• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Pulling Out: Debating Middle East Disengagement (Closing)

Having already devoted several thousand words to the topic of American involvement in the Middle East, I will make my closing comments brief.

First, I’d like to thank Dave for a vigorous debate, James for hosting this discussion, and all the readers who have taken the time to follow the back-and-forth and comment on the posts.  This has been a useful exercise for me, pushing me to justify and clarify and even do some actual new research in defense of my arguments.

Second, I want to clarify a few points.  I don’t believe that the U.S. presence in the Middle East has raised the price of oil.  Rather I simply believe that our presence has not had the stabilizing effect on prices that proponents of active engagement suggest.  I also do not believe that the American presence has caused movements like al Qaeda to arise, but I do believe that our highly visible role gives credibility to their extreme, conspiracy-dominated interpretations of history.  My point is not that we are making things worse necessarily, but rather that the benefits of our presence are largely illusory.

Finally, I am not making a call for isolationism.  Quite the contrary.  I believe the United States should have a significant global role.  But I’d like to see us adopt an internationalism that is more reflective than reflexive.  Instead of simply rationalizing a ratchet-like expansion of the American role anywhere and everywhere, we have to be aware of the costs and benefits and tradeoffs of our commitments.  I believe that in the Middle East, our assessments are out of balance.  Our policies there provide many fewer benefits than expected while carrying many more costs than commonly assumed.

Related Posts:

About Bernard Finel
Bernard I. Finel is a Senior Fellow at the American Security Project (ASP) where he directs research on counter-terrorism and defense policy. He is co-author and co-editor of two books, Power and Conflict in the Age of Transparency (2000) and Ultimate Security: Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (2003). He received his B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University and holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University.

Comments

  1. caj says:

    I think it’s about time we stopped being the policemen for all the world anyway, always involving ourselves in other countries affairs.
    We can’t condemn the United Nations for having their role, even though some say they are useless
    but I don’t believe that is true myself,I think they play an important role.
    We sometimes like to be the conquering hero in all these affairs as we tend to think that nobody does it better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. mannning says:

    On rationalizing our role in the Middle East, and making it more reflective than reactive, I would like to make a few comments.

    1. Oil: The marketing and free flow of oil from the ME to all points on the globe requires freedom of the seas for everyone. That is both a serious US national interest in that we currently import from the ME on the order of 16% or more of our oil. That oil flow is a massively important global issue is not a serious debate.

    Thus, my reflection is that any situation that threatens to interrupt the global flow of oil is of vital interest to the US, and worthy of substantial military as well as diplomatic commitment to correct the problem.

    2. WMD. We are presented by Iran with an existence problem. The very existence of Israel is threatened by Iran’s development of WMD. One could make a calculation of the number of nuclear devices at what yield needed to wipe out 80 to 90% of the population of Israel, along with most above-ground facilities. It is a relatively small number, and the delivery of the weapons does not depend upon sophisticated missile technology.
    Once Iran achieves that number of weapons, it is odds-on that they will use them on Israel, in my opinion. The frightening thing is to me that the Iranians may well ignore or accept the fact that the inevitable Israeli counterstrike would similarly destroy a major part of Iran, but percentage-wise much less than for Israel. Iran would survive while Israel would not. How many of the Israeli missile launch positions are known and can be hit in the first attack is yet another imponderable.

    Given sufficient numbers of weapons, the Iranians might well target US facilities, troop concentrations and US ships in the region, and we can not rule out the possibility of ship borne weapons penetrating our largest harbors with devastating results to our nation.

    The rational conclusion for the US, then, is to take all possible measures to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.

    This we have been trying to do with soft diplomacy and sanctions for over 5 years, together with Britain, France and Germany. Meanwhile, Iran has proceeded at a rapid pace, seemingly laughing in our faces, to create the means for producing weapons grade materials.

    Israel will react at some point to take out both the means to produce the weapons and all defensive capabilities standing in their way.
    As I indicated in another post here, the US will become involved in the conflict to reduce Iran’s weapon capability, and for all I know, we are integral to the plan of attack right now.

    This is also in our reflective interest, in my opinion.

    The idea that we should let Israel defend herself falls on this WMD situation. The only practical means for Israel to attack Iran is to overfly Iraq. I do not believe that the US will block such a transit, nor do I believe that Iraq has the capability to do so. We will thus be a party to the attack in fact, even as we will be considered a party to it by Iran in any event.

