A Time for War?

Arch-neocon Charles Krauthammer — and Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta — say that Israel is ready to strike Iran:

Our own secretary of Defense has said it’s highly likely and he gave a timeframe — April, May, June — which means the Israelis think that the moment, the zone of immunity where they can no longer attack successfully, is approaching.

On the other hand, I am becoming more sceptical of such actions by the day.

Both China and Pakistan have given assurances of some kind of support for Iran, if attacked. Why would Israel choose direct and open warfare against Iran and risk provoking a wider conflict when they can instead engage in a much less risky covert war of subterfuge, sabotage and assassination?

Furthermore, why would the US Secretary of Defence go on the record to divulge Israeli military plans? Frankly, it sounds like Panetta’s vocalisation is a decoy to keep Iran edgy, and try to incite Iranians on the ground to rise up in revolt and overthrow the regime, as a path to avoiding war.

While I have already given a pretty comprehensive breakdown of the Western motivations for such a war, the simple truth emerging is that the risks of wider trouble and blowback are too big, and outweigh all the prospective benefits. American and Israeli policymakers may have finally realised that the West just has too much to lose from antagonising China and Russia even more. And, as I have clearly drawn out, the risks to Israel and to the West from an Iranian nuclear weapon are relatively small. Furthermore, the Israeli intelligence community is not overwhelmingly committed to such an action.

The only people who seem committed to such action are the rabid neocon wing of the Republican party: people like Rick Santorum.

From Haaretz:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday accused President Barack Obama of actively seeking ways to allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapon and suggested that the administration had betrayed Israel by publicly disclosing what may be a plan to attack the Muslim nation.

The bottom line is that there is very little reason to believe that America or Israel will openly engage Iran before the Presidential election. There will be a continued war of stealth, continued drone surveillance, continued cyber attacks, continued assassinations, and a continued blockade — all aimed at provoking an Iranian revolution. I could be wrong, and the situation could change, but as more anti-American rhetoric streams out of Eurasia, as Iran enriches more uranium, as the American national debt creeps higher, the prospects of a war grow more distant.

A zealous theocratic warmonger like Santorum in the White House would change all of that..

16 thoughts on “A Time for War?

  1. i hope your learned optimism is spot on. but they may be insane enough to think they can “manage” the blowback to their own aims. and there may be a timeframe underlying an urgency that we are not privy too. it is a crapshoot. on a treacherous scale.

  2. When I was a student of political science considering issues of strategic thinking, there was a rule of thumb that we learned from great power diplomats. Big power strategists cannot let small powers enlist big power capabilities to carry out the ambitions of small powers. Such a capacity to call in a big power to serve a small power’s interests can have catastrophic results for mankind because of the violence of big power warfare. We saw something like this happen, when Russia backed Serbia in it’s fight with Austria-Hungary in 1914. Millions died. Goverrnment officials charged with protecting the interests of the United States cannot permit friendly foreign states to harnass American power to their interest in the Middle East, since the consequences of big power rivalry are so severe, and the vital interest of the UnIted States are not engaged to the point where all out war is worth the risk.

    • Excellent point. In fact the rabbit warren of treaties that existed before WW1 has been compared to the system of derivatives before 08 and today — one small breakdown will necessarily lead to a much larger one via interconnection. And it is not just America making this mistake — it is China and Russia, too. I think this entire trend is extremely dangerous. Of course, we survived more bouts of this during the 60s and 70s and 80s and 90s and 00s. So I am hopeful that we can find peaceful solutions.

  3. One thing I learned about bullies is they don’t change their behaviour until their world view comes crashing in around them.

    For example, a schoolyard bully will terrorise, ridicule, mock, steal lunch money, food, get the support of other school kids. This is human nature and manifests at yhe individual, family, tribe and ultimately nation level.

    Until you walk up to the bully, belt the kneecaps in, in full view of the other participants, they won’t change their behaviour.

    What is the emotional line that is crosed at the point of kneecaping?

    The moment of utter hopelessness.

    • On the global level, I’m not even completely sure I know who the real bullies are. I think everyone is somewhat guilty of following their own interests in spite of others’ interests.

  4. What about an October surprise? Last presidential election we had the skirmish between Russia and Georgia. I don’t think a full out attack on Iran is likely but maybe something in Syria.

  5. Well most Wars involve a mass migration in the end, a refugee influx.

    You need to house people.


    Note the following unintended consequences from a reader (Ameriwho) comment on this blog “Request sentI think the incentive is pretty clear. Avoid showing non-performing loans on the balance sheet.

    Flip a foreclosure into a rental, then show the value of the rental property as greater than the defaulted mortgage, then pretend they didn’t lose any money on the deal.

    “Sure our bank is solvent, we hold billions in rental properties.” ”

    This makes sense because the Net Present Value of the Cashflows equal an asset in the books of th banks. Despite the interest rate used being nearly 0% (Government risk fee bond), it still has value on the banks books. Non performing loans become performing loans.

    There is a housing glut, and an war refugee influx needs instant housing solutions. Like I said earlier, the USA will solve its problems through immigration.

  6. I agree with you that there is unlikely to be a war with Iran before the November elections in spite of the the war talk. The risk for the economies of Europe and America is too great. Even a false flag event would not be enough in my opinion to overcome the spike in oil prices. I have heard predictions of $500 per barrel. Can you imagine what that would do to the world economy?

    The Syria situation is a different kettle of fish. The road to Teheran (or Estefan) runs through Damascus. Clinton is sounding like she did before the Libyan war, rabid, talking openly of arming the “Free Syrian Army”, i.e. al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood (which she has been doing for some time but only now calling for it).

    It is difficult to know where each protagonist will line up. Turkey seems to be opposing Syria in the Assad regime change situation (probably due to their NATO membership) but they are also aligned with Iran and Lebanon against Israel in the offshore gas debate both around Cyprus and with regard to international law defining offshore economic zones. Iran of course has a military alliance with Syria and the Iranian Minister of Defence has been having talks with his Lebanese counterpart.

    The Middle East and North Africa region is a heap of dry wood waiting for a spark. Clinton meanwhile is playing with her matches. Her “success” in Libya has gone to her head.

  7. Pingback: Barack: “I’ll Bomb Ya” « azizonomics

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