Iran ^2

Trent is positive that Iran has or will shortly have one or more working nuclear weapons, and that they will test them soon (within months) and then blackmail us with those tests.

I’ll skip over the notion that his position represents the absolute-worst case possibility, and that there are much higher-probability states for the situation, that no one who is likely to know is acting like this is true, and that the actors most likely to know – and act – the Israelis – haven’t acted.

So I don’t see a lot of evidence that supports his case.His specific claim as I read it is that Iran has bought fissile materials, or a working bomb from the Norks, and that they are likely to test it this spring or summer.

Again, a possibility, but not a probability much less a certainty, and I’d suggest that we’d see Israeli action – diplomatic and military – if they believed it to be the case.

So I don’t think it’s true.

Having said that, let me take it to another level – what difference does it make?

Trent doesn’t have a specific set of actions he proposes in his post, so I’m assuming he’s simply echoing what Tom H or Joe suggested a while ago – that we invade or bomb Iran.

And I’ll reply now, as I did then – ‘then what?’ Because the issue simply isn’t going to solved by defeating Iran alone, and alone we don’t have the power to defeat – as opposed to kill – everyone we’d have to defeat in order to make the problem go away.

We know for a fact that the Iranians have an interest in getting a bomb; they have said so. We believe that they are taking actions in the direction of researching and developing nuclear weapons capability. We know for a fact that they are taking actions that would support making a bomb – in the form of enrichment, at minimum.

So pretty much anyone reasonable is aware of the direction things are taking. I’m going to put aside the folks who take the Iranian claims at face value – I flat don’t believe that they are entering into a nuclear enrichment program solely for peaceful purposes. There are substantial differences between the “it doesn’t matter if they get a bomb” group and the “it’s better to go to war than let them get a bomb” group, and those differences are well worth exploring – another time.

Right now, the issue is what to do to keep from getting to that crossroads, and there’s a simple question I’ll toss out. If you were Iran, and you had three nuclear weapons, what would you do with them?

Here’s what I’d do.

I’d put them in cargo containers, after a lot of driving and shuffling around, and ship them to Rotterdam, Haifa, and Los Angeles. And I’d set them off.

And I’d do it while there’s still a lot of doubt about my ability to build a bomb, so I could deny it.

Iran gets nothing for a test except a war. What else would Europe, Israel, and the US do? And Saudi Arabia would be happy to see it happen – just as they were happy to see the US invade Iraq.

The only defendable position (i.e. position that leads to stalemate) for Iran is one where, like France, they acquire a nuclear weapons capability strong enough to really sting an opponent – France’s ‘force de frappe’ was meant to allow them to deter a Soviet invasion by plausibly hitting the Soviet Union with 10 or more hydrogen bombs – on a mix of manned bombers and SLBM’s. At that point, they have the equivalent of the Israeli ‘Samson option.’ Until Iran gets that capability, they can’t realistically deter foreign invasion with a conventional nuclear capability. By conventional, I mean ‘acknowledged’ as in the French nuclear forces which are acknowledged to be a part of the French military.

An unconventional nuclear capability – one that can put hard-to-trace nukes in shipping containers or trucks that can be driven across borders – is a time-limited opportunity for them as well, because once you obviously appear have the capability to build bombs, you’ll get blamed for them anyway. If nukes go off in Red Hook next week, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll be going off in North Korea and possibly Iran shortly thereafter.

So the wall they have to climb to get to ‘stalemate’ is a tall and steep one. They’re not nearly there yet, and won’t be this year.

I’m not suggesting that this problem – of a hostile theocracy working to obtain nuclear weapons – isn’t incredibly serious. I’m not suggesting that the click isn’t ticking. I am suggesting that it unlikely that the breakout will consist of saber-rattling in the form of a test, followed by demands (and I’ll suggest that the war in Iraq is part of the reason why – they know we have the will to invade), and most of all what I’m suggesting is that the actions we need to take in a matter of months don’t involve mobilizing troops, but recruiting and training them.

Today, we only have five levels of options: diplomacy, sanctions, bombing, invasion, and nuclear attack.

Trent, Tom, and Joe are pushing for moving ahead toward levels 3 & 4. I’m suggesting we move up option no. 5, put some clear tripwires around it in the sense of ‘if a bomb goes off in New York, you’re getting bombed’ while we work hard on 1 and 2 and build a stronger base for 3 & 4.

We have to deter them – if that’s possible – from a nuclear terrorist strike, not prevent a nuclear test.

This is a scary time, for sure.

But, to recap what I said when we discussed this before:

Let’s remember that Iran is 30 minutes away from becoming a sheet of glass at our command. That power is real, and gives us both the space to maneuver and the responsibility to use it wisely.

103 thoughts on “Iran ^2”

  1. A.L.,

    Before going further, I’d like your bottom line here in terms of proof that Iran has nuclear weapons.

    If President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran says at a press conference that his country has tested a nuclear “device”, will you or will you not believe that Iran has nuclear weapons?

    If this is insufficient, please tell us what evidence you would require to believe that Iran has nuclear weapons.

    Please respond on or before Sunday, March 19, 2006, at 23:59 GMT.

  2. Tom, if President Ahmadinejad says he’s tested a nuclear device, we’ll conclusively know it. That kind of thing can’t be hidden – ask the South Africans.

    Absent that kind of empirical evidence, the claim raises the bar somewhat – but ObL has claimed he’s got one as well, and it hasn’t gone off yet – but it doesn’t offer a bright line that would drive a policy change.

    Answered on February 15, 2006 at 6:44pm Pacific. How’s that?

    A.L.

  3. Ironically the Saddam tapes airing on Nightline tonight discuss just this possibility. A nuclear car bomb as Saddam put it, saying he warned the Americans and the Brits it would happen (which is probably true, Saddam heard all sorts of things from his friends).

    Islam’s response to Modernity has been a decentralized tribal approach and playing the media to deter a Hama-style city destruction by the West. I have no doubt whatsoever that Iran plans something like this, pointing fingers at Al Qaeda which is why they have senior Al Qaeda people in hand.

    Yes we have awesome power, but the Iranian regime is gambling we won’t dare use it because of domestic political concerns (Dems would scream and scream go their thinking, which is probably accurate as far as that goes). However, Al Gore is not President and neither is Kerry. Bush WOULD pull the trigger more than likely, and I agree we should publicly state so.

    Tom Brokaw earnestly asked “what can the West do” to stop the Cartoon Jihad (to President Musharraf) so we still have many idiots who want to be loved more than anything.

  4. A.L. wrote, “I’m suggesting we move up option no. 5, put some clear tripwires around it in the sense of ‘if a bomb goes off in New York, you’re getting bombed’ while we work hard on 1 and 2 and build a stronger base for 3 & 4.

    We have to deter them – if that’s possible – from a nuclear terrorist strike, not prevent a nuclear test.”

    Your option no. 5 might not be as straightforward as it seems. As of right now, could we attribute a bomb in NYC to a particular actor with any degree of accuracy? What if we don’t know where it came from? After all, the likeliest devices to be used today share similar designs and fissile material from the same handful of sources. When a NEST team shows up and starts doing analysis, the signature probably won’t pinpoint a weapon’s origin to a single country.

    Consider the X factor in all this… Al Qaeda might not see war between the West and (Shiite) Iran to be a bad thing. They might even believe that such a war is worth provoking in order to prove their “Muslim world under attack” idea and incite the umma to rise up.

    Do we KNOW that Al Qaeda doesn’t have anything squirreled away for a rainy day? If a bomb were to go off in an American city, would they get blamed? Would Iran? Would Kim? If they have a weapon, and they think that its use will provoke the civilizational clash they seek, then a few MIRVs coming down in Tehran might be a price they’re willing to pay.

    Do I consider it likely that AQ has that ability? No, but it’s worth throwing into the mix when considering the formulation of “if X then Y” threats.

  5. A.L.

    March 20 is purportedly the Iranian New Year, and also the date Debka has predicted. I was being cautious. Before March 20 – nah. March 20 – April 30 – maybe but I doubt it (I sure hope Ledeen is wrong anyway). May 1 – Sept. 30 – probably. Oct. 1 – Dec. 31 – possibly.

    You did answer my question – you won’t believe Iran has nukes until the U.S. govt. says they do. They bought some from a former Soviet central Asian republic in the early 1990’s. Those have since decayed into only lab use. I don’t count those for that reason, but you should have shown some recognition of at least the possibility that this has happened.

    A word of caution – avoid discussing how Iran might deploy and/or use its nukes. You confuse operations with strategy, and seem unfamiliar with security and C3I issues.

    Your premise clearly rejects my opinion concerning the proliferation nightmare. I believe this call has been made – my article seems to have achieved its intended effect.

    IMO we’ll bomb Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities sometime this year, and the plans include contingencies for Iran having some nuclear weapons. Invasion is a fall-back solution.

    You should pay more attention to Senate Minority Leader Reid’s statements on Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs.

  6. Tom, I hate to be too critical of a fellow blogger, but I can’t let that comment lie…

    “…you won’t believe Iran has nukes until the U.S. govt. says they do. Well I hate to say it, but unless you have a personal feed from an intel satellite or assets on the ground in Iran, I’ll take the government’s word over yours – and Debka’s. And I’ll point out that my assessment of Israel’s stance on this (which comes, in part from a few dinner parties where Israeli government officials have been guests) is that they won’t allow Iran to go nuclear without some significant and public (or hard to conceal) actions. They are the canary in the coal mine here, and I’d watch them very carefully.

    “They bought some from a former Soviet central Asian republic in the early 1990’s.” Evidence?

    “A word of caution – avoid discussing how Iran might deploy and/or use its nukes. You confuse operations with strategy, and seem unfamiliar with security and C3I issues.” No, you don’t seem to understands the strategic difference between conventional deterrance and 4th Generation warfare. And I just adore the superior tone; when you can demonstrate that you’re current cleared and receiving real-time data from the NSA, please feel free to use it. And please do enlighten me as to how my comment demonstrates unfamiliarity with security or command/control/comms/intel issues.

    There is a real strategic issue of how to use two or three small nukes as an effective deterrent; I’d be interested in hearing you comment on that strategic issue.

    How am I rejecting the notion that unchecked proliferation – particularly into the Middle East – is a nightmare? And what in the world are you suggesting by saying “I believe this call has been made – my article seems to have achieved its intended effect”??

    Well, you’ve made your call – two of them – I’ll make the call that those things won’t happen in 2006.

    A.L.

  7. BD – you get it exactly correct; the issue of attribution of a terrorist nuke is going to be a hairy one, and if the logical states are in full denial mode, the President is going to have a brutal decision to make.

    That’s why I advocate a “Godfather” stance, which says – “If something happens to me, bad things will happen to you. So you’d better make sure nothing bad happens to me.”

    A.L.

  8. A.L.,

    There are countries with assets on the ground. I’m not sure if ours is one, but I am sure that we rely on some of those that do. Those that do have their own ways of leaking information to the international public.

    The ex-Soviet nuke to Iran story has been out there for a long time and is quite credible given the life cycles for Soviet nuclear warheads. I would not be at all surprised if the ones the Iranians bought were already time-expired at the time of sale. Those would still have been useful for research purposes. I mentioned this on WOC at least a year ago – several times concerning the life cycles of Soviet nukes. It isn’t worth my time digging up the old sources.

    You do not at all understand the fundamental imperatives of 3rd world military and paramilitary forces. Their first mission is to not overthrow their own governments. You clearly so disagreed with my Case for Invading Iran that you did not read it carefully – particularly the part stating:

    “It is likely that at least some will use their nuclear weapons on each other, or in a domestic coup or factional fight. The latter might first happen in Iran.”

    There is no way whatever that the Iranian government will let any of its nukes out of the country save for immediate use. The dangers of interception, misuse and blowback are just too great. Furthermore you do not understand the priorities for testing and development concerning warheads and their integration with delivery systems.

    You absolutely confuse operations with strategy – in particular you can only see the short term. These guys are playing for the long term, and they are being very astute in strategic matters concerning us – someone or some group over there is clearly exploiting our weak points in a manner which I deem masterful. I am very concerned about what might happen once they have more than a few nukes because these guys are really good. Their blind spots are domestic and inherent in the regime’s nature.