    We cannot as a rational matter let Israel try to go it alone against Iran.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. anjin-san says:

    Once Iran achieves that number of weapons, it is odds-on that they will use them on Israel, in my opinion

    What is your opinion based on? Do you have any actual evidence that Iran is suicidal as a nation? How many wars has Iran started in the last 50 years?

    Iran would survive while Israel would not.

    Depends on how you define “survive”.

    Given sufficient numbers of weapons, the Iranians might well target US facilities, troop concentrations and US ships in the region, and we can not rule out the possibility of ship borne weapons penetrating our largest harbors with devastating results to our nation.

    Again, what do you base this premise on? You just argued that Iran will attack Israel because they will “survive”. Do you think that if Iran was to employ nukes against the US, its forces or interests, that there would be anything left of Iran besides a sheet of radioactive glass? You arguments do not make much sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. ken says:

    I believe that in the Middle East, our assessments are out of balance. Our policies there provide many fewer benefits than expected while carrying many more costs than commonly assumed.

    It is always the case that sooner or later the locals make the costs for the foreign occupiers too high for the benefits derived from the occupation. The advantage always lies with the locals.

    See the French in Algeria, the US in Viet Nam, and the Russians in Afghanistan.

    The locals goal, starting with Osama bin Laden, was to drive the cost of our ‘imperialism’ up so high that we would give up and leave them alone. It is a tough lesson to learn. I hope we are big enough to learn it without having to suffer conservatives once again claiming we were not patriotic enough for their tastes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. mannning says:

    Neither does the Islamic death wish for their virgins make sense, but that is a well-known thing. Few Westerners would claim that suicide bombing makes sense, yet it too is a fact of life in the ME.

    I would point out also that small vessels loaded with nuclear devices and suicide crews would be totally vaporized in our harbors and elsewhere, and would leave no trace of their origin. Hence we would have to guess who did it. You believe that we would glaze (the rest of) Iran and their 86-odd million people with virtually no evidence of their direct participation?

    Of course, after the explosions in Israel with millions dead or dying, we would have nuclear signatures with which to compare those we subsequently experience, and that would provide evidence of Iranian culpability. Far better to prevent either of these scenarios in the first place, including the small boat threats to us, by stopping the Iranian developments now.

    Then, too, you must believe that the Mullahs really care if Iran is obliterated in the process of eliminating or seriously damaging the “Satans.” I do not believe they care about the consequences to Iran.

    Further, you must believe that the lack of initiating a war in the past has a real bearing on the circumstances existing today! Well, most murderers never did it before, either.

    It is characteristic of Western analyses that they cannot fathom the motives and actions of their ME opponents since it makes no sense to them, but the motives and actions make perfect sense to radical Islamics: think suicide bombers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. anjin-san says:

    Hence we would have to guess who did it.

    I think you need to get a little more information. We invented this technology, and we have been using it for 60 years. We have some game in this area.

    Neither does the Islamic death wish for their virgins make sense, but that is a well-known thing.

    Really? Sounds like pretty like much utter nonsense to me. I live in a 600k house, and I can get in my car, drive for ten minutes, and be somewhere where my life will be in danger if I get out of the car. If you think our society is less violent or values life more than others, you need to get out more.

    Few Westerners would claim that suicide bombing makes sense, yet it too is a fact of life in the ME.

    In my lifetime, the US has killed hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom did not do a damn thing to us. We use B-52s and cruise missiles, nice and clean. Well, sort of. The moral high ground you think we inhabit is more like a mole hill.

    You are spending too much fricking time listening to nut job radio hosts. Have you ever lived in Iran? Have friends from Iran? Been to the home of some Iranian folks for dinner? Have you read the Koran? Visited a mosque? Probably not.

    Yet you hate and fear these people, who have never done anything to you. Don’t be a sheep. Sheep almost always get fleeced.

    I am not saying that Iran is not a potential threat. But lets get real. The idea that Iran is working feverishly to obtain nukes that they will immediately put to use is childish, to say the least.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Manning… I agree about freedom of the seas. Now, your assignment is: lay out the plausible threats and then devise force structure and basing requirement to defeat that threat. Hint: it won’t take permanent ground bases in the Middle East to do it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. mannning says:

    Thank you for the lesson. You make so many false assumptions that it is hard to pick where to start.

