Another general advocating war with Iran

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.

About Finel

An excerpt from his bio at the America Security Project website.  Finel also blogs at his own website.

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.

Afterword

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Important: please state the author and site of links you post in the comments, so that people see the source of your information without having to click through.

For more information

See the FM reference pages, with collections of links:

Background Information about Iran:

  1. Iran’s oil and gas wealth“, US Congress Joint Economic Committee, March 2006 (4 pages)
  2. The Iranian petroleum crisis and United States national security“, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2 January 2007
  3. Iran, Country Analysis Brief“, US Energy Information Agency (EIA), October 2007
  4. 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:

  1. 4GW at work in a community near you , 19 October 2007 — Propaganda warming us up for war with Iran.
  2. Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone? , 17 March 2008
  3. More post-Fallon overheating: “6 signs the US may be headed for war in Iran” , 18 March 2008
  4. A militant America, ready for war with Iran , 6 May 2008
  5. Another step towards war with Iran?, 7 May 2008 — About Andrew Cockburn’s article in  Counterpunch.
  6. “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).
  7. The most expensive psy-war campaign – ever!, 13 July 2008
  8. ISIS: “Can Military Strikes Destroy Iran’s Gas Centrifuge Program? Probably Not.”, 8 August 2008
  9. Proposed legislation prepares the way for war with Iran!, 25 August 2008
  10. Will trade sanctions work against Iran, as they did against Japan in 1941?, 27 August 2008
  11. 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.
  12. Update on the prospects of war with Iran, from Stratfor, 6 September 2008
  13. Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 February 2009
  14. Iran – a key state to watch as the new world order evolves, 3 March 2009

38 thoughts on “Another general advocating war with Iran

  1. A nuclear armed Iran simply means the end of the dream of overthrowing the Iranian regime by invading. It will have a stabilizing effect on the region because the US will be forced to deal with the reality of Iran peacefully rather than constantly threatening it.

  2. effective diplomacy is best achieved when all national elements of power are used correctly to achieve your ends. taking the military option off the table will seriously hurt your chances of successful diplomacy. i have little faith that our “nuclear umbrella” exist. there are no politicians in this day and age that would nuke iran unless they nuked us. if iran nuked someone in the middle east, we would not respond (IMO).

    letting iran get nukes seriously destabilizes our military options. iran is a threat to us, the arab middle east, and the world. so what to do? we can continue to pretend that they aren’t a threat but reality will soon give way to the stupidity of that position.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: There are few precedents to succesfully threatening to bomb as an aid to diplomacy, esp when the threat has so little substance — as ours. It’s more similar to Nixon’s “act like a madman” scheme, which also failed.

    All these threats do is diminish our credibility, and strengthen our already widespread reputation as a destabilizing agent to the world’s peace.

  3. USA SUPPOSED TO ATTACK IRAN BACK IN MAY, JUNE 2009 CHANGED THEIR MIND GAVE ISRAELI AIR FORCE ,THE GREEN LIGHT TO ATTACK IRAN AROUND FIRST OR SECOND WEEK OF OCTOBER 2009, DURING ISRAELI ATTACK THE HEZBOLAH HIDDEN CELLS IN USA WILL IMMEDIATELY RETALIATE WITH BIO CHEMICAL WMD, IN BIG US CITIES CAUSING HUNRED OF THOUSAND OF CASUALTIES, USA OF AMERICA WILL IMMEDIATELY RETALIATE BY ATTACKING IRAN BY AIR, GROUND, AND SEA.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Do you have any evidence to support this comment?

  4. I don’t get why none of these so called “experts” haven’t bothered to read the NIE report that says rather emphatically that Iran stopped its nuclear (weapons) program six years ago. So while the General’s closing statement that an attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is “technically feasible”, it doesn’t necessarily follow that such an action would be a “credible option”. Unless of course, we want a replay of the whole WMD fiasco and launch another war on the wings of a lie.

    I have no idea why anybody in their right mind would would trust any of these people ready to start wars based on lies, especially since their record of success, from Vietnam, Bosnia, to Iraq and Afghanistan, is pretty much zip. And from what universe exactly, does Chuck Wald get the idea that repeating such self defeating behavior yet once again can be considered “credible”?
    .
    .
    FM Note: see Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, November 2007. For other NIE’s and infor about NIE’s, see the FM reference page National Intelligence Estimates – an archive.

  5. “Another sign of the disproportionate role of the US military in our society is the hordes of retired generals and admirals shilling for wars”

    Perhaps, but keep in mind that the opposition of the active military continues to be one of the most, if not the most, important obstables to launching a war on Iran. And this is because they understand very well the likely consequences.

  6. They can’t stop now. Military expansionism is now so much of the US DNA that nothing can stop it until either:
    (1) Bankruptcy
    (2) The ‘big one’.

    If it wasn’t Iran, it would be somewhere else. Heck, Iraq showed us how easy it was to manufacture an enemy or a cause.

