Monday, August 21, 2006

A Needed Grain of Salt

Without trying to minimize the Israeli political defeat in the recent fighting in Lebanon; nor the problems the conflict revealed with the Israel Defense Force's reserve structure and training, I would say that us pundits and backroom strategists should perhaps take a deep breath and think for a bit before proclaiming a total reordering in the World Distribution of Jello. In that vein, have a look at the military commentator Edward Luttwak's op-ed piece "Misreading the Lebanon War" in the Jerusalem Post here.
I'm a big admirer of Dr. Luttwak: his The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, and his The Pentagon and the Art of War are two of the most worn out and annotated books on my shelves. His article in Commentary: "Three Reasons Not to Bomb Iran -- Yet," should be required reading for anybody with an interest in this subject.


louielouie said...

my former boss said that the iranian regime was going to implode on itself within 2 to 3 years. yessirreeeee that is what he said. in 1992. he said that.
i have a native iranian who comes into my store. he says the americans are the ones who put the mullahs in power, and control the mullahs.
i just can't see the people of iran doing anything to bring about change in iran. any who could/can are in lala land.
my boss, he take good peecture?
right before he fled the comfy confines of tulsa for that of tehran.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Interesting ex-bosses you have ! Still, I'd rather have Interpol after me than, say, the boys from VEVAK, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

It's hard for a country with reasonably loyal and efficient security forces and an intact command structure to "implode" unless some outside force with a great deal of money and expertise is paying the freight for it. The Shah had a good secret police and military (as the mullahs do now), and I'm convinced his son would sit on the Peacock throne today if Daddy had not been too paralyzed by his own illness to do anything. SAVAK seems to have known what was going on with the Khomeni and University crowd all along, and the Army was loyal right to the end. Just no boss at the top.

Similarly, the Tsar's Russia only collapsed when the troops could no longer be counted on to shoot, and the government was totally run at the ministerial level (to say nothing of the Tsar), by complete incompetents -- and this was after years of war. The Okhrana had the revolutionaries in Petrograd and elsewhere completely penetrated and functioned right up to the end.

Same same again in East Germany, where the Stasi and the East German Army, right up to the end, could have put down the democracy movement, had the bosses been able to agree about what to do. And we won't even go into Gorbachev -- the weirdest, strangest political leader of the 20th Century, who single handedly wrecked the Soviet Union (was he a US spy ? ha ha !).

Generally, you need an outside stimulus or special circumstances to bring down a half-way competent police state. When you don't have that, you get Tiananmen Square.

We have some levers to hand: the Iranians are dependent on gasoline imports, much of which comes by sea (they have oil, but lack refining capacity). The Iraqi and Afghan borders are in our hands, or those of our collaborators, and if the Iranians can run arms across them, the traffic can go both ways: counterfeit money, guns, booze, drugs, porn, fully trained "freedom fighters" -- anything and everything to destabilize the mullahs.

The Iranians have a secret police organization ? Fine, lets give it a workout and see how much mischief we can make. Surely there are a few police and military commanders in the Islamic Republic or politicians, mullahs or whoever who like money, booze, drugs or boys.

I don't know if we could throw down the Mullah regime, it's a big maybe. But I don't think it could be done by internal elements hostile to the regime without help from outside -- that is, us.

Such an effort is infinitely preferable to going to war -- Iran is a much tougher, harder target than Iraq; their military is much better than in 1988, is exercised constantly and reasonably well trained and equipped. Besides, I can't think of anything more likely to unite Persians solidly behind this regime forever than an open war.

The nukes are not the problem. If the Persians want nukes, they are going to have them. We cannot stop that. The problem is the regime and its unwillingness to allow its neighbors (more specifically, our clients), and us to live in quiet. If something can be worked out there, than the nature of the Iranian regime is not our legitimate concern. If not, then we have to consider other options. I'd certainly prefer trying the covert headache before the overt one.

Mike's America said...

It's a shame that we haven't done more to destabilize the Iranian regime these last five years. It's clear that Iran has been at war with us since 1979 and we haven't done a damn thing about it.

I hope Luttwak is right and an Iranian nuke is at least three years away. Pretty clear that the present course of diplomacy and delay is all to Iran's favor.

Luttwak's article on the Hezboos was fine from a military point of view but he seemed to ignore the political dimension which to me anyway is more important.

Israel could not have completely destroyed the Hezboos, but they sure could have done a better job of humiliating them. Nothing is worse for a crazy Arab than being beaten by a Jew and all your other crazy Arab neighbors watching it happen.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Oh, I'm holding out for some Hezzie bashing, myself. I'm not sure the Israel-Hezbollah set-to is over...yet.