    Let’s start with knowledge of the ME. Having been involved with Iran, Kuwait, Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan on defense matters for over ten years, including travel on multiple passports to these areas for many weeks,I do have some direct kinowledge of the people, the geography, the mentality and the religious persuasions of various sects. Having witnessed several atrocities amd terrorist attacks, I have a most intimate feel for the terror they impart, and the reactions they caused.

    I was told by a high ranking Kuwaiti of the use of children by Iran, for instance, to shield their troops during the Iraq/Iran war. One of the main fears the Kuwaitihad was of an attack by Iran. A fear that drove them to spend several billion dollars to defend Kuwait against a specific Iranian threat, ironicallypicking the wrong enemy and the wrong tactics.

    I was in Turkey working with both industry and the defense ministry during one of their major battles with Kurds in the Southeast of the nation, and was privy to their thinking on defense matters. I have been in many homes in the area, and had long conversations about the differences in outlook between the ME and the West, both from the Israeli side and the Islamic side. NoI do not speak the languages, but within the defense community, Englishis the main medium anyway.

    My company had many dealings with the Israelis, including training their men on the systems and equipment we supplied at our home factory. We were run our of Iran after the fall of the Shah but still supplied them with parts and maintenance for many years.

    That is in brief some of the extensive contacts I have had over the years, from which I developed my thoughts about both the main body of the people and about the radical elements that plunge the area into war and terrorist attacks. I assumethat you also have had such insights directly from the people there to lecture me on the subject. If not, then you are being bookish in your thinking.

    As to the religions, I have read the Koran extensively, the haddith, and many of the recent tomes on Islam and their various sects. I am quite familiar with the demands of Jihad–what you might conside the “little Jihad” that is a sacred obligation of Muslims. If you want to debate me on Islam, I feel quite prepared to come at you on it.

    The focus I have is on the threat of Islam to the US and its interests. The fact of violence in our society and the actions we have taken in the past are irrelevantto the discussion of threats.

    Well, tell me again how many centerfugesthe Iranians have spinning hard to produce weapons gradeuranium, and how many they plan to put in service. Wasit 50,000? Why have that number?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. The only issue I raised was sea lanes.

    We could discuss the rest in whatever depth you’d like, but if I say something about sea lanes, don’t assume I am debating any other particular issue.

    Iran is, indeed, a much more complicated problem… though again, why it requires on-land basing is an open question. Absent a regime change strategy, it is hard to see what permanent bases in the ME does to help with Iran. Seems to me that if you are concerned about Israel’s security, an offensive strategy of active disarmament is a dubious proposition, but would ultimately be undertaken largely with air assets. And a defensive strategy revolving around theater missile defense and deterrence does not require troops on the ground.

    Once you get past the tough sounding listing of problems and down to the actual specification of things like contingency plans, force structure, and logistical requirements you’d be surprised, I think, about how little you actually gain from permanent bases on the ground.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. mannning says:

    Bernard Finel:

    The question is really about temporary versus permanent facilities, tents versus more substantial buildings, and the need for positioning our forces where they will be the most effective, reasonably comfortable in a hostile environment, and relatively secure from surprise attack for the period of time deemed necessary, in both staging areas and forward bases.

    We have already built a number of fairly good facilities in Kuwait, the UAE, and, of course, Iraq. We used some top-rate Saudi facilities for the first Gulf War, but that is past and done with. We have very good facilities in the Adana area in Turkey, but there are questions about their continued use. The three places or areas I mentioned have fewer restrictions at this time, but such arrangements are subject to whimsical changes. Wheelus Air force Base is a case in point, as is Saudi itself, and soon Iraq.

    Ultimately, I believe we will have to have a go at Iran, and thus, staging areas, and some nice barrack facilities will become a necessity once more, as has been the situation twice now. Floating a MEF around forever is not a good solution to a major combat situation–they are too lightly armored.

    If you give the Iranian military some credit for how they place and conceal their tiered missile systems for the interdiction of the Gulf, and how they employ them to misguide air attackers into hitting lots of holes in the ground instead of actual weapons, then it will become necessary to dig them out–by hand, as it were–in order to open up the Gulf for traffic. This threat by Iran of closing the Gulf is a well-known one and needs no proof here.

