Friday, November 19, 2004

Brass Balls or Fortune Favors the Bold

Just some thoughts as we start dealing with the Iran nuclear situation. I was thinking back to the bad ol', good ol' days when Reagan, despite all the handwringing declarers of the coming nuclear Armeggedon, ratcheted up the nuclear arsenal and stuck his thumb in the eye of the USSR. Then proceeded to tell Gorbechav to "tear down this wall" (Berlin Wall for those who are historically impaired). He called them the "evil empire". If I recall correctly, the entire of Europe shuddered and hunkered down for the "final countdown" and begged the USSR to spare them because that "stupid American cowboy" didn't speak for them.

Today, over at the Adventures of Chester, they were discussing potential actions that could be taken against Iran if they proceeded with their nuclear weapons building (which we say they are despite their little claims of agreeing to the European idea). Actually, Chester and crew were talking about "pre-emptive" strikes.

My suggestions on potential actions:

1) Work on the civilian population for covert support of regime change
2) Go brass balls. Move air craft carriers, submarines and ready long range bombers and tell Iran to stand down or get blown to kingdom come.
3) Keep working within the IAEA which will slow them down (some) and expect that they will have nuclear weapons. We must be faster at building our missile defense system.
Of course, I fleshed each of these out with a number of steps that we would have to take, including the pacification of Iraq.

My thougts were that we would probably work on #1, but we'd end up with #3, being a pragmatist and all. Option #2 seemed even too over the top and risky to me.

Then, enter the vision of Ronald Reagan. Why wouldn't option #2 work? Sure, it would piss off some folks and it's hugely risky, but, like the thumb in the eye of the USSR, it could have a major pay off.

Fortune favors the bold in the inner sanctum.

Think about it. What do we have to lose? We could, for a very long time, sit off the coast of Iran, blockade their trade routes, degrade their economy and waste them into non-existence. With the one exception of the trade routes through the north and the Caspian Sea.

So maybe we don't plan it for a long term. Maybe it's quick brinkmanship with a threat to blow their nuclear plants and any military base that acts against us? We'd have to have big brass balls and tell the world to go to hell. Of course, some will think it is an example of American hubris confirmed, but so what? They already think it. My grandfather always said, if you are going to be hung for stealing a lamb, you might as well as steal a full grown sheep.

What if that is the catalyst that will turn the dissidents on in a big way? Then, while we threaten to blow their precious resources to kingdom come we can also tell them if the army or any other armed forces attack the citizens, we will come in and blast them to kingdom come (the armed forces that is).

I know, I know. I am sounding like a warmongering, right wing nut. Just what the "reality based" community thinks of people that supported George Bush. I'm bad. I'm blood thirsty., I'm not. Actually, I think this could be quick and efficient. Probably take little or no action actually. A major bluff. But one that we have to stand ready to impliment.

I've heard all the garbage about Iran's better military capability than Iraq. But I dare to say, that they still aren't all that. Even if they have some better armaments and better trained people, their airforce would be taken out in a surprise strike or by paying off the generals to stand down. The air forces of these countries are usually a little more liberal than the rest. And, from what I have read, the armed services, like army, artillary and tanks, aren't all so damn loyal to the regime. They aren't all volunteers. They are conscripts. And the Mullahs make sure that they are far enough away that they can't move or enter the cities without them knowing because they fear a military coup that backs up the dissidents. Think about it. Their population is made up of 50% people under the age of 30. That's what is in their military. And, it is these young people who are the most opposed to the regime.

Quite a possibility that these units turn on the government. I would hope at that point that they are all "patriotic" and not intent on instituting their own dictatorship backed by the army.

Even if they didn't participate, but stood down. That would be just as good.

What could the world say or do? The most upset would be the Chinese who get a lot of their oil from there. But, as long as the oil kept flowing, China wouldn't give a crap. France would balk, but, if the dissident movement got going, they would have no joice but to start screaming "liberte, fraternite, egalite" with the rest of us or appear to be the scumbag non-humanist some folks think they are. And, they wouldn't want to cut their nose off to spite their face. The dissidents get rolling in a big way, they will be who France must do business with.

