November 20, 2006

Advocating Assured Destruction

It appears Jules Crittenden agrees with the general theory I wrote about Friday in Another Direction , where I advocated making Iran and Syria "feel the pain" for being active state sponsors of terrorism. Crittenden writes:

An erroneous assumption has been made by the Iranians and by many in the west that because our ground forces are hyper-extended in Iraq, and Iranian nuke facilities are buried deep, there is nothing the United States can do about an Iranian nuclear program. This is not true. There is no need to invade or occupy Iran. We do not want to do that. We would prefer to see the Iranian people's desire for free elections honored, but that doesn't appear likely any time soon.

What we have to do to influence Iran is explain that if Iran does not begin to cooperate with the international community, we will substantially isolate Iran and destroy its means of supporting terrorism and pursuing nuclear weapons. This can be done incrementally, to give the Iranians an opportunity to reconsider their policy. Our Navy, not hyper-extended in Iraq, can blockade their ports. Our Air Force, also not hyper-extended in Iraq, can begin reducing their terrorist-support infrastructure. Things like oil fields, refineries and roads leading toward Syria and suspected nuclear sites. This can continue ... pretty much as long as the Iranians want it too.

While I didn't specify it, it was primarily U.S. Air Force and Naval air power I had in mind when I advocated the reduction of Iran's naval and marine forces. Single strikes with precision munitions could destroy their few corvettes and frigates (their three destroyers are so useless they aren't worth wasting bombs on), and their remaining fleet, which is composed of patrol boats and number small craft, would be easily destroyed with cluster munitions. Only their small marine outposts near the Straits of Hormuz may require SpecOps insertions, and that is purely speculative. Air power alone may suffice.

The other targets, the oil fields, refineries, roads, and nuclear sites, are clearly air power targets that Iran is nearly defenseless against, even with the purchase of the low-to-medium altitude TOR-1 SAMs from Russia.

I've said it before and I will say it again and again because it bears repeating: terrorism will only be supported by states for as long as they see it as a cost-effective way to achieve their foreign policy goals. When the cost of supporting terrorism becomes too high, the state support of terrorism will cease or be greatly curtailed, making it far more difficult for terrorist groups in Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza to survive.

Update: I missed this earlier, but even the L.A. Times is getting on the bomb Iran bandwagon:

If Tehran establishes dominance in the region, then the battlefield might move to Southeast Asia or Africa or even parts of Europe, as the mullahs would try to extend their sway over other Muslim peoples. In the end, we would no doubt win, but how long this contest might last and what toll it might take are anyone's guess.

The only way to forestall these frightening developments is by the use of force. Not by invading Iran as we did Iraq, but by an air campaign against Tehran's nuclear facilities. We have considerable information about these facilities; by some estimates they comprise about 1,500 targets. If we hit a large fraction of them in a bombing campaign that might last from a few days to a couple of weeks, we would inflict severe damage. This would not end Iran's weapons program, but it would certainly delay it.

What should be the timing of such an attack? If we did it next year, that would give time for U.N. diplomacy to further reveal its bankruptcy yet would come before Iran will have a bomb in hand (and also before our own presidential campaign). In time, if Tehran persisted, we might have to do it again.

Can President Bush take such action after being humiliated in the congressional elections and with the Iraq war having grown so unpopular? Bush has said that history's judgment on his conduct of the war against terror is more important than the polls. If Ahmadinejad gets his finger on a nuclear trigger, everything Bush has done will be rendered hollow. We will be a lot less safe than we were when Bush took office.

Finally, wouldn't such a U.S. air attack on Iran inflame global anti-Americanism? Wouldn't Iran retaliate in Iraq or by terrorism? Yes, probably. That is the price we would pay. But the alternative is worse.

After the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in 1917, a single member of Britain's Cabinet, Winston Churchill, appealed for robust military intervention to crush the new regime. His colleagues weighed the costs the loss of soldiers, international derision, revenge by Lenin and rejected the idea.

The costs were avoided, and instead the world was subjected to the greatest man-made calamities ever. Communism itself was to claim perhaps 100 million lives, and it also gave rise to fascism and Nazism, leading to World War II. Ahmadinejad wants to be the new Lenin. Force is the only thing that can stop him.

Are we beginning to detect a theme, folks? Iran will not comply with economic or political pressure, and so the remaining option is military in nature, and that military option is best expresses in an air power war again key Iranian targets.

One thing that these men are leaving out, however, is what may happen as a result of air strikes targeting Iran's nuclear facilities and other infrastructure sites.

Critics of such an attack would point out that as a result, Hezbollah and Hamas would like begin another intense rocket campaign on Israel.

I think this is entirely correct, and entirely beside the point.