  9. Tom, I can only suggest that you try and make an argument supported by more than “I wrote about this two years ago…”

    …and your arguments spiral downward from there. Assertions that you are wise and your opponents not are usualy strengthened by some kind of supporting argument and evidence. I’m awaiting it…

    I’ll suggest that you haven’t thought through the strategic implications of convential vs. 4th generation use of WMD and the implications for traditional deterrence theory.

    So if you want to make some arguments and back them up, I’m interested.

    A.L.

  10. So, Tom, now that Washington has bowed to your … er … wisdom and decided for certain to attack Iran, do you think it will stick with a heavy conventional operation (aerial and special ops) to blast surface operations and “seal” those underground, or will it use its B61-11 earth-penetrating nukes (or its old B83s) to strike the latter in hopes of actually shattering those subterranean facilities?

    And, if the plans include contingencies for Iran already having usable nukes, is the expectation that these will be destroyed or that the mullahs will retaliate by exploding them on some worthwhile targets, say Tel Aviv and the Al Udeid air base, which are a tad closer than NY Harbor?

  11. A.L.,

    What specifically do you discount in my means/motive/opportunity triangle with regard to Iranian nukes?

    1) That Iran has the cash from $60-$70 dollar a barrel oil?

    That you can see on the yahoo financial pages.

    2) That Iran’s current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a 12th Mahdi millenialist loon who has openly speculated on how Iran would win a nuclear war with Israel because Iran is large and Israel is small?

    Go Google “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad+Israel+Nukes” and see what you find.

    or

    3) That Kim Jong (Team America supervillan) Ill has nukes and the will to sell them — along with his Scuds, Drugs and counterfeit $100 bill plates — to whomever has the cash?

    The National Intelligence director said the North Koreans had nukes before Congress and my London Sunday Time article said how much plutonium the North has and how badly the Norks needed Iranian oil.

    I say one plus one plus one equals three.

    You say it must equal some other number like 38.

    For some reason you are auditioning to be CIA Director for a Kerry Administration.

    You might also want to try these direct quotes of Rafi Eitan from the Jeruselem Post piece:

    bq. Rafi Eitan suspects that Iran already has enough enriched uranium fissionable material to manufacture at least one or two atom bombs of the Hiroshima type. *”Otherwise Iranian President Ahmadinejad would not have dared come out with his declaration that Israel should be wiped off the map,”* repeating it in various versions.

    bq. Eitan told me: *”I am convinced that the Iranians already have at least one or two nuclear devices. They have been operating centrifuges for a number of years now, they have natural uranium, and who on earth believes the Iranians when they say that they have closed down one facility or another? You would have to be an idiot or terribly naive to believe them.”*

    bq. *Eitan says that this view was bolstered by conversations he held with various experts from abroad who came to the Herzliya Conference – that Iran already has a an atom bomb. What should concern not only Israel but Europe too, continues Eitan, is the fact that the Iranians have acquired cruise missiles with a 3,000-kilometer range.* They tried to purchase nine missiles of this kind in Ukraine from the arsenal of the former Soviet Union, but Russia thwarted part of the deal and Iran received three or four such missiles.

    bq. *”In an argument with colleagues from abroad,”* noted Rafi Eitan, *”the question was whether Iran’s current president is a sort of new Hitler or merely an international manipulator. Too many experts have judged him in accordance with his actions and declarations as a kind of extremist Islamist Hitler.”*

    bq. *”The diplomatic struggle against the Iranian nuclear danger,”* warns Eitan, *”must be an international one and it must come in time. The danger of nuclear weapons in the hands of Teheran is no less serious than when Saddam Hussein built the French Osirak nuclear reactor in Baghdad.”*

    bq. *”Don’t be surprised,” Rafi Eitan told me, “if the Iranian president tries to forcibly and brutally eliminate this opposition.”*

    Your opposition to the theoretical concept, let alone the reality of Iranian nukes in the hands of an Islamist Hitler wanna be, brings to mind something by W. B. Yeats:

    bq. …Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all convictions, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity

    bq. …And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  12. How about those two $25 bets, Trent? I would think your absolute certainty would spur some eagerness on your part to make some easy money.

  13. The problem with means/motive/opportunity, trent, is that it’s a useful tool for filtering suspects in an event that’s already happened, but relatiely useless in dealing with things that have not yet happened; the number of false positives is simply too high.

    And the problem here is that a false positive isn’t free; you can’t start a war and then decide you made a mistake and go back to the status quo ante.

    A.L.

  14. Russell

    Hello Everyone,

    Its been very interesting to follow the thread of comments. But, I would like to pose a question if I may.

    *Six Consequences (At least)*

    If we go ahead and strike Iran, what will happen then? I can say a few things off the top of my head:
    1) With Iran next to Iraq, this will spiral to a wide protracted war in both countries; this sets back any progress achieved in Iraq by the US.
    2) Potentially galvanize Iranians to side with the regime.
    3) Oil prices will skyrocket due to M.E. instability and Iranian cutting off their supplies.
    4) High oil prices will EMPOWER Hugo Chavez, Saudi Arabia and Russia even more than now.
    5) Attacking yet another Muslim country, a Islamic State, in such a short time span will only lend credence that the “West is against Islam” line we keep hearing.
    6) If I was Iran, any attack by the US will be met by an attack on Israel. Then we would have to step-in and help supply and fight with the Israelis. This just adds to point 5.

    Now is all of this worse than Iran getting the bomb?

    *Cost Benefits?*

    Sure, there’s the very legitimate fear of Iran sneaking off a nuke to a third-party and detonating in some cargo ship in some port city.

    But is our ability to detect and stop such a threat so poor that we would risk war that would entail the 6 consequences above?

    I think those “6 Consequences” are a cost too high to pay, I would prefer the Tom Barnett route, see here: http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=5076

  15. Oh, no, StrategyUnit, please don’t inject sanity into this discussion unless you wanna be called Neville Chamberlain.

  16. Meteor Blades,

    Well just in case someone is tempted to call me a Chamberlain, I should declare my attitude/values rest close to that of Andrew Jackson. And, I dont think any San Franciscan can say that strongly more than me.

    I am will aware of the “Ahmadinejad=Hitler” perspective, but unlike World War II, the minute Iran choose to take Hitler’s equivelent of the Sudatenland, I am sure US et al can “nuke” Iran out of existance. We wont wait until a Poland gets butchered this time.

    If things were different, with no war in Iraq and Iran being as it is now, I would see no difficulty in recommending a strike against Iran. We would of been able to cast the whole thing as a US, Iraqi, Saudi and Egyptian alliance to counter the “Imperialistic Shiite Persian Aggressors”.

    But the situation we have is very different and, unlike Saddam in Iraq 2003, Iran holds alot of the cards.

    We always have the option to use force with Iran, what we should consider is creative ways to change the “rules of the game” to make Iran a more positive player in the region. (Yes, laugh here, but I am serious.)

    However, if you want to be truly and brutishly Machivellian, let Iran make the first blow – when that happens (even if its an anonymous attack against the West or Israel) all bets are off and a total war will ensue. And the West knows how to do their wars more than anyone else. Others may have the oil – but we have the technology, weapons, nukes and money.

  17. Meteor and Strategy — you ignore two big factors.

    1. Al Qaeda and Iran have consistently viewed America as a paper tiger, unable to find the will to do anything to it’s enemies. Invading Iran after Iraq deters attacks against by makingn Muslims AFRAID of us, and what we might do. As Martha said, it’s a good thing.

    The CTC has a long scholarly paper here on Al Qaeda’s organizational weaknesses and agency issues “here”:http://www.ctc.usma.edu/aq_vulnerabilities.asp

    “America’s perceived bellicose leanings, however, were seen as being tempered by the lessons learned in Vietnam—namely, that protracted wars of attrition should be avoided at all costs. Jihadists writings generally portray the United States as a paper tiger, one that possessed overwhelming military power, but constrained in its ability to employ this strength by a domestic population and leaders who lacked the resolve to sustain military campaigns without public support.”

    Meanwhile, we have two experts at London’s Kings College and ANU telling us “don’t worry, be happy” because terrorists could never EVER get WMDs, because well, they can’t. So there. Details “here”:http://cnn.netscape.cnn.com/news/story.jsp?idq=/ff/story/0002%2F20060207%2F0336513608.htm&sc=rontz&ewp=ewp_news_0206wmd_threat

    Iran’s nukes plus Al Qaeda’s delivery system equals disaster. Even Saddam has predicted this. And he should know. He’s tied into the network too.

    2. The utility of fear in your enemies.

    Benefits of striking Iran includes injecting fear into various Al Qaeda elements inside Pakistan, an unstable country. Better for them to leave Musharraf in power than stage an Islamist coup and declare war on the US (or have it declared on them). Other benefits would entail fear and surrender by many in Sadr’s camp, as their patron big-man State goes down. Sadr lacks leadership skills and his coalition is shaky. Taking down Iran encourages his junior leaders to arrange a tragic accident for him and back the strong horse (that’s us). Almost every other state in the region would be so intimidated that we’d see co-operation on Al Qaeda even from Saudi.

    And yes our ability to stop Iran from nuking us by Al Qaeda is so poor. The Mexican border is porous and undefended as bipartisan illegal immigration policy. Dems want lots of illegal immigration looking for followers and Reps want cheap labor. Mexican Army units have invaded the US more than 100 times in the last year protecting drug shipments.

    You want everyone to love you when Cartoon Jihad should tell you that they hate you no matter what. You are the infidel. You submit or they slaughter. That simple.

  18. Well, StrategyUnit, while I certainly don’t laugh at you for seeking to make Iran a more positive player, the right certainly has a point that this is no easy matter given their penchant for using negotiations as a stalling technique. However, I personally believe that more than half a dozen more countries will have nukes by 2020 and we might as well get used to it, which requires having a more positive approach. If we can have ambassadors in China, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and soon, Libya, I’m a little hard-pressed to argue that we shouldn’t have the same in Tehran.

    As for Andrew Jackson, well, I’m a Seminole, and my values and attitudes will never be like his no matter how many times his image spits out from my ATM.

    The trouble with your approach, Jim is that it presupposes that an attack on Iran will suddenly inject geopolitical a rational fear into people who believe in suicide missions and a culture that maintains grudges for centuries.

    BTW, I object to the use of the term “Muslims” as shorthand for extremist crazies who hate America since I live with two quite, rational, peace-loving, free speech-loving Muslims who love this country.

  19. StrategyUnit:
    Certainly conflict with Iran has massive downsides.
    Which is one reason why limited air-strikes are not viable: Iran has too many options for counter-attack, above all being able to effectively cutail Gulf oil flows for long enough to dump the world into a global recession at best, quite likely a 1930’s style Depression.

    However, there are reasons to conclude that bad as this prospect may be, a nuclear armed Iran is worse; and that with it we get most of the bad consequences of conflict, plus some extra, at a later date, of the mullahs choosing. Or, at the point if/when Israel decides it must act.

    The question is, whether Trent Telenko and Tom Holsinger’s analyses that Iran has nuclear weapons now and will have more soon is correct. Like A.L., I continue to be sceptical.

    Though I could be badly mistaken, signs I would expect on both sides are missing. I also think an opening terror-nuke strike can be deterred: preferably by stating openly that any use of nuclear weapons anywhere will lead to nuclear retaliation against Iran AND North Korea.

    For this reason I think we continue to have time (as much as two years, depending on their fissionables production) to prepare elsewhere in the region, and encourage regime change.
    However, if the regime does not fall, and continues to pursue nuclear weapons, war seems unavoidable. Once fissionables production is on-stream, any delay would make a probably inevitable conflict worse by enabling Iran to develop complete weapons systems and modes of use.

    If I am wrong, war will be upon us sooner.
    An Iranian nuclear test almost certainly means open war, whether this spring or a year or so from now.

  20. Meteor Blades said:

    bq. How about those two $25 bets, Trent? I would think your absolute certainty would spur some eagerness on your part to make some easy money.

    The problem with the terms of the bet are this:

    1) If I “win” it means we are going to have a nuclear war in the Middle East the short term.

    2) If you “win” it means we are going to have a nuclear war in the longer term, the first warning of which will be the detonation of Islamic bombs in and above American cities.