    That is not just alarmist talk, it is based on US and UK political and military leaders statements. E.g. recent comments in the UK that ‘they’ will be in Afghanistan’ for the next 20 (or was it 30 or 40 or 50) years. They ‘are never’ leaving Iraq, etc.

    As the march eastwards goes on, getting pretty near to the China border now and re-arming Georgia. Then what? Even if they get to the Chinese border they cannot stop, just as they cannot stop next to the Russian border (ref Georgia again and the way they are going it will be a member of NATO soon, and it will attack Russia again).

    It is a system, a machine that has no real purpose but to exist and to exist it has to fight the enemy and the next enemy and the next. Even if every ‘enemy’ has to be created.

    Provided the system can suck enough resources out of the dying host then it will continue, until the host or it is dead (though its death may kill the host of course). Hey, Petraeus has a good chance at being your next President, by one means or another.

    My analysis is that Obama is not Roosevelt, nor Wilson, nor Hoover, actually he is Gorbachov. But unlike Russia, the most probable leadership of the US after collapse will be the military.

    War with China or Russia can now only be avoided by such an economic collapse that no resources are left available. But, even though the US economy is tanking, there is still enough left to take the World to the brink. Looking at Clinton and Biden then war with Russia is basically inevitable on the current path (Iran is becoming increasingly definite), and no US Govt possible in the near future will change that path.

    Think: what is going first the military budget or Medicare and pensions? Yep, you all know the answer to that. So the system (or the blood sucking octopus as some will call it) will drain the host dry as it increasingly gets closer to the end.

    So you are in a race, economic collapse or WW3, if collapse is delayed enough then WW3 is an inevitability.

    FM: the current US ‘Grand Strategy’ is now national Suicide.

  7. As contrast to ‘Iran does not need nuclear energy’ this PNAS paper: “The Iranian petroleum crisis and United States national security“, Roger Stern (then a PhD candidate at John Hopkins Dept of Environmental Engineering), Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2 January 2007 — Abstract

    The U.S. case against Iran is based on Iran’s deceptions regarding nuclear weapons development. This case is buttressed by assertions that a state so petroleum-rich cannot need nuclear power to preserve exports, as Iran claims. The U.S. infers, therefore, that Iran’s entire nuclear technology program must pertain to weapons development. However, some industry analysts project an Irani oil export decline [e.g., Clark JR (2005) Oil Gas J 103(18):34–39]. If such a decline is occurring, Iran’s claim to need nuclear power could be genuine. Because Iran’s government relies on monopoly proceeds from oil exports for most revenue, it could become politically vulnerable if exports decline.

    Here, we survey the political economy of Irani petroleum for evidence of this decline. We define Iran’s export decline rate (edr) as its summed rates of depletion and domestic demand growth, which we find equals 10–12%. We estimate marginal cost per barrel for additions to Irani production capacity, from which we derive the “standstill” investment required to offset edr. We then compare the standstill investment to actual investment, which has been inadequate to offset edr. Even if a relatively optimistic schedule of future capacity addition is met, the ratio of 2011 to 2006 exports will be only 0.40–0.52. A more probable scenario is that, absent some change in Irani policy, this ratio will be 0.33–0.46 with exports declining to zero by 2014–2015. Energy subsidies, hostility to foreign investment, and inefficiencies of its state-planned economy underlie Iran’s problem, which has no relation to “peak oil.”

  8. OldSkeptic, I can’t fault your conclusions and logic but there are a few well-hidden facts that you can’t see from Australia.

    1. The US population doesn’t WANT another war. We are profoundly (if very quietly) embarrassed by the lead-up to the Iraq war and are quietly very determined to prevent a similar war from starting anytime soon.

    Post #5 kind of has it right. Bush and Cheney seem to have been determined to launch some sort of attack on Iran in the last couple of years but each time they measured the public attitude and decided to put away their toys. The Israeli’s have toyed with similar ideas and, after some war games, have apparently decided not to attack.

    Obama may not be Roosevelt or Wilson but with the public support he’s got to prevent another war, he is enough to prevent another war. No promises about the next administration, of course.

    2. I wasn’t kidding when I suggested that NATO would be wise to offer membership to Russia. They really are the logical next candidate for the alliance, and if they agreed, it would tremendously stabilize the Caucasus region. Hilary isn’t Condi Rice and isn’t near as prone to thinking of Russia as THE enemy so we are likely to defuse that crisis (through neglect if nothing else) without another war.

    3. “what is going first the military budget or Medicare and pensions? Yep, you all know the answer to that.” You’re right, I DO know the answer to that. I don’t know WHICH military programs are going to get cut but Medicare and pensions WILL be the last to be cut. Any president that cut Medicare before the military would be facing impeachment in 90 days or less.

    Medicare is the “bread” that buys off the American people. Failure to fund that could lead to revolt fairly quickly.

    4. Economic collapse is MUCH closer than anybody thinks. Bush and Obama didn’t solve last year’s economic crisis, they exchanged a large part of the government’s fiscal credibility for some time for the economy to heal but made NO changes to the system that caused it.

