Thursday, September 07, 2006

Who Will Pay for Bush's Next War?

I supported the war in Afghanistan, the place where 9/11 began and where Osama bin Laden was based. Almost five years have gone by and Bush still hasn't caught a mass murderer responsible for more than 3,000 deaths. And the war goes on. Afghanistan is failing because Afghanistan wasn't big enough for Bush's ambitions and it was simply placed on the back burner. More than three years ago, Bush deceived the American people into an optional war with Iraq, a war that we did not need. Both these wars are getting expensive. Afghanistan should have been done ages ago. By the time we leave Iraq, the cost to the American economy will be a trillion dollars and it's still not clear why we are in Iraq.

We have two unfinished wars and Bush and his friends are making considerable noise for a third war in Iran. Does anyone still trust George W. Bush? Apparently any number of discredited neoconservatives still do. Here's a post from Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory:
It has been obvious for some time now that the Bush administration is signaling to its most extremist supporters that it is committed to waging war against Iran. The President has been giving speeches this week which are almost verbatim copies of the "war-is-inevitable-against-Iraq" speeches he gave at exactly this time four years ago. An ecstatic John Podhoretz finally got the message today....


In his New York Post column, Podhoretz says this (emphasis added): "barring a miraculous change of heart on the part of the Iranian regime, a military strike is all but inevitable. Bush himself will view his own presidency as a failure if he doesn't act. So act he will." For reasons I set forth the other day, I agree entirely with Podhoretz. I believe the President is now committed to military conflict with Iran and, for that reason, has now boxed himself in by all but publicly vowing to initiate it.

Revealingly, though, the White House is unwilling to really press the issue before the election. The New York Sun today reports, in an article headlined "White House Wary of New War Act For Force in Iran," that the Bush administration is clearly running away from the demand this week by Bill Kristol that Congress vote on a resolution authorizing military force against Iran...

Bush is an incompetent president with a profoundly flawed view of the world, a view so flawed that it is doing enormous damage to the United States. But he is not an incompetent campaigner. His inner circle is always aware of the various audiences out there. One audience are their right wing followers. Another audience, very similar to their followers, are the neoconservative intellectualizers. A third audience is Iran. A fourth audience happens to be our own military who so far appear to have balked at proposals to militarily deal with Iran. The fifth audience is Congress, though at the moment too many Republicans are reluctant to give in to Bush with elections approaching and a nation tired of war.

It should be remembered that Bush spent months trying to provoke Saddam Hussein into war but his campaign failed and we simply launched an invasion. It appears Bush is doing the same thing to Iran and his neoconservative followers are doing their best to use provocative language. Gingrich, Podhoretz and Bill Kristol are among the neoconservatives beating the drum for war.

Iran is listening to all of this. This is the age of the Internet and there can be no doubt that they are listening to every word Bush, his advisers and the neoconservatives are saying. Like everyone else in the world, they watch CNN and the BBC as well.

Sometimes Iran has not been wise in the things it says and does but there is no sign that they are anxious for major war. For five years, there have been signs that they wished for dialogue. The chances for dialogue were better in late 2001 than now but Bush let that opportunity pass.

Bush is clearly trying to provoke and threaten Iran; it would be better for Bush, but no one else, if Iran attacked first. Even without nuclear weapons, the United States probably has the weapons to knock most of Iran back into a pre-industrial state. Iran knows this. But they will not accept an existential threat. They have seen what has happened to Iraq. They have seen what has happened to Afghanistan.

Iran sees the United States at war on both sides of its borders. That is a lot of war to take and do almost nothing; but the United States has nuclear weapons. Within limits, Iran has taken care of its interests. The reality is that the United States cannot engage in war and not expect countries on the borders of that war not to take care of their interests, within limits. Pakistan, for example, has at times interfered in the Afghan war and tested those limits but Bush has largely allowed that interference.