Despite all the bluster over Hezbollah's last war with Israel earlier this year, Israel suffered very few casualties. I think the figure was just 157 deaths, most of them soldiers, in Lebanon. In opposition, Hezbollah lost as many as half of their armed fighters in southern Lebanon, and their infrastructure was wrecked. Hamas and Hezbollah can indeed launch attacks, but the retaliatory strikes from Israel will certainly cause more damage.

More troubling is the thought that an attack on Iran may trigger and Iranian ground invasion of Iraq. Iran has a military of more than 300,000, most of then conscripts, and they have long-range rockets that may cause significant Iraqi civilian casualties.

That said, any Iranian ground invasion of Iraq would be suicidal for the Iranian troops involved. They have no air cover to speak of, and the invasion would result in a larger scale repeat of 1991's Highway of Death as they are decimated by U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy bombers. Such a crushing loss could hurt the mullahcracy, and so even as fanatical as they are, they would most likely not go this route. Iran wages asymmetrical terrorist campaign precisely to avoid the crushing losses their over-hyped military would take on a modern battlefield.

It increasingly appears that our best option for lasting peace in Iraq and the wider Middle East is a conventional air campaign to reduce Iran's asymmetrical warfare capabilities.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 20, 2006 09:12 AM | TrackBack

Grow up.

Posted by: Fred at November 20, 2006 12:25 PM

Still waiting for Fred's alternative approach.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at November 20, 2006 01:24 PM

Wait, are you asking for an argument as to why we shouldn't bomb Iran? War is not the first answer, Purple Avenger, it is the last. It is what happens when all other options have disappeared. Even Raygun recognized this.

If you were waiting for the alternative approach that was asked for the other day, I gave you a reading assignment. I'm not going to condense a book into a sound bite for you lizard brains.

Posted by: Fred at November 20, 2006 01:38 PM

Wait, are you asking for an argument as to why we shouldn't bomb Iran? War is not the first answer, Purple Avenger, it is the last. It is what happens when all other options have disappeared. Even Raygun recognized this.

Alternative #1: Bomb Iran.
Alternative #2: "War is not the answer."

#2 is such a clear and well-stated plan for action in dealing with the Iran's nuclear proliferation. Who could possibly disagree with going that route? "War is not the answer." Great answer!

Posted by: MikeZ at November 20, 2006 02:00 PM


Who said "War is not the answer." I didn't. I said war is not the first answer. If we are so worried about nuclear proliferation, then why did we just give the go ahead to India (not a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty)?

Posted by: Fred at November 20, 2006 02:14 PM

It's not that complicated. There is no desire within the military establishment, the administration or the general population to widen the conflict we find ourselves in. You cannot undue what has been done in Iraq so an attack on Iran is a widening of the conflict.

Posted by: NYNick at November 20, 2006 02:19 PM

You do realize that when the Iranians retaliate in Iraq, they will not conveniently line up on a highway in mass numbers for us to kill them easily don't you? They will infiltrate large numbers of small groups to cooperate with their fellow Shiites in Iraq to take out U.S. patrols while supplying mass quantities of weapons to anti-U.S. Iraqi politicians like Sadr. Since we are barely keeping a lid on the situation in Iraq now, what do you think will happen when the Iranians apply this extra anti-U.S. flame to the pot?

Posted by: Counterfactual at November 20, 2006 04:32 PM

They will infiltrate large numbers of small groups

Not if spooky has anything to say about it...

Posted by: Purple Avenger at November 21, 2006 12:27 PM

Who said "War is not the answer." I didn't. I said war is not the first answer. If we are so worried about nuclear proliferation, then why did we just give the go ahead to India (not a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty)?
Posted by Fred at November 20, 2006 02:14 PM

If you can't comprehend the difference between India and Iran then really this entire conversations is absurd.

Be that as it may, I'd like to post a question in return. Just when is war a viable answer? Yes, it is not a good first response. But we've gone through years of negotiations, violated agreements, and ignored offers to get to this point.

When was war with Iraq the answer? After all, we had gone through years of cease fire violations, assassinations attempts (by them against our leaders), ignored resolutions, violent repression of Iraqis, blood money paid to Palestinian bombers, on and on and on. And yet, war was not the 'first answer' in Iraq either.

So, given that war should not be the 'first answer', when is it applicable? And the answer 'when Tel Aviv disappears in a mushroom cloud as promised over and over by President Ahmadinejad' is not acceptable on any level.

Posted by: Michael in Colorado at November 21, 2006 05:31 PM

I've linked to you here:

Posted by: Consul-At-Arms at November 21, 2006 06:10 PM

So, given that war should not be the 'first answer', when is it applicable?

When a democrat president orders it ;->

Posted by: Purple Avenger at November 22, 2006 12:36 AM