Attacking Iran…repeat of crazy reasoning?
Peter Beinart in The Daily Beast points us to the crazy nature of our current attitude regarding attacking Iran in The Crazy Rush to Attack Iran. He lists and quotes an impressive series of experts familiar with the the last decades wars, and finally asks:
Can you find former military and intelligence officials who are more sympathetic to a strike? Sure. But in my lifetime, I’ve never seen a more lopsided debate among the experts paid to make these judgments. Yet it barely matters. So far, the Iran debate has been a rout, with the Republican presidential candidates loudly declaring their openness to war and President Obama unwilling to even echo the skepticism of his own security chiefs.
And who are the hawks who have so far marginalized the defense and intelligence establishments in both Israel and the U.S.? They’re a collection of think-tankers and politicians, most absolutely sincere, in my experience. But from Rick Santorum to John McCain to Elliott Abrams to John Bolton, their defining characteristic is that they were equally apocalyptic about the threat from Iraq, and equally nonchalant about the difficulties of successfully attacking it. The story of the Iraq debate was, in large measure, the story of their triumph over the career military and intelligence officials – folks like Eric Shinseki and Joseph Wilson – whose successors are now warning against attacking Iran.
How can it be, less than a decade after the U.S. invaded Iraq, that the Iran debate is breaking down along largely the same lines, and the people who were manifestly, painfully wrong about that war are driving the debate this time as well? Culturally, it’s a fascinating question – and too depressing for words.
I read this article: http://mugsysrapsheet.com/2012/02/20/iranian-banking-scandal-currently-threatening-leadership-war-would-be-gift-from-gop-to-tehran/
About a banking scandle in Iran. Seem the current gov could be dying a natural death if we are smart enough not to bomb it first.
how can it be..?
i think a sober look at american politics for the past 12 years or so would lead to the conclusion that we have fallen into the hands of the crazy and the criminal. you don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to come to this conclusion. deregulation of finance and the role of money in politics would account for it quite naturally.
There is this link that looks at the questionableness of attaching: http://real-economics.blogspot.com/2012/02/war-with-iran-what-insane-idea.html
at the end of that article is a link to a report on some war games inwhich a general: The truth is that van Ripen did something so important that I still can’t believe the mainstream press hasn’t made anything of it. With nothing more than a few “small boats and aircraft,” van Ripen managed to sink most of the US fleet in the Persian Gulf.
The main article also has an article on Chinese cruise missles designed to kill carriers. It notes a report that puts it this way regarding these missles: Because of a short little sentence I found farther on in the article—and before you read that sentence, I want all you trusting Pentagon groupies to promise me that you’ll think hard about what it implies. Here’s the sentence: “Ships currently have no defense against a ballistic missile attack.”
” the people who were manifestly, painfully wrong about that war are driving the debate this time as well”
So what? So they must be wrong this time too?
Anyone wonder what happens if we don’t attack and the psychopaths get a bomb and missles?
Tough call here.
The Paks have the bomb and missles and that country is full of psychopaths. Why isn’t the story about attacking Pak?
Until I hear our psychopaths touting attacking Pak I don’t listen to people who want us to attack Iran.
The Iranians have been very vocal about who they want to attack – relevant?
wonder what happens if we do attack and they get a bomb and missles?
“attacking” a country that hasn’t attacked you used to be considered immoral. still is.
there is nothing tough about this call. it’s pretty much the same choice hitler faced in 1939.
oh, yes… who they want to attack. i assume you mean who the iranians want to attack. actually i haven’t heard them say so. clearly they think israel is an illegitimate state and they may even think they can make it go away. but they haven’t said anything about attacking it. maybe mutually assured destruction will work as well for those crazy arabs (persians are not arabs) as it did for those crazy commies.
but yes it is relevant. israel may have a genuine fear of being attacked. and the israel lobby in America is more likely to be loyal to israel than to be sane or moral. then there is the question of the influence of money on politics and the press.
In this case, yes. There is no more evidence that Iran is an existential threat to the US now than there was that Iraq was an existential threat to the US then. I wasn’t fooled with the Iraq propaganda and I’m not fooled by the Iran propaganda. YMMV.