    (I am reminded of the huge attempt ((about half of the missions flown)) by the USAF and Naval air to seek out the scuds in Iraq in GW1, which were rather large, mobile physical targets in the open. They did not have a stirling record of destroying the scuds, and I see no reason to believe that finding many well-hidden, small, one-shot, well camoflaged, missile emplacements in a huge area will succeed either.)

    The threat, of course, was to shut the Gulf if we tried to attack their nuclear facilities early on, which is most certainly a consideration as I posted earlier, with Israel’s decision to attack being one deciding factor.

    So it appears that any attack by the combination of Israel and the US on Iran will have many side effects that would require basing and forward deployments of troops by us, including digging out the missiles near the Gulf, reinforcing Iraq and our residual forces there, protecting our assets in the UAE, and probably serious combat involvements in Israel itself for a period of time, just to hit several highlights.

    Hence, logistics bases, prepositioned equipment, barracks, command facilities, and dockside facilities would be essential, as well as airfields and hanger facilities for staging. The more permanent the better.

    The other way to go, obviously, is to accept the proliferation of Iranian nuclear weapon capabilities, and hope they are not used against anyone, especially us, say via terrorist groups, (to give Iran denial capability). I, for one, seriously doubt that Israel will accept this route.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Manning: Sure… if you want to engage in sustained ground ops in Iran then you will need ground bases in theater.

    I think, however, you’d find that the vast majority of people who’ve studied the option closely consider it absurd. If you really want to eliminate the potential Iranian threat to Gulf shipping, you quickly get yourself into the same challenge the Israelis face with the missile/artillery threat emanating from South Lebanon. Occupation is the only solution and occupation is not a solution at all.

    Life sucks sometimes. But we lived with a nuclear armed Stalin and a nuclear armed Mao and we may yet have to live with a nuclear armed Iran. I don’t like it any more than you do, but it is what it is. The notion that the Iranian leadership is fundamentally more irrational than those two genocidal regimes does not hold up to any serious historical analysis…. There were plenty of people who wanted to launch preventive war against the USSR in the late 1940s and China in the early 1960s…. In retrospect, I think most people who agree is it lucky we didn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. anjin-san says:

    As to the religions, I have read the Koran extensively, the haddith, and many of the recent tomes on Islam and their various sects. I am quite familiar with the demands of Jihad–what you might conside the “little Jihad” that is a sacred obligation of Muslims.

    You apparently think that all Muslims are inherently our enemies. How then, can Kuwait be an ally? Or the UAE or Saudi Arabia? Are they not just waiting for the opportunity to slit our throats? Is not then the concept that we can turn Iraq into a friendly democracy a total fallacy? Clearly every gun we give them will one day be turned upon our troops.

    Or is it only the Muslims who live in Iran you are talking about? Somehow they are different…

    I was told by a high ranking Kuwaiti of the use of children by Iran, for instance, to shield their troops during the Iraq/Iran war.

    Ummm. Yea. Kuwait and Iran are not friendly. Did it ever occur to you that a government official might tell lies about an enemy? Or do you just take everything you are told at face value? At any rate, this official from Kuwait is a Muslim, who, according to you, automatically lives pretty much to kill infidels such as you and I. And yet, you take him at his word.

    For a guy who is trying to pass himself as a sophisticate, your reasoning has a lot of very large holes in it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. mannning says:

    You, anjin-san, do not read closely enough: it is as if you have the preconceived notion that I use the word ALL for Muslims as being dedicated enemies. First, you missed the reference I made to Muslims in general versus radical Muslims that cause us pain.

    Second, you assume that I do not check what I have been told. I do, and I did in this instance. Iran using children in the front lines is a recorded fact, not some propaganda dreamed up on the spot by my contact. It was merely the first time I had heard of such barbarity from another Muslim.

    Third, you refuse to believe that I understand how many–perhaps the majority–of Muslims do not literally and blindly follow the precepts of Islam to the letter. I hope they do not, but, after all, I have not polled all of the Islamic world in an attempt to find out. Have you? I doubt it.

    The hidden threat here, however, is still the coersion that Muslim leaders can exert on any of their followers wherever they are to perform Jihadic actions, or else to lose their families in retribution. This has been reported many times.

    However, fourth, you appear not to realize that it is some of the leadership of Islamic states, and some of the leadership of the religion itself that incite and even force their following to acts that are truly reprehensible, or MADE FOR TV mass events.