    If you dig a little, you’ll find Goldman Sachs made much of their record breaking profits last quarter on selling more “fiscal weapons of mass destruction.” Attempts to rein in these inappropriate fiscal tools reminds me of the old futile SALT negotiations except that in this case both sides seems to have come to the table drunk to the point of incoherence.

    Here’s a link to a pretty good article detailing the results of our futile efforts to rein in our social spending: “Social Security crunch coming fast“, Bill Fleckenstein, MSN Money, 17 August 2009.

    5. “the current US ‘Grand Strategy’ is now national Suicide.” I understand what you’re saying but I personally think of it as just another failed strategy, out of touch with reality.

    6. Re: the Progressive magazine article. There’s more than one way to interpret the data in the article.
    * First, the US military doesn’t have extra 400,000 personnel they can drop around the country, they are strained to the limit but our current deployments and people keep advocating new additional deployments.
    * Second, I don’t think you understand how well armed, confused, and paranoid the average American citizen is. It was almost impossible to buy hunting ammunition for months after Obama’s election because half the population viewed his election as a precursor to Armageddon, the other half apparently were thinking more of the Rapture.
    * Third, the education, health care, and employment systems are failing far too many people in this country. I don’t know if this will result in the end of the US or not but things don’t look good right now.

  9. Mr Obama at the end of the day is a servant of the same corporate/oligarchical institutions as was Mr Bush. Obama just uses different back ground music.

    If these institutions decide an Iranian bomb is an existential threat to their de facto control of the Middle Eastern oil fields. Then rest assured,”change you can believe in” Mr Obama (plus Obama is probably a Sunni not a Shite) will bomb hell out of the Iranians, no matter what the consequences….End of story.

  10. Thanks, Old Skeptic, for a great early morning wake-up comment. As empiricists and rationalists, we are intellectually averse to sweeping conclusions like yours, and as ordinary, pleasure-loving human beings, we dont like to think of ourselves as marching like lemmings toward the sea. But, I don’t know of any other future scenarios that can convincingly compete with yours. Except for one: economic collapse, social collapse, start over again with primitive accumulation.

  11. Well I was about to dissect General Wald’s insane gibberish but I scrolled down and Finel hit all my points and more.

    It’s true that the active duty ground forces don’t seem to be itching for another scrap (understandably) right now, but the air force is a different story, especially these days with the COIN boys stealing all their thunder and their procurement budget for hot-rod fighters trimmed down in favor of cheap RC toys. I do think good old-fashioned 90’s-style air war like Yugoslavia (the only action Wald saw, AFAIK) would perk them up and help justify the expensive air superiority stuff that every red-blooded fighter jock adores.

    Of course Wald is “retired” these days, which means he’s a lobbyist for the arms industry (or a consultant for an accounting firm that advises lobbyists, or something).

    From wikipedia: General Wald, director and senior advisor to the Aerospace & Defense Industry for Deloitte LLP, is responsible for providing senior leadership in strategy and relationships with defense contractors and Department of Defense (DOD) program executives. He is a subject matter specialist in weapons procurement and deployment, counter terrorism, national, energy and international security policy. Prior to joining Deloitte, General Wald was the Vice President, International Programs for L-3 Communications Corporation, based in Washington D.C.

    He may not even believe the stuff he writes, he’s just doing his job putting out press releases for the arms industry. And the WSJ prints them. Maybe we need a “personal disclosure” statement at the end of any articles by retired generals, like you see in the financial press. Or maybe the media could charge some money and present their opinions as “Paid Advertisements” and infomercials:

    “How much would you pay for a war that could do all this? $20? $40? What if we told you it could be yours for the special low low price of one trillion dollars? But wait, there’s more! Support this war now and get a second one absolutely free! Financing is available, call the People’s Bank of China for details . . .”

  12. General Wald glosses over the central problem of preventitive war: it’s success is almost entirely a function of the intelligence on which it is based. After our manifest intelligence failures in Iraq and other parts of the world it’s hard to see why anybody would beleive that we have the kind of information necessary to stop the presumtive Iranian program — a program that they have had several decades to hide from us. Policy makers with access to classified information are in no better position to evaluate the quality of this information than the rest of us because that can’t know what they don’t know. As history has shown repeatedly, access to secret information tends to occlude rather than clarify uncertainty.

    This is the third such arguement for a military option in Iran that I have read. Not suprisingly, all of them have been written by Air Force Generals.

  13. Anyone who would advocate a strike on Iran while most of our ground forces are in Iraq should be forced to read Xenophon’s Anabasis. In Greek.

  14. the problem is you should not make empty threats. if you are going to threaten someone you better be able to back it up. so i agree with you in substance but you hit on the point of how our diplomacy is a mess. people see us as a paper tiger. with only a few exceptions, we have behaved that way. that isn’t effective diplomacy. we have the military force to back up every threat we need to make but threats should only be made by serious people ready and willing to back it up.

  15. assamissed — that NIE was seriously flawed and a result of a power struggle within the intelligence community.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus: From what I’ve read, almost all NIE’s result from conflict in the intelligence community. A NIE is seldom needed when the issue is clear. As for it being “seriously flawed”, what evidence do you have for this — other than statements of folks who do not like the conclusion?

