I'll admit I'm having a strange reaction to the "wild speculation" about Iran and whether there will soon be "wars and rumors of wars" again in the Middle East.
The strange reaction I'm having is I just don't buy it. Maybe I'm naive or deluded, I don't know which. I just don't think the administration can afford to go there, literally or figuratively. I know they're messianical and inept, but I don't think they're this crazy. Don't get me wrong, the reality based community is well within its rights to begin spreading the alarm, given the snow-balling we got between 9-11 and March 2003. But the administration, someone in the administration, has to know or at least highly suspect what some of the implications would be of an Iran war.
But maybe the administration hasn't yet learned the lesson from Iraq that history is starting to write. Maybe America's power elite thinks Iran will look like Afghanistan and the first few weeks of Gulf War II.
Someone, someday will probably go back and write a very interesting book about the wars America waged between 1981 and 2006. They will write about how after the national trauma delivered by Vietnam, America's military was seemingly resurrected, aided by new technology and the capture of the government by a new conservative elite, dedicated to recreating America as a militant, faux-Christian "City on a Hill" ruled by uncompromising patriots and inhabited by loyally unquestioning citizens.
When they inquire as to America's military excursions in the Reagan era and beyond, they'll no doubt highlight our trampling of Grenada, our clandestine support for right-wing dictatorships in El Salvador, Nicaragua and elsewhere throughout Latin America, our one-time bombing of Libya, the invasion of Panama and capture and trial of Manuel Noriega, and the Reagan era's grand finale, Gulf War I, the route of Saddam Hussein's army and the liberation of Kuwait. This survey of the new American militarism might even include the air-war over Kosovo, leading to the ending of Serb atrocities, the capture of Slabodan Milosovic, and the stabilization of the Balkans by UN and NATO peacekeepers. Finally, the events of 9-11 and the soon to be unleashed invasion of Afghanistan will come under review, serving as the high-point of American triumphalism.
Then this history will turn to Operation Iraqi Freedom, known at the ground level as Cobra II. Before Iraq 2.0, and even in its early stages, the resurgence of America's military might appeared to be a fait accompli. The Reagan tough talk and defense build-up that's been credited in some quarters to the demise of Communism, the against-expectations quick roll-back of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait within a week's time and a scant loss of American military personnel, and the also relatively successful reconstituting of Afghanistan, where America's Cold War enemy had failed, seemed to all point to limitless possibilities for American military hegemony. New technology assured military victories would be short and relatively painless. Wars were no longer really wars. Not only was a draft or full societal war mobilization necessary, ground troops themselves might rarely be needed.
In a way, it's hard to fault the planners of Gulf War II. The peaceniks had been wrong about Gulf War I and Afghanistan. No chemical or biological weapons had been unleashed as a result of GWI, nor had our oil been shut off. American troops did not get bogged down in Afghanistan as had the Soviets. History had not been a valid guide for assessing just how thoroughly dominate the American military machine had become against third world foes.
In the lead-up to GWII, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld no doubt typified the beliefs of neoconservatives everywhere when he spoke aboard the Intrepid, a WWII air craft carrier anchored in the Hudson river on February 14. His speech was entitled, "Beyond Nation Building". In it, he criticized the nation-building policies of the previous administration saying that in Kosovo, they had created a "culture of dependency". America's new strategy was perfectly illustrated by its Afghanistan campaign where the U.S. was "helping the Afghans build their own country." There was no need for significant troop deployments and nor would there be a long occupation. The Iraq campaign would be even more efficient Rumsfeld promised. Iraq was rich in oil and the administration had more time to prepare the postwar plan.*
But as the last three years have demonstrated, GWII would be the first black mark in America's new military era. Iraq has and is demonstrating that war cannot be fought on the cheap, with magical bombers that alleviate the need for "boots on the ground" and large-scale sacrifices at home. If there is an Iranian invasion, the 101st Fighting Keyboarders won't get to stay downstairs in the basement or on campus flying yellow ribbons at support the troop bake sales.
This is why I don't think there will be military action against Iran. I don't see it stopping or being limited to a few smart bombs against selected, well known targets. Air attacks on Iran would prompt a response, in Iraq and elsewhere, that would rise above the level anyone could write off as being liberal defeatism.
The neocon's military party is over. Iraq was the beginning of the end of it. If there is an Iran, the neoconservative agenda will be sent back to the stone-age.
And that book on 1981-2006 American military history will be quite a read. In the meantime, and for an alternative perspective, read what Billmon has to say.
*Taken from the book, Cobra II, by Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor, page 151.