When will the crazy train stop? This is exceedingly dangerous.
First, is Iran meddling in Iraq? Of course Iran is attempting to influence events in Iraq. If Iran had invaded Canada and occupied it, would we stand idly by? And that is a bad example because Iran suffered hundreds of thousands, possibly as many as a million casualties, in the war between Iran and Iraq. Iraq started that war. It is ridiculous to expect Iran to stand idly by as their sworn enemy the USA attempts to remake their neighboring country Iraq, which attacked them once before with devastating and terrible results. Yes, Iran is attempting to influence events in Iraq and Iran will not stop - NO NATION in Iran's position would do any different. Iran's actions are not a cassus belli, they are merely a rational (albeit unwelcome) response to anarchy on their doorstep. I don't care about "proof" of Iranian involvement with Shia militias, or "proof" of Iranian weapons and explosives showing up in Iraq. We did even more for the Afghan tribesmen fighting the Soviet Union after they foolishly invaded Afghanistan. Iran's actions are not a reason to go to war! I say this knowing that Iran's actions have almost certainly helped lead to the death of friends of mine. But I say this because it is true. Yes, Iran is involved in Iraq, any national security professional that is surprised by that should be fired immediately. As it was inevitable and expected that Iran would do so as a result of our invasion of Iraq, we can not claim we are justified in invading Iran because they are doing exactly what we expected them to do, what we would do in the same situation, what ANY nation would do in their shoes. Their actions are not grounds for war, their actions are instead reasonable, rational, and harmful to us. That last part - harmful to us - is not a justification for war. We caused the harm to ourselves by invading Iraq. We brought ourselves to the Iranian border, Iran did not come to us. And Iran must, for its own national security, be involved in what takes place in Iraq. They have little choice. For us to consider it a cause for war means we expected, or should have expected, to go to war with Iran when we invaded Iraq in 2003 - for war would be the outcome of our actions, not Iran’s. We had, and have, a choice, while Iran has few options. Iran must be involved in what occurs in Iraq, we don’t have to be.
Second, and perhaps more important: WE WOULD LOSE. A war with Iran would not end with a "liberation" of Tehran. No friendly regime would be installed in Iran were we to foolishly attack. Iran would not surrender. Iranians would not greet us as liberators. The most ardent opponents of the current Iranian regime would rally round their flag and fight us (remember Bush’s approval ratings of 90%? 9 out of 10 of us actually supported him following 9/11 - and the same reaction would occur in Iran, it is human nature). It would cost us thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of US casualties. It would require a draft, a LARGE draft, just to prevent our entire force currently in Iraq from being overrun. Our nominal Shia "allies" in Iraq would side with Iran - not because they are "bad," or because all Muslims are “bad,” or because they are devious, but because they don't consider Iran an enemy, they are co-religionists, and Iran gave shelter and support to many Shia who fled Saddam's brutal regime. In other words, they would side with Iran because it is entirely rational for them to do so, while siding with us would be irrational. The Maliki "government," Sadr, Badr, you name it - all would side with Iran. The Sunnis already hate us, so don't expect support from them, although they would not welcome and would likely fight against any Iranian troops in Iraq as many hate the Shia (Sunnis sometimes refer to Shia Iraqis as Iranians or Persians). So we would be beset on all sides.
What would be our response? Good question. The answer is “not much other than killing lots of civilians and destroying Iranian infrastructure.” We don’t have the resources for a war with Iran.
