Iran was the most dangerous threat, not Iraq?

Friday, October 28, 2005
On 9/11 +1 I began advising anyone who would listen (i.e., no one) that the US government had an opportunity to attack the sources of major dangers in the Middle East and I recommended (to empty air) that the first target ought to be Iran.

Governments of democracies surely, and probably nations having other kinds of governments as well, have, in most times, difficulty moving the nation to war. A good example of this is given in Churchill's "Gathering Storm." Churchill tells us that, in English politics, he ranted and raved, warning of the rise of Nazism in Germany, and insufficiently many people listened. Had Great Britain and France, or just France alone, acted when Hitler occupied the Rhineland in March 1936, in breach of the Versailles Treaty (forced) and Treaty of Locarno (freely-negotiated), Hitler's career might have been forced into a quite different path than it actually took. Perhaps Mein Kampf was not a sufficiently obvious warning to the French of Hitler's intentions and capabilities. Without France, Great Britain could do nothing.

By the time Hitler went after Czechoslovakia, it was obvious to some that this was likely to be the last time France and Great Britain, assisted as they were by the USSR and Czechoslovakia, would be able to have a clear military superiority over Germany. Yet, Neville Chamberlain, leading the others, caved in and bought, so he thought, "peace in our times."

Avoidance of war even when war seems the rational course, seems a pattern of democracies. I suspect that the pattern is modulated by biology. War is avoided, by the populace, when its proportion of warrior-aged men is low enough. War being more likely otherwise. But, we, in the West, have been in a long period of low birth rates, and getting the US to go to war takes something like a Pearl Harbor. And we see today that even that is not enough to sustain a war mood for long.

Had I been imperial consul of the US forces on 9/12, I would NOT have wasted time, and the limited duration of war mania, on Afghanistan or Iraq. I would have PRETENDED to go after Afghanistan. I would have, assuming of course that clearer and superior minds had not dissuaded me, issued an ultimatum to Iran to clear the way for US troops to move from the Persian Gulf into Afghanistan. And, by the way, open your nuclear facilities to inspection by US experts. Had Iran complied, and been found to not have a significant nuclear program, well and good, on to Kabul. But, more likely, Iran would have spat in the face of the US ambassador and I would have had my war. And I would have moved the US as swiftly as my kicking of ass could make it move (probably I would have had to fire Colin Powell). One of my eyes would have been on the clock. War moods do not last forever. Not in a population which is fat and happy, having insufficient fears to re-stir martial, patriotic emotions.

My attack would have been, initially, more costly than was the invasion of Iraq. But, the main danger would have been dealt with first. Afghanistan hardly counts and Iraq would have been more easily intimidated once its much stronger neighbor had been humbled.

Attacking Afghanistan was the weakest of the three options. Weak not only in required effort but in results. Iraq was second weakest. In my present understanding, it seems to me that the US moved in the wrong order, squandering the period of martial emotions on the easiest problem. And now, we cannot complete the job because the will of the people has, as predicted, waned.

Iran can shut down the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, the jugular vein of the hated West. With nuclear armed missiles some crazy Iranians (do you think, possibly, some of them are?) might think they can do this with near impunity. I do not know what we can now do about this growing threat.


MeaninglessHotAir said...

Rick Ballard remarked in the comments on the fascinating post about historical generals discovered by ambisinistral that "the test reflected a bit too much sensitivity. There wasn't one question concerning the effectiveness of razing a city and selling the inhabitants into slavery". He's joking, but the historical truth is that ruthlessness far beyond the imagination of today's pampered Americans is sometimes necessary for the survival of the society.

I think we're way too soft to do anything. Every morning now I drive my son to school amidst a sea of "War is Not the Answer" bumper stickers. I'm surrounded by well-meaning fools.

It's not set in stone anywhere last time I checked that democracies have to survive. It may be that they are a form of government incapable of surviving in the long haul, for exactly the reasons you outline.

Syl said...

"War is avoided, by the populace, when its proportion of warrior-aged men is low enough. War being more likely otherwise. But, we, in the West, have been in a long period of low birth rates, and getting the US to go to war takes something like a Pearl Harbor."

Which is one of the most compelling reasons to spread democracy. Nobody can force citizens in a democracy to have more babies so for the many reasons democracies are less beligerant we need to even the playing field.

Rick Ballard said...


I consider a battle with Iran to be inevitable. The "which first" question was a matter of logistics and geography. Iran is the size of Texas while Iraq is the size of California. Had we not taken out Afghanistan first and Iraq second we would have flanks exposed on both sides while we fought up through Iran.

The battle with Iran will be primarily an air show because there is nothing worth taking and holding above the oil fields in the south. The 4ID will be in Iraq by the end of February and they will be the spear tip that slices Iran in half. The Kurds will be given free reign in the north with full US air support and US forces will be striking from Afghanistan with raids that will force Iran to commit troops that would otherwise be used to fight the main American thrust.

All pure speculation of course - but it's really very doable. And the main battle element - the 4ID - really is on its way.

Pastorius said...

It never made much sense to me that we went after Iraq first. The only explanation I can come up with for that is that we had legal reason to attack both Afghanistan and Iraq, while we did not have legal reason to attack Iran.

The fact is, now that we control both Iraq and Afghanistan, we have Iran surrounded. So, maybe that was the reason. I have thought for a long time that we would somehow instigate a war with Iran. You're right about interest waning in the war, but usually the events of a war provide their own motivation. However, the fact that our death toll has been so low has actually worked against further motivation of our populace. If something egregious happened then the American people would get angry all over again, like they did after 9/11.

I think you are correct, that it will be almost impossible to motivate the American people for a war with Iran at this point. That is a serious problem, because Iran is only going to get more and more dangerous. I don't think we can work out a detente situation with a country that wants to destroy us and Israel. But, of course, the left thinks Almadinejad's threats are all just bombast.

What I fear is going to happen is that we are going to wait. And our waiting is going to lead to us getting hit with nuclear weapons. Then, the American people will wake up, but they will be waking up to a world that many will not want to live in any longer.

Pastorius said...

I like Rich Ballards assessment of the future a lot more than mine. I hope to God I am wrong.

Rick Ballard said...


I have never thought, nor do I now think that President Bush will leave office without effecting regime change in Iran. War is the most blunt method of doing so but if it must be used, then I believe that it will be used.

I'm not dispirited about the current appetite for war or lack thereof. If it is determined to be necessary then sufficient will can be summoned.

Peter UK said...

As far as I can se,If you want to take Iran you have to go via Iraq.There are no viable beachheads in the Gulf,Afghanistan is landlocked.
As for ruthlessness,they still tell stories about Alexander the Great and Heluga Khan.

Rick Ballard said...


But there are no Carthaginian legends concerning Scipio Africanus.