    On the other hand, there are a few Muslim leaders that are rational individuals with whom we can act and build trusting relations, and it is these that we can count upon as friends and allies.

    To cut off a person’s head on TV in the name of Allah is a mark of absolute depravity in our eyes, and it should be in theirs as well. To enter a crowded restaurant and set off a bomb is an act that you should condemn with all your heart. Yes, it has happened all too often by and at the behest of Muslims in power positions.

    It is these Muslims that I condemn, and wish to stop from their inhuman acts by whatever means needed. It is Muslims that threaten to wipe Israel off the map with their new-found weapons that I condemn. It is a minority that runs the Islamic world, and I do not see this power group to be headed in a peaceful direction at all, but, rather, towards conflict with the West, with a few notable exceptions.

    If you can make sense of the 9/11 group of Saudis as operating totally by themselves with no support from the ME at all, I think you are deluded, and desperately looking for an excuse for all of the acts of utter barbarity that today’s Muslim radicals have perpetrated on the West. IT IS A VERY LONG LIST. You sound like a Noam Chomsky fan, or perhaps Ward Churchill. Good luck to you.

    Yet, I hear excuses and deflections, nitpicks and nonsense, not a reaction of horror and a strong determination to stop such actions from you. That is, to me, a terribly flawed attitude and an imperfect analysis of events.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. mannning says:

    I suggest, Bernard Finel, that the Middle East is a theater of the absurd, where practicality and rationality gives way to frenzy and atrocities. We do not necessarily have all of the options we would like to have, nor do we control events to the degree we would like.

    A speculation:

    Israel decides to attack, with or without the US, and consults with us in advance.

    We try to discourage them forcefully, but they have set the time and the countdown is underway.

    We realize that we will be involved by Iran whatever we do, and decide to support the attack.
    The thought of trying to stop the Israelis by force is rejected.

    We then realize that we will have to take out the nuclear weapons development sites, long range missile sites, and the anti-shipping missile sites.

    To do this, we will have to reduce the command and control and communications facilities and the anti-air defenses surrounding these targets, before we can hit the main targets with relative safety.

    The attack proceeds, and we quickly realize, or already know, that we do not know where a large number of the target sites are located or how to find them from the air or satellite surveillance.

    What we may have from our continuing recce is a long list of disturbed ground sites that have IR signatures with tracks around them, on the order of ten or twenty thousand or more.

    Even then, we have no way to decide that these are the sites we should hit and no others. Hitting all of these sites would require a huge number of sorties, and the results may be far from what is desired.

    More holes in the ground appear every hour, especially along the Southern Coast. Are they missile sites or just holes in the ground?

    We begin to take fire from these one-shot per site anti-ship missiles, and some serious hits are made. Shipping comes to a halt, with massive economic impact around the world.

    Now what? Our best air assault efforts are foiled by massive numbers of simple holes in the ground, and the Gulf is blocked. We must have hit some of the nuclear sites, but we cannot be sure of how many or what the damage will do to their program.

    The Gulf remains blocked to oil shipping, and we are taking losses of our combat ships and men in the area. We cannot find and destroy the “loaded anti-ship missile sites” fast enough to ensure the safety of
    civilian ships. I have no accurate idea what a week or two of blocked oil shipments would do to the world’s economy, but it would be devastating.

    At this point, there seem to be three options:

    1) don’t start this at all in the first place, a decision not strictly under our control which gives the Iranians as many nukes as they can build, and possibly find a way to use;

    2) send in ground forces to find at least the AS missiles, which Finel(and his sources)has dubbed absurd, but then, if we do not do this, they still block the Gulf; or

    3)continue the air assaults in the hope of doing sufficient damage to halt the ambitions of the Iranian leadership, perhaps with an enlarged target list to include all military installations, and defense-related industrial targets. In this, hoping that the Iranians will cave in before they lose their essential military and industrial base (and undoubtedly, many, many civilian casualties). The Gulf remains blocked.

    Given that Israel carries out their move, and we do not forcefully halt them, rather we join them, that reduces the options to #2 or #3, or, I suppose, both, if you choose #2.

    So what is the right way to go, Bernard?