  16. What ever you say Major Chillingworth, but you should provide a link, unless this is your own personal assessment.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Who is “Major Chillingworth”? A literary or historical reference?

  17. anna and FM:
    i start with the assumption that our intelligence community is politically motivated and incompetant. i base that from the fact of the leaks from the CIA during the Bush administration and that India and Pakistan developed nuke programs that “surprised” the spooks.

    anyone that reads the NIE and uses it for planning should be concerned that one NIE says Iran has a nuke program and then the following NIE (leading up to an election) seemed to imply that Iran did not. which one is right? why would it change? internal to the agencies involved, who was writing then things and why?

    i’m currently in germany because of an injury and separated from my books. i can give you the name of the CIA official that influenced the NIE you referenced and why when i get them.

    until then, read this link for some information as to why trusting the CIA for information can be dangerous: “Why US Intelligence is Inadequate“, Angelo M. Codevilla (Prof of international relations at Boston U), Center for Security Policy, 1 Dec 2004 {the link on the CSP website is broken; this one at milnet works}.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Certainly there is strong evidence that the CIA doesn’t work well, as seen in the long series of books documenting this (of which Tim Weiner’s excellent “Legacy of Ashes” is the latest). But that {their frequent incompetence} does not mean that we can assume everything they say is wrong, esp on issues like Iran’s nukes for which there is little public evidence. Intelligence is (for us as well as the CIA) working with flawed and incomplete data.

    By the way, the CIA has consistently been more accurate than one important group: US hawks. The bomber gap, the missile gap, the debate before the 1963 test ban treaty, the 1976 Team B project (to prove that the CIA underestimated the strength of the USSR). US hawks have been consistently been proven wrong. That’s the history most relevant to the “attack Iran” debate.

  18. As long as the official U.S. military doctrine is preventive war, the most rational response by any state desiring to keep independence is to get as many nukes as possible.

    By the way, I hint to the fact that taking that official stance (preventive war, “war on terror”, etc.) the U.S. have officially given up their borders, and have begun semi-consciously considering all the world as a domestic space. In so doing, the U.S. are coming back to their symbolical foundations, and reenacting the myth of the ever expanding frontier. The peoples who resist U.S. expansion are not treated (are not thought) as legitimate enemies, they are thought and treated as rebels.

    War becomes a vast police action against “insurgents”, just like in the Indian wars.
    The destiny which is prepared for those “rebels” is to be redeemed and brought to the benefits of a superior civilization, or to be reduced into “reserves” (client states), both of which solutions amount to cultural genocide. The many intervowen threads which make a people are dissolved into atomized individuals, or reduced to a scant residual going the way of all flesh.

    I’ll skip all axiological considerations. I’ll skip, too, all the questions about the military, technical and economical feasibility of such a huge project. I’ll ask just a single question: are the U.S. psychologically and intellectually ready to assimilate the entire world? Should they succeed, could they survive the end of all political and cultural alterity?

  19. FM: “compared with the small number of seldom-heard retired diplomats suggesting means other than force.

    Jimmy Carter is frequently heard, and Obama the campaigner, as well as most public-speaking Dems throughout Bush’s second term, were constantly heard. Oh, they’re not retired diplomats? Well, with so many other newsmakers screaming, loudly, about using peace and being rabidly anti-war (at least any dumb war), why would the news need a 10 thousandth anti-war has-been failed politican diplomat voice?

    But anti-war Dems were also not suggesting war to stop the slo-mo genocide in Darfur — and the murder and rapes haven’t stopped there, nor in the Congo; nor Somalia.

    The brutal Sri-Lankan army offensive against the Tamil Tigers, rather than peaceful talk/ empty words, does seem to be on its way to working.

    Finel states: “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.”

    Any facts? Let’s look at the same anti-war argument in Vietnam (I’d guess Finel would have said): The notion that a post ’73 US cut-off of aid to S. Vietnam would be a greater threat to the stability of post-Paris Peace Vietnam than would be the predictable consequences of an end to American aid is absurd.

    With such absurdities the anti-war voices won the argument, and got the predictable AND predicted bloodbath / genocide as their anti-American commie ‘third-kind allies’ gained military victory and took savage retribution.

    How nice — Finel doesn’t believe that Iran with nukes is a real threat. I disagree, and support war to stop Iran from getting nukes. I prefer peaceful persuasion; and less peaceful blockades; and even less peaceful actual support for Iranian minorities (like the Kurds, the Azeris, the Arabs) to take up arms against their clerical-fascist mullah dictators. But then war, rather than let Iran have nukes.

    What kind of debate is this? It is a debate between a serious and thoughtful assessment — the kind that let America accept Killing Fields in Cambodia, boat people & mass murder in Vietnam; genocide in Rwanda; slo-mo genocide in Darfur. All in my lifetime (empty empty ‘Never again’ after Nazis, before I was born).