Last, so what if the dissidents don't rise and we are toe to toe with the mullacracy extraordinaire? Who has the upper hand? It is not the Iranians, that is for sure. We could bomb them from the outside as long as we wanted.

In this case, even acting like we want to stick our thumb in their eye, might be sufficient.

Fortune favors the bold. This president is like Mr. Reagan in a way. He is a second term, nothing to lose, got a majority vote, president. Lot's of people are shouting "he doesn't have a mandate" in hopes that means he won't do anything too crazy.

I happen to disagree from the simple standpoint that he has nothing to lose and everything to gain his party. They control the houses of congress.

He has nothing to lose.

Forturn favors the bold or at least those with a set of brass balls.


Donal said...

Kat you ignore the other aspect of Reagan's vision that enabled the defeat of the USSR. Given a chance at peace he put aside his ideology and reached for it. He gave Gorbachev the assurances of external security which allowed Gorbachev to push his reforms thru the Politburo. (Excelent article about Reagan here btw) Bush hasnt shown the same ability to put aside ideology when its necessary. On Iran I agree that if they dont stop their nuclear ambitions we will need to bomb the military bases and nuclear facilities till they do (not their cities however). There are a few things that you didnt mention here however. First their facilities may be so deeply buried that we couldnt destroy them from their air. Second, it may not be bloodless- they have better missles than SH and could target US bases in Iraq. Third, for the bluff to work we would have to open a uniltareal diaglog with Iran- something we are not doing. Fourth, it should be only about their nuclear program if we make regime change a requirement their answer would be no. Also I firmly belive that given time and covert support regime change will happen. As you pointed out the majority of the population under 30 desires change and they are the future. Bush does have something to lose- congressional races in two years but I dont view that as a downside ;)

Donal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

I generally agree with Donal, although I would add that in negotiations we should demand that they cease and desist infiltrating terrorists into Iraq, and respect the borders, and stop incursions across the frontier. If they don't comply, bomb their bases with those bunker-busters (you know, the ones Kerry voted AGAINST) and generally screw up their military capability the good old-fashioned B-52 way. But not invade. Just let them stew in their destruction for a while, and then negotiate with them again. "Now, we say again..." and list the demands. Wash, rinse, repeat, until they comply.

And as Donal said, support the popular movement for regime change covertly.

Kat said...

Well, I was not supporting invasion here. At least not boots on the ground. Nor was I supporting a demand from us to do regime change. My thoughts were simply that, if we acted any way muscular towards the regime with explicit (and let me flesh this out) directives that we would be going after military bases and abilities and not after the citizens themselves, it might give the opposition movement the onus to stand up and make their own move and then, and only if they are big enough/have big popular support, we turn to the "don't make a move on your citizens or we will consider that an act of war" do we move towards the regime change.

Other than that, overtly supporting regime change would probably doom the process from the beginning. Our main goal would be "security" and stand down of nuclear weapons building. Otherwise, we are meddling in another country's affairs, overtly.

I will say that I support the covert support of the regime change movement, but I am concerned that it is slow and will not be timely enough to interdict the mullahs desire to build nuclear weapons. Once they have those, overt action against them is nil.

I also understand the Iraq situation. My thoughts are that we have to quickly pacify Iraq, by whatever methods necessary, in order to relieve troops there for "border protection". any overt action against them means we bomb Iran into the ground and that includes them lobbing missiles that way.

As for guaranteeing them external security, I would agree that the ideology of this president does not allow, at this time, for that sort of offer.

So, this may be more of an exercise in direct confrontation than even Reagan's ideal.

Let me put here what my long plan was and you will see that I am not necessarily saying that "brass balls" is the only way or the only thing I would support. I called it option set #1:

From this perspective, I think we should remember what our resources are.

1) Most operational military units are dedicated to Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes spec ops that are busy hunting the terrorists in these two countries and in Africa. Money for reconstruction would be limited as well as resources (men and materials) are obligated in Iraq which cannot be allowed to run into the hole that it would go into if we diverted resources.

2) Farsi speaking spec ops are just as rare as good arabic speakers.

3) Political repercussions of overt American attack while Iran is declaring it's cooperation with the IAEA.