    Is #2 really absurd? Is it in our political will to stop Israel by force? Many Iranian lives are lost in #2 and #3. So tell me, please? Seems like a punt and pray situation, only we cannot punt!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. charles johnson says:

    The government is currently spending $1 trillion a year in the Middle East. That’s $3,000 apiece for every man, woman, and child in the US. Anyone who believes that’s money well spent is mentally retarded.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. 2) send in ground forces to find at least the AS missiles, which Finel(and his sources)has dubbed absurd, but then, if we do not do this, they still block the Gulf; or

    What happens on day 2?

    Let’s say you do dig em all out… then what? What prevents them from rebuilding?

    You are proposing an entire ME basing strategy on the basis of a scary scenario that has no actual solution.

    If the choices are occupy a chunk of Iran indefinitely or do without Persian Gulf oil, finding a way to make do without the oil is the easy answer…

    Btw, what happens to Iran when it can’t export oil either?

    Whatever… look, good luck selling your arguments. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of takers, though happily not among the U.S. military or the incoming administration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. anjin-san says:

    Manning,

    After all this typing, you have not made a rational, coherent or convincing case that Iran is somehow different and that they are hell bent on acquiring nukes and putting them to immediate use, hence committing suicide.

    Second, you assume that I do not check what I have been told. I do, and I did in this instance. Iran using children in the front lines is a recorded fact, not some propaganda dreamed up on the spot by my contact.

    Perhaps you could share the documentation with the rest of us. In any case, all nations commit atrocities in war, including this one.

    If you can make sense of the 9/11 group of Saudis as operating totally by themselves with no support from the ME at all, I think you are deluded, and desperately looking for an excuse for all of the acts of utter barbarity that today’s Muslim radicals have perpetrated on the West. IT IS A VERY LONG LIST. You sound like a Noam Chomsky fan, or perhaps Ward Churchill. Good luck to you.

    Ummm. Where did I say anything about the 9/11 terrorists acting alone? Are your arguments so weak that you are resorting to simply making things up?

    I have a news flash for you. Politicians, including Iranian ones, say all sorts of things in speeches. A large portion of it is utter crap strictly for political consumption. In this case, the man in question is not running the country and does not have the power to take Iran to war even if he desperately wanted to. There are also serious questions about the accuracy of the translation that is so often quoted by Rush, Hannity and company.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. anjin-san says:

    I think you are deluded, and desperately looking for an excuse for all of the acts of utter barbarity that today’s Muslim radicals have perpetrated on the West. IT IS A VERY LONG LIST.

    I excuse barbarity by no one. But we do need to attempt to understand the thinking of the people who oppose us look at what motivates them, and understand our own part in this mess.

    Is beheading someone on TV an atrocity? Of course it is. What do you have to say to a man in Iraq who’s grandmother or child was blown to bits in the “shock and awe” bombings? That their deaths were necessary and part of some greater good? That we deserve forgiveness? That man probably just thinks we are barbarians who killed his loved one. Do you have an argument that would convince him that he is wrong?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. mannning says:

    Bernard F., It isn’t a choice for us to allow the Gulf to be blocked indefinitely by Iran. And how we got to #2 isn’t completely under our control.

    You are proposing an entire ME basing strategy on the basis of a scary scenario that has no actual solution.

    My speculation was not an entire ME basing strategy, but a “what if” scenario that has a realistic basis, and whether the scenario is accepted by the US military or, especially, the Obama administration or not, is a matter of indifference to me, and it will either unfold in real life or not in somewhat that way. Should we use this possiblity to affect our deployments? You seem to be totally hung up on reducing our basing whatever the real world shows us. Withdrawal syndrome in full flower.

    The first basic premise was that, in the end, Isarel will decide to attack Iran, with or without the US. So take it from there. Basing decisions would merely follow the perceived needs as we see them from that point on.

    The end question it proposes is what the hell do we do if that starts to unfold in just that way?

    All you can say about it is that we can simply do without Persian Gulf oil (somehow and somewhen!)! Can the rest of the world do without oil from the Gulf? Can we sit by and let the Iranians take down much of the world’s economy, including ours even deeper, you must realize? Your answer is a resounding YES! Truly amazing!

    You are simply avoiding the hard questions the “scary scenario” poses.

    I believe it is the case that much of Iranian oil is on their West border, so by occupying the Southern part of Iran we would virtually control their oil, for the moment, at least.

