(Parts I and II examined the underling motivations of neoconservative foreign policy on Iran. Part III discusses why U.S. military action against Iran would be the end of the "world order" as we know it.)
From the First World Order to the Next
A pretty old but not half bad joke goes that when Adam woke up in the Garden of Eden and saw Eve for the first time he said, "Stand back. I don't know how big this thing's going to get."
I have no inside knowledge of what the contingency plan for the great big air strike against Iran looks like, but I have a fair idea of how these things work, and I'm pretty certain that any operation against Iran will be mighty big and hard as a diamond cutter to execute properly.
Given the predictable negative diplomatic and economic consequences of a major air operation against Iran based on fuzzy pretexts, the potential pay-off has to be huge. As I wrote in earlier segments of this series, the real objective of any major operation against Iran won't be to deny their ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. It will be to eliminate Iran's potential to develop a nuclear energy program. In order to do that, Don Rumsfeld's boys will have to be able to take out everything they can find or get at related to Iran's nuclear technology program, and make sure it stays out for a long time.
That's got to involve a lot of targets, and in any major air operation is the total target set has to go well beyond the primary objectives. If you want to bomb a lot of stuff, you have to bomb a lot of other stuff so you can a) get at the stuff you really want to bomb and b) live to bomb another day.
Also consider that any air operation against Iran will also involve U.S. naval forces--aircraft carriers and surface combatant cruise missile shooters--so we'll have capital ships in harm's way. Any master attack plan worth its salt will also have to include Iranian ports and the ships in them, coastal missile batteries, facilities that fuel and supply those ships and coastal batteries, and so on and so on and so on. I have read that the master attack plan contains 1,500 targets. I don't know how accurate that number is, but would not be surprised if the size of the actual target set is quite a bit larger.
The bottom line is that in order to give a penny's worth of damage to Iran's nuclear industry we'll have to put a ton's worth of hurt on them.
And we won't come out of such a conflict unscratched. Even if only one or two combatant ships suffer significant battle damage--which is a conservative prediction--that will be the first time the mighty U.S. Navy has suffered a casualty in conventional, toe-to-toe combat since World War II.
The Writing on the Wall
A seldom mentioned aspect of the current Middle East situation is that like the Vietnam conflict, it's a proxy war between the United States and its adversaries China and Russia. And as in Vietnam, China and Russia are sitting on the sidelines while America grinds itself down militarily. By committing itself to operations in a third theater of war in the Middle East, the Bush administration would be once again playing into America's foreign adversaries' strategy.
No matter how much an extensive air strike operation might destroy, Iran will still have its oil, and China will still be more than happy to buy it, and Russia will be tickled pink to reap part of the profits by helping Iran rebuild its nuclear energy program and other infrastructure.
The UN Security Council was never likely to go along with sanctions against Iran, and Bush's appointment of John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the UN pretty much guaranteed they won't impose any. Similarly, the Bush administration's insistence that Iran stop its uranium enrichment as a precondition to direct talks ensured that direct talks wouldn't take place.
How are the other players dealing with this impasse? They're blowing off the United States.
If foreign news sources are correct, the EU3 and Russia have agreed to begin talks without U.S. involvement. That should get your attention, because it means America's last allies have jumped to the other side.
The U.S. will not get Iraq or Afghanistan under control--at least not any time soon. Regardless of how combat operations against Iran might go, the big winners will be China, Russia, and yes, Iran.
The ancient Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu said, "Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory."
The Dick Cheney neoconservatives who shaped the Bush administration's foreign policy are desperately looking for a victory to justify the defeats from their previous fights. Unfortunately, they don't think like Sun Tzu, so they still believe they can "win" by starting another ill-advised war, and they are unable to understand that they have already lost.
The prize in the next world order is control of global energy. That's what the Iraq invasion was really about. If there were a single enlightened, influential voice in or around the administration, it would tell young Mister Bush to reverse course immediately, and take steps to supplant China and Russia as Iran's energy partner (which is what Bush should have been doing all along).
Unfortunately for America, the influential policy shapers are the likes of Cheney, John Bolton, Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, and the only thing they have in common with great Asian strategists like Sun Tzu is a fear of losing face. My fear is that if they manage to manipulate America into another act of military lunacy, our country will have squandered its gains of the last century before this one is a decade old.
The neoconservatives seem hell bent for Naugahyde to ensure that the United States goes out not with a whimper, but with a very big, very loud bang. My advice to young Americans who want to succeed in the next world order?
Learn Mandarin and Farsi.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.