Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Friday, March 2, 2012

Israel and the myth of regional war with Iran

A lot of folks I have read in the blogoshpere have spoken of their fears of a war with Iran. Some have taken the Ron Paul stance of military isolationism - not necessarily a bad idea, as long as it means we don't desert our friends - and some have spoken of their dislike for Israel, and how we shouldn't do anything to support them, in spite of the fact that they are worthy of support. Here are a few reasons, courtesy of Double Tapper, an Israeli with a blog of that name, who lists some reasons why Israel is a valuable state: Did you know

...That Israel has more Nobel Prizes per capita than any other country. It has more laureates, in real numbers, than Spain, Mexico and China.
...That Israel scientific research institutions are ranked 3rd in the world.

...That Israel is ranked 2nd in space sciences.

...That Israel is one of the eight countries in the world capable of launching its own satellites.

...That Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin.

...That Israel has the 3rd highest rate of entrepreneurship amongst women in the world.

...The proportion of women among R&D workers in Israel is approximately 23.4%. This puts Israel in second place behind Denmark. Women earned 37% of all degrees granted in science and engineering in Israel, one of the highest proportions in the world.

...That Israel has attracted the most venture capital investment per capita in the world, 30 times more than Europe.

...That Israel leads the world in patents for medical equipment.

As I have mentioned before, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain for you illiterati out there ;-) wrote of the many contributions Jews have made to civilization, and Israel is certainly continuing the tradition.

There are those who remain angry because Israel attacked one of our ships in the past. I do not have enough information to claim - as they do - that it wasn't an accident, like when our military shot down an airliner full of innocent people. Or like when our military bombed the Chinese embassy in the Serbia in 1999. Or any of the other "friendly fire" incidents our military has engaged in. They insist it was intentional - against all logic - and feel it is necessary to hate Israel, or at least to turn away from her because of that mistake. Or perhaps simply because they don't have too much use for Jews.

Israel is our friend, and the only western style democratic government in the Middle East. The only one which would bring stability to that area if it were possible to do so, in the face of all the muslims who scream for her destruction, and death to all who are not muslim.

Military isolationism is good right up until we allow other state actors to destroy our friends. Should we have reused to aid Britain when Germany declared war upon them? Should we (I mean the American people, not our current President) abandon Britain if they were to be attacked by another country again?

Israel lives under the constant threat of destruction by the muslims who surround her. Iran has spoken repeatedly of its plan - not simply its intention - to destroy Israel. They need to be in a position to defend themselves against that very real threat, which they certainly cannot do if Iran develops nuclear weapons.

Now we come to the meat of this post. Sultan Knish, on his blog, speaks to his assessment of the risk of war with Iran. I will post his article here and state ahead of time that I agree with his assessment.

- FrontPage Magazine - http://frontpagemag.com -

Striking Iran and the Myth of Regional War

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On February 29, 2012 @ 12:50 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 72 Comments

In 2007, Israeli Air Force jets crossed into Syria and destroyed an Iranian-backed nuclear reactor. The operation had the backing of the United States and employed intelligence derived from an Iranian defector. There was no regional war afterward. Not even an exchange of fire at the Israeli-Syrian border.

In 1981, Israel struck deep inside Iraq, destroying Saddam’s Osirak reactor. The attack was universally condemned at the United Nations and even by Israel’s allies. Had Saddam used it as the basis for a war, Israel would have had no international support at all. But again no war followed.

Today, Iran and opponents of any attack on its nuclear program hold up the specter of a regional war that will drag in the United States, devastate the region and drive up oil prices. This is the only card in their deck until the mullahs have their own bomb, and it’s an effective card to play. But is any of that a serious risk?

Let’s start by looking at the current state of the Iranian regime. The regime is wildly unpopular at home. It had to use its Revolutionary Guard corps to violently suppress protests against the regime, it does not trust its own military and without troops loyal to it close to home, the regime would be gone faster than you can say Nicolai Ceausescu. (If you have trouble saying that, substitute the fallen dictator of your choice.)

