Posted by: Kevin | February 13, 2007

“To Be? or Not To Be?” at war with Iran


So the administration has made its case as to why they think Iran is funding and supplying insurgents in Iraq who are killing US soldiers.  At a press conference in Baghdad, unnamed US defense officials told a briefing that 170 US and coalition soldiers had been killed by Iranian-made roadside bombs1.  They then concluded that this meant the government of Iran was actively supporting insurgents within Iraq.

The briefing was given on the condition of anonymity, which in of itself is strange.  Stranger still is the evidence offered.  The photo gallery provided to the press, shows 81MM mortar rounds with English writing rather than Farsi2.  They them claim that the tailfins of these mortar rounds indicate manufacture in Iran, although the pictures provided to the press completely obscure the tailfins, which prevents independent analysis.  To further enhance the weirdness, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, has gone on record saying he wasn’t aware that this briefing3.  He followed up by refusing to support the conclusion that Iran is actively supporting the insurgents.

This has been part of a general ramping up of the rhetoric with regards to Iran.  Long considered a member of the “Axis of Evil”, Iran is now an immediate danger to develop nuclear weapons.  They are actively sowing discord in Iraq and plotting to get more of our soldiers killed.  For all these reasons, we’re supposed to go along with the Bush administration as they determine how to handle this threat.  Where have I heard this before?

I don’t like Iran.  I don’t like theocracies in general.  I don’t like countries that support terrorism.  None of that is enough for me to justify a war with Iran.  I could go into reasons of international law and human rights but that’s not the biggest problem with such a war.  The biggest problem is that we’d probably lose.

Right now our troops in Iraq are supplied by convoys from Kuwait.  Those convoys travel though Shiite dominated southern Iraq4.  The Shiites in Iraq are currently receiving a great deal of material support from Iran and can be counted on to side with Iran should we go to war.  At best that would force us to commit men and materials to defend these supply lines.  At worst, our supply lines are cut, and our troops are screwed.

The Strait of Hormuz5 is the only outlet from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean.  20% of the world’s oil passes through that it, as well as much of the supplies bound for our soldiers in Iraq.  At its narrowest point, it is only 21 miles wide and Iran possesses enough surface to surface missiles severely hurt traffic through this key waterway.  Were Iran to attempt to close the strait, the impact on the world oil market would be dramatic.  Oil is a commodity, decrease the supply and you increase the price.  It would take a significant commitment of US resources to keep the strait open and there would be no guarantee of success.

Iran’s army by itself presents a problem.  In addition to the ~350K regular army6, there is the Basij7, the Islamic Republic paramilitary force established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini which now counts over 11 million members.   Those are the people who would be taking the battlefield with plastic keys and throwing themselves at US soldiers in human waves.  They would be taking the field against a coalition force of 150 – 180K, depending on how things work out with The Surge8.

The skill and dedication of our armed forces is beyond question.  Our technological superiority is indisputable.  However, it isn’t enough.  Our army needs to be supplied.  We need a healthy economy in order to pay for them.  We need to make the military and political maneuvers necessary, so that they are engaging forces they can defeat.  In football it would be called putting your players in position to make plays.  In warfare it’s called not putting your troops at risk unnecessarily. 

Iran may well be the threat it’s being painted as.  We may need to address that threat in the very near future.  But let’s be honest about our capabilities.  Our army has too many missions already and the debt load we’ve undertaken to pay for Iraq is staggering.  So I’m advocating a hands-off approach with Iran.  This isn’t because it’s the moral thing to do or because I hate our troops.  I’m advocating it because it’s the only sane choice in the Middle East right now.

Time to call in the Extra Special Forces!

1 – Story from Yahoo News
2 – Photo’s of DoD “evidence” from the LA Times
3 – General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Wasn’t aware of the briefing and is unwilling to support the conclusions.  From
4 – CS article on supply risk
5 – wikipedia on the Strait of Hormuz
6 – GlobalSecurity.Org on the Iranian army
7 – wikipedia on the Basij, the Islamic Republic paramilitary force established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
8 – wikipedia on The Surge

Hat tip to Balloon Juice



  1. Kevin,

    I see you, like me, are worried about what Bush may do next. At this point, the possibility of President Bush starting a war with Iran is so tangible that I don’t see many, if any, people dismissing it out of hand.

    In mainstream media we hear from pundits talking about the likelihood of Bush attacking Iran yet only those pundits who omit mentioning it would violate international law and our Constitution get chosen by the major media.

