What to do about Iran? Act for the Republic and independence

There has been much discussion about what President Obama and his administration should do about Iran. I participated this week in a discussion on the National Journal’s national security blog on this issue, which included two questions:

  1. What should President Obama do about Iran
  2. Should Obama take the military option off the table re: Iran?

My comments on the blog are below.

Answer to Question 1:

President Obama should:

  1. Explain to the American people that Iran is no threat to the United States unless we or Israel attack it first, and then it would be a serious threat to U.S. access to energy and would likely stage terrorist operations in the continental United States. [The last thanks to 30-years of immigration policies that leave us with knowledge of neither who is in the country nor what they are capable of doing.]
  2. Publicly state that there will be no U.S. surprise attack on Iran, and no U.S. attack at all on Iran unless the president asks for a formal declaration of war and the Congress votes its approval in a constitutional manner.
  3. Call in Israel’s ambassador to the United States and tell him that we understand that Israel believes Iran is a threat to its survival, and that we agree that Israel has every right to defend itself. If Israel believes it must go to war with Iran, then so be it. But also tell the ambassador that if Israel attacks Iran, the U.S. administration will declare U.S. neutrality in the war and immediately cut off military and financial support to all combatants in the war.
  4. Speak to the American people and tell them to expect to be brutally propagandized by U.S. citizen Israel-Firsters through AIPAC, their ubiquitous media shills, and the men and women they own in the U.S. Congress and federal bureaucracy. Urge Americans to ignore this effort by U.S. Israel-Firsters to get them to send their soldier-children to fight in a religious war in which the U.S. has no genuine national interest at stake, and in which U.S. participation would further bankrupt the country, require the reintroduction of conscription, and put America at war with all of the Muslim world — Shia and Sunni — for the foreseeable future.

Answer to Question 2:

The military option should be taken off the table in all instances — save an immediate response to foreign attack — until we elect a president and congress that will abide by the constitutional requirements and machinery for declaring war that were put in place by the Founders.

In addition, and more practically, the option should be taken off the table vis-à-vis Iran because we have a military that cannot win a war. The common wisdom is that the politicians are to blame for preventing the generals from doing their job; that is, killing the enemy and, as needed, its civilian supporters until each is convinced it is irrefutably defeated. I begin to think, however, that the common wisdom is only partially correct. Our bipartisan political leadership surely is pathetic when it comes to war-making, but the U.S. general officer corps — save for a few Marine generals — is today chock full of bureaucrats, nation-builders, and wanna-be social scientists.

Take that mighty warrior General McChrystal, for example. In the midst of a supposedly ‘major offensive’ in Helmand Province, the general has spent most of his time apologizing for the deaths of civilian supporters of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and withdrawing from the battlefield a weapon system that presumably was there because it contributed to victory and helped protect our soldiers and Marines. Sparing civilian casualties might make sense if those civilians were pro-U.S. or even pro-Karzai, but they are not.

The Taliban’s steadily upward trend line across Afghanistan — not just in the southern provinces — since 2006 can only be explained by growing popular support from Afghans who are pro-Taliban (some) and/or opposed to the U.S.-NATO occupation (most). To think you are going to win the hearts and minds of these Afghans by limiting civilian casualties is a figment of the social-science minds of counter-insurgency theorists. It is not for nothing that the acerbic but thoroughly brilliant Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld wrote that counter-insurgency doctrine is always written by losers.

For the life of me, and as the father of a newly draft-age son, I cannot imagine why American parents still trust their soldier-children to politicians — in both parties — and generals who are unwilling to do anything so old-fashion, anachronistic, and politically incorrect as relentlessly killing the enemy and his supporters until they are defeated. One hopes that American parents will soon wise up and begin to discourage their kids from joining a military whose generals increasingly see U.S. casualties are the necessary cost, not of winning, but of nation-building, fawning over their addled political masters, and pleasing international opinion and the pacifist purveyors of international law.

The wars we are fighting today are the products of the lethal-for-America fantasy that war has changed and no longer requires much killing or an outright victory. This, of course, is nonsense and only our elites and those of Europe believe it; our Islamist enemies know better. America once knew that you never go to war without aiming for victory, and led by men like William Sherman, U.S. Grant, Nathan Bedford Forrest, George Patton, and, until recently, most Marine generals, our military leaders knew that, in Forrest’s words, war means fighting, and fighting means killing. Armed with this fact, and with Sherman’s dictum that the only mercy in war is fast and complete victory, the U.S. military once put fear and sober second thoughts into those who meant America harm. Today, the same military causes some circumspection among our enemies, but it mostly causes mirth in their minds over the specter of a hapless pack of general officers who seek to win un-winnable hearts and minds at the cost of many hundreds of billions dollars and numerous wasted young lives.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.