Jeff Goldstein should probably go back to doing what he does well. I’m not sure what that is, really, but it can’t be blogging about national security. Regarding a report that some insurgent weapons have been made in Iran, Jeff lets loose:
Well, sure—if true, this is a declaration of war. But the real question is, why is Iran willing to take such provocative steps at this juncture? Are they farther along in their nuclear program than we know? Or is there something else to this?
The answer, it seems to me, is that the Mullahs have done the poltical calculation and believe that a western coalition (outside of the US, who is already fighting in several theaters), lacks the will to act in any but the most feckless of ways. And even if they could gin up the will, the inevitable 6-8 month “rush” to war would give the Iranians time (and an excuse) to accelerate their nuclear program.
I’m not sure. But I do know that it is fortuitous that we are staged in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And I don’t think we can waste much time. If it turns out Iran (and their Syrian allies) are behind the manufacture and supply of weapons being smuggled into Iraq to kill Americans (and bomb both Shiite and Sunni targets in an effort to foment civil war), we have no choice, it seems to me, than to quickly isolate both countries, and launch a series of strategic attacks with the hope of fomenting an uprising of our own among the Iranian student movement.
Where to start….
First, it’s entirely possible that the Iraqi insurgents are getting some of their weapons from Iran, Syria, and various other states that border Iraq. Indeed, I’d be pretty surprised if this wasn’t the case. Part of the problem with getting from this to a declaration of war, however, is that support may well not be state instigated. It’s entirely possible (and I would even say likely) that various Iraqi insurgent groups have made deals for weapons with various groups in other countries, probably without the consent of the governments of those countries. Iran and Iraq have a very long border, one that is hard to guard on either side. So, the Iranian government, rather than declaring war, may well simply be ignorant of what’s going on.
Second, the bugbear of “outside actors” has long been a preoccupation of the United States military in counter-insurgency operations, and has helped the military to ignore the very real problems of fighting an insurgency. In Vietnam, the United States Army relentlessly obsessed over the relatively meagre trickle of supplies coming to the Viet Cong over the Ho Chi Minh trail, while largely ignoring the much more significant supply base that the Viet Cong had in sympathetic South Vietnamese villages. This mis-focus is not terribly surprising; supply lines can be interdicted with firepower, while pro-insurgent villages cannot be so dealt with. This is a long way of saying that Iranian support, even if tacitly or explicitly consented to by the Iranian government, almost certainly isn’t significant to the outcome of the conflict. It is attractive militarily and politically to believe that the problem in Iraq is the cause of outside forces, but it just ain’t so, and operating as if it were so will be quite detrimental to our efforts.
Third, it’s nifty how Jeff moves so quickly from a few shipments of arms across the Iranian border to war with both Iran and Syria. It is here that Jeff moves from simple fancy to sheer idiocy; he apparently genuinely believes that a few airstrikes might foment a student uprising in Iran resulting in the destruction of that regime. Let me be as clear as possible; to believe that airstrikes will bring about a revolution in Iran, you have to be either stupid or deluded. Airstrikes have, invariably, made target regimes more and not less popular. If the United States attacks Iran, the state will become, at least in the short term, much MORE popular with its people. It will have, if anything, greater capacity to crack down on dissidents. Iran may have a revolution at some point in the future, but airstrikes ain’t going to bring it about. Jeff seems to have internalized some kind of neocon fantasy here; just demonstrate US resolve, and all of the nasty regimes in the world will fall like dominoes.
Fourth, and this brings us to the basic contradiction in Goldstein’s argument, if we have enough force to deal with both Syria and Iran (and, presumably, to occupy the both of them), then we really, really don’t need to be in Iraq anymore. If the troops we have in Iraq are free to be used elsewhere, then it seems to me that they don’t need to be in Iraq. Thus, we should feel free to withdraw them anytime, just like lots and lots of lefties have argued. It’s hard for me to see how someone with who believes the things that Jeff Goldstein believes could argue this, but I suppose asking for consistency is really too much. US troops continue to die in Iraq at a reasonably high rate, and the country has not, to the naked eye, been pacified. If this constitutes a finished job, and really a model of what we’d like to do to Syria and Iran, then I really…. well, I just don’t know what to say about it.
I suppose that I could rattle off an analysis of the military situation with Iran… much larger territory… much larger population… no particular reason to believe it will be any easier to manage or occupy than Iraq… but I’m not sure that would make any difference to Jeff; he’s escaped reality based analysis, and wandered wholly into some fantastic world where Iranian students will launch a revolution as soon as the first bomb hits Tehran, and where the people of Iran will greet us with flower petals, etc etc.
In fairness to Jeff, he’s already prepared a dodge. He’s just talking about “options”, and hasn’t come to any firm conclusions. Great…