Wednesday, October 12, 2011

DO NOT DARE COUNTENANCE VIOLENT, COERCIVE ACTION AGAINST US!

I'm not going to pretend like I know much of the details behind the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. I'm not going to add to the din of people commenting and analyzing and speculating and advocating. All I'm going to say is that this passage from Steve Clemons pretty much sums up a whole lot of what's behind the recent debate about the defense budget, force structure, national security strategy, etc.:
This is a serious situation -- and this kind of assassination is the sort that could lead to an unexpected cascade of events that could draw the US and other powers into a consequential conflagration in the Middle East.

If Iran was indeed willing to attack a Saudi Ambassador and close confidante of the Saudi King on US soil and countenance the death of 100-150 Americans, then the US has reached a point where it must take action. 

The President's National Security Council and intelligence teams led by Thomas Donilon must construct a response that is "more than reactive."  This is time for a significant strategic response to the Iran challenge in the Middle East and globally -- and if the US does not take action, then the Saudis will most likely retaliate in ways that will escalate the stakes and tensions with Iran throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.
If Iran was willing to countenance... Let's put this in plain words: Steve Clemons is saying that the United States ought to muster "a significant strategic response" -- presumably involving direct action by intelligence agencies or military force -- to the apparent revelation that a regional power on the other side of the globe might even consider aggressive action against U.S. and allied interests.

No wonder we need a $700 billion defense budget: some of us are planning strike operations at the hint of an anti-American plan.

10 comments:

  1. Hint? And as if this wasn't Iran's policy since 1979? The embassy seizure alone was an act of war. And can you say EFP? Al-Quds in Iraq? The bellicose apocalyptic rhetoric? So far matched by action in all but the apocalypse - they can't do that. Yet.

    And we need a 700$ billion dollar budget because we define our borders [what you defend with blood and treasure] from Korea to Kandahar and many points in between, yet have a military that for political reasons can't quite win wars. It's an expensive way to operate.

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  2. I am going to add to above - reasons of political correctness.

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  3. bdoran,

    Can you expand a bit on how political correctness prevents our military from winning wars?

    It seems to me the military excels at winning wars, it's the other, non-war activities that bogs them down (occupation, nation-building). But that's the fault of policymakers who decide to use the military for things other than strict war. I wouldn't expect my doctor to do a good job with my plumbing.

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  4. have a military that for political reasons [and "reasons of political correctness"] can't quite win wars.

    It seems to me the military excels at winning wars, it's the other, non-war activities that bogs them down (occupation, nation-building). But that's the fault of policymakers who decide to use the military for things other than strict war. I wouldn't expect my doctor to do a good job with my plumbing.

    War and battle are not the same thing. Winning in battle is only meaningful insofar as it helps to accomplish the objectives of the war, and winning the war is only meaningful insofar as it achieves the policy goals of the state. If we can't make war (or any other military action, including what The Student has called "non-war activities" like "occupation" and "nation-building") serve our policy ends, we're doing it wrong.

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  5. But why is the military the tool of choice for what comes after battle? The goal of both the Iraq & Afghanistan wars was to replace unfriendly regimes with friendly, democratic ones, no?

    It's one thing to use the military to provide internal security, but it shouldn't be left to them to build political institutions when that is not what they are trained to do. Surely the military does not have to play every role in war, just the ones they are best at.

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  6. Surely the military does not have to play every role in war, just the ones they are best at.

    ...plus all the other ones deemed essential to mission success and not accounted for by other elements of the government. Political reconstruction abroad is not exactly a core competency of any of the various departments or agencies. (Or at least it wasn't until certain parts of it were codified as stability operations, a co-equal area of emphasis with offense and defense, by DoD Directive.)

    I agree fundamentally with what you're saying, but this is the world we're living in. For a number of reasons related to resources, organizational culture, attitude/mentality, historical orientation, etc., the military ends up holding the bag. And we shouldn't ignore the fact that post-conflict political reconstruction, while difficult, is somewhat simpler than political reconstruction during extended hostilities, which is what we've faced in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This isn't just peacetime colonial administration or military governance we're talking about here (though that's worked out reasonably well in the past in certain instances).

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  7. I don't know how to quote or italicize with blogger comments but:

    "And we shouldn't ignore the fact that post-conflict political reconstruction, while difficult, is somewhat simpler than political reconstruction during extended hostilities, which is what we've faced in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This isn't just peacetime colonial administration or military governance we're talking about here (though that's worked out reasonably well in the past in certain instances)."

    Point taken. It just seems that we've gone about it in a haphazard way, which makes sense in Afghanistan (who could have imagined we'd end up rebuilding a state there before 9/11?), but is absolutely ridiculous in Iraq.

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  8. It just seems that we've gone about it in a haphazard way, which makes sense in Afghanistan (who could have imagined we'd end up rebuilding a state there before 9/11?), but is absolutely ridiculous in Iraq.

    If your point is that it's incomprehensible that successive U.S. governments failed to think through the capabilities and competencies essential to translating unmatched military power into political effects, then I completely agree.

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  9. Student: Some call it holistic thinking, that once you reach point A in a plan, point B and C will follow. Rumsfelds folly, no contigency planning etc.

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