Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran…Discussion Points
I have been wandering around pro-war sites and marvelling at some of the stuff I read, it must be nice to be absolutely sure of yourself. If the wars had gone the way the war advocates had confidently predicted, I’d have changed my tune. I wonder how bad it has to get before war advocates will admit that the invasions might have been a mistake? Though to be honest most of them from the get-go would not acknowledge even the possibility they might be in error. If one’s basic premise is that one s always right, it’s easy to find the evidence needed to support one’s beliefs. Actually, belief has transformed into faith at that point. Still, for the sake of discussion, here is some of my current thinking. I welcome attempts to change my mind, criticism is encouraged. In no particular order a few aspects of the wars I have been pondering. Some inspired by my visits to war advocacy sites, some just from my general ramblings.
The Cost of War. Thousands of dead Americans, tens of thousands of wounded Americans, hundreds of thousands of damaged Americans. Yes, nearly two hundred thousand Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans have already applied for disability. That’s about one out of four. In most Hollywood movies the good guys return home from the war and rest on their laurels and live happily ever after. In the real world, war is a sick unhealthy life shattering experience that leaves many of its participants with permanent scars, mental and and/or physical. These disability costs alone are going to cost us 1-2 trillion dollars, on top of the 500 billion the wars have already cost.
One has to wonder, what in the name of God was Saddam going to do to us that would cost us trillions of dollars, kill and maim thousands of Americans, and leave hundreds of thousands of Americans permanently damaged? I don’t see any way Saddam could have done that kind of damage to the USA, so quite literally the cure is worse than the disease. Not to mention that the idea that Saddam was plotting to attack the USA assumes that Saddam was planning on committing personal and national suicide, the USA would have turned Iraq into a molten parking lot in response to such an attack. Saddam was evil, not stupid.
Are Iran and Syria supporting the insurgents? Possibly, wouldn’t anyone in the same position? If Iran conquered Mexico and Canada, the US would sure as hell send arms to insurgents. The extreme position here, that Iran and or Syria are responsible for or causing the insurgency is silly. Insurgencies cannot survive without significant popular support. Blaming problems on “outside agitators” is a slick way of avoiding critical self analysis. Our enemies are going to do what they can to foil us, getting in a high dudgeon about this is like complaining about the rain. Give me a break. We put ourselves in this position, we need to figure out how to get out of it.
Iran will invade Iraq if the USA withdraws? I’ve seen it confidently stated that “of course” Iran will invade southern Iraq if the US pulls out. On the one hand, people that claim they can predict the future with near certainty have a very poor track record historically. In fact for the argument to be valid the basic premise is that the only reason Iran doesn’t invade Iraq is the US presence in the country. Such a simplistic premise strikes me as prima facie absurd, the world is a far more complex place than that and the USA is by no means the arbiter of reality.
On the second hand, here’s a few other things that make the “Iran will invade” conjecture very hard to support. For one thing, it’s not clear that the Iranian military has the logistical structure to support a large scale foreign adventure, such things are very expensive and only a few of the world’s industrial countries have the resources to sustain such operations. Even if they did invade, that would give the USA the green light to bomb Iran at will, destroying much of the country’s infrastructure and military capability at terrible cost to Iran. What could they gain that would be worth that? The most important reason though is that Iran has no need to invade southern Iraq, they have worked very hard for two decades to forge good relations with their fellow Shiites. An independent Shiite southern Iraq or an independent Shiite dominated Iraq would be Iran’s willing ally. In other words, the idea that Iran will invade Iraq is like claiming that the US will invade England, in a word, it’s silly. It’s not even clear that the Iranian’s are evil, and they’re certainly not stupid.
The US will attack Iran soon? Well, there are still rumours that a US attack on Iran is “imminent.” My current guess is that if it doesn’t happen this spring or sumer, it’s not going to happen. For more than anyone ever wanted to know about this subject check out: Target Iran. At this point I’m hoping that no attack will take place, it’s hard to imagine what the USA would get from such an operation, in all likelihood it would make the situation worse both domestically and internationally. Still, sometimes people do really risky things, especially when they convince themselves there are no other options. My guess is that if an attack is made, it will have some very clear and obvious trigger in order to rally support for the war. A Tonkin Gulf incident or some such. So if someday soon the headlines are hysterically screaming that Iran attacked a US ship or seized US hostages, a US attack on Iran is imminent.
Will Iran Attack the USA? While I don’t think it’s likely, some have even postulated that Iran might decide to launch a preemptive war on USA forces in the region. The war gamers have been worried about this for awhile, and war gamers have an annoying habit of being frighteningly accurate sometimes. Some of the greatest military debacles in history were preceded by war gamers telling generals that their plans were flawed…and being overruled by generals who “knew better.” It’s a scary thought, the loss of even one USA carrier would severely weaken the USA’s ability to project force overseas, the loss of more than one would be a catastrophe. Not to mention it would be the start to a vastly wider war, and widespread wars never turn out the way people predict, so I’m not even going to try.
And if an Iranian preemptive war against the USA does happen, George W Bush is the one who deployed the USA military within striking distance of Iran and has been sabre rattling since he took office. In fact no matter what happens in the middle east the next few years, I hope that the American people remember that the USA voluntarily and unilaterally decided to deploy our forces in the region. We set up the playing board, if an enemy spots a weakness in our deployment and exploits it, the people who moved our pieces are the ones responsible for what happens to them. How can it be otherwise?
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is central to illustrating the post and it is not being used for profit. Credit: Pentagon. This is a government photograph that was released to the public in response to a FOIA request.)