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January 22, 2007


Xbril: I'm just keeping track of your shifting position, we should invade/Get Tough® with Iran because:

a) they are supporting Sunni militias

b) they are supporting Shia militias

and now instead it's:
c) because their president says very hostile things about us and our ally.

Your argument is not coherent because you're just throwing up random bits and pieces about Iran that you find on the web.

You are aware that the US and Iran have been enemies since the revolution? You are aware that they've said lots of mean things about each other for nigh on 30 years now? You are aware that Iran has killed Americans through proxies and that the USA has killed Iranians through proxies? Most notably among the latter: Iraq in the 1980s, which might prompt you to think about why Iran will do everything in it's power to prevent a US client-state being set-up. You should look-up how many people died in that war (hint: many zeros).

You are aware that the US and Iran have sometimes cooperated during this period of cold war between them?

So basically, it seems to me that you just woke up and think this is new. Relax, let the pros handle this one.

FYI: this has almost nothing to do with you being conservative. I know very many smart conservatives. Conservatism does not have to entail puerile faux-bravado and a persecution complex. I don't think you're trolling, i just think you're historically illiterate in your evaluation of national security policy, as is common with contemporary american conservatism. Most experienced conservative experts on IR, John Mearsheimer for example, were strongly opposed to the war.

I never though I'd miss my grandaddy's conservatism.

I don't feel that I am exempt from making a coherent argument. I've just found its not relevant.

ok...touché! that's the best summation of the Bush administration I've ever heard.

I agree that Iraq shouldn't have become the main front for the war, but claiming that it isn't seems to substitute wishful thinking for facts.

I don't know Andrew, I think you could make a pretty good argument as to the relevance of the murky Afghan/Pakistani border region where a resurgent al-Qaeda has hewed more closely to Taliban elements and is readying a big Springtime push. Also rumored to be in the neighborhood: bin Laden and Zawahiri.

Now, from bin Laden's perspective, Iraq is central because of all the good keeping America pinned down is doing his cause. Actually, it's win/win for him.

If we stay and keep bleeding massive amounts of blood, treasure, prestige, influence and allies then bin Laden wins. Actually, that was his plan all along he just missed the mark on the map by a couple thousand miles thinking our painful quagmire would be Afghanistan not Iraq. Also, Iraq is useful from the perspective of providing a geographically convenient locale for indoctrination, radicalization, training, networking and recruiting the next gen of radical jihadis.

On the other hand, if we leave, Osama gets to claim victory and like minded jihadists can at least try to ingratiate themselves to the Sunni factions that will be in need of fighters, financing and the like.

As for bringing up the point about how utterly counterproductive and disastrous this invasion has been, I think it's an extremely useful exercise when considerable portions of our foreign policy elite, as well as high ranking members of the current administration, are toying with the idea of expanding the catastrophe to certain points Eastward and Westward.

Fool me once and all.

Andrew, that we have presented AQ with a favorable target environment in Iraq, in a theater that he apparently prefers, still does not mean the central front of the real war shouldn't be where he and his people really are (and where they have a real shot at attaining some measure of power). [I should note that just because bin Laden says something, I don't assume that it's true.]

His analysis is that we can't win in Iraq, and that therefore he can't lose. Given the nature of the war in Iraq, I tend to agree that we can't win -- because we're not a principal to the conflict, but only a tool of factions, and events. Someone is going to 'win' in Iraq eventually. Likely we (and Iran) will have helped them. They, not we (and hopefully not Iran) will be the victors.

Our involvement in Iraq isn't just anti-AQ (unlike in Af). Otherwise, our new policy -- which is apparently the encouragement of greater Kurd on Shia violence -- would make no sense at all. Instead, we should be working with the JAM to hunt down AQ people. We're not, and we won't, because although the JAM is a bitter foe of AQ, we want the the victory of a faction that does not even exist in any meaningful sense.

I agree that Iraq shouldn't have become the main front for the war, but claiming that it isn't seems to substitute wishful thinking for facts.

Iraq is the main front in our involvement in the Iraqi civil war. and it's a nice easy drive for an endless supply of al-Q recruits.

it's "wishful thinking" to assume that we're in any kind of winnable "war" there with the people who pulled-off 9/11. we're not going to defeat violent Islamic extremism one and for all by killing some people in Iraq any more than we're going to defeat corruption once and for all by arresting people in DC.the problem is bigger than Iraq.

even if all of Iraq were to become as peaceful and stable as Switzerland tomorrow, nothing about al-Q and its ideology would change a bit. this constant desire to make the fate of Iraq into a life or death situation for the US is the reason we're stuck there, indefinitely.

