I understand why the Air Force is going to be stepping up patrols along the Iraq-Iran border. The USAF needs to be able to tell Congress that it’s contributing in a positive way to the war effort, and the Bush administration needs to blame its failure in Iraq on Iran. Stupidity explained is not stupidity excused, however. The whole project stinks of the absurd. The Iran-Iraq border is very long, very poorly patrolled, and sees a tremendous amount of traffic, especially in southern areas. The idea that a few more fighter-bombers zipping along the border are going to do anything to reduce the (largely imaginary) traffic in weapons and IEDs is just silly.
The Air Force’s problem is that it believes its PR. Of limited use even in a conventional conflict, the promiscuous use of airpower is downright counter-productive in a counter-insurgency conflict:
A counterinsurgency manual developed by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, only briefly mentions air power in fighting the insurgency. And the commander of day-to-day operations, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, comes from a background in heavy infantry units, traditionally less dependent on air power.Some military officers have argued that dropping bombs in dense Baghdad neighborhoods would be counterproductive, and Petraeus has warned commanders against operations that might alienate the local population.
Stymied by its more sensible Army and Marine counterparts, the Air Force searches for alternatives:
Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who advocates military strikes in Iran, said U.S. planes along the border could be better used to keep bomb-making materials out of Iraq.
“We know they are doing this. Why do we accept it?” McInerney said. “For every [improvised explosive device] that goes off in Iraq, a bomb should go off in Iran.”
This is a position which, I daresay, would make even the craziest of wingnuts blush. I really have to wonder whether all of this doesn’t find its origin in a frustrated 35 year desire to pound “Charlie” as he came down the Ho Chi Minh Trail…