Iran has repeatedly attacked American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; its terrorists have attacked Israel and Jews around the world, but those attacks amount to terrorism and guerrilla warfare mostly carried out by secondary actors. It’s quite different from committing to a major conflict, which will give the regime a choice between either keeping its loyalist Revolutionary Guard at home and sending unreliable conventional troops off to fight and possibly turn on it, or sending off its trusted troops and leaving its leaders naked to the people’s wrath.

Another option is more terrorist attacks, which are already being carried out anyway. And as their recent attacks showed, Shiite terrorists aren’t all that much better than the Sunni kind. Their latest round of attacks mostly ended with dead terrorists killed by their own bombs. And it is only common sense that a regime this violent and stupid can no more be allowed to have nuclear weapons than Corcoran State Prison should allow Charles Manson to build his own flamethrower.

The only card in the Iranian deck is a naval conflict. The last time it tried one of those, the result was a decisive defeat for Iran, but that was back in the late ’80s. The Persian Gulf is vital to Iran’s assertion of power over the region. It has invested in developing its navy and a strategy that will allow it to take on greater powers.

This scenario is only plausible if we assume that Iran will begin a conflict that it is bound to lose in order to avenge the loss of a nuclear program that it no longer has.

There are two possible attack scenarios. First, Israel carries out a unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear program. This is the most likely scenario under the Obama administration, which has made it clear that it wants a conflict with Syria, but will not back any Israeli attack on Iran. Second, in a very unlikely scenario the administration, for some reason, changes its mind and decides to take out Iran’s nuclear program.

In the first and likeliest scenario, Iran would have to begin a war with the United States over an attack carried out by Israel. A war that it’s bound to lose. Like the lunatic with the lug nuts, the folks in Tehran are crazy, but they’re not stupid. If they were going to begin a war with the United States over something Israel did, they had plenty of opportunities with Stuxnet and the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.

In the second scenario, Iran would have the pretext, but that doesn’t automatically translate into an actual conflict either. For one thing, there is the same problem as before. A direct conflict would not end with an Iranian victory. There’s only so much guerrilla warfare you can carry out on the water before the game ends. Without a local civilian population and a vast landscape to hide in, the whole thing implodes.

A naval conflict would be less dangerous to the regime than a ground war, but it would be far more expensive. The Iranian economy is already in bad shape and while the regime will always choose guns over butter, it also needs a certain amount of butter to prevent the regime from being completely overthrown. It also needs credit to buy more guns.

The brief conflict would give the regime a boost at home, but would also demonstrate its unreadiness to take control of the Persian Gulf. It would set back its naval capabilities, impose a heavy price tag and pile one humiliation on top of another.

The Iranian regime is the motherland of terror, and terrorists are natural cowards. They want to intimidate and terrorize their enemies into giving in to their demands while avoiding the consequences. A nuclear bomb is the perfect coward’s weapon because it can be passed along to terrorists, while its mere possession makes retaliation too risky. Without the bomb Iran has to practice the fine art of shaking a stick that it can’t use.

The strangest twist in all this is that some of the most fervent progressive opponents of an attack on Iran are also proponents of an attack on Syria. Reports suggest that Iran actually has sent in a sizable force to help the Assad regime win the civil war. If opponents of an attack on Iran’s nuclear program really believe that it would have devastating consequences, why are they courting a conflict with Iran in Syria?

No one can predict the future, but the best guide to the future is the past. Israel took out nuclear programs in Syria and Iraq without a regional war. Taking out Iran’s nuclear program will require attacks on a larger scale, but the paradigm still holds. Israel and the United States recently took out an Iranian-backed reactor in Syria without it leading to a war.

That doesn’t mean that an attack will not lead to a war, only that it is not the likeliest outcome. And the war panic that is being brewed up serves Iranian interests. Iran’s best hope for buying time is to make an attack on its nuclear program seem as dangerous and costly as possible. That is the only real card it has to play and falling for it lets Iran bluff its way to a nuclear ace.

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Sorry, folks. I was completely ignorant about comment rules. Anyone can post, but I'd prefer a name, even if it is made up. Anonymous posts just seem cheap, if you know what I mean. Also, if you want to argue a point, that's fine. Cheap shots and name calling towards me or another person commenting (ad hominem) is rude and will get you banned. Other than that, I'd love to get some comments.