Wednesday, January 11, 2006

We have to strike Iran..

From Chester Milblog: "My spider senses are twitching about Iran. I sense a disturbance in the force. Several reports, from different sources -- Strategic Forecasting, the Turkish press, and now RegimeChangeIran -- are all hinting at windows of opportunity that are closing: for the US or Israel to stop Iran's nuclear program, or for Iran to exploit the situation in Iraq to its advantage before democracy takes root. Perhaps a better comparison might be 1914. Things might get hairy awful fast in the mid-east. Iran is not just another country; it is an entire Persian civilization with a long history of conquest from Darius and Cyrus fighting the Greeks, to the Sasanians, the Safavids, and the modern state. The prediction markets currently have a 36% chance of a US or Israeli airstrike on Iran by March of 07. I plan to keep a close eye on these numbers. Here's what I expect in the next 12 months. -There will be airstrikes upon Iranian facilities by either the US or Israel. -There will be catastrophic, if not cataclysmic, terror attacks in various parts of the Middle East, sponsored by Iran or its proxies; The Gulf States, Jordan, Israel, and Iraq are potential targets. I'm not going to make any definitive statements of causality. Either of the above two events may happen before the other. What happens after those two is anyone's guess. But I think they are both coming, and coming faster than we may all expect. UPDATE: Many assume that Iran would not overtly use terror or the deterrent effects of its new nukes to its own gain in the immediate future, thinking instead that things would settle into a "cold war" of sorts. This represents a best-case and is foolhardy for planning purposes. As usual in strategy, Iran's advantage rests in its ability to exploit seams; at the moment there is quite a transitional seam in Israeli politics and therefore policy. If there were plans on the drawing board for an Israeli strike, they are being shelved for sure. We are about to encounter another seam via the US election as well, wherein the entire Congress temporarily becomes entranced by domestic concerns and local politics. If Iran declares itself a nuclear power, the institutions, systems, policies and governments of the region and the world will not just snap into a new paradigm of a "cold war" with Iran, though in the longer term, that is certainly probable. Instead, from the moment Iran makes the announcement, or detonates a bomb, a new seam begins between the old policy regimes and the new. And there lies Iran's advantage. Much hay can be made while the capitals of the west are engaged in debate on a response. UPDATE3: Between reading reader comments this evening, I was perusing a chapter in Grand Strategies in War and Peace entitled "British Grand Strategy in World War I" by Sir Michael Howard. This section struck me as particularly relevant to our current discussion on Iran: In 1915, whatever British strategists may have intended, the eastern front was the major theater because the Germans had decided to make it so. During the course of that year the German armies in the east inflicted such drastic defeats on Russia that her Western allies began to doubt her capacity, and even more the will of her government to carry on the war at all. It was the need to relieve the pressure in the east that compelled the French and the British armies to continue their offensive on the western front. There was no longer any expectation of a strategic breakthrough leading to a major decision: the object now was to pin down the German forces and exhaust them. It was a strategy determined by the French High Command, and one into which Kitchener allowed himself to be drawn only very unwillingly. But if he did not do so, he feared, not only the Russians but even the French (who had already suffered over a million casualties) might be tempted to make peace. It was at this stage that the truth broke in on him that one has to make war, not as one would like to, but as one must.[emphasis added] Are we not perhaps in a similar situation with Iran? As much as Kitchener would have preferred to use British naval forces to merely blockade Germany, or to invade from the south, via the Dardanelles as Churchill disastrously suggested, thereby taking pressure off the Russians in the east, but without going straight into the maw of the enemy on the west, as much as he would have preferred these alternatives, he slowly realized that they would not work. And he was forced to fight the war in a much less than ideal fashion. Here we are again. As much as we might like to a) have the EU diplomacy work or b) have no insurgency in Iraq simultaneous to this crisis or c) have a larger ground force in readiness or d) have more perfect intelligence or e) just let Israel do it, as much as we might prefer those things, they either aren't available or they won't work. Iraq, as messy as it is, has perhaps spoiled us still for what war really is: a situation wherein every alternative is equally unpalatable, but in which one must act, must do something, risking possible defeat from the choice taken against certain defeat from the failure to choose at all. UPDATE5: While we're all considering all the ifs, ands and buts to the Iran situation, I encourage those who haven't to read an article by Mark Helprin in the Claremont Review of Books, entitled "Let Us Count the Ways." Here is an excerpt particular to Iran: Take for example Iran, a peripheral state that is nonetheless the most powerful and belligerent sponsor of terrorism remaining in the Middle East and indeed in the world. This is a country of 73 million, with a formidable military and difficult mountainous terrain. It is not, absent the kind of mass and power the United States and NATO needlessly relinquished at the Cold War's end, a country to invade, even in the "in-and-out" style advocated herein. And yet it has acquired and is acquiring intermediate-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, it is a habitual and recidivist supporter of terrorism, and its legislature frequently opens with chants of "Death to America." We treat this obvious threat as if it were insurmountable, because due to our insufficient preparation, current deployments, and strategical blindness, at the moment, it is. The administration has no policy . .Meanwhile, Iran shelters al-Qaeda, acquires missiles, and races toward nuclear armament. But were the open and bleeding flank in Iraq closed, the center safely held, and the American military properly supplied, rebuilt, and rejuvenated, the sure way to strip Iran of its nuclear potential would be clear: issuance of an ultimatum stating that we will not allow a terrorist state, the legislature of which chants like a robot for our demise, to possess nuclear weapons; clearing the Gulf of Iranian naval and coastal defense forces; cutting corridors across Iran free of effective anti-aircraft capability; surging carriers to the Gulf and expeditionary air forces to Saudi Arabia; readying long-range heavy bombers in this country and Guam; setting up an unparalleled search and rescue capability. If then our conditions were unmet, we could destroy every nuclear, ballistic-missile, military research, and military technical facility in Iran, with the promise that were the prohibited activities to resume and/or relocate we would destroy completely the economic infrastructure of the country, something we could do in a matter of days and refresh indefinitely, with nary a boot on the ground. That is the large-scale option, necessary only if for some reason the destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities could not, as is likely, be accomplished by stealth bombers and cruise missiles. The almost complete paralysis of its economy, should it be called for, could be achieved with the same instruments plus naval gunfire and blockade."

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