On Monday I touched on the impracticality and infeasibility of the alleged Iranian plan to initiate war with Israel, specifically with a nuclear strike. There simply is no way to spin this in Iran. Even a conventional weapon strike on Israel would trigger a massive military response from Israel, NATO, and Uncle Sam. A nuclear strike against Israel would result in Iran resembling the surface of Mercury within 24 hours. Whether nuclear or conventional, American or multinational, the response would reduce Iran to the Stone Age and doubtlessly involve many thousands of deaths.

It doesn't sound like something sane people would do, and I despise the neocon "(Insert tinpot dictator here) is a Hitler! He is bent on national suicide!" rhetoric. But disregarding that argument leaves me at a loss to explain their recent missile tests. From the earliest days of the Cold War, missile and warhead tests have been nothing but an exercise in dick-waving and saber-rattling. You do it to give your enemy second thoughts, to instill fear, to give evidence of a "credible deterrent." And what kind of idiot would believe that Western Europe and the U.S. are going to be impressed by short- and medium-range ballistic missiles of primitive design and minimal accuracy? Iran isn't rattling a saber so much as they are rattling a wet noodle. Their current missile technology roughly approximates America's in 1955.

So they're not trying to intimidate us. They are showing off an offensive capability. It could not be considered a deterrent unless the leaders of Iran are literally retarded. So, like North Korea, I am convinced that the government in Iran is composed entirely of unstable, unpredictable morons who now have effective delivery vehicles for a variety of weapons. Since a diplomatic solution is unlikely, I think we're on the path to another military one (with both of those countries, but let's focus on Iran for now). Sure, maybe we'll get lucky and Iran will undergo internal upheaval. The current government barely made it through an election a few months ago. But of course we can't bank on that happening.

Here we see the ultimate folly of our misadventure in Iraq. We simply don't have the manpower, the resources, or the national will to engage in another military escapade in the Middle East. We pissed all of those things away in Iraq while legitimate threats festered in other countries. So what can we do? The answer is simple: we can do the only thing we're any good at doing. We will bomb the everloving shit out of Iran, cripple it, and walk away. Think Gulf War I instead of Gulf War II.

I think that at some point in the next two or three years Iran's belligerence will get to the point that policymakers will decide to act. But rather than get engaged in another ground war, they will punt on "regime change" and simply reduce Iran to smoking rubble. They will provide years and years worth of footage for new series on The Military Channel: bombs laser-guided down chimneys, unmanned Predator drones swooping in to level villages, and night-vision footage of smoldering weapon stashes. They will decide that their only concern is disarmament. They will be more than happy to let the current batch of lunatics stay in power so long as they're neutered. Every inch of Iran's nuclear and military infrastructure is already pre-targeted. It makes too much sense, especially given the depletion of our ground forces, for spineless American politicians to choose any other option.

Think about it. What are we good at anymore? We positively suck at "spreading democracy" and all that horseshit. We've failed at regime change for 100 years. We haven't had a meaningful diplomatic success in decades. We are good at sending our aircraft carriers (of which we have about 95% of the total global supply) to the shores of some unworthy opponent and bombing the sweet holy fuck out of them. Anything that comes before or after that is beyond us. We have military technology, especially of the aeronautical and blowuppable kind, that is light years beyond what the rest of the globe can field. Applying it is our only talent nowadays.

Civilian casualties will be horrific (after all, every video of a bomb surgically flying into a window hides a hundred other videos of bombs missing by half a mile) but we'll do what we usually do and lay the moral culpability for them on Iran's leaders. Look what you made us do! Look at how little they care for the lives of their people! The only silver lining is that I fundamentally believe that Iranians are decent, reasonable, and pragmatic people, and as soon as they realize they are all about to be used for USAF target practice it could spur a change in the country's political system. But if I had to put my life's savings on it, I'd call Vegas right now and say "$53.12 on air strikes in Iran by 2011."

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  • You didn't happen to catch that 60 Minutes interview with GEN McChrystal the other night, did you? The one where he said that we basically wasted eight years in Iraq and Afghanistan bombing villages and killing civilians and making new enemies? And where he also said that we won't be doing that any more….

  • Not for nothing, but given what military dollars can do for local economies when revved up, the only reason this country loves to fight wars we can't, er, won't win is to keep the military/industrial complex (see: Haliburton, Lockheed-Martin, etc.) going strong ad infinitum. I can imagine that there's many a soulless prick out there (see: Chaney, etc.) that loves getting involved where we really have no business, if for no other reason than to test out the latest mechanized goodies and software they've cooked up in some unidentified secret hangar. If we don't have a titillating skirmish somewhere, then the whole "test loop" thang is for naught. No wars? Well, that's just no fun. Iran is going to be one helluva party. I just wish the military would get their own cable channel so I can watch a live feed.