    Consider for a moment the implications of what Tom Holsinger said here earlier in this thread:

    bq. These guys are playing for the long term, and they are being very astute in strategic matters concerning us – someone or some group over there is clearly exploiting our weak points in a manner which I deem masterful. I am very concerned about what might happen once they have more than a few nukes because these guys are really good.

    Your “winning the bet” will mean we are facing an Islamic “Red Force” Napoleon on the strategic level.

    One that will have dozens of nuclear weapons and the will — via religious zealotry — to use them on us when he feels he is ready.

    One that is inside our political/military decision loop and who is exploiting our international relations and our internal democratic political factions to neutralize an effective American response.

    So frankly, I am not interested in your bet.

    There will be far to much blood attached to it either way.

  21. A.L. Said:

    bq. I’ll skip over the notion that his position represents the absolute-worst case possibility, and that there are much higher-probability states for the situation, that no one who is likely to know is acting like this is true, and that the actors most likely to know – and act – the Israelis – haven’t acted.

    Now you know what my real “worst case scenario” is.

    The Islamic death cult with nukes, the resources of a large oil-state and good strategic leadership.

  22. BD: _If a bomb were to go off in an American city, would they get blamed? Would Iran? Would Kim?_

    Would we care?

    I believe that at that point we wouldn’t care any longer and that a lot of trouble spots would cease to be trouble spots *very* quickly.

    Lets get this 30 year old mess cleaned up before that happens.

    Faster, please.
    StargazerA5

  23. “If nukes go off in Red Hook next week, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll be going off in North Korea and possibly Iran shortly thereafter.”

    This needs to be acknowledged US policy. If a nuke goes off over the US or an ally, we will hold every rogue nuclear regime equally, and immediately responsible. The Iranian people should know that their fates are tied to the sanity of, not just their own leaders, but KIJ and whoever any of these guys decide to do business with. If NK sells a nuke to AQ, too bad, Iran is getting the finger. If a nuke leaks out of Pakistan, too bad, Iran is getting the finger. Let them factor that into their security concerns.

  24. _1) With Iran next to Iraq, this will spiral to a wide protracted war in both countries; this sets back any progress achieved in Iraq by the US._
    I think that any predictions of this at this time are worth about as much as the predictions about the Iraqi people before the invasion. I think there is a deeper well of US support in Iraq then is commonly believed, but that it is tempered by irritation that we invaded them to do it and that we singled them out. A war with Iran might even help us a bit on the latter point, particularly since I believe they still have signifigant memories of the last Iran/Iraq war.

    _2) Potentially galvanize Iranians to side with the regime._
    I think this could break either way and we won’t know which way unless the dice are rolled.

    _3) Oil prices will skyrocket due to M.E. instability and Iranian cutting off their supplies._
    I think the situation would be similar to post Katrina where we saw a sharp initial spike that then partially moderated. This may be a reasonable price for dealing with Iran.

    _4) High oil prices will EMPOWER Hugo Chavez, Saudi Arabia and Russia even more than now._
    True, unfortunately. On the other hand, it would also set some clear boundaries for them.

    _5) Attacking yet another Muslim country, a Islamic State, in such a short time span will only lend credence that the “West is against Islam” line we keep hearing._
    Or it could push them to choose peace. Doing so in such a short time would remind the ME that the “paper tiger” has claws and they would hopefully get the hint that it’s starting to get annoyed.

    _6) If I was Iran, any attack by the US will be met by an attack on Israel. Then we would have to step-in and help supply and fight with the Israelis. This just adds to point 5._
    Iran has already promised the destruction of Israel. In times past, that would have been considered a declaration of war. Besides, we would have to step in and help the Israelis if Iran first-striked them, and then it would be a much bigger aid package.

    I still think we can find a solution short of war, but I think the window on that is closing rapidly.

    StargazerA5

  25. There are certain things that I don’t understand in your post:
    1- how they can blackmail us? is north korea or pakistan, for instance, blackmailing the west?

    2- they would not strike, as you’ve said, since they also will disappear afterwards… you dont believe that these greedy dwarfs do suicide bombing themselves, right? that’s for simple youngsters to buy their words

    3- I don’t see any reason for them to go for nuclear research than a bomb, as you believe… but what they are gona do with that? probably prevent the west from purging them in an easy way, as expensive purging is always available…so why the west should be worried?

  26. “1- how they can blackmail us? is north korea or pakistan, for instance, blackmailing the west?”

    We’ve been lucky with Pakistan in that we were able to exploit a breach in Pakistani politics and win over Mushariff. Had that not been the case and Pakistan decided to continue support the Taliban and AQ, what could we have done? Invasion is out of the question and even missile strike would be fraught with danger. And Pakistan didnt even have the capacity to hit any vital US interest like Iran does. NK is certainly blackmailing the West. We provide billions in food to prop up the regime on the verge of collapse, meanwhile they provide missile and probably nuclear technology to anybody who wants it.
    How could Iran blackmail us? Lets consider what Iran would do with a nuclear deterrant, knowing how they behave without one. International terrorist training camps? Launching coups is neighboring nations? Exporting nuclear technology in general? What could we do to stop any of that if Irans response would be to nuke US bases or Saudi/Kuwaiti oil fields? Nukes are the greatest get out of jail free cards there are.

    “2- they would not strike, as you’ve said, since they also will disappear afterwards… ”

    But they could hand a nuke off to someone else. They could facilitate all kinds of conventional attacks against us. Worst of all in my opinion, the Mullahs would become permanently entrenched. Imagine the nightmare scenario of the democratic mob at the gates of Tehran and a lunatic like Amadinejad getting run out of town with nukes in tow and AQ on speed dial. There is no deterrant if Iran ever has its back against the wall domestically.

    “3- I don’t see any reason for them to go for nuclear research than a bomb, as you believe… but what they are gona do with that?”

    Look at all the nasty things Iran brazenly does _without_ a nuclear deterrant. With no need to fear US conventional attack, you dont think they will put their agenda into overdrive?

  27. “If this is insufficient, please tell us what evidence you would require to believe that Iran has nuclear weapons.”

    A public statement (IE NOT via debka) by a high official of the govt of Israel – Head of Mossad, head of military intell, def minister, for minister, or Prime Minister – that Iran has nuclear weapons.

  28. I have my own method of evaluating intelligence. Its simple: whatever the CIA believes, the truth is as far from that as possible. If the CIA thinks its 10 years, Iran either has them already or wont for 1000 more years.

  29. Trent,

    Armed Liberal does not accept my premise about immediate rampant nuclear proliferation once Iran publically posseses nukes and we don’t destroy the mullah regime. He says we should do nothing because we can’t stop rampant nuclear proliferation – the traditonal argument of despair – “inability to achieve perfection means we shouldn’t try to be better”. He rejects the concept of pre-emption even after 9/11.

    “Because the issue simply isn’t going to solved by defeating Iran alone, and alone we don’t have the power to defeat – as opposed to kill – everyone we’d have to defeat in order to make the problem go away.”

    What I had said, and he hopes to wish away, was:

    “Iran’s mullahs are about to produce their first home-built nuclear weapons this year. If we permit that, many other countries, some of whose governments are dangerously unstable, will build their own nuclear weapons to deter Iran and each other from nuclear attack as our inaction will have demonstrated our unwillingness to keep the peace. This rapid and widespread proliferation will inevitably lead to use of nuclear weapons in anger, both by terrorists and by fearful and unstable third world regimes, at which point the existing world order will break down and we will suffer every Hobbesian nightmare of nuclear proliferation.

    … The chief threat of Iranian nukes, however, is what they will lead to elsewhere – something which will make all of the above trivial by comparison, something which will go on and on long after Iran’s mullah regime is overthrown by the Iranian people.

    If the United States does not forcibly prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, every country in the area will know to a moral certainty that they cannot rely on the United States for protection against Iranian nuclear attack, or Iranian nuclear blackmail in support of domestic opposition to the generally shaky regimes of the Middle East. American prestige and influence there will collapse. If we won’t protect ourselves by pre-emption, we can’t be relied on to protect anyone else.

    … We better than most can economically afford the thoroughly intrusive security measures required to protect against terrorist nukes when the threat can come from anywhere, as opposed to Islamic extremists alone.

    But the price of domestic security, when foreign security fails due to a failure of leadership and will by President Bush, will be something much more precious – our freedom.

    Freedom everywhere will suffer due to those same security precautions. The greatest loss of freedom will come in those countries which are freest, i.e., especially America. Especially us.

    THIS is what is really at stake – the freedom which makes us Americans.”THIS is what is really at stake – the freedom which makes us Americans.”

    There is a reason why armed liberals are almost extinct.

  30. If I were an Iranian strategist with a small arsenal and a large vulnerability, I would probably do something like this:

    Put nukes in cities in this order, until I had only one left:

    Some relatively minor European city in a country not connected to Iraq or Afghanistan, such as Stuttgart.
    Some fairly major European city connected to Iraq and likely to be connected to any attack on Iran, such as London.
    A couple of major American cities like New York, DC, LA or San Francisco.
    Some minor Canadian city like Victoria (bonus: right across from America).

    For the last one, I would position it in, say, Cairo. I would then announce nuclear capability, explain that I had positioned nuclear weapons in cities around the world, let Israel know via private channels that none of the weapons are in Israel (because we don’t want Israel to destroy us, now do we?), and detonate the one in Cairo. Make sure that the one in, say, Stuttgart is easily found through an “accident”, say the truck carrying it runs off the road, about an hour before detonating the one in Cairo.

    Now, you can start declaring that if other apostate Muslim regimes do not submit to the Caliphate which, by the way, we’re establishing in Iran right now, they will be destroyed as the apostate Egyptian regime was. Maybe worse.

    And while we’re at it, let the West know that any intervention will bring the loss of their cities. And any break in communications between Tehran and the agents with the nuclear weapons would result in the loss of their cities. If necessary, because the West decides you shot your whole wad in Cairo, despite the Stuttgart example, detonate the one in London.

    The idea is to make the West too fearful to intervene and the other Muslim states too fearful to resist, while not provoking Israel into action.

  31. Tom, other powers in the world are already dipping their toes into the nuclear pool, and yes, preventing proliferation is near the top of the ‘to-do’ list. But it’s not the whole list, and preventing nuclear proliferation in Iran – for a little while – and leaving the West weaker in the intermediate and long term strikes me as a bargain that may or may not be worth making.

    For a wargamer, you certainly haven’t taken military history into account; you have to balance burning resources early for near-horizon successes with having enough resources to sustain through the mid- to long-term.

    We need resources and allies, and we’re operating in a world where – slowly – our natural allies are being forced to decide what they want to do, and seem to be making the right decisions. We need to buy time to strengthen our own forces and push that process forward as hard as it will sustain.

    And the good news is that the signals we send by doing those things may just convince our opponents to back down and avoid war entirely.

    There’s a large span of action between surrender and suicidal aggressiveness; I’d contemplate that for a while.

    A.L.

  32. Tom

    I at least dont disagree that an Iranian bomb would likely to lead to a Saudi, Egyptian, and Turkish bomb.

    My only disagreement is with the assertion, for which I dont see warrant, that Iran has a bomb now, or is likely to have on in the next few months (IE by end of calendar year 2006)

  33. It’s possible that the Brits have completely changed in character over the last 60 years. I don’t see an enormous amount of evidence for that.

    Unless they have, Jeff, the plan you propose as occurring to an Iranian strategist is a ticket to oblivion for the entire Iranian culture. Rather than cowing the Brits I suspect that the attack you propose would give them a thirst for revenge. The Brits themselves don’t have an enormous nuclear arsenal at this point (just some Trident-borne missiles IIRC).

    But we do and the United Kingdom and the United States are both NATO members and we owe the British for their support over the last several years. I suspect the response would be massive retaliation. A relative handful of thermonuclear weapons dropped in the Iranian cities and they’re back to the world of Grass.

  34. I agree with Armed Liberal’s initial post. I don’t much like it (the idea of using nuke’s has always made me feel a little nauseus) but there’s not much else we can do.

    If we make a preemptive strike (depending on the conditions for that strike of course) we risk setting off a human time bomb in the middle eastern world. Again, this depends on the situation, (and I would guess Israel would pull the trigger before we do).

