Monday, September 1, 2008

Thoughts on War with Iran

I just read Bevin Alexander’s The Future of Warfare. He published his book in 1995, but his comments seem valid for the foreseeable future. He argues that a powerful nation cannot defeat a weaker nation if the people of that nation oppose the invasion and are willing to engage in a guerilla war. He uses the Boer War and some others as an example of this. The guerilla activity will bog the more powerful nation down and eventually the cost and disaffection back home will force the stronger nation to withdraw. This happened to France and the U.S. in Vietnam and to the USSR in Afghanistan. Our Iraqi efforts did not fit Alexander’s paradigm because we had support from the Iraqi people. As long as the Iraqi majority wanted to pursue a democracy and was willing to develop an army and police force to support it, and as long as we were satisfied with that result – albeit a result that will probably fall far short of the American Liberal-Democratic ideal -- then we will have succeeded in our objective and will not have fallen victim to the pitfalls Alexander warns against.

In regard to Iran, Alexander would probably favor the German/French/British negotiations there. He favors diplomacy and argues we should never go to war unless our strategic interests are at stake. But if we did have to deal with Iran militarily, the approach that seems to fit is the following:

“. . . And when we do invade, we should bear in mind that our primary aim is to force the enemy to end his objectionable actions.

“The United States may attempt to accomplish this objective by using the following two-stage strategy, a strategy that should apply, in general, to powerful countries invading weaker ones. In the first stage, we would overwhelm the enemy defenses and quickly eliminate organized resistance by regular enemy forces, topple the government (as in Panama in 1989), or disrupt the existing power balance (as in Somalia in 1993). We would immediately bring about the cessation of the country’s obnoxious international (not necessarily internal) behavior, and we would seize the principal enemy leaders or drive them under cover. This would be an extremely traumatic and costly experience to the people of the invaded country – one they would not want repeated. At this stage, there would be no organized opposition because the nation’s leadership system would have been temporarily paralyzed.

“If at this point we were to withdraw our forces, the leaders who would emerge or reemerge would cease international confrontations if only to avoid another invasion. They would be unlikely to improve poor internal conditions, but these conditions would not affect other countries.”

I can see the possibility of a deal here. We could agree to protect Europe against Russia if they will join us in an Alexander in and out attack against Iran. It seems that all we need is for France to join us to get rid of the label “unilateralism.” We had a huge number of nations join us against Saddam, but France wasn’t one of them. Therefore we engaged in unilateralism. But France may now be willing to join us in a limited attack against Iran; if we agreed to increase our protection of the EU against Russian challenges.

“We won’t be able to help you much, EU, if we have to deal with Iran on our own. But you help us out with Iran, and we’ll help you out with Russia.”

Lawrence Helm

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