"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

How do you solve a problem like Tehran?

There is a growing body of evidence (for those who take longer to figure things out, anyway) that Iran is actively supporting the insurgency that continues to kill both our soldiers and large numbers of innocent civilians. They've done so because, thus far, there's been no compelling reason for them to stop. They have gotten a free pass for taking shots at their most hated enemy. It's time to change the balance of this equation. Diplomacy, of course, would be preferable and easy; but the world is still waiting for diplomacy to halt Iran's nuclear program, and thus far it has been an abyssmal failure. So, if diplomacy's what you want, we should really talk to the countries who sustain Iran's center of gravity - her economy - and offer them incentives to undermine that strength. China and Russia buy Iran's oil and sell her weapons. Let's give them a reason to take their business elsewhere.

Or, should massive economic problems caused by such embargoes, or the failure to put them in place at all, fail to deter Tehran, then I'd suggest some devastating military action to focus their attention inward. We don't need an all-out invasion, we just need to wreck things their leadership cares about. Iran has always threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz to oil-bearing traffic; how about we preempt that by mining their harbors and blowing the crap out of their naval facilities? We could target their oil-producing infrastructure and make it impossible for them to even have a product to sell. Or we could target their air power and armored units - crucial tools for quashing an uprising - and promise the Iranian people that should they rise up under the umbrella of our bombers, no tank will reach the streets of Tehran.

Finally, some front-line news by
Michael Yon on the progress of operations in Baqubah. Some background on the operation, and him. Operation Arrowhead Ripper came about because our successes in Anbar and parts of Baghdad squeezed A.Q.I. into the Diyala province. Now, our forces are dealing with them there, until they have nowhere left to run, or no one's left alive to run. Michael Yon is a self-embedded reporter (belongs to no major news group, and is entirely funded by his reader base) who has tried to tell the front-line stories that don't make it into the mainstream media. His articles (accompanied by fantastic, but frequently gut-churning pictures) are well worth reading.


Ammianus Marcellinus said...

I agree that Iran is a tough situation to face, but given the shakiness of Ahmadinejad's government shouldn't we be easing up? If we do anything to put the screws to Iran, the people are going to rally to the government, which makes it harder for us to accomplish our goals. If we ease up while still surreptitiously trying to keep things roiled in Iran, I'd think we'd have a better chance of knocking over the regime without incurring the hostility of the majority of the Iranian people. I'm not saying that we should take the military option off the table (that'd be dumb), but that right now stepping back might be the best thing to do for the short-term.

Cincinnatus said...

I'm not sure how we can "step back" when we haven't taken any real step forward. Thus far, the Iranian government has paid a piddling price, in the form of weak-kneed sanctions, for continuing its nuclear program, and hasn't paid at all for providing weapons and training to Iraqi insurgents. The only thing we've thrown at them is rhetoric, and even then no in our government, with the exception of a few senators, have had the balls to call Iran on its material support to the guys killing our troops and hundreds of innocent civilians. Whatever - if anything - we're doing to keep things roiled in Iran has yet to pay dividends. While I'd love to see ordinary Iranians put Ahmadinejad's head on a stake in the streets of Tehran, that's not going to happen in the short term unless we provide much more material support to whatever opposition exists, or we actively destroy the pillars used to prop up the theocracy. What we need, right here and right now, is to stop the flow of weapons and expertise across the Iranian border to cut down on the bloodshed in Iraq. We should significantly beef up our presence on the border to stop shipments of weapons and ID bad guys, but I'd also propose a one-time-only deal: stop giving the insurgents the means to kill our troops and civilians, or we will destroy a pillar of the theocracy every time we find evidence of your meddling. Perhaps we should refrain from hitting the civilian infrastructure, to show ordinary people our fight is not with them; but we could destroy Iran's minimal naval capability (with the bonus of removing their threat to close the Straits of Hormuz), hit targets developing their nuclear program, or destroy their armored and air forces (both of which are common tools used by authoritarian governments to suppress revolt). That would actually be a step forward that we could pull back from with signs of Iranian cooperation. Right now we have no steps in place, and Iran has absolutely no incentive nor inclination to cooperate despite all of our threats and promises. It's time to really given their government something to chew on.