    But since the dead aren’t of the US voting race … to such anti-Republican liberals they have little human worth. Unless some of them are women and children who are killed when America is trying to fight evil — then they are a convenient club to use in demonizing Republicans. (With Obama elected, the anti-war screaming has grown much, much quieter, tho the deaths of innocents have continued.)

    Foreigners have worth to me. Those foreign people, like the (surviving) Iraqis & Afghans, are even worth going to war for — and supporting war to stop the tyranny they had been living under.

    FM: “Another sign of the disproportionate role of the US military in our society

    this is joke, isn’t it? I mean, Harvad, Yale, Stanford … they don’t even allow ROTC classes on campus. Given the size of the US military, its been a bit underrepresented.

    The real issue is that of World Policeman, which the US doesn’t want to be, but World Peace requires, and no other country / organization is able or willing to do the job (and pay for it).

    If Iran gets too close to getting a nuke, Israel WILL feel it is forced to strike. Maybe Iran’s current gov’t will change before then.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I would reply, but Tom makes no coherent arguement, and just ignores the arguement he quotes.

    Among this nonsense, I will note one aspect. Police operate within a State, which must have sufficient legitimacy for them to operate. People ask for police to prevent crime and catch crooks, in exchange for which they pay taxes — that pay the police.
    * Nobody has requested us to play global cop.
    * Certainly nobody will pay for our police services.
    * There is no evidence that the American people share Tom’s delusional aspirations, which is why the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were justified by lies (WMD and “prevent another 9-11”, respectively).

  20. “I . . . support war to stop Iran from getting nukes. Foreigners have worth to me.”

    So much worth that you’re willing to kill them in huge numbers? For their own good, of course? Which you know better than they do?

  21. #20 from Hawthorne, and suggested by the Major’s handle. Chillingworth was also an “enemy dependent” social engineer, from another time.

  22. FM: i never said they were always wrong. i said they are politically motivated and incompetent.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus: Understood. That was sloppy writing on my part (which I’ve fixed). What I meant to say was that their history of incompetence does not mean that any given report is wrong. As I noted, much of their work on key questions was accurate.

  23. BTW, from the article i linked.

    Beginning in the mid 1960s the Soviet Union began a massive buildup of its missile force, and of warheads with the combination of power and accuracy for disarming “first strikes.” But CIA’s dogma had it that the Soviets would not try to match the number of US missiles or seek that capacity. When the Soviets’ numbers did, CIA analysts judged that they would not exceed them. When their missiles exceeded ours in number, CIA judged that the Soviets would not endow them with accuracy. When they did that, CIA judged that this would not matter because the Soviets just had to know that it would be unreasonable to use the force they had built. This line of reasoning developed over a decade, and involved countless redefinitions of what technical evidence was and was not acceptable. Each redefinition prejudiced conclusions in favor of CIA’s dogma. Only in 1977, when an independent commission was given access to all data available to CIA, did this intellectual house of cards fall.

    so who is telling the truth? an intelligence insider or wikipedia? i distrust wiki as a source.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: You obviously do not understand Widipedia, or the process of intelligence gathering and evaluation.

    Wikipedia’s value lies not in its assertions, but in the links it provides to supporting evidence. In the case of the Team B project, which Codevilla lauds (without naming it), Wikipedia links of a variety of non-scholarly material — which in turns goes to the vast body of work showing it to be false in most of its conclusions.

    Contrast that with Codevilla, whose assertions you uncritically accept — but who provides nothing — not a shred of supporting evidence.

  24. @Tom Grey

    I have no idea what you are talking about with regard to South Vietnam. My point is that the Iranian threat to Iraqi stability is much more clearly a function of its ability to rile up Shi’a militias there than anything it could do with a nuclear weapons. The evidence? The fact that at various times over the past several years, Iran has indeed fueled the fighting in Iraq and apparently helped the insurgents develop EFP. Also, Iran has done more harm to Israel with aid to Hamas and Hezbollah than direct military strikes. Iran’s MO is to us terrorism, aid to insurgents, and generally asymmetric conflict to attack our interests.

  25. The resaon for attacking Iran , is that if it had nukes , it could nuke the US ? OK .
    So if you attack Iran , they will attack you with nukes ? But your missile defense systems will protect you ? OK. So you dont need to worry about Iran having nukes ?

    So its about Israel ? So why not let Israel sort it out themselves ? After all , they reckon they are God’s Chosen People , so He should look after them .

  26. FM — you’re funny. the paper i linked had no cites. however, codevilla’s books are full of cites. you should read “informing statecraft” and “advice for war presidents”. when i get my copy of informing statecraft, i’ll send you his citations. i believe he talks about team b in one of his books.

    as for wiki: your defense of wiki is quite ironic in the sense that you claim the “links” provided by wiki are some sort of saving grace. they aren’t. most of the links are to left wing websites or link backs to wiki. i hardly call citations that provide one side of the opinion credible. i read the citiations on wiki for Team B and found them lax, biased, and one sided. that is typical for subjects that deal with politically natured issues on wiki. one of the links was to an article called “darth rumsfeld”.

    honestly FM.. finding reliable information these days seems to be the holy grail. everything is so opinionated that it is hard and time consuming to do the research and make an informed opinion. you could be right about codevilla but from what i’ve seen of his work he is usually right.. but not always.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: If the books were your reference, cite the books and link to the article as a summary of his views. We cannot read your mind, and the article gives no indication that his thinking is worth additional research.