    There is nothing that says we would not, or could not, use that lever to open up their oil flow for them in return for a few key changes, such as destroying, under supervision, their nuclear weapons facilities–any that remain, that is. Far fewer casualties there that way, I would think. With that objective reached, and a few verifiable conditions imposed on their military activities, it would seem possible to simply withdraw–no long term occupation needed, one would hope.

    I will comment on what I call your “speculation” that the US Military has not and does not accept this scenario. I believe you will find that the US Military has gamed exactly this scenario, in substantial measure, anyway, and has most likely arrived at some of the hard answers you have studiously avoided.

    I am fairly certain they have done so, more than once, and with many more variations than I have thrown out here, in fact, but I do not have the proof of that available to me anymore as I once did.

    Perhaps with your comprehensive current accesses, if you indeed have them, you can make the right inquiries and establish the truth. You will have to keep the details to yourself, of course, but it might open your eyes a bit.

    The further problem is political, not military, IMO. I do not credit the new administration with having grasped this nettle fully yet, nor do I think you have, either.

    I sincerely hope that their eventual answer to what transpires is more humane than starving many nations from their oil needs, bringing down all of the economies and causing misery and death all over the planet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. mannning says:

    ..and let the lambs lie down with the lions, eh anjin-san?

    Meanwhile, back in our world today, we have some existence problems.

    As I said to Finel, whether this scenario is taken to heart or not is a matter of indifference to me; others have assumed the mantle, and what will be, will be. I do know that much similar–even near identical– work has been performed in depth in DOD in the past. Whether it still has any significant influence or not is totally unknown to me. Politics trumps logic all too often, especially in these days, and in the days to come.

    Whether I convince you or not, or anyone else, is neither here nor there. The “scary scenario”, which is not in its essence any invention of mine, still sits there demanding adequate answers, not punting or deriding it as Finel and you have done.

    My pointing out the origins of the 9/11 disaster was simply a reminder of how far Muslims can go in their death wish, and with significant support from the homeland, Saudi Arabia. Nothing more, and nothing less.

    More nitpicking.

    As if you have no knowledge of the use of children by Iran in the war with Iraq, you ask me to do your homework on Google:

    http://www.indopedia.org/Iran-Iraq_War.html

    Here is one of many references to this horror. You can Google for the rest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Yes, of course they have gamed it. And based on the way the games turn out, you’d find that most senior military officers find the notion of occupying southern Iran an undesirable proposition.

    I am not saying my approach is cost free. Indeed, my argument is for starting a long-term process is mitigating the consequences of our commitments and of reducing our commitments. But you are dramatically underestimating the costs of your approach — in lives, treasure, and geopolitically.

    But as I say, good luck with it. You want to justify our presence on the ground on the basis of the keeping the option of occupying a big chunk of Iran? Go ahead. As I say, you won’t find many takers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. mannning says:

    BF: There is certainly one agreement we can reach, and that is LONG TERM disengagement–no argument there. We most likely disagree on what long term means: to me it is, say, ten to fifteen years out or more.

    We have potentially a second area of agreement, and that is whatever the next few years bring, the security costs we may well have to incur will be significant no matter which scenario plays out.

    Looking at the gross tradeoffs in the near term, we would have to choose a course with the greatest chance of success and the least cost in lives and treasure, not just for the US, but also for the least impact on the world as well. This moves the ultimate decision as to our course to the political arena, as it should be, and the military will have to salute and get on with it.

    I am totally unsurprised by your insistence that senior military officers are not enthusiastic with any scenario that includes putting forces into Iran. That is what they do nine times out of ten, but they usually bow to the civilian leadership when it has been decided to go for insertion, which would be inevitable, in my opinion, in the scenario given here. There are many other scary scenarios to consider as well.

    What you appear to avoid are the incremental options and exploitation of existing facilities to enhance our total position in the ME, not just Iran, at a far lower cost than having to rush in, were Conplan XXXX to be the option, within the near term in the ME. I repeat, it is not simply Iran that we should be concerned with.

    The idea of taking out an insurance policy at low cost in the situation against the possibility of massive costs and casualties later on somewhere in the ME seems to get lost in the rush to withdraw no matter the exposure.

    This has been the hallmark of the left–get out and don’t look back. Go home to Fortress America. One might point out that GW1 had to be followed by GW2 some decade or so later, and the costs in lives and treasure spiraled up enormously. Want to bet on the possibility of a GW3 in the next five to ten years, somewhere in the ME? Odds on, in my opinion.