  • N. Korea and Iran may be ruled by absolute dicks but they are not crazy dicks. Dear Leader Kim is a perv and lives out his Dr. Evil fantasy on the world stage, but he runs a criminal enterprise that his very profitable to himself. Ahma-dinner-jacket IS batshit crazy, but as someone astutely pointed out in the Iran: Part 1 thread this middle- eastern version of Dubya is a distant no.3 in the Iranian theocracy- the Iranian Presidential office is a politically toothless position they shove down- home idiots into to keep the Iranian version of NASCAR dads happy.
    What the pissant little nukes do for these pipsqueaks is:
    1) It is dick waving, but for the home audience. The average bubba in Iran and N. Korea is no different than his American counter- part: the nuke Big Daddy burned may be equivalent to a fart lit by a drunken frat boy compared to the devices fielded by Uncle Sam, but to the mouth breathers in their respective countries its a NUKE and the Great Satan will have to pay attention.
    2) Its great for holding a gun to neighboring nation's heads. " If you Americans attack us, we will nuke Seoul/ Tel Aviv!"
    3) It's great for showing off to your friends;" Look Hizballah, Hamas, your big brother has grown into his pubes. I'm running with the big dawgs now."
    But back home in the U.S.A. we will get yet another example that the corporate B team ( the democrats) are quite as capable of international mayhem as their brothers in the GOP. Killing third world people with air strikes and sanctions is a democrat specialty- think of 1990s Iraq and Serbia on a grand scale.

  • Do we need a solution where there is no problem? A president who has lost the populace but wants to keep power will keep his wealthy, smugly conservative supporters rolling in the stuff — and they will keep him in power. Pushing for war keeps Iran in the market. Watch what Mahmoud does, not what he says.

    Whether the wealthy conservatives are party members in Communist countries (who skim), or old-money families in the US (who build unnecessary airstrips around the world), or devoted religionists supporting their nutty causes (and get enormous no-bid contracts), wars are largely about money to the old boys who start them and don't fight in them.

  • I disagree with the fact that there is no problem, and I question why, if there is some layer of political control composed of more pragmatic people above the civilian government, the saber-rattling continues. It's not even remotely effective (is anyone scared of their "technology"? anyone?) but it's quite provocative.

  • What N Korea and Iran are waving around may be wet noodles as a matter of military strategy, but they are big massive stiffies from the standpoint of the internal politics of their "enemies". By shooting off fizzle nukes and/or uncontrollable rockets, they are making it politically necessary for supposed global superpowers to "do something" so that the superpowers' ruling factions cannot be accused of "ignoring a threat" or "not taking a threat seriously".

    In the case of N Korea, this gives them the negotiating power to garner fucktons of money, petroleum, and food. What Iran wants to garner is not so clear to me.

  • I'm not really sure that it's warranted to adopt such a pessimistic outlook in the wake of what seemed to be a pretty routine case of, as you aptly put it, dick-waving. I'm not sure anything has qualitatively changed. I'd imagine that the tests were intended to give Iran some additional bargaining power in the leadup to the international talks over its nuclear program. They probably feel under siege now that even Russia and China seem to be taking a tougher line, they realize that they will be friendless at that negotiating table.

    As far as the power structure in Iran is concerned, it really seems to be in flux right now and is anybody's guess. People have correctly pointed out that the Supreme Leader is formally at the top of the pecking order, particularly when it comes to security and foreign policy. However, Khamenei's standing has fallen considerably since the electoral crisis, to the point where a number of influential figures were calling for his replacement. Then there are the Revolutionary Guards, a relatively opaque organization whose incentives are unclear. I get the sense so much of the string-pulling in Iran goes on behind the scenes, even more than in most countries.

  • What a depressing, but pragmatic post, Ed. I'm not entirely convinced on the outcome, though. I'm not taking a hard stand against your read, but I think the dear leaders of these two bratty little dictatorships (Iran/N Korea) are just a hair smarter than they come off. Don't get me wrong: I think they are absolutely insane. But if their advisors start telling them that their yachts are in danger of being blown up by the Americans, I think they'll look at Sadam Hussein's outcome and realize maybe they need to reign it in a bit.

    Combine that with probably the best state department this country has seen in many decades, and you might actually get a peaceful outcome.

    So I guess I'm saying I see us getting closer to air strikes by 2011, but I also see a clear path to avoiding that.

  • The pragmatic types who influence the President encourage the sabre-rattling because they profit by it; it is good for business. They keep him in power, and he keeps funneling money to them.

    But Ed — what is Ahmadinejad actually doing? Verbally picking fights, and testing rockets, and (possibly) refining fissionable material — none of which really matters unless some other country throws a tizzy and makes the first move.

    I would like to know what binding agreements Iran has made that it is not complying with, or what acts of physical aggression it has actually made outside its borders; those need to be known and tackled by the involved parties, hopefully administratively or diplomatically.

    Mahmoud is an insulting loudmouth who is looking for trouble. Until he makes a real move (not a chest-beating gesture), he can talk all he likes and it means nothing. Ignoring what he says while watching what he does is our best move.