4) Financial repurcussions (to the world) of taking Iranian oil production offline. Unlike Iraq, who barely contributed 3% of the oil from the region, Iran produces and exports a significant portion of the oil from the region. Something along the lines of 20-25%. This is largely pumped out by French, Russian and chinese oil companies (recall our UN problem with Iraq). While Russia might remain silent, France could do nothing militarily but could be a big economic and verbose opponent; and China, who gets a large amount of oil from Iran and the region, might take it as an act of war.

5) Having Israel act as our proxy, will not look anything but Israel acting as our proxy. Further, this would not be the same as their attack on Iraq when many of these countries (including Iran) were both militarily weak as well as despised Saddam.

6) As a continuation from #1, as much as Iraq is being infiltrated from Iran, it is still somewhat controlled. Loss of control would be a greater fluidity of men and materials for the insurgents/terrorists.

Having said all of that, we have to use those as our preconditions for action, not necessarily a critique of other suggestions.

Things to remember about Iran:

1) they don't trust their military as much as you think. There are special units that are ultra loyal to the government and these are kept closer to the seat of power. Other units are not allowed in or near the cities (same deal as Iraq in many instances; or, if you prefer, the reason the romans did not allow their legions into the cities) as they may prove to be a coalesced force that can turn against the regime. They also rely on paramilitary units (like Saddam's fedeyeen) for the same reason: loyalty to the regime or loyalty by money.

2) Like Iraq, if we are desirous of turning it into our third success at ME democracy, we cannot afford to destroy it's infrastructure if we want it to come on line quickly. Oil and finance have to be able to operate in short order and limited humanitarian issues would have to be able to be dealt with quickly.

3) They have more political pull with France, Russia and China. Unlike Iraq, that basically was a completely failed state, Iran has money and it spends it overtly with these partners. These people would have a huge stake in stabilizing the country on BEHALF of the mullahs. You could expect large amounts of funds and armaments to be shipped in. Particularly from China (overtly) with some less "overt" actions from the others.

Ok, we've set some of the preconditions for the environment. We also need to know what our political aims would be.

1) Reduce or destroy Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons.
2) Insure the region does not explode in total chaos. (No overt attacks on Israel; complete uprising of Palestinians against Israel; groups breaking up into different extremist organizations and trying to kill each other as well as destabilize any other regimes like Saudi Arabia or Jordan)
3) Limited or no damage to the financial or resource interests of major players, like China. (must keep them out of play as much as possible)
4) Reduce or destroy Iran's ability to assist terrorists or meddle in Iraq's affairs/reconstruction.
5) The third democracy project in the ME.

Options are, therefore, limited by our political objectives, but can and should change based on actions or issues within Iran itself.

Option set 1:

1) Intelligence. This is key because it would help decide whether we should chuck some of our more friendly political objectives because we are running out of time or if we have time to work on a few of our other options and bring them to full fruition. We may be re-aligning our intelligence efforts right now with the changes going on at the CIA. Good start.

2) Money/Finance. If we are serious, we need to start spreading money around that country liberally. More and better support to opposition groups both in and outside of Iran.

3) The financial squeeze. Right now, we are allowing our dollar to deflate in order to offset some of our own financial issues. In relatively quick order, we can turn that around and start squeezing the Iranian dinar (?). That will mean that some of our "friends'" monetary valaue will be squeezed, too, but, if we are serious, we take it on the chin while we continue. Once their dinar is squeezed, they will be unable to purchase as much men, materials and armaments. This will also cause financial issues for your common Iranian citizen. all the better because there is nothing that can make the citizens more angry than the perception that their government is screwing with their livelyhood. This will help garner support for the opposition "reformers".

4) Opposition. Speaking of the ultra lite reformers of Iran, we should not throw our support behind those people. They are just the next dictators waitiing in the wings for sure and if they feel threatened they will, as they have lately, throw their support behind the regime. We need to fund the hardcore, ultra democracy crowd. They need bigger and better ways to spread their propaganda as well as fund safe houses and other underground operations. The more propaganda they produce the bigger their numbers. And they need BIG numbers if this is to go down relatively peacefully as well as actually stand up against the crackdown.

