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Friday, April 27, 2012

If You Want War, Prepare For War.


I realize it's been a long time since I posted an entry in this blog.  There are a lot of reasons for the silence, and most of obstacles have gone away now so I was planning to start posting again in the next couple of weeks.  This morning, however, I read this article on wired.com and I have to comment on it.

The gist of the article is that the US Air Force is deploying aircraft in the region around Iran with the ability to rapidly destroy Iran's anti-aircraft capability in order to allow either bombing of nuclear facilities identified as possibly involved in the nuclear weapons project that Washington alleges Iran to be working on, or, less probably (I hope), an invasion of Iran by US and Israeli forces.

The first thought I had was of deja vu: shades of 2003 and the preparations for invading Iraq while the US government lied to the US people and the world about the non-existent Iraqi nuclear and biological weapons programs. Now that the US military involvement in Iraq has finally ended, and the conventional military involvement in Afghanistan is scheduled to begin winding down, the US military is in danger of not having any wars except the drone wars the CIA and the Defense Department's Joint Special Operations Command are waging in Yemen (where the drone war has just been escalated), Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia. So it's not surprising that they're hoping to start another one in Iran.

After the cut I'll talk about why this is an extremely bad idea, and why the American people should demand that it not happen.


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I'm not going to go over all the arguments about why the Iranian nuclear program is not worth going to war over for the US, or why it wouldn't be worth it for Israel if the Israeli government was composed of people of good will who were really interested in a peaceful resolution of their differences with the Palestinian people and the neighboring Arab states. Let's just say that I'm persuaded by what I know of the region's history and current events, and by the fact that the US is willing to accept (in fact, was willing to help create) the nuclear weapons capabilities of India and Pakistan, which have been ready to go to war  at least 3 times in the last 4 decades and are currently at least partially controlled by political factions with strong nationalist and jingoist attitudes. And there is some doubt among nuclear experts (not spies, who don't really have the technical expertise to judge, and who are more affected by the political forces that make war desirable for reasons other than the resolution of international conflicts) about whether in fact the Iranian government even intends to build a nuclear weapon.  They may have decided they want to develop their nuclear capability to the point where they know how to build one, and can do so within some period of months after deciding they need one.

So what's likely to happen if the US military has its way, and those aircraft are used in an attack on Iran? If that attack is the prelude to a land invasion, it will be as big a mistake as the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was, or perhaps even bigger. (The following comparison is taken from a chart prepared by US News and World Report). Iran is almost 4 times the size of Iraq in land area, and its topography includes some very rugged mountains and high plateaus, compared to Iraq's mostly broad, flat plains, so movement of military forces is harder, and more easily opposed.  The population of Iran is more than twice that of Iraq and is much less diverse; almost 90% of the population is Shi'a Moslem, with 9% Sunni Moslem, so that secular conflict and in particular setting one group against the other, is much less likely. All these differences mean that a land war in Iran is going to be a lot more problematic for the US than the Iraq invasion was.

In addition, the international support for an invasion of Iran will be considerably less than it was for the invasion of Iraq.  Both Russia and China are heavily invested in Iranian oil and natural gas, and would not  be likely to support a military action that would reduce or destroy Iran's industrial infrastructure.  Both of those countries are permanent members of the UN Security Council, with veto power, so the UN is not going to be involved in military action in Iran, as it was in Iraq.  The major military alliance in Afghanistan was NATO, on the basis that it was reacting to the 9/11 al Qaeda attack on the US, as required in the NATO charter.  An attack on Iran unprovoked by military agression might be met with a very different reaction on the part of many of the NATO member countries.  Britain may go along with the US, given its historical antagonism to Iran and its recent willingness to ape American policies, but France and Germany have been reluctant to agree to the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran at the US' request, and might very well balk at an invasion.  With just the US and Israel as the major military powers, and given that US ground forces have not yet been re-equipped and brought up to strength and readiness after the 10 year meat grinder of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, it's unlikely that a ground war would be successful.  Air bombardment would seriously damage Iranian military and industrial infrastructure and create hardship for the civilian population, but it would not by itself be able to seize and hold any large fraction of the territory.

What about an air campaign with the limited objective of destroying Iran's nuclear weapon development capability? It would most likely be successful, with the result that it would probably have to destroy the entire nuclear industry in order to guarantee the weapons program could not restart in less than 5 to 10 years. Of course that would leave the US and Israel in a state of war with Iran, and Iran would retain most of its military resources except those specifically targeted to allow the bombers to destroy nuclear facilities.

In either case, Iran is very likely to respond by targeting the oil supply chain.  In fact, they've already said that that is what they will do in the event of being attacked by the US or Israel. One possible retaliation is to use their medium range missles to sink an oil tanker in the Straits of Hormuz.  Properly timed, this could block the Straits, preventing further oil shipments through that region.  More covert operations outside the immediate region could target tankers, refineries, and petroleum storage facilities, none of which are particularly well-protected.  At the very least, the US and Europe would have to cope with the economic damage of very high oil prices, at the worst, oil supplies could be significantly curtailed for a long period of time, perhaps years.

My conclusion is that a military operation against Iran is not necessary fo a non-imperialist American foreign policy, or a military policy based on resolution of conflicts rather than on maintaining a constant state of warfare for political reasons. Further, such an operation is undesirable if only from the point of view of US interests, because of the tremendous cost to the American and other Western economies, and to the international reputation and good will that America has left after the previous debacles in the Middle East. Therefore, I will put up my name, my financial worth, and my effort to work against this war, and all who advocate and work for it. I've seen 4 American wars in my lifetime that were unnecessary and terribly destructive in lives and property and the opportunity to build a better world for all of us, on all sides of those conflicts.  I fought in one of those wars, and I can attest from personal experience how bad an idea it was for all concerned. It's my hope that Americans will protest this attempt to create yet another such war, and stop the cycle of misery they cause.

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