    The agree with you that we must take the sane approach. Leaving Bush in power with the idea in his head that he has a right to attack Iran is DANGEROUS and could host the lives of God knows how many Americans, let alone other people in the world.

    We are in such a DANGEROUS situation right now that we must do more that advocate who Bush shouldn’t do. We must prevent him from doing with with all our might, our very lives are at risk because of this insanity.

    Bush must be impeached in order to prevent him from damaging our security and needlessly getting who knows how many more Americans killed. It is past time to put a stop to this self declared “War President.” The man has proven that he is not fit to be Commander in Chief. As unimaginable as it sounds, three times now he has made it clear that he doesn’t even know why he attacked Iraq. Contrary to the perception of many, the press doesn’t hold him accountable. Bush has lied several times to the American people, a recent time he actually admitted to it and still the mainstream media was unwilling to call him a lair! In fact the Washington Post went as far as censoring one of their own articles: “Shortly after accurately reporting remarks that President Bush made during a press conference, the Washington Post changed its article. The newer version mischaracterized the president’s words and dropped a crucial quote. Why? Maybe because the old version of the article showed that the president is a liar.”

    Our lives are at risk, it is time to employ the basic powers of government to rescue ourselves from an impeding doom. We must demand that COngress impeach President Bush for launching the war on Iraq. By Bush’s own worse, the reason he attacked Iraq is a lie. He said he attacked because Saddam didn’t let the inspectors in, THAT IS A LIE! What a insult to the American people that this man doesn’t even know the basic fact about why he attacked Iraq! What an insult all those that served and all those that have died or have been maimed in Bush’s war that Bush is lying about why he started the war. What an insult it is for the mainstream media o sweep these things under the rug, fooling millions of Americans about issues that effect their lives.

    How did the American people get to this point? The media is manipulating the public and violating basic principles.

    I think you have been influenced by mainstream media. How is it you scoff at the idea of a being as good as your word, at the idea of upholding international law? When the U.S. signs an international treaty, it is supposed to uphold it, that basic principle is enshrined in our Constitution. Over the past decades, the MSM has driven the idea out of many people’s heads of behaving morally and legally in international affairs. The main way they do it is by neglecting to allow pundits on the air that support the rule of law. “A long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT” -Thomas Paine

    We may have little time left. What do you say to doing a serious examination of the issues. We must insist that our representatives uphold the U.S. Constitution, it is the only way we are going to avert a potential crisis of horrific proportions.

  2. Tom, I’ll tackle a couple of the questions you brought up.

    First – I have a personal bias against law and lawyers, having grown up with my brother, who was pretty much a lawyer from birth (long story, we get along great though). I recognize the importance of the rule of law and that it’s preferable to tyranny, but I will never stop distrusting it. In fact I think it’s very important that people distrust their laws. For that reason, I don’t like using legal arguments to support my views and instead focus on utility. Otherwise it would be dishonest of me.

    Second – I don’t support impeachment, yet. Not because I don’t think Bush deserves it, but I’m worried about the precedent. To the best of my understanding, Bush hasn’t clearly violated US law. Unless we can determine that the law was broken, impeachment is just a political exercise. A justified exercise, but it’s not in the spirit of the constitution. It’s a shame that we don’t have the option of a “vote of no confidence” in this country.

    I’d rather see Congress do everything in its power to tie Bush’s hands in Iraq, cut the funding, force withdrawals, etc. If that’s not an option, then I want to see something binding that will limit the war without further Congressional approval. In short, Congress needs to take some ownership in this war and start to dismantle the “unitary executive” power the Bush admin has established. Otherwise it will come off as a partisan witch hunt.

    Third – As for the MSM and its effects on America, that’s a tricky one. The US has a history of not giving a shit what the rest of the world thinks that goes back hundreds of years, not decades. I’m not going to speculate as to why, but at least half of this country is cool with the idea of a “cowboy” president. Otherwise Bush would never have been elected, twice.

    This is why I want to avoid the witch hunt. The Bush presidency appealed to a large segment of this country. Not all of those people are mentally retarded, even if their votes in 2000 and 2004 were. So I want a solution that isn’t going to further split this country. That may be a pipe dream, but I think Congress “cowboy’ing up” and taking an active role in resolving things in Iraq would be the place to start.

    As for a discussion of the issues, let me know what you’ve got in mind. I’m on a tight schedule this week but I’m interested. BTW, I love the Thomas Paine quote.

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