    However, takers may well be rare at this moment, considering who won the elections and dominate the decision positions for the nonce. I will give it some time, but not much. Imprudent decisions are not the sole province of Conservatives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. mannning says:

    CJ: No one should think that I am advocating spending a trillion dollars a year in the ME on the chance of a specific scenario. Far from it.

    But, I do believe we should be preparing to hold up our interests in the ME at some cost, including among the steps some forms of prepositioning and basing, while hoping our current war costs for Iraq are reduced massively real soon now.

    We have been doing somewhat the same thing in Europe since 1947 or so, and in Korea since the end of that conflict. Perhaps one thing that we could do is reduce our commitments in those two places to near zero.

    I do not believe, however, in two things that the current Bush administration does believe in: 1)forcing democracy on Islamic nations such as Iraq; or 2)taking on civil reconstruction, or primary civil construction for that matter, on our tax nickel in those lands. These two things are a major part of your trillion dollars a year.

    Helping to secure borders by some means, if only by military goods and humanitarian support, against a major invasion is another matter entirely, such as the border between Iraq and Iran, or Israel and “Palestine”.

    This is an international problem, not just a US problem, but we do not seem to have an effective International solution via the UN. As Finel says elsewhere, it is a mess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. mannning says:

    BF: I seem to recall the predictions of casualties for Gulf War 2 from the analysts and the “senior military men” as being on the order of tens of thousands, a number that would give anyone pause. Yet, we went in anyway.

    Lo and behold, the total of our casualties didn’t reach even 500. So much for the analyst’s predictions, and the senior staff’s opinions. I suppose they have become much, much better at it today, haven’t they? Or have they?

    It is a very safe idea for senior military men to overestimate the probable casualties in a potential situation, isn’t it? The ghost of ‘Nam hovers over the Pentagon still.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. anjin-san says:

    One might point out that GW1 had to be followed by GW2 some decade or so later,

    One might point it out, but one would be wrong. GW2 was an entirely unnecessary war based on a false premise. There was no “had to be”.

    Lo and behold, the total of our casualties didn’t reach even 500.

    A figure achieved only by claiming an arbitrary and false endpoint for the war. If fact the deaths of our troops are over 4000 and still rising. It is also worth noting that you are not one of the people being shot at.

    This has been the hallmark of the left–get out and don’t look back. Go home to Fortress America.

    Try harder. This is flat out BS.

    We have been doing somewhat the same thing in Europe since 1947 or so, and in Korea since the end of that conflict.

    Yes, and Western Europe and S Korea were both faced with very real external military threats. They wanted us there. The situation in the Middle East today is different, your comparison is bogus.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. anjin-san says:

    It is a very safe idea for senior military men to overestimate the probable casualties in a potential situation, isn’t it?

    I just can’t let this one pass. It is very safe for you to talk about “light” casualties when your ass is not getting shot at.

    Course you Bushies are big on sending other fellows off to die, the important thing is that you are never at risk, no?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. mannning says:

    Didn’t I tell you that I was in the Korean Conflict, only three of my years in the combat zone? No, I didn’t, because it is not relevant to the discussion. Experiences of killing people up front and personal are not something I want to discuss here.

    Yes, I can discuss much about war, weapons, casualties, and a bit of strategy because I have been there, done that, and survived it and then worked within the DOD, CIA, NATO, and the defense industry for over 43 years all told, about 30 of it relevant to this discussion in my estimation. One gets a certain perspective about the inevitability of taking casualties, or else you simply cannot function in military organizations.

    I have worked on direct contracts for the MOD’s of Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Kuwait, Nigeria, and Canada as an adviser. I have worked in the analysis design and development of intel systems, command and control systems, weapons systems, naval warships, aircraft and space systems.

    Your pitch seems consistently like that of an academic at a preset debate, looking to score nitpicks because you can’t really comment on anything else with any authority, except your bleeding heart.

    After combat just about everyone involved and everyone that can bring experience to the table, sits back at the home base and discusses how things went, what could have been done better, what the casualties were, and what tactics and strategies we should employ next time out to reduce casualties and, oh by the way, win.

    I have been involved in the after action efforts for Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf1 at the request of the military. To tell the truth, such conversations are ongoing long after the fact. What have you done in this regard?

    You are out of line.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0