We have no reserves left. Our conventional (read: heavy armor tank-on-tank manuever warfare) capability is nothing like it was in 2003 - it basically does not exist. Few (if any) infantry or tank commanders have any idea how to conduct the kind of operation we launched against Iraq in 2003 - we haven't trained that way in years, we no longer conduct force-on-force maneuver training at any of our CTCs, something that is critical if our much-vaunted "conventional" capability is to be effective. In short: the Army of 2003 no longer exists. Today's Army is not trained and not very well-equipped to mount a conventional campaign. As a result our expectation of a lightning-fast, brilliantly-executed campaign is a false expectation. Our army and marine corps are simply not trained and equipped to do that anymore - we haven’t done it since 2003 and we don’t train for it anymore, and a campaign like the invasion of 2003 is something that an army has to practice, practice, and practice at in order to execute it. We don’t train that way anymore at all. By way of comparison, we used to run anywhere from 9 to as many as 14 force-on-force maneuver rotations at the National Training Center (the NTC) a year. We do none - NONE - now, the entire NTC now trains brigades for Iraq, not for maneuver warfare. Tank companies don’t train in their tanks to fight other tanks. Infantry units don’t train to fight conventional forces on a conventional battlefield. We train for our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan because that is all our tiny and overworked and overburdened and neglected and mis-used army and marines have time to do.
But why worry? We have control of the air. As Adm. Mullen notes,
a conflict with Iran would be "extremely stressing" but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force.The problem is that if you expect our air power to win a ground conflict with Iran you are AN IDIOT.
If airpower were capable of winning a ground conflict against a ground force, why did we invade Iraq? And why are we still there if air power can suffice in the place of boots on the ground? Iran could send 300K+ ground troops into Iraq if we were stupid enough to think dropping bombs would cause them to stop meddling in Iraq. Instead our 140K troops in Iraq would find themselves under fire from all sides. And air power? If we think the Iranian military is stupid enough to expose themselves to our air power, why are we so concerned about them as a threat? If they are real threat we must assume they are not dummies - and that they will know how to counter our airpower superiority. It isn't hard to do. The North Vietnamese did it. The Iraqi insurgents do it. The Afghans did it to the Soviets. They do it to us now. But Iran? No, they wouldn't figure out that their best option would be to use ground troops who deploy in terrain (an urban environment) that negates our air superiority. Because I guess they can't read and aren't paying attention to what is happening in Iraq - oh, and yet that is why we apparently need to fight them - because of what they are doing in Iraq.
We have no capability left other than to drop bombs, most likely on civilians. On families. And we would hope that our "shock and awe" from our air power would result in Iranian capitulation, rather than result in an angry Iranian people becoming even more determined to fight against our soldiers than they were before the first bomb dropped. Sure, that will happen, just like the British surrendered to Nazi Germany as a result of the London Blitz - oh wait. Well, like the Germans surrendering to the Allies as a result of the air - oh, I think a few ground troops were needed there too. Well, like the Algerian resistance capitulated to France - oh. Well, like the North Koreans and Chinese defeat in Korea... hmm. The Vietnam War? hmmm.... Well, our shock and awe campaign worked in Iraq... umm, wait, no it didn’t.
The only way to win a ground war against Iran is to fight on the ground against Iran.
But Adm. Mullen says we have reserves in air power. That is, in effect, an almost straight-forward admission that we do NOT have reserves in land power, that our ground forces are fully committed. But do we really need anybody to tell us that? If you do, then here: we are fully committed and have no ground reserves left, any conflict of even middling size would require a draft in order to respond effectively with ground troops. Now you have been told.
To put it simply: we would fight like hell, the Iranians would fight like hell, but we would not and could not defeat them and occupy Iran, and we might end up in an unmitigated disaster that swallows our tiny army and marines and leaves us incredibly vulnerable. We would not be better off if we went to war with Iran. It would be world-class stupid. And that scares me because this administration is a big fan of doing things that are world-class stupid.
The Washington Post notes
But while Mullen and Gates have recently stated that the Tehran government certainly must know of Iranian actions in Iraq, which they say are led by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, or Quds Force, Mullen said he has "no smoking gun which could prove that the highest leadership [of Iran] is involved in this."That is what scares me the most. This is not mere saber-rattling, you can rattle sabers without tak like this. This is an attempt to build an actual reason to actually go to war - this is preparation to draw the saber, not merely rattle it, because this kind of talk is not aimed at Iran, it is aimed at the American people!