    “or link backs to wiki”

    You’re missing the ponit, again. Links in the references and further reading sections never, in my experience, links back to Wikipedia. The entries link to other entries (as do those on this site, or any well-constructed website) for more information.

    “are some sort of saving grace”

    Please refer to what I said, not some delusional exaggerations. I said Wikipedia was a useful source of links to supporting information. Not some ultimate source of wisdom. You will only find that in Heaven, after you are dead.

    “most of the links are to left wing websites .. i read the citiations on wiki for Team B and found them lax, biased, and one sided.”

    A few references from the Wikipedia entry show that to be false.

    * “Red Herrings“, Fred Kaplan, Slate, 9 July 2004 — Kaplan has a 30 year long distinguished record of writing about defense. Such as such left-wing articles as “How Reagan won the Cold War“, Slate, 9 June 2004.

    * “It’s Time to Bench ‘Team B’“, Lawrence Korb, Center for American Progress, 18 August 2004
    Korb (Captain, USN, retired) was at assistant secretary of defense for Reagan, Professor of the Navy War College, dean at U of Pittsburgh, VP of Raytheon, director at CFR, and director of Defense Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (sources here and here)

    * Plus listing several highly-regarded books on the subject.

    As for your defense of the missile gap and Team B, this is IMO so absurd as to not be worth discussing. The USSR itself barely lasted 10 years from their report describing what a horrific rival it was. Also, its off-topic on this post. No mas, please.

  27. FM: Sure guy. here is what else is used as a source:
    an article called “darth cheney”. an article by anne hessing cahn (a person that served under carter and currently works for an organization to promote “citizen in involvement in public policy). an article by an admitted liberal progressive named Thom Hartmann
    an article by Melvin Goodman whom the term “flaming liberal” was probably coined for
    an article by the San Francisco Chron by Jeff Stein.. another biased liberal several articles by Salon magazine.

    i wish i could say i was shocked that you ignored the preponderance of the material on the page and chose to pick out the window dressing that attempts to add balance. it doesn’t and you are right about this being absurd and not worth discussing since you would ignore the elephant in the room anyway. the end.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t know what point you are attempting to make, as your reply makes little sense.
    * I gave specific examples which disproved your statement. Your rebuttal of “sure guy” speaks for itself.
    * You also ignore the references from The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Time, and the neo-con flagship Commentary.
    * Of the 3 dozen sources listed, you cite 6 — which hardly supports your view that a “preponderence” are — whatever you’re trying to say they are.
    * You imply that “liberal” means wrong, too bizarre a belief to do other than note.

    “an article called ‘darth cheney'”.

    The title was “Darth Rumsfeld” (not “cheny”). It was published in a respectable publication, The American Prospect. The author, Jason Vest, is an investigative reporter with a long list of important articles in major publications. Mocking an article because of its title (ignoring the source) shows the weakness of your comment.

    This has gone way off-topic. Readers can evaluate the issue for themselves. No more.

  28. An interesting link, which summaries (better than I could) much of what I’m thinking these days, especially, after Biden’s visit, Georgia is ramping up again. “Russia/Georgia/U.S. One Year Later – Who Came Out Ahead?“, ERIC WALBERG, Counterpunch, 21 August 2009.

    Though he misses one thing.

    We are in the SLOW WAR with Russia (my term, remember you heard it here first). This is not the Cold war which was, basically containment of the USSR. This is real war, albeit at a slow pace. The aim, the surrounding and cutting off, and finally dismemberment of Russia. There are multiple strategies along the way and there are twists and turns (think of it like ‘drunkards walk’ zig zagging away but still heading overall in a certain direction.

    Now I could right a book about the multiplicity of strategies and tactics, from pipelines, to missile defence. But just concentrating on Georgia and Ukraine (the two are intermingled).

    The Ukraine/Georgia play is about forcing Russia out of the Black Sea. There are a mixture of tactics: economic/diplomatic/military and down right skullduggary (on all sides of course).

    (1) Install a friendly Govt in the Ukraine.
    (2) Govt then shuts down Russia’s Black Sea bases (the agreement is running out).
    (3) Lock off Georgia, the only alternative place for a naval base, especially in … wait for it … Abkhazia (note the,
    coincidental, recent Georgian rhetoric and soon actions against there, Biden must have given them there marching orders).
    (4) Protect Ukraine and Georgia by making them members of NATO, then the ‘weak and cowardly’ Russians will not dare to attack.

    Some Biden quotes:

    “What we can do is make clear to the world, and to the Russians particularly, that we stand with you, and that if they fail to meet their commitments, that it is a problem for them,” Biden said, referring to a cease-fire pact that Georgia says Russia is violating.”