    Keep in mind, the Iranians aren’t too excited about this either. They’re absolutely terrified by the idea of a nuclear war (because they know it would end badly). In fact alot of Iranians are really pissed off about being in this situation at all.

    So what exactly should we do? I don’t know. But this moment may become the ‘cuban missle crisis’ of our day. So I just hope this administration takes a minute to consider their options before running in.

  35. A.L. said

    bq. …and preventing nuclear proliferation in Iran – for a little while – and leaving the West weaker in the intermediate and long term strikes me as a bargain that may or may not be worth making.

    Either we stop Iran now, or remove their regime immediately after they have tested nukes, or we surrender American’s freedom and economic security to the police state that American will have to become to survive in the Hobbesian nightmare of nuclear proliferation that Iran’s accession to nuclear state status will cause.

    You will not defend America with American arms no matter the threat.

    Your position on Iran amounts to pre-emptive surrender.

    How very French.

  36. “Either we stop Iran now, or remove their regime immediately after they have tested nukes, or we surrender American’s freedom and economic security to the police state that American will have to become to survive in the Hobbesian nightmare of nuclear proliferation that Iran’s accession to nuclear state status will cause.”

    If we nuke Iran NOW, with no evidence they even have a bomb, we’re likely to set off such a chain reaction that America may need a police state anyway.

    If we ARE going to nuke Iran, and we DONT want such a chain reaction, we need to lead up to it the right way, which definitely means building as broad a coalition as we can.

  37. Trent, I know you can read, so I’m puzzled about why you refuse to read the words I wrote and assume that I mean them.

    Iran gets nothing for a test except a war. What else would Europe, Israel, and the US do? And Saudi Arabia would be happy to see it happen – just as they were happy to see the US invade Iraq.

    So my specific sugegstions are:

    1) Improve the strategic balance between Iran and the US by building alliances and strengthening our conventional military forces, which are clearly stretched, and by weakening the mullahs any way that we can.

    2) Make it clear to the Iranian leadership that a nuclear attack will be presumed to have come from them and we’ll respond appropriately.

    I’m missing the part where I’m suggesting rolling over.

    Clint Smith once said a very appropriate thing. “The last words most cops say who are killed in the line of duty are: ‘I’m gonna go in there and kick his ass…'” You may want to see if you can think of a way this applies to our current dispute.

    A.L.

  38. Holsinger:

    _If the United States does not forcibly prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, every country in the area will know to a moral certainty that they cannot rely on the United States for protection against Iranian nuclear attack… if we won’t protect ourselves by pre-emption, we can’t be relied on to protect anyone else._

    Hmm. Let’s try something. Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for 1962!

    _If the United States does not forcibly prevent the Soviet Union from producing nuclear weapons, every country in the area will know to a moral certainty that they cannot rely on the United States for protection against Soviet nuclear attack… if we won’t protect ourselves by pre-emption, we can’t be relied on to protect anyone else._

    Boy, I’m glad you weren’t in charge then. You would have started World War Three.

    If we weren’t willing to pre-empt nuclear weapons states then, why did everyone believe we would protect them from nuclear attack? Because we did insist that if anyone got attacked, we would avenge them… even if that meant we got pasted ourselves.

    The United States and Soviet Union had the same ability to sneak nukes into each other’s territory for decades that we are discussing. They chose not to, because they knew perfectly well that it would lead directly to full nuclear exchange. If this point is made forcefully enough to the Iranians, they will not hand nukes to al Qaeda. And the way “diplomacy” is going right now, Rice will be saying something along these lines in the next few months.

    As for Rockford’s proposals, I not only second StrategyUnit’s question — why should rational fear work on irrational actors? — but also ask exactly how much force he thinks is necessary to inject the necessary fear. If devestating air strikes, invasion and occupation of two countries is not enough, what is? Do we have to field million-man armies? Churn out dozens of aircraft carriers? Maybe we should just summarily destroy a few world capitals with nukes, just to make people have the proper level of fear.

    I see absolutely nothing in such a proposal that would prevent us from becoming a world tyranny — which is the most likely result of pursuing Pax Americana Antinuclea through fear.

  39. The very arguments you would make, SPQR, would also invalidate the whole notion of rational deterrence of Iran. The Soviet Union was, in its own way, equally a bunch of irrational religious fanatics — their religion was Marxism. Have you seen footage of the shoe-banging at the United Nations? All the arguments I have seen here were equally deployed against the Russkis.

    Or, if your argument is that Russia was already a military power, why did we not attempt to surpress by pre-emption the acquisition of nukes by Britain? By France? By China? By Israel? By South Africa? By …

  40. A three year-old post of mine needs only a name change – SamAm to Armed Liberal:

    “What is really at issue here, and what I’ve been slamming [Armed Liberal] about, is the Democrats’ unspoken but implied disagreement with the premises of the Bush administration’s grand strategy as fully ennunciated in the NSS. Democrats oppose the concept of our being pro-active. They want us to be reactive only – to let terrorists attack us at home over and over, and respond only to each attack individually.

    But the Democrats won’t say that openly. I am deliberately forcing their, and [Armed Liberal’s], hidden agenda out where we can all see it and denounce it properly. Furthermore this is why the Democratic party is in danger of extinction. The underlying premise of their adversion to our proactive policy is that 9/11 didn’t happen.

    They just don’t get it, never will and deserve to join the Federalists in extinction.”

  41. It is telling that no one has picked up my point about Senate Minority Leader Reid. There is a message between the lines of his public statements on the subject of Iranian and North Korean nuclear cooperation – he has green-lighted bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities. We’re going this year.

  42. Notice how liberalhawk ‘s # 40 quoted Trent’s words “either we stop Iran now” and then rewrote those as “If we nuke Iran NOW” – liberalhawk equated conventional attack with nuclear attack.

    Nothing could better illustrate the bad faith of liberals, lefties and Democrats in debate.

    And Chris wondered why Republicans think Democrats are insane on the war.

  43. Have you seen footage of the shoe-banging at the United Nations?

    Yes. Saw it live on TV. Theatre. And theatre that Khrushchev, who led it, almost immediately regretted. Already by the time that banging occurred, the faith-based Marxist-Leninists were less and less in evidence at high levels; their goal was to maintain power, not spread the word. Whatever their public statements about New Soviet Man, they imported their cars from the West and fed corruption all the way to the factory floor.

    Now the mullahs are no doubt more devout believers in the one true faith than the second generation Soviet leaders were, but they too want to maintain power above all else and have devoted themselves to the sixth and seventh pillars in order to do so: corruption and repression. They ALREADY know that using a nuke anywhere means they’ll be gone in a retaliatory flash. Al Qaedans may not care about that; I think the mullahs very much do care.

    As for not taking bets because it’s a blood wager, Trent, I’ll accept that. My point is that all this surety I read here, not just from you, ought, it seems to me, to be leavened with a good deal more open uncertainty. Everybody is so sure of his point of view, even though, unless somebody is putting their security clearance to illicit use for purposes of blog discussion, we’ve all got access to the same publicly available information with the same ability for judging its reliability.

  44. Jeff Medcalf:

    As Dave Schuler has already pointed out, if London is attacked the UK will retaliate. Though nowhere near the size of the US arsenal, the UK has currently some 60 Trident SLBMs with a total of about 200 MIRV hundred-kiloton range warheads available; and 200 thermonuclear weapons will surely ruin your entire day. Your entire subcontinental landmass, come to that.

    In addition, France has around 64 SLBMs and 380 warheads.
    President Chirac’s recent comments indicate that if, say, Stuttgart, were nuked, and even if the US and Israel held back (highly unlikely IMHO), France and the UK will launch, and Iran effectively ceases to exist.

    The problem once Iran develops nuclear weapons systems is that it will be able to entrench itself as a long-term strategic threat, becoming ever more perilous to challenge as its arsenal grows.
    If its rulers are both smart and crazy, they can sit with a knife to the economic jugular of the world, drive oil prices upward, use terror and power to pick off the regional prizes in the Caucasus, Central Asia the Gulf and Middle East, and move against Israel and/or the USA at a time and in a manner of their own choosing.

  45. For what it’s worth, the source for the date of March 20th for an Iranian nuclear test is the “Foundation for Democracy in Iran”:http://iran.org/. On January 19th, they said:

    bq. Separate sources in the U.S. and Iran have told FDI recently that the Iranian regime is planning a nuclear weapons test before the Iranian New Year on March 20, 2006.

    Not quite the chief of Mossad, I know, but a step up or two from Debka.

  46. The Bush administration has decided to overthrow Iran’s mullah regime as well as destroy its nuclear weapons program.

    It has not been decided whether the former will coincide with the latter. I am confident that we will invade within 19 months at the outside (it’s called “winter in the Zagros Mountains”).

    Trent has pointed out that Iran can purchase nuclear weapons from North Korea, delivered via China (the Chinese govt. is helping them), even if we thoroughly destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. It may take the Bush administration a while to recognize that, and longer to convince Senate Minority Leader Reid, but we will invade no later than that.

    And we’ll bomb Iran this year.

  47. Catfish N. Cod:
    I would disagree that the Soviets could be seen as irrational actors. They were always cautious in their own way. For instance, Stalin backed down over post-war issues re. Turkey, Iran(!), Greece, Berlin blockade, used China as a proxy in Korea, etc.

    His successors were arguably even more inclined to prudence; Kruschev was sidelined at least in part precisely because he was sometimes indulged in moves that scared the apparat.

    Further, it must be remembered that MAD was the “least worst” option. Preventive war re. a nuclear armed USSR was considered; it was impractical both for political reasons, and because the US air/atomic capability in the 1950’s was judged insufficient to eliminate the Soviet regime/war machine rapidly enough to prevent the Red Army occupying all of continental Europe and the Middle East. (See e.g. parts of M. Leffler’s “A Preponderance of Power” on this issue.)

    Once the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons, the US even less willing to risk even a minimal Soviet counterstrike against America so long as the Soviets limited their own behaviour. Which they did.

    Perhaps the mullocracy may limit its behaviour likewise; but is this a wise risk to run? And what are their minimal terms? For the Soviets the bottom line was accepting their control of Eastern Europe, tolerating (even while opposing) their support of proxy states and movements, and their military/political incremental build-up toward global power positions.

    For Iran it is likely to be acceptance of a spreading regional hegemony “by invitation” in Central Asia, Caucasia, ME/Gulf. The consequent leverage re. energy supply would be a resource for caliphal ambitions, and a threat to the global economy that the Soviets never had.

  48. Mark B.,

    Logistics are not a problem – adequate occupation forces is a bigger one. Will was the real problem, and my article was an adequate catalyst (Trent called it a “seed crystal in a supersaturated solution” before it went up). We’ll do whatever it takes to destroy the mullah regime.

    It’s not even a question of exhausting all other means first as we’ll invade immediately if the mullahs announce they have nukes, or do covert nuclear tests which we detect. Only if they do neither might we wait long enough to exhaust all lesser means before invading.

    We’re going in. The remaining issues are operational details.

  49. “Logistics are not a problem – adequate occupation forces is a bigger one”

    They are one in the same. Iran is a huge rugged country and there are no fixed points that need defending (if whoever is commanding is smart enough to figure that out). We could march into Tehran in a week and accomplish nothing but see our supply lines harried all the through Iraq to the Gulf. The manpower it would require to secure the supply lines through that terrain is ridiculous.

    This scenario is very similar to Napoleon in Spain. What does a ‘victory’ scenario look like? Every mullah will scatter in a different direction and rally opposition at every hen house, farm house, and outhouse in the country. We dont have nearly the kind of force necessary to occupy the country (not to mention maintain Iraq and Afghanistan). So we hang out in Tehran for an arbitrary amount of time until we decide we have to leave, the Mullahs come back out and we are back to square 1.

    Sure, maybe we destroy their nuclear ambitions but we could do that from the air without trying to conquer 70 million Iranians with one army corp.
    Iran has 18 million fighting aged men all of which have military training. This isnt Iraq, 80% of the country isnt going to welcome or be ambivalent about us. If we intended to impose our will on the nation of Iran it would require something in the neighborhood of half a million men _minimum_ and years of occupation. Iraq is a cakewalk compared to this for a number of reasons and it seems to me we have our hands quite full with Iraq already. Absolutely a bridge too far for us right now and for the forseeable future.

