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Betting Against War with Iran

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Rodger points to Larry Diamond’s op-ed in the LAT about the possibility of war with Iran. We’ve all learned that it’s never sensible to discount the recklessness of this administration, but I’m betting pretty heavily against war. The reasons:

1. The Bush administration has made only a minimal and not terribly successful effort to sell this war, both domestically and abroad. No one will be with us on this except for Israel. This is in contrast to 2002-3, when the administration made a big diplomatic push and even a bigger domestic PR push to sell the war. Since the success of an attack against Iran depends almost wholly on the international community accepting the verdict of the war and continuing to support containment of the war, diplomatic tolerance (if not military support) of the US is critical, and the administration doesn’t have it. It’s oft said that this administration doesn’t care what the world thinks, but that’s only meaningful in a relative sense; it cares less than previous administrations, but it still tries to build international support for its preferred policy options. Same thing on the domestic side, only more so.

2. If plans for war were seriously on the table, I think that the senior brass would be signalling its disapproval in all kinds of informal ways. While they’ll certainly obey orders and may even believe that they can win (although senior military leadership has historically been more skeptical of the efficacy of military force than civilians, even before this administration), it’s unlikely they want to go to war with public support as it now stands. Since Vietnam, the uniformed services DO NOT like to fight unpopular, or even semi-popular, wars. The services will be around after the Bush administration, and don’t want to have to deal with a hostile public and a hostile Congress. I believe that if they believed war was imminent, we’d know about it.

But hey, when you’re right 38% of the time, you’re wrong 62% of the time. Maybe the brass have been so cowed by the administration that they won’t put up a fight. Maybe the administration just really doesn’t care about either domestic or international support, and maybe the President’s messianic tendencies have led to the belief that history will vindicate whatever he does. I’m putting my money on the “no war”, though.

UPDATE: To be clear, I include airstrikes in my definition of war. I don’t think we’ll see them.

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