    “Biden told the children that he would “tell the rest of the world we should not in any circumstance recognize the independence of South Ossetia or Abkhazia,” the two breakaway regions that Russia backed as sovereign states after it won the August war.”

    And so on, Google the rest. Plus Clinton’s interesting comments. Now these are either officially sanctioned by Obama or he has lost control of foreign and military policy. Either way, this is official strategy of the United States .. war with Russia.

    The Georgian war was simply a step in that direction. Control the ‘breakaway’ regions, especially Abkhazia (frankly the US probably doesn’t care about South Ossetia), to deny Russia access to the Black Sea. This is a strategic prize of the highest order if it can be pulled off. Crippling Russia and winding it back further than the 19th century. It would quickly become an US lake, with (almost certainly) a US naval base there in the Ukraine or Georgia (Turkey can go and hang). As a jumping off point for phase 3 (Balkanisation) it is invaluable.

    Trouble is this is a true existential threat to Russia and they will very, very definitely fight in every way, including as they have shown, war.

    The US, as usual, took the wrong lesson from the Russian response to the Georgian attack (all those US and Israeli advisers running away as the tanks came rolling in). Instead of it being a “whoa, lets think this one through again”, it was “look how weak Russia was, look how bad their military was, we can take them out next time”, not sure where they got that one from. So now, just a year later we are shaping up for round 2.

    This is rapidly approaching a WW1 moment, fundamental miscalculations by an aggressor nation rapidly spinning out of control and underestimating (a WW2 moment) Russia. Will US troops fight Russian in a new Georgian conflict over Abkhazia? US and Russian ships slugging it out in the Black Sea? F-18’s vs SU-30’s? Submarine launched Tomahawk missiles blowing up the connecting tunnel to Ossetia?

    We may find out soon.

    Better dig out all those old pamphlets on what to do in case of a nuclear attack, because when it spins out of control your current Govt will not be able to handle it. Putin will pick up the Hot Line when it starts getting out of hand, and as just what happened with Bush, no one will answer. Biden, Clinton, etc, in Cabinet will push Obama and judging on his record to date he will acquiesce to the hawks .. a Kennedy he is not.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Americans are nuts about war. Wars on terror, drugs, cancer. Now oldskeptic declares a slow war with Russia. It seems the only frame some Americans can see the world. Perhaps he looks out his back window and sees a war on grass — the long struggle, as every few weeks he gets out his engine of destruction to cut down the enemy.

    The alternative view sees this as typical great power jousting for position, which seldom breaks out into direct war. Such as we’ve had for the past 60 years. During which folks like Oldskeptic have constantly sang “get ready for atomic war.”

    The comparison with WWI is bogus. The major European nations (leaders and people) were eager for war in the years before 1914. That’s true in neither the US nor Russia today.

  29. And true to form, latest news: “Georgia Seizes Cargo Ships, Presses Naval Blockade on Abkhazia – Abkhaz Officials Threaten “Proportionate Response“, 21 August 2009.

    This is getting ugly. Scenario: Russia sinks Georgian ships, US ships rush in (as they did before). Russia knows that Biden encouraged them and does not back down. Then we find out if the ‘old and obsolete’ Russian missile armed ships can hold their own with ‘US high tech military’. Personally I expect a draw .. both are sunk, an exchange of pawns. Putin hits the Hot Line. No response. The ‘hawks’ in the US cabinet push for escalation …..

    The worst crises always, I mean always, come from left field when you least expect it.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: How nice that you have such an imagination. This is just wild speculation, barely worth considering. It can be done with any daily paper during the past 2 centuries.

  30. Not a speculation as such, more a probability of an outcome (bit like a Markov Chain). Now we can all argue the level (1%, 10%, 50%), but it is definitely a probable outcome of current and future actions.

    The background to the point I was making is that a sane national strategy minimises probabilities of ‘very bad’ outcomes, albeit often at the price of reducing wished for objectives. Sanity means that betting your life on a pair of two’s is not a great idea.

    That is teenage stuff. Adults learn quite quickly that life is very messy and that you achieve all your goals so seldom (well never actually) with the price of hugh risk ventures so great that caution is very quickly built into your goal setting (if you survive your teenage years of course).

    But what we are seeing (with all the other stuff such as continual sabre rattling at Iran) is a curse of ‘maximalist objectives’.

    To wit, the stated aim of the US Air Force is ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’. The stated policy of the US, not changed under Obama since the Bush Govt made it is: “to reserve the right for preemptive war at a time, place and method of the US’s choice’ (slight paraphrase), this also inlcuides nukes.

    Translated, the aims of the famous Project for a New American Century beacme under Bush/Chaney the official policy of the US. Which included the kicker “allow no peer or near peer competitor to arise”.

    Given the convoluted nature of US military strategy (which has completely eclipsed diplomatic or even economic strategy) this has morphed into multiple wars of the fast and hot kind (Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, etc, the list grows, and add in poxies such as Lebanon), the covert (just about everywhere, but take the ‘colour revolutions’ as some), and the slow type (Russia, China).

