Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Planning for Iran

In this week's New Yorker Seymour Hersh reveals to us what he's learned about the Bush administration's plans towards Iran...and boy, is his article getting a lot of attention. I should mention before I humbly offer my opinion that the article is typical Hersh; that is, it's replete with a lot of anonymous quotes that aren't attributable to anyone. Not surprisingly it's this fact that gets Hersh the juicy bits that he offers to us. So, you have to watch the politics. After all there are those who'd say whatever if they had points to score. At the same time, Hersh has a reputation to maintain and I doubt he'd put in his articles anything that he didn't think wasn't said to him in good faith. So, that being said...

For once I'm not going to quote anything from the article. Frankly, the article's too long, there's too much I'd like to quote, and since I'm going to direct you towards some analysis by others there's really not any point, as you can read the article yourself, or surmise what it says from this or other analysis.

The beginning of the article is essentially about the plans being made for when and how we'll hit Iran if it comes to that, and the part that catches your attention like a strobe light in a dark room is the mention of the possible use of nuclear "bunker busters", to hit Iranian nuclear resources buried deep underground, as in there are those in the Bush administration that think using them is a great idea, and there are those who are threatening (at least off the record) to resign if they aren't dropped from the contingency plans. You should stop for a second to appreciate the irony in this; we're proposing to use nuclear weapons on a country to stop them from getting nuclear weapons. If you happen to think that doing so would be all out of proportion to the threat that Iran presents to us...well, you'd be right. Let's think about this for a second. Iran does not have nukes yet. Our fear is that they may, if left alone, acquire nukes in a period estimated at anywhere from 2 to 10 years from now. After that, they may then acquire missiles capable of hitting us (which is actually harder to do than get nukes, believe it or not) or they may, in a fit of insanity, give away a nuke or nuclear technology to terrorists who would then sneak it into our country and detonate it. As you can see, several assumptions have to be made for any of these possibilities to occur, one of them being that the Iranians are completely irrational. At least among some in the Bush administration, the proper response to this eventual yet tenuous threat is to use nuclear weapns on Iran right now. There is absolutely no justification in the world for this. The only time nuclear weapons have ever been used is when we used them on Japan, after Japan pre-emptively attacked us and we waged war on them for nearly 3 1/2 years, and they were used in the hopes that they'd bring a swift end to the war, sparing us from invading the mainland and suffering and inflicting hundreds of thousands more casualties. And still we argue about whether it was worth it. And don't kid yourself; "tactical" nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons.

Now some have said "Look, this is only contingency planning. We have plans for invading Mexico." And that's true. But as Hersh details for us in his article, this planning is quickly becoming accepted as the best means for handling Iran by some in the Bush administration. In that case it's not only "contingency" planning, but it's the preferred plan. Make no mistake; there are those who right now think our best option is to nuke Iran.

Fred Kaplan raises some
good points in his article over at Slate. He questions whether there is a serious intention to use nuclear weapons, or whether this is beauracratic wrangling, gamesmanship by the administration, or setting up expectations. He hopes it's one of the above, because if it's not, it's crazy:

Pre-emptive war—attacking a country to keep it from attacking us or an ally—is sometimes justifiable. Preventive war—attacking a country to keep it from developing a capability to attack an ally sometime in the future—almost never is. And preventive war waged with nuclear weapons is (not to put too fine a spin on it)

...maybe Hersh is simply reporting on a nuclear war plan that President Bush is really, seriously considering, a "juggernaut" that might not be stopped. If it's as straightforward as that, we're in deeper trouble than most of us have imagined.

Hersh gives us some clues that the latter is in fact the case. For one, as I said, there are some who appear to legitimately believe this is the best option. But two, this isn't the only crazy belief that some in the Bush administration harbor. Apparently there are those who really think that if we strike Iran, the Iranian people will rise up in anger with the government that got them in this mess and do the "regime change" we so clearly desire for us. This is never going to happen. The only people selling the possibility that revolution could bring about a new leadership are those Iranian exiles who'd like us to kick-start the process and help them back to power (sound familiar?) It is entirely more likely that they will respond rationally, and rally around the leadership in Tehran in anger and outrage towards us. Then we will have pissed away what little good will we've garnered in Iran in the 27 years since the Shah was ousted; not only that, but the Iranians will probably be even more our enemy after than at anytime before, even in the immediate aftermath of the revolution.