What about this idea (No, I am not serious!)?
Why not ship all US troops in Iraq to Afghanistan to sort things out there for good this time? The situation in Iraq is disastrous anyway, so an temporary absence might actually improve it. With that problem cleared there would be a few more troops available to "surge" back to Iraq.
Okay, any decisive action in the Pakistan border region could topple the honorable Musharraf and give nukes to Islamist extremists but we will deal with that later...
my daily dose of insanity

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the last time I checked the US Air Force wasn't doing that much. Iran is not capable of pinning us down. Only we can pin ourselves down. We could competely fight a war with Iran without setting one step in the country.

I must say I'm a bit stunned by this. Now in theory we could do this as long as Iran agrees not to retaliate, and to accept our bombardment with supine acquiescence.

In the real world, however, Iran would retaliate in massive faction. Many of these reactions would require us to commit ground forces to the battle. Ground forces that would come from....where exactly?

The most obvious, and possibly catastrophic, response would be to attack our long, vulnerable supply lines that stretch from Kuwait through Southern, Shiite, Iran-friendly Iraq.

They could do this through a combination of ground forces and proxy forces (Sadr already pledged support, and SCIRI is even closer to Iran).

Disrupting these supply lines would be relatively easy. Guarding them would require, again, significant numbers of troops from....where exactly?

Here is an article that discusses this issue - which is but one example of how shallow thinking about military actions can lead to enormous blunder:


But their options would not be limited to attacks on our supply lines - as devastating as those would be. I would list more, but thankfully Richard Sale (via Pat Lang) has compiled an informative selection for your edification.


So, in short, NO we could not simply conduct a bombing campaign against Iran, as much as we would prefer such a discreet conflict. Iran has a say in the matter too, and I'd bet on them being less than cooperative.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that just makes more sense doesn't it?

Richard Sale (via Pat Lang) has compiled an informative selection for your edification.

One wonders if there might be a spate of car/truck bombings right here in the good old U.S. of A. Not much we could do about it (there are, at any given moment on a weekday, at least 3 and sometimes as many as 10, delivery trucks on the block where my office sits -- any one of which could contain enough explosives to cause Oklahoma City like damage -- and my block is in a somewhat sensitive area).

We could competely fight a war with Iran without setting one step in the country.

I am reminded of the wargame where Van Riper was the opposing forces general.

For instance—and here is where he displayed prescience—Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to Red troops, thereby eluding Blue's super-sophisticated eavesdropping technology. He maneuvered Red forces constantly. At one point in the game, when Blue's fleet entered the Persian Gulf, he sank some of the ships with suicide-bombers in speed boats. (At that point, the managers stopped the game, "refloated" the Blue fleet, and resumed play.) Robert Oakley, a retired U.S. ambassador who played the Red civilian leader, told the Army Times that Van Riper was "out-thinking" Blue Force from the first day of the exercise.

Yet, Van Riper said in his e-mail, the game's managers remanded some of his moves as improper and simply blocked others from being carried out. According to the Army Times summary, "Exercise officials denied him the opportunity to use his own tactics and ideas against Blue, and on several occasions directed [Red Force] not to use certain weapons systems against Blue. It even ordered him to reveal the location of Red units."

Finally, Van Riper quit the game in protest, so as not to be associated with what would be misleading results. As he explained in his e-mail, "You don't come to a conclusion beforehand and then work your way to that conclusion. You see how the thing plays out." He added, somewhat ominously in retrospect, "My main concern was we'd see future forces trying to use these things when they've never been properly grounded in any sort of an experiment."

I'm sure the mullahs will give us a mulligan or two...

A counter link to Andrew's on where the central front is:

Despite President Bush's repeated warnings that al-Qaida wants to turn Iraq into a base from which to attack the United States, administration terrorism experts believe there's a graver and more immediate threat from Pakistan's tribal areas. But the war in Iraq is constraining the president's ability to respond.

Eric Martin,

"In the real world, however, Iran would retaliate in massive faction. Many of these reactions would require us to commit ground forces to the battle. Ground forces that would come from....where exactly?"

While I agree with you (and recall frequently having to remind our own Charles Bird that the game which international relations most closely resembles is not solitaire, no matter how much he wished it were), I suspect Iran's response will not cause us to deploy ground troops.

I suspect that they will respond by unleashing Hezbollah to directly attack US interests (as Ugh suggests) and more actively attack Israel, as well as attacking oil facilities and transport in the Persian Gulf. They may even simply withhold their oil from the international markets for a few months, and watch the effect of $100+ barrels of oil have on economy.

And the supply lines? Would we simply leave those unprotected? Do we have enough divert troops in theater to adequately protect these supply lines by resorting to diversions from other areas of Iraq alone?