    There is a sort of overall strategy (in the Drunkards Walk sense). Dominating the Middle East (through Iraq) means controlling China and the EU. Afghanistan (check the maps) is so central to any ideas of surrounding Russia and China. And so on of course.

    But the costs, especially for the victims of course, but also to the US in blood and material, outweighs (especially on a risk adjusted basis) to an order of several magnitudes any benefits to the US as a whole. Plus the potential for the sort of ‘fatal’ miscalculation I outlined above, grows almost daily.

    Which is why I made my point ‘the current US Grand Strategy is National Suicide’.

    This could be economic, or worse. But the current path is so high risk, so confrontational and so militaristic that something very bad, almost certainly unpredictable at this point (it will be a ‘left field thing’), will happen. Ideally this will be a small and containable thing (from the World’s point of view, like an US economic collapse) which will trigger the sort of changes the US needs to do (such as advocated by many, such as FM). Alternatively … well ‘alternatively’ is bad, potentially very, very bad.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: All good points! We have a grand strategy set by the military, which sees the world only in terms of threats — and the only effective tool is force.

  31. As for the ‘desire for war thing’? Well the US in in/or been involved (directly or indirectly) in war in 6 countries this century. The list gorws.

    Direct: Afganhistan, Iraq, Pakistan. Indirect (sort of): Lebanon and Somalia. You can add the covert stuff (pick a number). Plus the ‘supportive’ = Georgia, with its entire military forces ran by US and Israeli ‘advisors’.

    Then the threats: Iran of course.

    And this is not ‘Great Power’ jousting. Because, read Biden’s comments, as far as the US is concerned Russia is not a Great Power “and we will not allow spheres of influence”. So the US elite’s desire for war is very well proven by action and words.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I suspect that if you read the newspapers during the glory days of the British Empire, statements of the UK’s leaders would sound much like Biden. That’s what great power jousting sounds like, when translated for popular consumption.

    As for the desire for war, the UK and Russian empires we built by a series of small wars. That’s how great powers operate, unfortunately.

  32. We have the following facts:
    1. The Russians aren’t going to let Abkhazia be subdued by the Georgians. It’s too important to their ability to have any influence in the Black Sea region, which will get more important as the West starts shipping large quantities of oil out of Central Asia.

    2. The Georgian government seems to be suicidally determined to regain control of Abkhazia. They’re playing a high-stakes game of poker with the Russian Bear and don’t have the resources to even come close to winning.

    3. The US has invested far too much effort into Georgia (advisors, direct economic aid, considering letting them join NATO, lots of high profile politician visits, and high-profile visits by warships) for this to just be a game of Great Power jousting. The Russians are obviously angry and have vastly larger resources to assert their will.

    Analysis:
    Taken altogether, I’d say that US policy is not aimed toward dismembering Russia. It is aimed at securing a corridor to the Central Asian oil fields that the Russians cannot interfere with.

    This is a crazy plan because Russia is THE power in the region and can more or less assert their will (or at least destroy the pipeline) at any point in the corridor they choose.

    As OldSkeptic notes, the US has mostly been working with local groups but there are A LOT of local groups in this region (one of the many reasons why it has been politically unstable for the length of recorded history) and the Russians have proven in Abkhazia that they can play the same game and probably do it better than we can because they are so much closer to the action.

    As for OldSkeptic’s assertion that this situation could lead to war between the US and Russia, I think the chance is greater than FM believes. My primary reasoning is that the Russians are very angry about US meddling in the region combined with our lack of willingness to discuss it with the Russians. I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if the US warship to visit Tblisi was sunk. That would certain send a message that the US couldn’t ignore.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: This sort of alarmist analysis is a staple of the post-WWII era. In fact, both the US and Russia tip-toed around each other. Esp after the Berlin and Cuban Missile crisies. The leaders on neither side will risk atomic war. After all, as the philosopher said “It’s good to be king.”

  33. I thoroughly agree that neither side will allow the situation to devolve into atomic war. Sinking a US warship in contested waters won’t automatically lead to that. But I also have to say that the Russians won’t tolerate high-handed US meddling in their own backyard without some form of retaliation.

    Just think how the US would react if the Russians:
    – offered considerable economic assistance to a breakaway Mexican state adjacent to the US border
    – trained and equipped its army
    – encouraged it to make inflammatory comments
    – sent a steady stream of warships to its ports
    – and refused to return our phone calls when we tried to discuss the situation with them.

    It might very well occur to one of our more aggressive air force generals that a couple of cruise missiles into the side of a visiting ship might well show the break-away state that the ally thousands of miles away is less important than the big powerful angry country right next to it.
    .
    .
    Fabuis Maximus replies: The art of putting pressure on other great powers by now has been refined into a fine art, and does not require military force. For obvious reasons generals prefer to spin “shoot’em up scenarios”. The media and geopol experts find them exciting, and so the echo chamber rings with war-talk. This is one of the dynmaics that give discussions of US foreign policy a delusional cast.

Leave a Reply