Look, I'm not advocating that we learn to live with a nuclear armed Iran. For one, Iran is the implacable enemy of Israel and anyone who publicly advocates for Israel's elimination shouldn't have nukes. Two, Iran has very definite connections to terrorist networks in the Middle East, and no one who thinks using terrorists is legitimate foreign policy should have nukes. Three, there is nothing about nuclear weapons that will help to stabilize the Middle East and whatever you think of fighting wars for access to oil, less stability would be the worst thing for us. But if we must attack Iran, it will be because it is our absolute last option, because everything else has failed and Iran indicates to us that they will pursue nuclear weapons no matter what diplomacy we engage in. Even so, nothing in that situation justifies the use of nuclear weapons by us. There mere idea of it is intolerable.

I still think a lot of things have to happen-or fail to happen-for an attack on Iran to take place. We're not at that point yet, and despite the fact that there are those in the Bush administration who think that this is the easy way out, there are some high hurdles to jump among the American people before we'd tolerate any such thing, and I question whether most people would tolerate the use of nukes at all (I hope to God not, at least.) And there's still a lot of factors in play. But the fact is there are people in the Bush administration-possibly including the head man himself-who think it's only matter of time, who think we kick over another anthill and achieve what we failed to do in Iraq, and who think we can legitimately use nuclear weapons on a weaker nation that at present poses little real threat to us. They are the ones that are driving this planning, and they are the ones we must stop.

UPDATE: By the way, President Bush says this is all "wild speculation." A point on semantics; "wild speculation" requires that something is actually being "speculated" on. Hersh is not speculating, and neither is anyone else when they read his articles. Hersh is relating to us what insiders in the administration are telling him, and presumably they are not "speculating" because they are actually involved and know what's going on. They may be "lying", or they may be "misunderstanding" or they may be "full of shit"...but nobody's "speculating", ok?


Nat-Wu said...

Look, I don't think this is a real threat. I think Bush is trying to get people's attention off Iraq and onto Iran in order to get numbers in the polls again. Now he may think he can take action against Iran, but Iran is not Iraq and if he even tried it, he'd be inviting military action against the US around the world. I don't think Congress is going to let him get away with that at this point. Republicans have already shown they can turn their backs on him when they need to, and nobody besides him is looking for more trouble than we already have with Iraq.

It's a stupid plan, and crazy, but I think it would never happen unless he just went nuts and ordered nukes launched against Iran. No one will authorize him to take military action, so what can he do?

Bravo 2-1 said...

"It's a stupid plan, and crazy"... Crazy like a fox!

Bush might be nuts. Some of Sy Hersh's comments portray messianic thoughts.

Last night I did not have time to find the passage in Plan of Attack that deals with Bush mischaracterizing the level of planning pre-Iraq. But, he bent the truth in the run up to the war to make it seem like he was leaving peace as a viable option.

He wasn't. Whether he realizes it, that is debatable.

adam said...

Well, the cynic in me says that we never would have believed lots of things Bush did...

Alexander Wolfe said...

Look...there are two reasons I think this is more than just gamesmanship. For one, I believe that there are those in the Bush administration who have learned nothing from Iraq. They're like those who continue to support communism; they insist that things just didn't get done right.

Second, if they were okay with this talk of attacks and nukes getting out in the open, they wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it as "wild speculation." If they are playing a game of chicken with Iran, they're doing a very stupid job of it.

Still as I said, the hurdles are much higher this time than they were in Iraq, as now virtually no one except Bush apologists will give Bush the benefit of the doubt.

Nat-Wu said...

Thank God there's not many of those around...oh wait. I think we're the only blog that's not constantly flooded with comments from Bush defenders. Then again, they tend to cluster around each other and feed each other's need for validation.

Alexander Wolfe said...

Actually, I'd be happy with a flood of comments from Bush defenders. Then at least we'd get comments!