But Rusty, the man points to an array of people who are in a position to know the varitey of issues involved…since these are judgement calls, I would rather go with these experts. Our ‘ Saddam has wmd?’ and ‘it will be a surgical and shock and awe operation’ turned out to be rather far off the mark…
these are judgement calls of course…but why would I go with people with a history of bad judgement, and a current argument based on very little public knowkedge? It seems the trust me argument has not worked so well.
Immoral hell. It’s a war crime.
Not that being a war crimial actually has any down side . . .
. . . and the people who were manifestly, painfully wrong about that war are driving the debate this time as well?
Just like the people who were manifestly, painfully wrong about the economy are driving that debate as well.
Cruise missiles are by definition not ballistic missiles. So that is one thing.
Another is that ballistic weapons, which by the way includes long range artillery (mostly), are only as good as the precision of their targeting INPUT. And that INPUT is very time sensitive for non-fixed targets like major surface combatants. Unlike say Madison Square Gardens which will be in the same place an hour from now as opposed to steaming away in unpredictable directions at 30 knots. And even if you are using tactical nukes missing a carrier by a mile means little effect at all (except maybe on its electronics via the EMP). The net effect is that ballistic weapons whether missile or gun based are useless against open sea targets. Because you need real time targeting and even then have the time lag inherent in the ballistic solution.
Now guided missiles are, or at least can be, different. Instead of being bound the the ballistic solution input at firing or launch, they can alter their path via external or on-board guidance. But the latter is inherently limited by weight while the former is limited by radar range or satellite line of sight.
Back in my Navy days I was a Fire Control Technician which might be better described as a Missile or Gun Targetting Specialist, basically we collected radar information from a variety of sources and used it to tell the guns or missiles where to point. On the other hand those days are long past and obviously I have no current access to classified info. But the principles don’t change and there is enough public source information to leave me convinced the Chinese have no true over the horizon Targetting capability sufficient to put a Carrier Group at risk. While range is important it doesn’t automatically translate into target acquisition.
So even if we ignore the difference between ballistic and guided/cruise missiles the claim that Carriers are defenseless is propagandistic crap.
On the other hand none of this applies if that Carrier Group is tightly confined to areas where the enemy could reasonably establish real time targetting. Which is to say the Straits of Taiwan and/or Hormuz. In those cases there would be a lot of danger from medium range Chinese made Silkworm missiles, which the Chinese and Iranians have in abundance. But danger does not translate to defenseless, the U.S. Navy has an intricate system of anti-missile defense in depth from long to short range, even a line of sight shot might well fail to get through the screen around a Carrier.
In any event it’s typical Neo-Con special pleading to argue that China and or Korea and or Iran are over the horizon existential threats to Israel or Europe or the U.S. But can be taken out in a cake-walk if we just go Mano-a-Mano. The reality is the other way around.
The “Iranians” have not been vocal. The Iranian President has, or at least in the self-serving translations we are given, but President I Got. Dinner Jacket doesn’t have operational control over either the Air Force or the Revolutionary Guard. And the Ayatollah who does has issued a fatwa against his country acquiring nuclear weapons.
This is all Curveball 2.0 and pushed by the same actors, ironically missing Peter Beinart this time. At least he is aware how he and other liberal hawks screwed the pooch in 2002-2003.
Rusty you are just regurgitating AIPAC talking points.
Besides no one has ever to my knowledge put up a convincing refutation of the Toukan and Cordesman analysis I linked to here a few time. Their conclusion, though not stated so baldly, is that Israel did not have refueling capability to strike even three primary Iranian targets and return. And while they might be able to launch a one way attack on a limited set of targets, counting on the US to pull their fueling chestnuts out of the fire in light of a fait accompli, they don’t have the capability to suppress Iranian air defenses over the course of a multi-sortie air campaign. One lightning surprise attack? Maybe. But they cannot degrade Iran’s capability in any meaningful way without active U.S. support.
And the Israelis know this, which is why their military apparatus and even saber rattling defense minister Barak admit that a unilateral strike is not in the offing. All indications is that they are using credulous wingnuts in and out of office to get the U.S. to do the dirty work here. Again.
Or point me to that refutation of Toukan and Cordesman. And no hand waving appeals to Dolphin Submarines and Eitan Drones don’t cut it. That still doesn’t give them the combination of range, payload and targetting needed.
are you saying that panama, grenada, iraq, and afghanistan were war crimes?
not to say pakistan, yemen, serbia, libya…
no quibbling from me.
I didn’t advocate for anything – there are serious questions to be asked here.