  50. IMO it was for the administration’s regime change decision (not the decision to use any military force at all), and for Reid’s decision to approve the bombing (for him it was use of any military force at all). I repeat that you should pay more attention to Reid’s public statements.

    I also suggest you go here.

  51. Holsinger:

    _Democrats oppose the concept of our being pro-active. They want us to be reactive only – to let terrorists attack us at home over and over, and respond only to each attack individually._

    Felgercarb.

    Are you reading anything that either I or A.L. are writing? Of course we need to be proactive — democracy promotion, alliance building, strikes at targets of opportunity, *real* homeland security (especially border security)… the list of things that have nothing to do with individual attacks goes on and on. What we *do* disagree with is the idea that *every* threat must be pre-empted. That road has been walked before; its name, Via Appia; and its end lies under the dome of the Hagia Sophia.

    I don’t advocate only responding to individual attacks. I *do* advocate considering each response seperately. There must be an overall strategy but it must not be a one-size-fits-all strategy… especially once as expensive (in multiple ways) as “pre-empt each perceived threat”.

    As for your specific proposal of invasion, the only possible way to have occupation forces for even a fraction of Iran is to leave South Korea undefended. I imagine you’re not in favor of that. As for bombing, if the situation is as dire as you paint, I expect Israel to bomb Iran. We’ll probably be happy to provide air cover for an uprising against the mullahs… but we are a year plus away from organizing such. The “opposition in exile” is even more of a joke than Chalabi’s INC was, and there’s apathy toward organized opposition in the Iranian population at the moment (despite underlying resentment).

    Your ambition, sir, outruns your grasp.

    Farren:

    Kruschev et al. were certainly rational actors by 1960 or so. I’m not quite willing to go so far as to state that Stalin was a rational actor, but he could pretend to be one when he chose. The Cuban missile crisis was caused by a misstep in the dance, not by actual aggression. By the seventies Kissinger was trying to negotiate with them as if this were the nineteenth century. But as someone pointed out earlier, the Iranians have also held back from making the maxiumum amount of trouble. Why, I wonder? How far down that road have the mullahs behind the curtain (not the Prez himself) gone?

    _For Iran it is likely to be acceptance of a spreading regional hegemony “by invitation” in Central Asia, Caucasia, ME/Gulf. The consequent leverage re. energy supply would be a resource for caliphal ambitions, and a threat to the global economy that the Soviets never had._

    Perhaps. Can it be undermined by our now publicly announced democratic opposition fast enough to allow them to attempt such a travesty (thus wasting resources that could have gone to domestic security)? This is a key question for strategy.

  52. Tom, I’m just confused – which you’ll doubtless enjoy – by what you’re writing here.

    First, you say: “Will was the real problem, and my article was an adequate catalyst (Trent called it a “seed crystal in a supersaturated solution” before it went up).

    And I reply: “Tom, are you seriously claiming that your post here is the triggering event for a U.S. decision to act militarily?

    To which you reply: “IMO it was for the administration’s regime change decision (not the decision to use any military force at all), and for Reid’s decision to approve the bombing (for him it was use of any military force at all).

    Help a blogger out. I’m pretty good at interpreting English, but this isn’t making things clearer for me.

    And yes, I’m very familiar with what Reid has said – and what Hillary has said, which is in my mind more important in signalling where the democrats are willing to go – on the subject. Your point?

    A.L.

  53. Catfish N. Cod in #42 said:

    bq. I see absolutely nothing in such a proposal that would prevent us from becoming a world tyranny — which is the most likely result of pursuing Pax Americana Antinuclea through fear.

    The limiter on that scenario is called the American people.

    The American people are not interested in being tyrants unless their lives depend upon being so. A nuclear 9/11 will make it so.

    Tom Holsinger and I operate from the assumption the American people are a separate player in the war. That they are generally good and want to be left alone by the world, but that if sufficiently motivated by Islamist WMD attacks, they will cause the American Government to strike out in blind rage against all Muslims.

    This is something that we both consider *highly* counter productive to long term American interests and *highly corrosive to the American soul.*

    The way to placate the American people is via victory and the prevention of attacks on American soil.

    The longer and nastier the War on Terrorism is played, the more frustrated the American public becomes and the more certain that the worst of American impulses will manifest itself after the next attack on American soil happens.

    The latest round of Islamist information operations — the cartoon wars – is well on its way to making Ann Coulter’s views of Muslims as the main stream public’s view of Muslims.

    Jim Geraghty has noticed this trend over on his NRO blog:

    “http://tks.nationalreview.com/archives/090141.asp”:http://tks.nationalreview.com/archives/090141.asp/

    bq. I don’t want to see the Muslim world squander what modest progress they’ve made, and sink back into their historical perpetual pit of poverty, dictatorships, oppression, extremism, terrorism, tribal rivalries and ignorance. And yet… there’s only so much any one of us can do. If a Turk watches a stupid anti-American movie and decides he hates America not for something we’ve done in reality, but for something we’ve done in fiction, then he’s too hopelessly stupid to be helped. If Muslim countries want to break off their ties to the West, we can’t force them to make the right decisions.

    bq. History will remember that after 9/11, the overwhelming desire of many in America and elsewhere in the West was to punish al-Qaeda and the Taliban and help democracy, liberty, and governments free from religious extremism take root in Afghanistan. Up until Iraq, there was something of a consensus in the U.S. that democracy, human rights, religious tolerance, freedom of speech and freedom of the press and women’s rights were worth promoting in the Muslim world; from Algeria to Pakistan, Muslims deserved the same rights as Americans.

    bq. There will not be the same reaction after the next terrorist attack in the United States – and sad to say, sooner or later, there will be another attack. I suspect the aftermath of the next attack will feature many Americans saying they’re ready to write off the Muslim world as hopeless — not decent human beings worthy of liberation and liberty, but a bunch of inherently homicidal maniacs to be contained and, if need be, eliminated.

    Only by being on the offensive against these terrorist supporting, WMD seeking, tyrannies will we avoid the worst case of American bloody mindedness, not to mention nuclear or other WMD attacks on American soil.

    This isn’t the perfection Armed Liberal seeks, but Tom and I live in the real world when it comes to issues of war and peace.

  54. One problem is that a bad way to win friends and influence people is by killing them. I believe Dale Carnagie said that. We need to realize that Iraq was a specific case as was Afghanistan. In both those scenarios the majority of the population was being oppressed by a minority in the most abysmal ways imaginable, plus we had legitimate causes belli to begin with.

    Iran is a totally different scenario. The Iranian people may not love their government, by neither is there anything like the kind of loathing their was for Hussein and the Taliban, ie enough to excuse a foriegn power from coming in and dealing with them. The Iranians _will_ resist. Their army will not desert in mass. The Iraqis found this out the hard way in the early 80s. If we decide we need to destroy the nuclear program as ultimately i think we should, we must coerce Iran via airpower combined with economic strangulation. Invading Iran would be a disaster. Perhaps the sort of disaster that sends a civilization into a tailspin (see Persia-Marathon, Athens-Syracuse, Islam-Tours, Spain-Armada, etc, etc).

  55. This is a fascinating thread if, like me, you are trying to figure out what you believe the US should do about an almost-nuclear Iran.

    Both the pro-attack and pro-deterrence proponents agree that there are serious negatives to an openly-nuclear Iran:
    – likely further proliferation in MidEast
    – nuclear umbrella protecting existing Iranian mischief, such as funding regional terrorist groups.
    – possibility that Iran cannot be deterred from using its nukes offensively

    I wish Trent and Tom could take a step back and read their posts from the perspective of someone who is not already persuaded that they are correct. The key words in that list are “likely” and “possibility”. In both cases, we should be asking what the probability actually is. Trent seems to be asserting that p=1.0; that it’s certain that Iranian nukes will cause to broad proliferation and that they will be used against the US or Israel.

    But I have a hard time swallowing that. I’d ask Trent what value he’d really assign to p? If it’s less than 1, then there’s at least some chance that these consequences are avertable. And in that case, we have to grapple with the consequences of preemption, as well as those of inaction.

    StrategyUnit lays out a good list of the consequences of action, but let’s just focus on the worst case. Suppose that Iran already has nukes, as Trent asserts in the linked article, but intends them as a deterrent. A pre-emptive strike forces the regime into a use-it-or-lose-it decision. If they decide to use it, the world suffers a nuclear exchange that otherwise would have been averted. In general, I think the pro-preemption case would be stronger if it dealt honestly with some of the potential downsides.

    A nuclear Iran is bad. But so was a nuclear Soviet Union. If the Mullahs are deterrable, I think a world where we deter them is preferable to one where we suffer the negative consequences of a preemptive strike. If they’re not deterrable, then, I admit, the calculation comes out differently.

    At any rate, I think A.L.’s list of policy steps short of preemption – public statements of deterrence & red lines, lining up more allies for the fight, strengthening defenses against hostile Iranian action – are more sensible in a world where we are not certain of Iranian capabilities and intentions.

  56. Mark,

    I am very glad to know that you still believe the battle-hardened Iraqi forces threw us into the sea twice. After holding the Iranians to a draw despite being outnumbered three to one. Just think what the Iranians might do to us given what the Iraqis did to them and we did to the Iraqis.

    After all, the Iranian people love their mullahs. Just love them.

    I can’t get enough of you telling us how much you know of Iranian popular feeling, military matters, etc. Do it again, please.

    Catfish, tell us about a pre-emptive use of force you favor. Then we can talk. As long as Democrats oppose the concept of pre-emption given what happened on 9/11, there isn’t much to discuss here.

    As for what Trent said, check out these old posts of mine:
    http://www.strategypage.com/strategypolitics/articles/20021017.asp
    http://www.strategypage.com/strategypolitics/articles/20021028.asp
    http://www.strategypage.com/strategypolitics/articles/20021120.asp
    http://www.strategypage.com/strategypolitics/articles/20021128.asp

    A.L.

    I planned what I intended to achieve, discussed it with Trent beforehand, and hit 2 of 3. This was more than I expected, and we’ll get to the third anyway, just not soon. Timing is everything – I knew what was under consideration and by who. It was the single most influential post ever on WOC. Ask Joe.

  57. Doug,

    The probability of the proliferation nightmare is 1.0. It has begun. China is conducting a covert nuclear war on us by sponsoring proliferation. This has been going on now for 10-12 years.

    I am far more concerned about rampant proliferation causing us to destroy what makes us Americans, due to domestic security precautions against from terrorist nukes, than I am about Iranian nukes being used against us while the mullahs control the country.

    IMO the mullah regime will be gone in a few years for domestic reasons (sooner with our help), and certainly won’t use their nukes on us in the meantime. IMO the chief direct threat to us from Iranian nukes is that terrorists might get some in the chaos when the mullahs go down, and use those on us afterwards.

    But I have no doubt whatever that somebody will use nukes on us within my lifetime, due to the proliferation nightmare explained in my article (quoted in my # 33 above), if we don’t terminate the mullah regime fast after it publically says it has some.

    But we are going to take them out within 19 months – almost certainly a bombing campaign first and, either eventually or possibly soon after, invasion.

  58. Hear! Hear! Doug. And others arguing that we may not be at the tipping point yet.

    It’s easy to say that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs equal Hitler with the Bomb. But, though I certainly don’t disagree that they want the Bomb and have actively sought to acquire it, my reading of the evidence is that they don’t have it yet. And, so far, no Rheinland, no Sudetenland. Of course, if you buy their rhetoric and accept it as more than the usual rancid bluster, they’d be perfectly willing to engage a future Kristallnacht on a gargantuan scale.

    To accept that, however, means accepting that they would be willing to commit national suicide, for surely even the most Jew-hating thug among them is unaware that instantaneous retaliation would come their way should they choose to employ a nuke or two on Israel. If you believe they’d do that, then you believe they are utterly undeterrable and we should be instituting conscription tomorrow and firing up the F-117s the day after.

    I believe, with others here, that there is time to work things out diplomatically. I’m not talking carrots without sticks, unverifiable deals, or ostrich-like behavior of any kind. Unmet promises, lack of total transparency, and indications of more stalling can be dealt with vigorously.

