Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New Age

Regime change in Iran? Sorry guys but I don’t see this happening. America has shot its wad on regime change. We’re done. It has proved too expensive in every sense of the word for a solid majority of Americans. Even if the Europeans and the UN partner with us, we all know that their help is largely symbolic. Even if we do a better job than in Iraq, do it cheaper with fewer casualties, given Iran’s size and population we are talking about 5000 – 10,000 fatalities with tens of thousands wounded and a cost way up in the hundreds of billions. Run that scenario by your friends and neighbors and watch their reactions.

No president will go on TV and tell Americans that we are going to invade Iran, overthrow its government, and rebuild it as a participatory democracy. No president will tell the American people that we are going to invade Iran because they are about to build a nuclear weapon. If things had turned out differently in Iraq perhaps, but as it is, I am afraid that is politically impossible. We are not going to draft a million young Americans and send them to Iran. Anyone who thinks we are should seek medical attention.

Likewise with Israel. The Israelis may bomb Iran (I doubt it but they may) but they do not have the capacity for regime change. They know this. The best they can hope for is to strike the Natanz enrichment plant and delay the inevitable.

What about the countries after Iran? Venezuela? Malaysia? Sudan? Do we plan to invade each and every undemocratic country that can enrich uranium? Will Americans spend trillions of dollars and draft millions of people over the next generation just to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons? I don’t know where you guys live or who your neighbors and coworkers are but in my city and among my neighbors and coworkers this is simply unthinkable. That my neighbor’s 10 year-old son would be drafted in 2014 and sent to war to stop Bangladesh from building the Bomb would be considered plain crazy-talk.

Americans are not strategic thinkers. They will fight to defend their country but not to preserve an international security framework of non-proliferation. That's just too abstract an argument to motivate most people. If Iran attacks us the vast majority of Americans will do whatever they can to defeat the attackers. But to attack a country of 70 million ten thousand miles away to prevent them from acquiring weapons that they might use to attack us years from now is asking too much of most people.

One day, maybe next summer or in two years, you will wake up on a normal Tuesday morning. You’ll take a hot shower and dress for work. You’ll let the dog out. You’ll make a nice cup of coffee; maybe have a cup of yogurt or a banana. You’ll turn on the TV to check the weather and traffic and the headline will slap you. You may have expected it in the back of your mind but, like the UK tube bombings, the details and timing will surprise you. “Iran Tests Nuclear Device.” Cut to the grainy video: somewhere out in the Persian wasteland, a still image of a brown landscape. And then, whumpf! Static cracks across the screen. The landscape rises, swelling from some sinister internal pressure, before settling back onto itself. All is quiet and still, as if nothing had happened.

Surprisingly the world will not have changed. You will still let the dog in, kiss your spouse and drive to work. A few people will be talking about it. But most will only be dimly aware of what happened and happily ignorant of what it means. They will be more interested in the latest sports scores or rumors of the Brad Pitt – Angelina Jolie breakup.

And the new age, which began tentatively in 1998, will be fully upon us: the Age of Proliferation.


Pastorius said...

I would never have advocated such a policy until Iran. I agree.

One of the benefits of such a policy is it would show the whole Islamic world what will happen when we begin to get angry.

The thing they don't get is America isn't even angry yet. They are having all sorts of trouble with us, and the will of America has not even begun to awake.

Imagine if we were really pissed.

Papa Ray said...

warrenj's thoughts have been echoed by many. But most have said it will take around six to eight months just because of the size of Iran (it is the size of Texas).

Oh, by the way, the military paid a "think tank" to offer up some thoughts and conclusions.

Its a pdf and its long but is very readable. Read it some night when you can't sleep.


And to think they canceled the research on baby nuke, bunker busters.

To bad, we will just have to use troops to blow down the "blast proof" doors, like they did Saddam's 20,000 sq ft personal bunker.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Epaminondas said...

reffed back HERE

Provoked too much thougth for a comment !

Pastorius said...

The one thing I don't understand about Warren J's idea is why we need to take 200,000 prisoners of war. I mean, I see that he sees it as a kind of extortion for cooperation strategy, but why 200,000? And, could we take so many prisoners with the army we have today?