  • …It could not be considered a deterrent unless the leaders of Iran are literally retarded. .. It is a deterrent against land invasions. The presence of tactical nuclear weapons make even big powers think twice before putting their soldiers on that ground. Strategic atomic bombs are useful deterrents when aimed at nearby military bases (or aircraft carriers) of hostile powers. Look at the map again — Iran is almost circled by American bases. It would be irrational for them not to seek some form of plausible deterrent to that.

    True, Iran's arsenal would be no match for America's — bu only if you're thinking of first strikes, which the mullahs probably don't contemplate. Let's discuss how effective Persian bombs would be as weapons of retaliation. Sure, they can't reach the mainland of America, but can't they inflict damage elsewhere, while still hurting Unka Sam?

    Above all, I'd like to see some discussion of another point: Iran is also — perhaps even primarily — seeking an enhanced status as a regional power. Their main beef, to speak like the white kids who think they're gangsters, may not be with the Great Satan and the Righteous State, but rather with actors higher up on the pecking order in the Middle East right now: the Sunni states of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, maybe Pakistan (which, by controlling next-door Afghanistan, is capable of stirring trouble for the Persians). A Shi'a power with the ultimate weapon would be in a position to bargain for a better place at the regional table, where, for instance, very lucrative gas and oil deals are made.

    Jus' sayin'.

  • It's also important to remember the internal politics motivating Iran. The president just eroded his legitimacy big time with the election, but the nuclear issue has always enjoyed large support inside Iran. That's because the issue is spun at home as "Energy Independence", the "Right of Sovereign Nations to Peaceful Nuclear Power", and "Building an Environmentally Responsible Infrastructure." These are issues most people agree with in principle pretty much everywhere, and it's one of the few issues the Iranian establishment can call to the fore of political discourse (among both the elites and the people) and either silence their opponents or have their support. It's like those "you're either with us or you don't support the troops" tactics we all saw under Bush 43. An unpopular government will turn to the issues where it's strong to keep itself afloat. So talking tough is not really for our sake.

    The question, then, is whether or not Iran's government is good at playing brinkmanship. If they can't walk the tightrope, they may end up stepping too far and getting bombed.

  • I second Jeff. And A quick note on your claim, Ed:

    The only silver lining is that I fundamentally believe that Iranians are decent, reasonable, and pragmatic people, and as soon as they realize they are all about to be used for USAF target practice it could spur a change in the country’s political system.

    Yeah, 'coz that's what happens when a foreign power attacks you. The population rushes to change regime. Like it happened in the former Yugoslavia, for instance? Serbians used to be great friends and admirers of this country; now most of them hate it, after the well-intended Americans rushed to liberate them from Slobo.

  • Dick waving… that is pretty funny, but precisely correct! Mr. Ahmedinejad has moved his chess piece to show they are not a toothless tiger, but he's made a calculated move to address the issue squarely to Mr. Obama. NOW they can talk as adversaries of semi-equal standing, not as teacher and student. Mr. O will be stern but fair, Mr. A will be skeptical but receptive, they will posture and pose and strike a deal and a nuclear winter will be averted. Call me crazy, but I see Mr. O as a very good chess player.

    I've wondered why all the fuss about the supposed nukes that Iran MAY have a line towards, but where is the noise about Isreal's ACTUAL nuclear capability? It's like the double-super secret no one talks about. Hell, everyone should be WAY more concerned about Israel lobbing one over… Iran hasn't attacked anyone (save for trying to fight off Saddam while he used our weapons), while Israel is the local bully, invading everyone in the 'hood.

    Another thing I've been thinking about and heard very little on… if those morons Rove and Cheney hadn't outed Ms. Plame and gutted their whole nuke-finding program, mebbe this whole 'mine is bigger' charade would have never happened. (sigh) I swear, Rove and Cheney belong in fricking JAIL for their treasonous acts. I hope you are wrong and I am right hopehopehope….

  • I think it is much more obvious than that.
    We have precedent for this; if a nation has nukes we will treat them with kid gloves.
    If they don't have nukes , we will invade under the pretext that they want them.
    Easy choice, get nukes or get "Liberated"…

  • And of course a ME country flicking the bird at America never goes astray. Syria or Jordan, for example, may not agree with Iran, but it's distracting nose-thumbing at the very least. The Persians have been sabre-rattling (or noodle-wiggling) for millenia, this time it's handy to distract the populace from the 50% unemployment, stupid theocratic leaders, stolen-ish election, and a domestic policy which seems to run along the lines of "Allah said…".

    And Israel can claim that they "had no choice" but to start a regional conflict that will kill thousands and cripple the global economy, because, really, who needs the Straits of Hormuz?

  • Twisted_Colour says:

    but we’ll do what we usually do and lay the moral culpability for them on Iran’s leaders.

    Which won't carry much weight in the Muslim world. There's a lot of them and they tend to have long memories.

  • Aslan Maskhadov says:

    The demonstrations are really defensive in nature. If the US attacked, Iran can count on their allies in the Iraqi government to make hell behind the lines for the occupiers there, while interdicting advancing supply columns with long range missiles and other artillery. They are trying to show that Iran will not be a pushover like Iraq was.

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