    But, as others have said, once we’ve bombed or Bombed or invaded, there is no going back. And while some here think smacking down Tehran will teach everybody a lesson, I’m not convinced that the lesson would redound in our long-term favor. Prevention need not require preemption. Diplomatic arrangements can always be undone; wars cannot. That’s why every effort short of war should be tried first.

    A sentiment which, no doubt, will get me treated to a lecture about the “real world.”

  59. Tom, what you’ve just said is far more alarming than anything else you’ve written, because it forces those of us who read you and take your arguments seriously – even if we disagree – to wonder if we’re arguing with someone who’s delusional.

    If you genuinely believe that President Bush or his staff wait anxiously to get their next cue from your posts here or anywhere else on the internet, I need to seriously rethink the level of plausibility of the claims you make elsewhere.

    Let’s be serious. We’re part of a widespread dialog that reflects the zeitgeist more than it shapes it. Do we have some hand in shaping it? Probably. But it’s a breeze from a butterfly’s wing, and while there are a few hurricanes, there are a helluva lot more butterfies – suggesting that creating causality chains from butterfly to storm windows is an empty exercise.

    A.L.

  60. Meteor Blades writes:

    bq. “To accept that, however, means accepting that they would be willing to commit national suicide,”

    Well, they’ve openly said as much. And this is also the theocratic gang who have elevated suicide-murder into the holiest of sacraments.

    What else do we need here?

    As for your last paragraphs, defining exactly what sorts of things “dealt with vigorously” means will go a long way toward helping me evaluate their merit.

  61. And Tom, to take you arguments seriously for a moment, let me suggest that if what you say is correct – that China is waging a proxy proliferation war against us (and the West in general, along with the Japanese), that thye last freaking thing in the world that we need to do is to remove one rook from the board – Iran – and tie up what assets we’ve got while other pieces not only move unchecked, but are motivated to act sooner to preserve themselves.

    Bush has screwed the pooch on one thing – selling the war to the American people and our allies. he’s thet the BDS drive him backward into a bunker, instead of confronting and destroying it head on and being the leader that we need.

    We need Europe and Japan as allies; not reluctant allies, but full, committed allies – even given the minimal military force they can project – to make sure that this isn’t able to be painted as an anti-U.S. battle for national liberation.

    Europe just got a wakeup call, and another call back. You’re seeing a shift in the political alignment within Europe and Japan which moves things much in our favor.

    We can credibly do a ‘smash-and-grab’ in Iran, but the consequences would be insanely negative. In two years, if we start building our forces – which we’ll need anyway – we can properly invade them if we need to.

    Those forces are going to be needed all along the Gap – so even if we solve Iran today, we need them. The goal is to buy time to make the diplomacy and military buildups work, and to see if there is a path other than war that we can follow.

    I’d like to see that happen; how about you?

  62. A.L…

    I didn’t read Tom’s comment that way. I read it as a guy who made his analysis, believes in his call, and planned the results he wished to achieve. That doesn’t mean President Bush stands up and salutes… but to give just one example, his is the first Winds post to get coverage via RealClearPolitics.com alongside MSM articles.

    I think we can all grant that it did focus discussion on a latent and gathering issue in the blogosphere, and was part of the process of catalyzing it in mainstream media publications as well.

    Does the Zeitgeist shape us, or vice-versa? A bit of both. Was Tom’s post just well-timed, catalyzing a reaction that was gathering anyway? Or did it achieve the coverage breadth etc. planned for it, and thereby participate in shaping that reaction?

    Asking those questions doesn’t necessarily imply delusional grandiosity.

    Though it’s always good advice to keep the focus on the discussion itself during important issues, rather than “Oprahfy” it by having debate swirl around one’s role in said discussion. Tom, AL’s reaction (which could have come from anywhere, and generally sucks all subsequent debate down that hole) amply illustrates the wisdom of following this advice.

  63. “I am very glad to know that you still believe the battle-hardened Iraqi forces threw us into the sea twice. After holding the Iranians to a draw despite being outnumbered three to one. Just think what the Iranians might do to us given what the Iraqis did to them and we did to the Iraqis.”

    Tom, the only thing worse than irrational defeatism is irrational optimism. At least the cynics have caution on their side. If you think we are some kind of invincible force you are a jackass. I supported the Iraq invasion more than anyone, because i understood the nature of the situation on the ground. Hussein was a shell, his army was in tatters, and 2/3rds of the population was essentially under Sunni occupation. Our leaders developed a damn brilliant operation and cleaned the Iraqis clock, even better than in 91. But _it wasnt inevitable, and you are a fool if you think it was_. We were effective and a bit lucky, it doesnt always happen that way. Moreover even a successful campaign has a butchers bill and we see it to this day.

    “After all, the Iranian people love their mullahs. Just love them.”

    Apparently enough of them do to keep them firmly in power. Apparently enough did to volunteer for literal human waves that roped themselves together by the tens of thousands to charge Iraqi machine guns nests.

    “I can’t get enough of you telling us how much you know of Iranian popular feeling, military matters, etc. Do it again, please.”

    Pot, meet kettle. Tell me my friend, how many Iranians have you spoken to? Because i’ve spoken to quite a few, because they happen to be my family. They also happen to be Zoroastrians who have been badly persecuted under the Ayatollahs. My step-dad had to flee Iraq before being drafted to fight the Iraqis. And you know what they tell me to a person? They are _Iranian_, and they are willing to fight for their country even if they hate its leaders. You have no idea the Nationalist component of this or how dangerous it is to your half-assed lollipop plans.

    You think the invincible Spartans had an inkling of the possibility of defeat Leuctra? You think the Nazi war machine thought it would be slowed in Yugoslavia? You think Napoleon had a clue 300,000 of his troops would be bled in the Spanish foothills when he crossed the Pyrenees? You dont know, because you dont know what you are talking about.

    Iran is not a pushover. How many Iraqis are resisting us? 10,000? 20,000? 50,000? Its taking us 120,000 troops plus another 100k allies to hold down Iraq even as well as we are. There are 2.5 times more Iranians than Iraqis, and worse 4/5ths of them arent being occupied by the ruling 5th. Have you done the math? Have you looked at a map? DO you know how desert fighting differs from mountains, with serpentine roads twisting through we will rely on for supply?

    Look, if we were serious and had assemblied half a million troops and prepared the American people to do something like this, that is one thing. But what you are suggesting is asinine. An ad hoc last second campaign apparently spurred by some message you dropped on an internet site? Please. Take a step back. You may be right, we may _need_ to do this. That doesnt mean we can, and trying without the proper resources can easily be worse than going a different direction. We havent prepared for this and we are courting absolute disaster to try. Is a nuclear Iran a worse outcome than an American army sliced up and bled in Iran, forced to abandon the countryside and even losing Iraq in the bargain? Is the risk worth the reward? No. Luckilly we have other options besides a moronic invasion and doing nothing.

  64. As for AL’s comments in #69, I buy his reasoning re: the fact that the increased forces are going to be needed even (especially) if one accepts Tom’s analysis, and hence the value of waiting and doing the buildup if possible.

    My reservations focus around multiple axes. One is the words “if possible” (is it, or have we waited too long? – I’m not nearly as sure as AL).

    Another focuses on the fact that the buildup is NOT happening and will not happen under this administration. That’s the crystal-clear message of the “2006 Quadrennial Defense Review and 2007 budget request.”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/008075.php Unless Congress more or less seizes control of all military expenditures and builds the 2007 budget from the ground up rather than making modifications, or convenes a board designed to do more or less “what Viscount Haldane did in Britain before WW1,”:http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9038856 2009 will see the USA in pretty much the same force structure as 2006.

    The same will not be true in Iran, I’ll wager. Just one more reason explaining “the predictions in my article, which differ substantially from Tom’s.”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/007986.php

  65. They are Iranian, and they are willing to fight for their country even if they hate its leaders. You have no idea the Nationalist component of this or how dangerous it is to your half-assed lollipop plans.

    I have no Iranian family, but numerous Iranian friends – two of them live next door – and they epitomize what you’ve just said.

    As for your question, Mr. Katzman, “vigorously” means one notch above the minimum to effect the outcome we wish to achieve.

  66. Joe,

    I’m having great fun jerking A.L.’s chain now that I’ve figured out where he’s coming from. This includes setting him up so he never knows when I’m serious and I’m not. That way I can use seemingly innocuous comments to make him lose it big-time in public.

    Force levels are the problem. IMO we’ll back into this and there will be a mass reserve call-up for an extended period. I specifically mentioned the latter in my article.

    The trick was getting the Bush administration committed to elimination of the mullah regime. That has happened, and they are now a little bit pregnant.

    A.L.,

    Here are three possible ways I done it, or didn’t, and feel free to add more:

    1) I’m just messing with you;

    2) I done it with my mystical powers cuz I’m an X-Man;

    3) I spotted an opportunity, understood and exploited the competition between and among (“intra-” as wells as “inter-“) various staffs on the Hill, in DOD and the NSC, wrote something exceptionally effective with the intent that it be plagiarized, and was really, really, lucky. But people make their own luck.

    BTW, I was even cribbed by the Thunderer. Google is a wonderful feedback tool in this line of work.

    Mark,

    Reread my posts in related threads. It takes months to get things going like you envisage, even with plans made in advance, caches filled, and experience doing it. Iraq’s Baathists had the experience. Iran’s mullahs don’t. But we now have experience dealing with such things.

    Family experience such as yours is not a substitute for serious study.

  67. Maybe we’ll hear Cheney quoting Tom’s post on meet the press in two months when they wind up the media blitz. His post has probably been picked up simply because it provides a crutch for the Iran hawks. Similarly to how shoddy intel was embraced and then abandoned in the runup to the Iraq war, a similar push is probably in the offing.

    Anyone that thinks that a sustained campaign against Iran is possible in the next 18 months is either high or delusional. We have far too many vulnerabilities in the area which are open to retaliation to a pure air war. A ground attack would involve surging another hundred thousand troops to Iraq and would force us to abandon the Iraq mission within a few months.

    The recent threads I have seen on this site have been rather sad. I used to visit this site quite often when the Iraq war first broke out. It’s as if the reverses we have suffered in iraq and the current low grade civil war in progress there have forced some of the posters into some sort of fantasyland.

    If you really want to encourage an attack on Iran, you should be lobbying the DOD and congress to ditch some of the big-ticket items in order to bump up troop numbers by a couple hundred thousand.

  68. “It takes months to get things going like you envisage, even with plans made in advance, caches filled, and experience doing it. Iraq’s Baathists had the experience. Iran’s mullahs don’t. But we now have experience dealing with such things.”

    Here’s the problem we are having. You dont know what you are talking about. I’m not ‘envisioning’ an Iranian defense scheme, im telling you what is inevitable. If Iranian command and control ceases to exist on day 1, all you have done is unleash half a million heavilly armed men on the countryside to take potshots at you where they choose. This is what _always_ happens. You want me to quote you chapter and verse on a-symetric warfare? Set aside the 350,000 man military, do you think the 125,000 man Revolutionary Guard (selected do to their zealous devotion to Islam and the mullahs) are going to roll over?

    “Family experience such as yours is not a substitute for serious study”

    Perhaps but when you show any signs of having finished much less comprehended any serious military study we can compare notes. You are out of your depth. Did you learn absolutely nothing from Iraq? Battle plans are perfect until the first shot is fired, then everything changes. Yet you are convinced you _know_ what is going to happen in Iran. Everyone who knows anything about military theory or history is rolling their eyes at you self-assured nonsense.

  69. bq. Hear! Hear! Doug. And others arguing that we may not be at the tipping point yet.

    We have passed the tipping point and are on the express elevator to hell…going down.

    bq. It’s easy to say that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs equal Hitler with the Bomb.

    It takes all kinds of self-delusion to deny it.

    bq. But, though I certainly don’t disagree that they want the Bomb and have actively sought to acquire it, my reading of the evidence is that they don’t have it yet.

    It is amazing what you can’t see, if you really don’t want too.

    bq. And, so far, no Rheinland, no Sudetenland. Of course, if you buy their rhetoric and accept it as more than the usual rancid bluster, they’d be perfectly willing to engage a future Kristallnacht on a gargantuan scale.

    I take it you have missed LeDeen’s columns on NRO or the Regime Change Iran blog.

    bq. To accept that, however, means accepting that they would be willing to commit national suicide, for surely even the most Jew-hating thug among them is unaware that instantaneous retaliation would come their way should they choose to employ a nuke or two on Israel.