I believe some high offical in the Iranian government recently advocated killing every Jew on the planet, something tactful like that.
Can you point to a time when they have been proven right about the “urgent need for war”? Just curious.
STR–Didn’t Buff say that the Israelis wouldn’t be able to completely destroy all Iranian nuclear facilities without US help? Seems to me we talked about this a while back. Maybe the first year Obama was in office. And, didn’t a Republican candidate for office recently claim that the Obama administration was under the control of the Devil? He said some other things that were equally incendiary regarding religions other than Catholicism. It would appear Iran is not alone in having politicians who engage in outrageous claims.
Nevertheless we know that right now we can destroy all of Iran, or damn near it, before they could get one of their third rate missles in the air. We have the advantages of MAD without the “Mutually.” It strikes me that we would certainly know if they mounted such an attack well before it was too late to respond.
I’m getting really, really tired of trillion dollar wars in which Marines don’t even have proper body armor while Halliburton sells us $3.00 a gal. gas for $6.00 a liter and that doesn’t include transport costs. NancyO
Thank you Bruce for writing what I was starting to type up this a.m. Your exactly correct.
The only minor nit is at the end. The existential threat to the US is the ICBM attack on Madison Square Garden. China has that capability now (and has for quite some time – at least 30 years plus). The NK have the nukes and are getting better with the missile tech. They can easily hit Tokyo, just don’t have the range and accurracy to get to the US. But again, even without nukes the NK has had the capability to trash South Korea and Japan for decades now. Iran is just farther behind. MAD seems to have worked.
Attacking Iran is a much, much harder nut to crack than Iraq. I helped build the Pentagon Op orders for this and the logistics is horrendous. This would not be the cake walk that Iraq was in 2003.
And for the record I see no good reason to attack Iran. MAD should work – basically inform the Mullahs that a nuke into Tel Aviv will get Iran glassified along with Mecca. Something I’m surprised the Isreali’s haven’t informed them about. But then again I have no more idea than you guys what’s going on diplomatically past the misleading headlines.
Islam will change
Occurs to me that most people not involved in shooting, launching or bombing literally don’t understand the word. Well it is as old as Archimedes and in all important respects was refined by Isaac Newton 400+ years ago.
Take a weight (‘payload’), accelerate it to a particular velocity, and point it at a particular bearing and angle, and let it go. Well that payload is going to land somewhere and gunners and rocketeers and bombardiers have for decades and centuries been refining the calculations that tell you where that will be. Which calculation is the ‘ballistic solution’. Now the most important components are mass, velocity and gravity, hence Sir Isaac, but as ranges get longer thing like wind speed and humidity and God help us Coriolis Force start playing a role, you get farther and farther from point and shoot broadside to broadside single ship duels.
But equally the basic facts show why their are no realistic defenses to a ballistic weapon. Because gravity sucks and momentum works, you can maybe deflect or shatter a falling bomb or shell but mostly what is leftover will travel along the path established by the ballistic solution. Only in science fiction can you actually vaporize an incoming asteroid, mostly that mass will mostly intersect its target. Hence ‘no defense against a ballistic missile’. True but irrelevant. Because no input, no targetting.
Thanks Bruce. That’s the first thing I thought when I saw Beinart’s name.
Yes, I said that and stand behind it. They can’t get them all (or even a big fraction) without substantial US help. Its a time-distance-gas equation and its not in Israel’s favor. We had a big discussion on this a while back – I remember it also.
The invasion of Iraq was as close to a surgical shock and awe campaign that you will ever see. It came off brilliantly. Causulties were very light on both sides and the country was taken in little time. Your gripe is with the subsequent occupation.
Which goes back to a question the Pentagon is still wrestling with. How to get an Islamic country to react to defeat and occupation like the Japanese and Germans? Do we really need to utterly destroy the country and kill a good chunk of the military age males to reform it and change the culture?
Food for thought.
BUt does anyone here really believe Obama is going to attack Iran in any overt fashion? Seriously? Of course he attacked Libya out of the blue….I know there is no anti-war movement, but you would think Obama wouldn’t be stupid enough to go all in on Iran. But anything to get the focus off his horrible economic performance. Wag the dog?
Islam will change
Rusty, Please address Pak. They are a failed state with the bomb. The currrent government does not control the military and has only tenuous control of some cities. How is Iran more dangerous than Pak?