Another sign of the disproportionate role of the US military in our society is the hordes of retired generals and admirals shilling for wars — compared with the small number of seldom-heard retired diplomats suggesting means other than force.
So it goes with the years-long project to start a war with Iran. It worked with Iraq, so we should not discount their odds of success again. General Wald provides the latest agit-prop. A response follows from Bernard Finel. At the end are links to more information about Iran.
(1) “There Is a Military Option on Iran“, General Chuck Wald (General, USAF, retired), op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 6 August 2009 — Excerpt:
Of course, there are huge risks to military action: U.S. and allied casualties; rallying Iranians around an unstable and oppressive regime; Iranian reprisals be they direct or by proxy against us and our allies; and Iranian-instigated unrest in the Persian Gulf states, first and foremost in Iraq.
Furthermore, while a successful bombing campaign would set back Iranian nuclear development, Iran would undoubtedly retain its nuclear knowhow. An attack would also necessitate years of continued vigilance, both to retain the ability to strike previously undiscovered sites and to ensure that Iran does not revive its nuclear program.
But the risks of military action must be weighed against those of doing nothing. If the Iranian regime continues to advance its nuclear program despite the best efforts of Mr. Obama and other world leaders, we risk Iranian domination of the oil-rich Persian Gulf, threats to U.S.-allied Arab regimes, the emboldening of radicals in the region, the creation of an existential threat to Israel, the destabilization of Iraq, the shutdown of the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and a regional nuclear-arms race.
A peaceful resolution of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions would certainly be the best possible outcome. But should diplomacy and economic pressure fail, a U.S. military strike against Iran is a technically feasible and credible option.
About General Wald
Charles F. Wald was the air commander for the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and deputy commander of the U.S. European Command. He was also a participant in the Bipartisan Policy Center’s project on U.S. policy toward Iran, “Meeting the Challenge.” He is a member of the Atlantic Council Board of Directors. For more see his entry at Wikipedia.
(2) Bernard Finel replies at his blog:
See, the problem is that negative consequences of an attack are near certainties, while his concerns about inaction are fundamentally unlikely. How would Iran “dominate” the Persian gulf with nuclear weapons? Under what plausible scenario does that occur? They issue a nuclear threat to Saudi Arabia, we extend our nuclear umbrella. Stalemate.
How do nuclear weapons constitute a larger threat to U.S.-allied regimes? Again, will Iran nuke them? Threaten to? Again, the scenario is difficult to imagine.
Existential threat to Israel? Yes, that is a legitimate concern, if we assume that the Iranian regime is suicidal. And it may be. But again this is tremendously unlikely.
… Emboldening radicals in the region? Radicals are inherently emboldened. That’s what makes them, um, radicals. Otherwise they’d be cautious moderates. The notion that possession of nuclear weapons might cause people to flock to Iran’s side is just fear mongering. Has anyone noticed people lining up to ally with the North Koreans since they blew off some nuclear devices in 2006?
… Destabilization of Iraq — I don’t want to be nasty, but Wald is really reaching here. The notion that an Iranian nuclear capacity would be a greater threat to the stability of Iraq than would be the predictable consequences of an American strike is absurd.
… Shutdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? I can’t even fathom what Wald is talking about there.
… This is not actually a close call on which reasonable people can disagree. It is a debate between a serious and thoughtful assessment and empty fear-mongering.
Dr. Bernard I. Finel is a Senior Fellow at the American Security Project (ASP) where he directs research on counter-terrorism and defense policy.
Prior to joining ASP, Dr. Finel was a professor of military strategy and operations at the U.S. National War College from 2004 to 2006. From 1994 to 2004, he held various positions at Georgetown University, most notably as Executive Director of the Security Studies Program and Center for Peace and Security Studies from 2001 to 2004. He was also on the visiting faculty of the School of Foreign Service and a member of the core faculty of the M.A. Program in Security Studies.
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For more information
See the FM reference pages, with collections of links:
Background Information about Iran:
- “Iran’s oil and gas wealth“, US Congress Joint Economic Committee, March 2006 (4 pages)
- “The Iranian petroleum crisis and United States national security“, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2 January 2007
- “Iran, Country Analysis Brief“, US Energy Information Agency (EIA), October 2007
- Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, National Intelligence Estimate, November 2007
A few of the posts on the FM site about the possibility of war with Iran:
- 4GW at work in a community near you , 19 October 2007 — Propaganda warming us up for war with Iran.
- Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone? , 17 March 2008
- More post-Fallon overheating: “6 signs the US may be headed for war in Iran” , 18 March 2008
- A militant America, ready for war with Iran , 6 May 2008
- Another step towards war with Iran?, 7 May 2008 — About Andrew Cockburn’s article in Counterpunch.
- “War With Iran Might Be Closer Than You Think”, 13 May 2008 — About Philip Giraldi’s 9 May story in The American Conservative (see below).
- The most expensive psy-war campaign – ever!, 13 July 2008
- ISIS: “Can Military Strikes Destroy Iran’s Gas Centrifuge Program? Probably Not.”, 8 August 2008
- Proposed legislation prepares the way for war with Iran!, 25 August 2008
- Will trade sanctions work against Iran, as they did against Japan in 1941?, 27 August 2008
- Is the War on Terror over (because there are no longer two sides)? Part 1, 3 September 2008 — Rumors of covert ops by us against Iran.
- Update on the prospects of war with Iran, from Stratfor, 6 September 2008
- Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 February 2009
- Iran – a key state to watch as the new world order evolves, 3 March 2009