Epaminondas said...

This idea is politically impossible anyway. There is no way the people would support it.

It's xenophon in reverse.

Jason Pappas said...

I’m sympathetic to Warren’s approach. While I understand and respect those that want to engage in nations-building, now is not the time. We wouldn’t have stopped WWII after entering Italy to engage in building a model nation.

I favor establishing a deterrent and that, in the short run, competes with nations-building. It took about 200 fatalities to remove Saddam; and Quadaffi got the message … that’s establishing a deterrent. With respect to Iran, we need a bombing campaign to neutralize Iran’s nuke program to buy time. We can also remove the regime and leave Iran. Regime change is an involved topic and it is covered in Codevilla’s book No Victory, No Peace. I don’t know enough to narrow down the exact battle plan.

The purpose of establishing a deterrent is to avoid future conflicts by making it clear that becoming a threat will insure military action. But, as I said, it competes with nations-building. In establishing a deterrent you instill fear and counter contempt. Using Codevilla’s terminology, contempt is a complete distain--a complete lack of respect. It is more than hate. Hate, in and of itself, doesn’t lead to attacks; with fear, it leads to avoidance. Contempt is the belief that we are a Paper Tiger and will do little in retaliation.

Now that we are the defense force for Iraq we have no choice but to take out Iran’s nuclear power. If Thomas is right, that Americans won’t accept large casualties, than Iran’s nuclear ability has to be removed before our troops suffer 10,000 to 50,000 deaths in a single day. The leaders of Iran remember how we left Lebanon after they killed hundreds in our barracks back in 1982. They fully believe that 10k+ deaths will end our involvement in the region and bring their conquest of Iraq.

Now there is no other choice regardless if we continue nations-building in Iraq or switch to establishing a deterrent or some combination.

Oscar in Kansas said...

I agree that we could run amok and leave a wake of destruction through Iran. We could seize the oil wells and capture or kill the political, military and scientific leadership. We could do all that and more. But Americans will not do so unless we are the victims of a devastating attack, something far worse than we have ever seen in our history. Remember, our response to 9/11 was to rebuild Afghanistan. They launched a surprise attack against civilians and we replied with targeted strikes and a mild invasion followed by massive assistance that continues more than 4 years later.

What would it take for us, in a historic reversal of military policy and moral responsibility, to simply “wreck the place” and leave the survivors cringing in the rubble? It would take something so horrible that I find it difficult to comprehend.

Rick Darby said...

Like Pastorius, I can't see that taking 200,000 POWs would be feasible, but Warren's basic thinking is sound. To survive in the dreadfully dangerous world of nuclear proliferation, we have to re-establish a policy of deterrence.

The Cold War showed that deterrence can work. But contemporary deterrence means something quite different from what it meant in the days of the Soviet Union. It must be preventative, not reactive, and based on measured destructiveness, not the total destructiveness of an all-out nuclear strike.

Fortunately, if we can free our minds from the idea that we must be armed social workers who "fix" every country in which we perform military action, we have more options. We can tailor the destructiveness to the degree that we need to instill fear or respect, or to destroy specific targets such as nuclear weapons facilities or even major conventional weapons sites.

For that policy to work, though, we've got to make a U-turn from our present fixation on establishing our concept of government wherever we tread. Where another country is a serious threat, breaking it doesn't have to mean buying it.

Oscar in Kansas said...

Deterrence worked against the Russians, who, for all their differences with us, are far more Western and hence understandable than the Iranians.

Deterrence requires that we can know their preferences and predict their behavior to some degree. I requires that the each party knows how the other thinks more or less. We do not think like the Iranians. And likewise.

Even if we did, Cold War deterrence worked in a stable two state environment. It was a zero sum game with two players. The Age of Proliferation complicates that nearly beyond comprehension. As more players enter the game it becomes exponentially more complex.

The game also loses its zero-sum characteristics. In a world of 12 atomic powers, two could trade nukes and destroy each other to the benefit of several other players, and the detriment of a few others. This increases the chance of conflict.

Imagine playing chess against 11 other people, some of whom are your allies, some your enemies and others just vaguely friendly but untrustworthy. The only one to completely lose is the one who gets nuked first.