’s not what’s good for the services, i.e. ALL service members regardless of whatever uniform they wear, but what’s likely good for the Air Force, though in what context the Air Force could see this as good, other than sucking up to bomb/invasion crazy neocons I have no clue. When you’re dropping bombs from 35,000 feet you’re not too concerned about losing your pilots, planes, or what it looks like after you’re done. Soldiers and Marines have to get in close and personal, clearly putting their own lives on the line, and they get to take home the visions of what they’ve done. In the case of the Navy, while that service doesn’t play as much of a role on the ground (medics with the Marines do, as do support personnel such as medical types in general), but if it has to sail its ships into the Persian Gulf, which it would surely need to do if it were to launch aircraft into Iran, then the vision of martyr aspiring Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen coming at aircraft carriers and destroyers in explosives laden 50 + knot cigarette boats just doesn’t settle well with a lot of folks when the return on what’s expected is so up in question.

However you cut it, we have enough problems in the world without inviting more by going after Iran. Here’s the deal: If the Iranians want the bomb they’re going to get it, period. There’s not a whole hell of a lot that can be done about it by force or threat of force. If we try it’s almost a sure bet that the Iranians will dump even more time and money into going after the bomb when we’re through as there’s no chance in hell that we’re going to be able to occupy the country like we are Iraq.

The Bush administration’s policy on Iran has been unrealistic and dramatically lacking in imagination and original thinking. Yes, Iran’s a problem, one the Iranian people themselves are trying to figure out and deal with, but it’s theirs to deal with, not ours. We don’t like it, in many cases understandably, but trying to bully the Iranians into doing our bidding when so much of what we ask for is hypocritical is ridiculous. If the American people allow this administration to get away with the same misdirection and saber rattling that it used to get us into Iraq, then God help us and Iran.


Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

First, we have troops stationed on either side of Iran, and that escalates the long-standing tension between our two countries.

Second, we each have presidents who shoot their mouths off, quite often demonstrating no evidence of rumination beforehand as to the consequences as to their utterings.

Third, I seriously fear that Iran will end up splitting into three different countries based on ethnic/religious lines: A Kurdish state in the north, a Sunni state in the middle, and a Shi'ite state in the south.

This Shi'ite state will then be under the patronage of Iran. Thus, our misadventures in Iraq will lead to an expansion of Iran's power in the region. Iran continues to look westward as an avenue to expand its influence, as evidenced by its support for Hezbollah, and southern Iraq provides yet another bridge.

Meanwhile the Sunni state will war with the Kurdish state over petroleum resources, and Turkey and Iran will resist the Kurdish state's continued existence as well, since their Kurdish minorities have agitated for an independent Kurdistan for years.

There is nothing compelling about the continued existence of Iraq as a single entity.

10:32 AM  
Blogger James said...

Ms. C,

I agree with your overall assessment that there's not much good to come out of Iraq. How it may play out in the end, though, isn't as clear to me.

I agree, there's a strong likelihood that the country will fracture into three pieces. I'm inclined to think, though, that the Kurds stand a better chance than you're giving them credit. The Peshmerga, their standing force, is well-disciplined and, apparently, well-armed. How well-armed I don't know, but the fact that they exist as a coherent armed entity puts them above the Sunnis and it's not clear that the U.S., after shielding the Kurds for so long, would be willing to just let them hang out to dry. There's no way to know at this point, but ... well, there's a lot that has to play out between now and then.

I appreciate the Iranians feeling nervous with regard American forces to either side of the country, and the saber-rattling of Bush and company over the past months hasn't added to diminishing anxiety. But there's definitely a case to be made that in the long run what will develop and coalesce in that region will be more to the advantage of Iran than to us.

Well, bottom line, there's a lot to happen in the coming months and, most likely years, and in the end for all the things Bush may be villified for I think this misadventure will ultimately be the albatross that hangs around his neck; saying it's unfortunate that so many have died and so many riches have been spent on this mistake hardly does justice to what it really is.

8:22 PM  
Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

The above are my deepest fears, and when I contemplate the history behind the word "Balkanization," they get worse.

And I am not too sure we have really shown support for the Kurds, especially in the wake of the 1991 war. Turkey is still technically our NATO ally, so any help from our quarter for the Kurds seems far from certain. Turkey is vehemently opposed to a Kurdish state.

I imagine Ahmadinejad has done the math and realized that he can indulge in quite a bit of public baiting with our attention and resources stretched to the breaking point elsewhere. The type of forebearance required in such a situation is not one for which this administration is famous.

11:24 PM  
Blogger James said...

Ms. C,

On the whole I concur, though I think the Kurd situation is a bit more complicated. After Iraq War I we did invest a lot in protecting the Kurds, and at this point the Kurds themselves have had enough autonomy and time to build themselves into a significant fighting force, one even the Turks would have a hard time going head to head with. Now the Turks have many concerns, not the least being membership in the European Union - invading northern Iraq to chase after Kurds or undermine a nascent Kurdish "state" would not go very far in supporting EU inclusion.

Anyway, we've screwed the pooch here in more ways than one, Iran is making as much out of it as it can, and it's anyone's guess as to what in the world is going to happen here. Stay tuned ...

5:08 PM  

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