October 19, 2011

Military and civilian leaders on dangers of war with Iran

Apparently, having learned nothing from their wrong-headed push for going to war with Iraq based on questionable evidence, Bill Kristol and the gang is back once again banging the drums of war.  In the wake of last Tuesday’s revelations about an alleged assassination attempt against the Saudi Ambassador in Washington D.C., a cacophony of calls from Iran hawks to authorize “the use of force against Iranian entities,” “respond militarily to this outrage,” etc. have arisen from the usual suspects.
But unlike in 2003, this time around we have learned better than to follow the neocon clarion call to arms. We saw firsthand with the Iraq War fiasco what happens when we take their advice .  Today, their claims that military strikes will usher in a democratic government in Iran should ring false to most  our ears.
And given what we learned in Iraq and given that military experts have made it abundantly clear that the challenges of a war in Iran would dwarf those that we faced in Iraq, never mind that we can little afford to another war, it is obvious that the military response Kristol and Co. advocate for would be disastrous.
But don’t just take my word for it.  Here is what military leaders have said about so-called “targeted strikes” or all out war with Iran:

Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense
“Conner’s axiom — never fight unless you have to — looms over policy discussions today regarding rogue nations like Iran … Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need. In fact, I believe it would be disastrous on a number of levels.”(Think Progress: Gates: War With Iran ‘Would Be Disastrous,’ It’s ‘The Last Thing We Need’)
“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.” (NY Times: Warning Against Wars Like Iraq and Afghanistan)
Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
“No strike, however effective, will be in and of itself decisive.”
“We haven’t had a contact with Iran since 1979.  Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union.  We are not talking to Iran so we don’t understand each other.  If something happens it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right – that there will be miscalculations – which would be extremely dangerous in that part of the world.” (Haaretz: Military Strike Won’t Stop Iran’s Nuclear Program
General David Petraeus, Director of the CIA, former head of CENTCOM and commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan
“It’s possible (a strike) could be used to play to nationalist tendencies. There is certainly a history, in other countries, of fairly autocratic regimes almost creating incidents that inflame nationalist sentiment. So that could be among the many different, second, third, or even fourth order effects (of a strike on Iran).”(Reuters: Petraeus Says Strike On Iran Could Spark Nationalism)

General (Ret.) Anthony Zinni, former head of CENTCOM
“The problem with the strike is thinking through the consequences of Iranian reaction.  One mine that hits a tanker, and you can imagine what is going to happen to the price of oil and economies around the world.  One missile into a Gulf oil field or a natural gas processing field, you can imagine what’s going to happen.  A missile attack on some of our troop formations in the Gulf or our bases in Iraq, activating sleeper cells, flushing out fast patrol boats and dowels that have mines that can go into the water in the Red Sea and elsewhere. You can see all these reactions that are problematic in so many ways. Economic impact, national security impact — it will drag us into a conflict.  I think anybody that believes that it would be a clean strike and it would be over and there would be no reaction is foolish … It will make Iraq and Afghanistan look relatively small in comparison, in terms of troop requirements and everything else.”(Charlie Rose Interview)
Admiral (Ret.) Joe Sestak, former Congressman (D-PA)
“A military strike, whether it’s by land or air, against Iran would make the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion look like a cakewalk with regard to the impact on the United States’ national security.” (Think Progress: Former Congressman Adm. Joe Sestak Warns That ‘Avoiding Mission Creep Is Unlikely’ In Iran Attack)
General (Ret.) James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)
Senator Reed: […]The usual proposal for a military action is some type that a discreet strike to disrupt the nuclear facilities in Iran. I presume that would not be 100 percent effective in terms of knocking them out. It would probably delay them, but that if their persistent enough they could at some point succeed.  Is that a fair judgment from your position?
General Cartwright: That’s a fair judgment.
Senator Reed: So that the only absolutely dispositive way to end any potential would be to physically occupy their country and to disestablish their nuclear facilities. Is that a fair, logical conclusion?
General Cartwright: Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, it’s a fair conclusion.(Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic Republic of Iran)
Dr. Colin Kahl, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East
“We don’t exactly know how it would unfold you have the prospects for unintended escalation and kind of losing control of what’s going on,” Kahl warned, adding that even though any military strike could delay Iran’s nuclear program, it could also “incentivize the Iranians to go all the way to weaponize” their nuclear material. (Think Progress: Pentagon Official on Military Action In Iran: ‘We Can Imagine A Number Of Destablizing’ Consequences)
Meir Dagan, former head of the Israeli intelligence agency MOSSAD
The possibility a future Israeli Air Force attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is “the stupidest thing I have ever heard … It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end.” (Haaretz: Former Mossad Chief: Israel Air Strike on Iran ‘Stupidest Thing I Have Ever Heard’)
Attacking Iran “would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program. The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.” (NY Times: A Former Spy Chief Questions the Judgment the Israeli Leaders)

So in the coming days, when we hear the Iran hawks making their push for a military response, we need to remember that a military conflict is not in anybody’s best interest, least of all the U.S.’s.  Not to mention that escalating our conflict with Iran brings real risks, not just for soldiers in the war zone, but for American citizens at home.  Thus, we must take the necessary steps to ensure that the violence, which up until now has been contained to the Middle East, does not spill over onto our shores.

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