    What part of “They are a Death Cult” don’t you understand?

    bq. If you believe they’d do that, then you believe they are utterly undeterrable and we should be instituting conscription tomorrow and firing up the F-117s the day after.

    Actually, I advocated the military draft here on Winds in a series of articles back in 2003 and Tom Holsinger talked about the invasions after Iraq back in 2002.

  70. Tom:

    You wrote a widely-circulated blog post that may have been read by a few hundred thousand people. Congratulations, and now it’s time to get over yourself.

    Your “maybe I’m just kidding” semi-climbdown with a 720 and grab doesn’t buy a lot in my eyes; I’d hope your credibility mattered more to you than that.

    Basta, I’m done and we’ll go into the future with a clearer understanding where each of us is coming from.

    A.L.

  71. A.L.,

    You are familiar with the science fiction concept of “Crux points?” The places in time where decisions are being made or concepts are being born that could go either way based upon small chains of events. This is the basis of the whole “alternate history” science fiction literary field.

    Suppose that instead of it being science fiction that it was something you could track in real time because you have knowledge of the process of Government decision making and can read the signs that a decision on a subject was coming. Something lobbyists do all the time and something that is becoming easier for common people to accomplish via things like the Google search engines and other modern information data mining technology.

    Suppose further that, because of modern information technology, you could put your ideas out where the staffers making the memos and briefing power point slides the for the decision makers could see and use those ideas as their own.

    Wouldn’t that be something worth doing if you cared more about the idea being adopted than credit being given for having it?

    Tom did just that, and so did I with my piece on the coming Iranian nuke test.

    Go read Ledeen’s piece today in the National Review on-line here:

    “http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200602170951.asp”:http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200602170951.asp/

    bq. In short, the Iranians at the highest levels of the regime believe they have good reason for behaving quite feisty, and if you look at the events that have taken place since then, you will see that the mullahs are acting consistently with the analysis presented to (and in part by) Khamenei. The propaganda war — lately and dramatically in the form of the cartoon crusades — has indeed been intensified. The Europeans have been systematically dissed, and more: their embassies in Tehran have been stoned, Iranian diplomats have insulted them with regularity, and the regime slapped a trade embargo on all goods coming from the infidel Europeans. When the French announced that the Iranian nuclear program was undoubtedly designed to produce weapons, Tehran demanded an apology. Above all, there is no longer any pretense of cooperation with the Big Three negotiators on the nuclear program.

    bq. *This suggests that the mullahs do indeed believe they have acquired nuclear weapons,* and there is no longer any need to play stalling games with the Germans, French, and Brits. Nor is there any reason to feign humanity in the treatment of their own people. The repression of any and all groups which might conceivably organize an anti-mullah revolution looks to reach the historic levels of the immediate post-revolutionary period, when hanging judges routinely ordered the execution of thousands of citizens for often-fabricated crimes. *Of late, the regime has beaten, tortured, and incarcerated thousands of Tehran bus drivers, Bahais, Sufis, and Ahwaz Arabs, and they have even threatened the families of political prisoners, saying that the whole lot of dissidents will be killed if the U.N. votes for sanctions.*

  72. Your guys argument is strangled at best. Ok, you’ve made the argument for why we _need_ to deal with the Mullahs. Im on board with that and I think most people truly are. That being established the next question is what you _can_ do about them, and it wont do to mix up those two concepts. (Example: We may _need_ to get Putin out of Russia at some point, but that doesnt mean we _can_ do it with acceptable risk and losses.) It is critical that we seperate the justification from the risk/acceptable losses.

    So I move we table the discussion of whether we need to disarm the Mullahs and accept that as a given. What is important is the cost/benefit/risk of the different scenarios, which it seems to me Tom and Trent are shying away from.

    I’ve laid out the worst case scenario in the invasion/regime change idea (ie, we end up with Shiia majorities in _two_ countries (plus the Sunni minority and AQ we are already dealing with) fighting an a-symetric war against us, with our ~200,000 troops scattered over a thousand mile front, and no happy exit scenario in either nation. That is an entirely plausible (if not certain) outcome. If there isnt a plan to mitigate this known risk, it is flat out wreckless to promote this course of action.

    Now just so I can prove im not a Democratic politician, i will propose a different idea: as soon as we feel Iran has suffiently provoked the UN (tomorrow for all i care, but others may think we can wring some allied support if we give Ahmadinejad enough rope) we launch a comprehensive raid against Iranian nuclear assets and missile assets. With that comes a warning that response Iranian retaliation will provoke us into mining their harbors and destroying their oil infastructure. Worst case here, we are in a shooting war with Iran (which we will win), and if the Iraqi Shiia take the call and rise up we have our full force to deal with them and retain order in Iraq. Lower reward, but _much_ lower risk. Best case we intimidate the Mullahs into a face saving deal of some sort, they launch a few missiles, we sink a few ships to show them we mean business, and things go back to status quo ante minus nuclear threat (for a while). If they start over, rinse and repeat.

  73. Mark,

    We can only hope all the nutballs do as you say during the invasion. That way they won’t be around during the occupation when they might get organized and so be dangerous.

    The reason it takes months to get things going is the need for covert reconnaissance. Real ground forces are trained and organized to do reconnaissance in real-time under fire. Terrorists lack the organization, training and equipment to do this, so their reconnaissance must wait until their opponents have set up shop in the neighborhood and can be observed covertly.

    There is a simple reason why this must be covert. If is overt, the observers are themselves identified by the occupation troops, and then captured or killed.

    The purpose of the covert observation is to identify patterns and force levels among the occupation forces so the terrorists can make plans for covert manuever into firing positions, safely open fire, and then covertly manuever away to places of safety. Emphasis on safely.

    It is far more complicated than that. You can believe this or not, but until you show some awareness of the tactical needs of terrorists engaging real soldiers – particularly those as capable as ours – further discussion will not be productive. Show some understanding of my points and we can talk.

  74. Tom (#74) – The problem with your approach it that it will leave all other readers equally confused about when you’re serious and when not. See “Coulter, Ann” for the dangers of that MO; she is not held in esteem here, and the damage you’ll do will be mostly to yourself.

    We have standards re: discussion on Winds, and we’re rather attached to them. Undermine them, and you’re apt to make quite a few folks here rather unhappy. Please don’t do that.


    Speaking of damage done, rather than bluster to Mark re: his lack of military understanding, I’d recommend you back up your propositions with fact, example, etc. instead. He is making what many people, myself included, consider to be a reasonable counterargument. Even if we assume for a moment that you’re totally right, most observers not already committed to your side will side with Mark following that response. Something to think about if if you care more about the ideas being accepted than credit for your personal role.

  75. “Notice how liberalhawk ‘s # 40 quoted Trent’s words “either we stop Iran now” and then rewrote those as “If we nuke Iran NOW” – liberalhawk equated conventional attack with nuclear attack.

    Nothing could better illustrate the bad faith of liberals, lefties and Democrats in debate.

    And Chris wondered why Republicans think Democrats are insane on the war.”

    Im sorry, in the mass of posts here and on other threads, I thought Tom HAD suggested using nukes. Perhaps because at that point no one had brought up the force size issues that go with a conventional ground attack. I may be getting him confused with another poster. It was an honest mistake I assure you.

  76. “For what it’s worth, the source for the date of March 20th for an Iranian nuclear test is the Foundation for Democracy in Iran. On January 19th, they said:

    Separate sources in the U.S. and Iran have told FDI recently that the Iranian regime is planning a nuclear weapons test before the Iranian New Year on March 20, 2006.

    Not quite the chief of Mossad, I know, but a step up or two from Debka.”

    actually given a choice between an Iranian exile group, whose motives are obvious (if entirely understandable) and Debka, Im not sure I wouldnt pick Debka.

  77. “This suggests that the mullahs do indeed believe they have acquired nuclear weapons, and there is no longer any need to play stalling games with the Germans, French, and Brits. Nor is there any reason to feign humanity in the treatment of their own people. The repression of any and all groups which might conceivably organize an anti-mullah revolution looks to reach the historic levels of the immediate post-revolutionary period, when hanging judges routinely ordered the execution of thousands of citizens for often-fabricated crimes. Of late, the regime has beaten, tortured, and incarcerated thousands of Tehran bus drivers, Bahais, Sufis, and Ahwaz Arabs, and they have even threatened the families of political prisoners, saying that the whole lot of dissidents will be killed if the U.N. votes for sanctions”

    Well thats interesting, and something to think about. Could be they have a bomb. Could be they just think that bomb or no bomb, the euros are paper tigers (hell, if they read Belmont club and WOC who would blamethem for thinking that?) Could be that their counting on the Russians and Chinese. Could be they think theres always time to back down later if they turn out to be wrong about the euros russians and chinese. Could be theyve gone too far down the rhetorical road and havent figured how to climb down. Or it could be theyre just loony.

    A nuke. Hmmm. Yeah, but they can only piss off the world on the security of their bomb if theyve tested it. Which they aint done.

    So Tom, if youre so sure about this, i presume you havent passed up the obvious money making possibility. This will surely mean a huge spike in oil prices in 2nd quarter. You should be buying oil futures for that period (even IF you think this is good for the price of oil long term)

  78. “That way they won’t be around during the occupation when they might get organized and so be dangerous.”

    Your mistake is assuming there is a line between the invasion and the occupation. There was a gap during the Iraq timeline but that was a-historical. The point of guerilla warfare is that you dont _need_ much if any organization particularly at first. Moreover the devolution between conventional and non-conventional warfare will be a thing of degrees. The Iranian army will fight coherantly for a while and once that ends they will continue to fight by unit and finally disperse to carry on the struggle as guerillas. Thats the formula. There’s no grand organization needed, it will be hundreds and thousands of tiny cells. And we dont have the manpower necessary to deal with that. The dilemna becomes spreading out into all parts of the huge country to pacify the countryside (and suffer the casualties- too many and you lose) or tighten up and give the countryside up to the enemy where they grow strong and beat up your supply lines until you get tired of sitting around getting mortared and go home.

    “The reason it takes months to get things going is the need for covert reconnaissance.”

    Heh. How much recon does it take when there is an American fuel dump on your cousins farm that wasnt there last week?

    “Real ground forces are trained and organized to do reconnaissance in real-time under fire. Terrorists lack the organization, training and equipment to do this, so their reconnaissance must wait until their opponents have set up shop in the neighborhood and can be observed covertly.”

    You are mistaking terrorists operating in foriegn ground like AQ in Iraq with home grown guerillas and paramilitaries.

    “There is a simple reason why this must be covert. If is overt, the observers are themselves identified by the occupation troops, and then captured or killed.”

    Ah. So simple. Unless, of course, they happen to have grown up in the particular mountain range (perhaps even had military manuevers there) that you are talking about and have no problem sniping a GI and slipping away before anyone knows what happened much less where he went.

    “The purpose of the covert observation is to identify patterns and force levels among the occupation forces so the terrorists can make plans for covert manuever into firing positions, safely open fire, and then covertly manuever away to places of safety. Emphasis on safely.”

    There is truth to that but we all that is a matter of hours and days, not weeks and months it would take a conventional force on unfamiliar terrain.

    “It is far more complicated than that. You can believe this or not, but until you show some awareness of the tactical needs of terrorists engaging real soldiers – particularly those as capable as ours – further discussion will not be productive. Show some understanding of my points and we can talk.”

    Oh, I expect you’ve read Guevara’s treatise on Guerilla Warfare? Mao’s? Giap’s “people war peoples army”? Turns out I have. Plus Wellington’s accounts of Spain and a hell of a lot about the Russian’s in Afghanistan and Israel’s Lebanon invasions. The latter you really out to check out btw, because Israel has attempted something similar to what you are suggesting against a _much_ inferior enemy _twice_ and yet an enemy more viscous than ever sits across their border today.