Ammianus Marcellinus said...

You mean besides all the saber rattling? Well, we're also conducting operations inside Iran in terms of funding resistance and targeting the mullahs. There was an op-ed piece by Lieberman in the WSJ the other day where he sketched out a lot of what you're saying as well. I just don't think a military strike will do anything to stop cross border activity. I'm all for beefing up the border (that dovetails nicely with the redeploy to the periphery idea that is the vague heart of my view of the next step of the war). Though, in all honesty, what do you expect? If some foreign power had troops in Mexico you don't think we'd be a bit interested? Heck, look at all the insanity that's focused on Cuba for forty odd years. Iran is, after Israel, the most powerful nation in the region-they are going to 'meddle' in Iraq. We're naive if we think otherwise. Should we just ignore it and let them cross the border with impunity? No, clearly; but it is not a situation that's going to stop even when we leave Iraq. The problem is that attacking Iran with air strikes really doesn't do anything but prove we can hit them (which I'm pretty sure they are aware of). If we attack Iran, in any form, the people will rally behind the government. Unless you have a spare 300-400,000 troops to invade and occupy, there is no way we can do more than launch air strikes which, while they'll feel good in the short term, won't make us popular with anyone, including the Iranian people, who we really need to court.

Cincinnatus said...

I'm not saying I'm surprised to any extent that Iran is "meddling" with Iraq's affairs; I can understand a certain paranoia after the bloodletting of the Iran-Iraq War. However, the fact that they're basically conducting combat operations against us is, by any standard, an act of war. They simply haven't declared it and no one on our side has really had the courage to call them on it. If we could get real, immediate results by simply funding and stoking resistance inside Iran, enough that the mullahs would have to divert money and men away from fighting us and toward their own internal problems, that'd be fine with me. They can pretend they're not killing our troops and we can pretend we're not trying to bring the whole regime down. As of right now, I've seen no evidence to prove that our efforts to meddle are cutting back on Tehran's willingness to bleed us in Iraq. And I think any resistance movement will be hard-pressed to accomplish anything concrete so long as the mullahs have the hardware to crush it. So we either need to seriously beef up our surreptitious regime change ops with more cash and hardware, or else make it easier for what's already in place to do the job i.e. degrade the regime's ability to quash them. That's why I'd go for strikes against Iranian armor and air assets (legitimate military targets that would have little to no civilian impact, and also vital state tools for crushing dissent) or against al Quds, Revolutionary Guard, and Iranian Army C2 and intelligence targets (make it harder for the regime to coordinate retaliation against resistance groups or gather intel on their operations and personnel). I'd be willing to bet the populace would shed few tears over us causing havoc for the IRGC morality police.

I'm in no hurry to pit our military assets against a more developed defensive capability than Saddam's (I personally would be a lot more nervous about flying through an integrated air defense system than against one guy with an AK who closes his eyes and sprays and prays). And if a foreign military were operating either north or south of our borders, you bet we'd be interested (cue Red Dawn paratroopers . . .). But us being interested and us committing acts of war against a foreign military are two different things. Iran has crossed that line. We owe it to our soldiers and the many civilians who are dying because of Iranian meddling to do much more than we are right now. Covertly would be great, but we should not be afraid of overt actions. Iran knows that we CAN hit them, but they're unconvinced that we WILL.

Cincinnatus said...

An interesting addendum to our discussion by Daniel Pipes (http://www.danielpipes.org/article/4747). If turning this opposition group into an uber-resistance capable of freezing the Iranian nuclear program, stopping the flow of weapons and trained terrorists across the border, and bringing down the theocracy were possible by, say, the end of the week - oh hell, I'll give them 'till the end of the month - then I'd say "Good luck, God speed, call us for air support if you really need it." Something tells me that's not going to happen. It or something like it needs to, though, and it needs to happen in a time-frame of weeks, not months or years.