5) Buying loyalty and isolating the government. Remember funding and finance and the fact that there are probably plenty of military units that are not exactly for the "mullacracy" but defending their homeland. The generals can be bought. This may also go for a large number of the police. This buying has to go through the Iranian opposition and not us for the police. So, the opposition may have to get better at getting down and dirty in the "financial warfare for loyalty" program and despense with some of their potential ethics or issues of getting involved with the police. Of course, that is risky because the police could double time them so this would have to be either a quick flooding of many or a slow feeling around depending on the amount of time we have. We buy the loyalty of the military directly as this will require huge individual sums and certain guarantees. No career officer is just going to dump it and become ultra patriotic if he thinks it will all go in the can and leave him in a hole. This includes airforce or other airborne units as much as possible since we will want them to stay down during the "civil uprising".

6) Overt American political support for the movement. Once the movement gets going, the US comes out and starts calling for Iran to heed it's people and give them true democracy. What is France going to do? Oppose democracy? They will look like idiots, so they stay quiet. Maybe join the cacophony of calls from the world if it looks like the movement will succeed (they won't want to lose their financial and oil options if they oppose a movement that maybe in control soon). Russia stays quiet or backs US with some vague words. China says nothing but may start funnelling more money and arms to Iran.

7) Overt American military support. This doesn't mean actual action inside Iran, aside from maybe some spec ops working on the military buying. Once the movement gets big enough and we have turned a few units (or more) of Iranian army, we put a large number of aircraft carriers in the gulf for "protection" of the region. Move military units in Iraq in fairly decent numbers to the border with Iran for "protection of Iraq" and smaller scale in Afghanistan for same "protection". We let it be known that we will protect the civilians of Iran if the army or any military groups start going wholesale slaughter on them. This will decrease even more the numbers of military units willing to participate against their citizens (they'll look bad as well as risk certain death).

Now, the important things that have to happen to make this viable is that the movement of the citizens has to stay underground a bit longer but has to get big very fast. Without large scale support, it is just another uprising to be put down by the Iranian militia. The money factor will very important. We have to be able to squeeze Iran and flood them with American money at the same time. Their currency will be crap and ours will be king. Just another leverage for the opposition movement. And, intelligence wise, we need to know who INSIDE Iran we can work with that isn't another Chalabi or an Arafat/Saddam in waiting.

For all this to work, it is contingent on making Iraq quiet as quick as possible depending on how fast we want to make this operation work.

other issue, if this all goes south and it turns into large scale bloody civil war, we should understand that oil prices are going to go out of this world, China and a number of other countries will start buying large stockpiles of oil to offset their losses, oil prices go out of this world, economies suffer. This has big implications.

Overt pressure either militarily or politically regarding the treatment of their citizens could only happen if the movement was big enough. that is their problem today. While they can rally 50k or so (and I think that is a slightly overstated estimate by the dissidents in order to garner more support), they have not actually garnered large scale support.

I believe it was the fore fathers in the declaration of independence that noted how often men (people) were want to stay under even a bad ruler because at least it gained them some measure of security (I think that's why you hear it in Iraq sometimes "at least Saddam gave us security". Of course, that security was a bullet to the back of the head and some other gruesome activities).

But, I think option set #1 could be viable if the President kept talking up freedom for people around the globe and we started pooring in money. I really don't see this happening until Iraq is more stable. We are on a bit of a circular track.

Donal said...

CSM your right about the terrorist activity as well- of course the problem with that is as Kat stated that they dont control the military as much as one would think. We would have to be careful with the financial squeeze Kat unless its played right it could backfire on us. We should only offer overt support if needed- it might not be. Most dictators start with offering security- look at Napoleon, Mussolini, etc. and then clamp down with an iron fist.

Kat said...

I agree Donal on the potential for financial squeezes to backfire. Iran could slow production of oil and counter move on us to increase the price and offset any financial issues. This would be a very delicate game. Maybe a slow build up so they don't notice right away or and instant flooding that crashes them too fast to react.

I think this is why it has taken us so long to even think about moving on Iran. Before, they were just the country that could export their Islamic rebellion to other states. Now they are becoming a strong arm with the potential of nuclear weapons. This drives the stakes up considerably and why it may be more important to take this seriously than it was in the past.