What about increased attacks on US forces in Iraq, generally speaking, via proxy and infiltration? Wouldn't this increase the need for more deployments by simple arithmetic?

To me, these provocations will require responses by ground troops - whether or not they have to cross the border into Iran (although, it should be noted, that air strikes can only achieve so much - see, ie, Israel v. Hezbollah)

It just seems like so much wishful thinking.


If that's the way you respond to someone who's agreeing with you on the big picture...

That said, while the Iranians may do both, I would be surprised if they did not go in the direction I suggest. Disrupting the supply lines sufficiently to bring about a catastrophy for the US would require committing their forces as well. They would not be able to do this with just having Hezbollah agents supplanting the Sunnis as the party placing the most IED's.


Sorry if my tone sounded overly aggressive. Not enough caffeine yet. I did not intend to be confrontational, and am generally a pretty civil guy.

As for our disagreement, you are right that it is minor. I guess I tend to think they could get a lot more cooperation from Shiites in the South than you, but that is not the most germane issue.


I agree that Iraq shouldn't have become the main front for the war, but claiming that it isn't seems to substitute wishful thinking for facts.

If by the "war" you mean the war against Al Queda terrorism (as opposed to some amorphous war with Islam in general), who is engaging in wishful thinking?

Your link refers to a possible Al Queda decision to put more of its assets into Iraq rather than in support of the Taliban. So Iraq becomes the main front for the war because Al Queda has chosen to make it so? And if next month Al Queda changes its mind and emphasizes Afghanistan, then Iraq is no longer the main front?

Iraq does not morph into the main front based on Al Queda's perception that it is to its advantage to involve itself in that conflict. If anything this proves what a distraction it is -- we fail to take the fight to the enemy and leave it free to empower itself by intervening to its advantage; or not intervene, if it believes that is to its advantage. The fact that the Iraq war permits this level of discretion by Al Queda is proof that it is not the main front in fighting it.

You know I could really agree with this comment about AQ...

"and leave it free to empower itself "

if they had attacked us at home again since 9/11. But seeing that they haven't I can't help, but think that they are the one's pinned down.

I could be wrong, but don't we have about 100K guys sitting around in Europe?

Again Iran is only relevant from a terrorist and political perspective. They really aren't a significant military threat if we decided to wage war against them.

We could pull the 1700 out of quagmire that is Kosovo.

40,000 eating Sushi in Japan.

And 75,000 in Germany.

12,000 in the UK

And that's just for starters... if we decided to really wage war against Iran.

if they had attacked us at home again since 9/11.

Bush has got 2 1/2 more years to go to match Clinton. Plus he needs to capture OBL (alive) and put him in jail with full due process. Plus, you're ignoring the whole anthrax thing.

I suspect that they will respond by unleashing Hezbollah to directly attack US interests (as Ugh suggests) and more actively attack Israel, as well as attacking oil facilities and transport in the Persian Gulf.

I don't believe Hezbollah is a simple instrument of Iranian FP; people have been saying that about resistance groups since time immemorial and it always seems to be wrong. In any case, they've got the bit between their teeth now and whole country-full of opportunity, they don't need to take orders from anyone anymore even if they once did.

Iraq - obviously the strategic clusterF of the past half-century (Suez comes to mind as an equivalent spasm of self-inflicted pain), and Iran probably has some sizable influence there to make things nasty.

But I think the obvious tools of military response are being neglected. The US presence in Iraq is not deployed for conventional war - an Iranian counterstrike would quickly inflict politically intolerable casualties. if the Vietnam Syndrome is dead, why are counting US casualties on a daily basis? get real America, you're Rocky in the first half of Rocky 4 - weak!. Bin Laden may be a grade A scumbag, but he lands a jab on this issue that Washington has yet to counter. (not that we should be in awe of his talent for the obvious).

The price of oil will boil an meltdown without Iran even doing anything, the prospect of which I reckon is the only serious factor restraining Nero, sorry I mean Prez Bush. But they also have a decent supply of reliable medium range rockets: Saudi infranstructure, the Green Zone, mining the Gulf - silly talk aside, it's a war that it's to ever conceive being worth fighting.

...if they had attacked us at home again since 9/11...

uh. no.

they've tried multiple times to attack us 'at home'. but they've been stopped before they could get close, by means which are completely unrelated to the war in Iraq.

If the Iranians "dare" to fire back on US (or Isreali) units/planes/ships/etc. attacking them, who do you think will be blamed (in US outlets, I mean)?
I fear there is already a plan in motion to provoke Iran in order to justify strikes.
And we should not forget that in both Israel and the US there are people in charge that think more or less aloud about using nukes "preemptively".

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