    For some reason you seem to think some inordinate amount of time will be available to us to set up shop in Iran before all hell breaks loose. It wont happen. We will first fight the conventional army and as it splinters and we advance, bypassed enemy elements will attack our supply lines _because thats what soldiers defending their homeland do_. They wont need Al Zaqari to pop up and train them and teach them the ways of the force or whatever it is you think. The terrain sucks for the invader, the supply lines are long, and the pure number of Iranians is something you clearly havent considered. Sure, 1 guy taking a potshot at a patrol is meaningless. But 100,000 individuals gets a little more messy. Our experiences in Iraq notwithstanding, Nationalist resistance is not top-down, it is bottom up. Spontaneous. Red Dawn.
    The Minutemen and all that. Thank god Tom wasnt at Lexington and Concord. By the time he was done reconoitering the enemy, establishing his supply situation, training his cadres to his satisfaction, and taking position the Redcoats would have finished their patrol, probably their tour, and been back home in England.

  79. Tom, your argument in #82 can be summarized as “I’m too bitchin’ to have to support my points.” It’s an interesting rhetorical flourish, but can I suggest – as the host of the thread – that it’s not the kind of discussion that’s particularly fruitful.

    So why don’t you enlighten us about it instead?

    A.L.

  80. FYI: CIA world factbook has Iran at 1.65 million square kilometers of land. Lets say we scrap together 200,000 troops (which i dont know how we do without Iraq going to hell). Now my math is a little rusty, but that seems to me to equal 8.25 square km of Iran to hold for every troop we have available.

    Lets also consider that 51% is Persian and 89% Shiia out of a population of 68 million.
    Iraq is 20% Sunni out of 26 million.

    The math speaks for itself.

  81. Amusing; internecine warfare.
    I have long argues that Iran has fission nuclear weapons. It’s just to easy. Go to a bookstore and ask for a pre 1965 encyclopedia and the plans are in there for Fat boy. The production of plutonium and the milling of it are hard. Further the shaped charges necessary to immplode the materail is difficult to acheive.
    That said Iran in my opinion wants them because of nationalistic reasons that are being driven by the most exterme of their religious ideologues(I am really curious about how Billy Graham would feel if Israel was nuked and everybody didn’t die). The MAD strategy is the only one that is workable. Making a public statement to the world about Iran would be very helpful now to implement MAD especially as it is a real one way street for Iran.
    Another real question becomes will the eventual fall of the religious ideologues in Iran leave us w/ a government that wants nukes of any kind.

  82. An armored thrust to Tehran is not necessary.

    The regime runs on money. Just grab the oil fields. Hold the Gulf open. Bomb the regime’s control assets: IRGC and paramilitaries.

    All of this can be done off the cuff with forces in theater.

    As it stands, the mullahs have leaked their nuclear capabilities time and again.

    Any ‘test’ is a demonstration. The Chinese have made sure that the Iranians have viable blueprints.

    If Iran starts nuking us… punish China, too. They are the real drivers of this gambit.

  83. Joe,

    I will heed your admonitions.

    liberalhawk,

    Consider that, if you think someone is off the wall, it might be that you didn’t read what they actually said. Apologies in such instances restore civility but not credibility. The latter requires other things, notably time.

    Michael Ledeen has Iranian sources which are really chilling:

    “Sometime in late November or early December, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gathered his top advisers for an overall strategic review.

    …the overall tone of the conversation was upbeat, because the Iranians believe they see many positive developments, above all, the declaration that “it has been promised that by 8 April, we will be in a position to show the entire world that ‘we are members of the club.'” This presumably refers to nuclear weapons. Against this cheery background, the assessment of the Iranian leaders continued:”

    Mark,

    The Iranian army has minimal fighting value because that would be a threat to the mullahs. Ditto for the Revolutionary Guard and the Basiji. The chief mission of each is to not overthrow the regime. The secondary mission of each is to watch the other two. The Iranian army has a tertiary mission of providing some ground combat capability against its foreign peers, but not against any Western fighting force. The Revolutionary Guard’s ground forces has a tertiary mission of keeping the Army in its barracks when the Basiji are being beastly to the populace. The Basiji’s tertiary mission is to be beastly.

    We have seen that pattern over and over in the past 16 years. You are free to deny its validity here, but you should give some reasons why you think Iran will be different.

  84. bq. I’m having great fun jerking A.L.’s chain now that I’ve figured out where he’s coming from. This includes setting him up so he never knows when I’m serious and I’m not. That way I can use seemingly innocuous comments to make him lose it big-time in public.

    Oh, right. What the world needs now is more trolling. [/sarcasm=off]

    I find this crass and uncool, as well as beneath who I thought you were. And it undermines your credibility, if that matters to you. You might want to consider dropping this policy, if it wasn’t just compensatory face-saving bluster for having written something overwrought–this last bit is all conjecture onmy part, of course, but it’s not a bad fit for the available data.

  85. “We have seen that pattern over and over in the past 16 years. You are free to deny its validity here, but you should give some reasons why you think Iran will be different.”

    Re-read the thread, thats all ive done for pages and pages. Its obvious you arent going to engage any of my points so i’ll leave it at that and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

  86. Mark,

    You avoided the question. All you have are abstract theories divorced from reality.

    We know from the Iran-Iraq war that one Arab is the equal of three Iranians in war (at least while the mullahs are in charge). And the Arabs are easily beaten.

    Everytime I bring up historical experience in the past twenty years and ask how things have changed, you avoid the subject.

  87. So, Tom, enlighten us if you would on a few topics:

    1) the use and impact of irregular warfare in the Iran/Iraq war of 1980-88;

    2) the impact of sanctions on the readiness of the iraqi army in 2002;

    3) the miliary budget of Iran from 2002 – 2006;

    and their impact on your “One Iraqi is worth three Arabs” military metric.

    A.L.

  88. I propose a cynical contest – Top Ten Signs the bombing of Iran is imminent.

    No. 1 – the Air Force sends an F-22 squadron to the Persian Gulf;

    Entries solicited.

    A.L.

    The Iran-Iraq War. Iraq fought Iran to a draw despite being out-numbered three to one. For details see Lessons of Modern War: The Iran Iraq War (Lessons of Modern War Vol. II) by Anthony Cordesman, of which a classic anecdote is an Iraq officer’s description to him of Iranian military technological prowess:

    “Iranian [land] mine clearance technology – a boot.

    Advanced Iranian mine clearance technology – a stick to hit the mines with.”

    Most of the Iranian ground forces in that conflict were irregulars.

    You are not seeing things from a Middle Eastern perspective. Domestic politics is everything. Military competence is not merely irrelevant, but a threat – it is tolerated only during war, and it takes a while before things get desperate enough that this happens. Once the fighting is over the competent officers are terminated with extreme prejudice (Saddam favored helicopter “accidents”).

    Your reference to budgets proves this. Military budgets are, with very rare exceptions (Israel, Jordan and, for the moment, some of Iraq) income opportunities in the Middle East.

    There is no way you can make points in this discussion. Why not instead add to the Top Ten list above?

  89. Other than a small scale proxy conflict in Kurdistan, I don’t believe there was any irregular warfare per se in the Iran-Iraq War. It was mostly set-piece battles that used some modern weapons with tactical doctrines remiscent of WWI.

    Tom, when you say that Iran’s forces were mostly irregulars, I think you are using the wrong term. I believe you intend to say that Iran’s forces were dominated by poorly trained and equipped forces that Western militaries would equate to militias.

  90. Tom –

    When you say that “Most of the Iranian ground forces in that conflict were irregulars.” you misuse the word, and completely misrepresent the nature of the Iran Iraq war. Most of the Iranian troops were ill-trained and equipped light infantry, who used ‘human-wave’ tactics against the better-trained and equipped Iraqi troops to great effect.

    And as I pretty continually say in my posts and threads, encouraging argument rather than shutting it down is something I value highly; you’re not doing that when you state with no basis or support that no one here can discuss these issues with you here. You’re certainly not demonstrating a level of knowledge and expertise that supports that contention.

    Back to my original question, and adding a hypothetical. Iraq held substantial Iranian territory for a while. The Iranians did not use guerilla tactics – such as are being used against the US in Iraq – against the Iraqi occupiers. Instead they used setpiece warfare, as Robin notes above. Note that this accounts for the substantial differential in casualties.

    What makes you think that they will do the same thing against the U.S.?

    A.L.

  91. Robin,

    Iran’s ground offensives against Iraq were so inept that IMO it is improper to call them “conventional” warfare. It was more a case of the mullah regime using a war as a vehicle for domestic political mobilization – military results were not the dominant objective.

    In my book operations by irregular forces are irregular operations. Iran’s offensive operations against Iraq were very irregular by any definition.

    I was both using A.L.’s unclear terminology against him, to emphasize his lack of knowledge on this subject, and making a valid point that Western military terms and concepts are not really applicable to the realities of Middle Eastern conflicts and so-called military institutions.

    A.L.,

    IMO what you meant to ask was whether there were politically significant guerrilla-type low-intensity combat operations in the Iran-Iraq War (Gulf War One). The answer is no. There were in fact some such operations, chiefly in the mountainous border area of Iran & Iraq, but those were insignificant both absolutely and relative to what else was going on in that conflict.

    You erroneously assume that only urban guerrilla tactics have been used against allied forces in Iraq. There was in fact very widespread use of the tactics first employed by Iranian Revolutionary Guards against the invading Iraqi forces in the 1980 Battle of Susangerd (vehicles containing RPG teams popping from cover to engage armored vehicles – even as little as 2 guys on a moped darting out from behind a building).

    This was wildly successful against buttoned-up Iraqi AFV for a while, then became much less so as the Iraqis stopped being such fools. And they were ineffectual and suicidal against Allied forces in Iraq.

    IMO the mullahs have a number of things planned for a U.S. invasion. First, they’ll order all their politically unreliable ground forces to charge straight at us, to get rid of them so we can’t use them as a cadre for the new regime’s security forces. I expect Iran’s official, but nominal, army to disobey this and mostly go home.

    They’ll also dispose of enthusiastic but politically inconvenient types the same way, but for different political reasons. Consider how North Vietnam got rid of South Vietnam’s Viet Cong in the 1968 Tet Offensive, so they wouldn’t be awkward after North Vietnam conquered the South.

    It is essential to view things from the perspective of the currently dominant nutball mullah faction. Military results are beside the point. Political results are what they want.

    Right now they are using deception plans to deter invasion. I recognize those.

    Their real defensive “plan” in the event of an American invasion is to do successfully what Iraq’s Baathists were unsuccessful at – avoid immediate death at American hands during the invasion, and make the occupation so expensive that American forces will leave before creating a replacement regime capable of keeping the mullahs from regaining power.

    This absolutely and for sure means minimizing their own casualties – i.e., in their command structure and domestic political “enforcer” personnel. That alone means effective guerrilla-type resistance, as opposed to the suicidally ineffective kind, will take a while to ramp up after American occupation.

    Bear in mind that Iraq presented pretty much an ideal situation for such a plan. It will be much less effective in Iran because there won’t be strategic surprise. Overall though, Iran’s much larger demographic and geographic scale will IMO somewhat outweigh the negative factors.

    Conquering Iran will be relatively easy – it’s just bigger and more mountainous than Iraq. Occupying Iran will be the problem. IMO the guerrilla campaign will take at least as long to ramp up, or longer, but it will ramp up faster than Iraq’s when it does start and be much worse for a while than in Iraq due to Iran’s larger scale.

    I just think it will tail off faster, if only for lack of foreign support. In addition to the reasons stated in my article, Iran does not have a border with either Syria or Saudi Arabia, let alone both. That’s a big difference right there.

    As for Pakistani support, please be informed that a significant part of the Pakistani army is tied down in a nasty guerrilla campaign in Baluchistan.

  92. Tom, I’d love to see some cites for your notion that military results were immaterial to the mullahs;

    I’m also puzzled, because the definitions of irregular warfare that I’m familiar with (see the Small Wars Manual) don’t include human wave attacks under central military command. Maybe you could point the less-enlightened of us to some reference that supports your use of the word?

    It’s good to see you acknowledge that there will doubtless be a guerilla war afterward. You make an interesting assertion about the war tailing off faster because of the lack of outside support, it’s one worth pursuing.

    A.L.

  93. A.L.,

    “Secondary” and “immaterial” are not the same term.

    Mob attacks are not regular warfare.

    If you think my Case for Invading Iran did not consider guerrilla warfare after the invasion, you and liberalhawk are very much alike in the attention you give to the posts of others which you comment on. Consider reading what people post before commenting.

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