However, after the midterm elections, I supect Bush will start arguing more loudly that Iran has exceeded those limits despite the fact the war is in Iraq and 95-99% of the fighting is between Iraqis or by Iraqis against the United States (what foreign fighters there are come from a number of different countries). In Afghanistan, most of the fighting is even further away from Iran's borders and even its oil fields but the situation is similar: Iran is taking care of its interests but is largely on the sidelines. Bush wants to expand the war with the given reason that it's necessary to take out Iran's nuclear facilities despite the fact that intelligence does not suggest Iran will have a bomb in the immediate future. Once again, it's not fully clear what Bush's reason for war is.

It would be far better if Iran does not have nuclear weapons than if it does have nuclear weapons. We can argue at length at the best way to handle the situation but it should be clear that diplomacy and negotiations are not tools that the Bush Administration takes seriously and that is the root problem with Bush's presidency and a Congress that has been compliant for the last four years. Let's be clear: serious diplomacy of the type that Kissinger, Brzezinski, James Baker, Allbright and any number of other people have engaged in over the last fifty years has not been tried by the Bush Administration.

But here's the point I wish to make: if Bush attacks Iran by trying to take out it's nuclear facilities with a heavy bombing campaign, Iran will respond. My opinion doesn't matter on this. Iran will have no choice but to consider an attack by the United States an existential threat. The wider Middle East did not explode when we invaded Iraq but it probably will if we attack Iran; things are very different now than they were three and a half years ago; the United States, thanks to Bush's bungling, is now viewed very differently. The southern part of Iraq, the Shiite part, will also explode. It's possible there could be such strong upheavels in Pakistan that their government will fall leaving the question of their nuclear weapons up in the air. We may see governments fall elsewhere, but whatever regime changes take place will not be ones we like to see.

But the government of Iran will probably not fall. At least not at first. Being under existential threat from a major bombing campaign that no one can expect to be limited and knowing that Bush and Cheney might use nuclear weapons, and knowing how quickly their military may wither under an all-out attack, Iran will be forced to act quickly and their civilians and military will be under no illusion about what is happening and they will coalesce, at least temporarily around their government. The greatest and quickest harm Iran can do to the United States, and everyone knows this, including our military, is to destroy as much oil infrastructure as possible in the Persian Gulf and to close, if possible, the Strait of Hormuz.

Given how tight oil supplies are in the world, it will not take much damage to create complete havoc with the world's oil markets. We may be able to knock Iran back into a largely pre-industrial state but their response, depending on how heavy it is, could knock us back into something resembling the Great Depression of the 1930s. We could easily see a major economic downturn worldwide.

During Iran's response, our ground troops, already busy with two wars, will be overstretched and unable to deal directly with Iran. Even with a draft, it will take a year for our military to get help. We cannot expect any help from any significant allies. It should be remember that Iran's geography and population are considerably bigger than Iraq. If we fight Iran, it will be the largest country we have fought since the Chinese crossed their border in the Korean War and forced a stalemate.

Depending on the paranoia and idiocy of the Bush inner circle, there is also the risk that if a war with Iran does not start with nuclear weapons, it may end with the United States using nuclear weapons. That will immediately put every nation in the world that has nuclear weapons on major nuclear alert. If the government of Pakistan falls, the new government may immediately feel its own existential threat and that will immediately complicate the picture. North Korea could also complicate the picture with its own paranoia. In the absence of normal diplomatic channels, which Bush and friends have been failing to maintain, the potential for misunderstandings and 'accidents' will be enormous. The mere use of nuclear weapons will probably isolate the United States in the world community and have repercussions that will be felt for two or three generations. We were the first to use nuclear weapons but it is to our credit that we have refrained from using them again for over 61 years and have always found other solutions when it was necessary. If we use nuclear weapons again for a war that's ill-defined, it will put us in a different moral category than any other nation in the world.

Who will pay for Bush's next war? We will. And our children. And our grandchildren.

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