It is like the specter of WMDs - the debate over whether they existed became the key factor in whether to invade Iraq, instead of the better question: with or without WMDs, did Iraq present a threat requiring an invasion? Even WITH nerve agent, blood agent, or other chemical weapons, there was not a sufficient threat from Saddam's Iraq to justify invasion. Somehow that point of debate was swept away by red-herring WMD discussions. Had we found a WMD program in Iraq, had one actually still existed and we found it, we would still be in the same mess and the invasion would still be a mistake. Having a weapon does not mean there is an intention or a capability to use it. If Saddam had chemical weaponry, so what? We KNEW he had it in the 1980s and did not invade even after he used it, so why invade in 2003 just because he had it? The existence or non-existence of WMDs did not justify the invasion, but when the question became "does he have WMDs?" it made the most important follow-up question, "and if so, should we invade?" simply disappear. It became a deadly and incorrect assumption: “if Iraq has WMDs we must invade, so does Saddam have them?” The real question was simpler: “should we invade Iraq?” The answer appears as clear now to 80% of Americans as it did to most military professionals then: NO. Hell No. It would be a really bad idea - and it was. But the red-herring question of "does Saddam have WMDs?" swallowed that debate entirely, leaving us with a really bad idea executed really badly.
Here, the issue of a "smoking gun" showing top-level Iranian government support for our enemies in Iraq is the red herring. Is Iran meddling in Iraq? WE ALWAYS EXPECTED THEM TO DO SO. It would be unreasonable and crazy to assume they would not - given the recent history of Iran and Iraq, if an Iranian leader did not attempt to influence events in Iraq that leader would be betraying his people - we thought Iraq such a threat that we went to the other side of the planet to invade, Iraq is now totally chaotic, and Iran shares a long border and a history of warfare with Iraq. That "smoking gun," if it ever comes out, is NOT A CASSUS BELLI - IT IS NOT A REASON TO GO TO WAR. The way Adm. Fallon puts it, if the smoking gun proof of Iranian involvement is shown, well BAM we go to war. But if we thought Iraq such a threat that we had to invade, why is it a justification for war if Iran is attempting to influence events and outcomes in that same nation just like we expected?
It is not.
I am not saying we should ignore their efforts. I am not saying it is ok with me that Iran helps Iraqis to kill Americans. I am saying it is not a reason or a justification to go to war with Iran.
And even if it were, we would not be better off in going to war because the millions of people in Iran will not submit just because we lob some bombs. Instead they will do just what you and I would do - they will fight back, and the mess created by the Bush regime will do even more damage than even I expected when I warned not to invade Iraq back in 2002 and 2003.
War with Iraq was a really bad idea. War with Iran is a worse idea. It is worse by an order of magnitude. It is the worst idea of the Bush administration, EVER. Think about how bad an idea has to be to get that honor - worst idea of the Bush administration.
If this is debated elsewhere watch those who support war with Iran talk of nuclear weapons and appeasement. The issue of Iranian involvement in Iraq is separate from talk of nuclear weapons and should be handled differently, but watch it be put front and center, just like WMDs were with Iraq.
And the idea that the only alternative to war is appeasement, or the only alternative to appeasement is war, is patently and absurdly silly - but watch it take place nonetheless. I am not saying do nothing, I am saying war with Iran is a really bad idea. For that I will be called an appeaser and a coward, as I was in 2002 and 2003 when I foolishly and unpatriotically spoke out against the idea of invading Iraq because I thought it would be a really bad idea, really bad for my nation. Guess I really blew that one - because I did not try hard enough to stop that bad idea, it harmed America, and I feel guilty I did not do more to stop it.
Unless enough wimps like me try to stop this foolish march to war, WASF - and this will make our mess in Iraq look like a walk through the damn park.
War with Iran is A REALLY BAD IDEA.