I don't like to fall into full-bore paranoia, but after watching the Bush administration for six years, I'm more inclined to credit conspiracy theories than I am to believe in coincidence. One the eve of Mr. Bush's New Year's announcement about his new Iraq strategy, I more than suspect that America is about to be pushed into a full bore neoconservative policy of militarization from which it will take decades or longer to extract ourselves.
Over at Juan Cole's Informed Comment, Larisa Alexandrovna paints a grim and all too likely scenario:
The administration is stalling as it supposedly weighs its Iraq options, when in fact they have already made their decision… One need only look at the slow leaks coming out, not the least of which was Joe Lieberman’s op-ed in the Washington Post, to understand that we are going to be sending more troops to Iraq…
In the meantime, naval carriers are deployed to send Iran “a warning,” as though the threats thus far and the passing of sanctions are not warning enough. Add to that the detainment of Iranian diplomats invited to Iraq by the Iraqi leadership. Why is the US arresting diplomats invited to a country that the US claims is a sovereign nation governing itself?
…given this entire context, ask yourself again why Saddam Hussein is being executed now, during Hajj even? What is the urgency?
Like Alexandrovna, I see a major escalation of the war in the Middle East being provoked. Some major act of terror or sectarian violence will likely occur; perhaps something in England or the U.S. Iran, now the "likely suspect" behind any and all violent extremism, will be blamed. U.S. naval and air strike forces will be in place to conduct an attack against Iran.
The possibilities are frightening. With increased violence in Iraq (or even without it), Mr. Bush will encounter little opposition to increasing ground troop levels in that country. Thanks to the provisions in the War Powers Resolution of 1973 that allow a president to commit forces to combat for 60 to 90 days without permission from Congress, Mr. Bush can order strikes on Iran on his own authority.
In an open-ocean fight, Iran's maritime forces would be no match for the United States Navy. But a naval battle between Iran and the U.S. won't take place in open-ocean; it will happen in restricted waters of the Persian Gulf (and possibly the North Arabian Sea), environments in which Iran's coastal defense/sea denial navy has asymmetric advantages that allow it to exploit the vulnerabilities of America's power projection naval forces. Moreover, Iran's maritime forces don't need to score a decisive victory over our Navy. A single missile or torpedo or mine hit on one of our ships will be a big enough sting to embarrass us.
Unfortunately, it will also be sufficient justification for Bush to escalate a naval and air operation against Iran. Thanks to Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker and Alexandrovna's revelations in Raw Story, we know that plans for just such an operation have been in process for some time.
War and Empire
We also know that the neoconservative cabal that put young Mr. Bush in the White House to sponsor its imperial policies still has its hand on the helm of U.S. policy. The proposed option to boost troop levels in Iraq and the overall personnel end strength of the Army and Marine Corps came from Fred Kagan. Kagan is a confederate of Bill Kristol, founder of the infamous Project for the New American Century (PNAC), publisher of The Weekly Standard and the son of Irving Kristol, who is considered to be the "godfather" of American neoconservatism.
Fred Kagan and Bill Kristol both admit that an increase of troops in Iraq would not be a "surge." Kagan admits that to be effective, the surge would have to last 18 months or longer. It's more likely that Kagan wants to see the "surge" last 18 years or more.
And there's little question that Bill Kristol wants us to confront Iran militarily. It's even clearer that the neocons want to ensure that diplomatic efforts do not work, and even though charter PNAC member John Bolton is gone from the UN, charter PNAC member Dick Cheney is still the vice president of the United States, so you can bet two mortgage payments that the administration will continue to create foreign policy crises for which the "only" solution is military action or "capitulation."
Even without a GOP majority in Congress to rubber stamp his every empirical whim, Mr. Bush is still the Commander in Chief of our military, and will continue to act as a unitary head of state regardless of whatever efforts the Democratic Congress may make to rein him in. And from every indication, he's still listening to the Fools and Fanatics who got us into our present fiasco, and who are encouraging him to create a quagmire so big that no future leader, however wise, can extract us from.
And the Dick Cheneys and Bill Kristols and Fred Kagans of this world will high-five each other behind closed doors in the American Enterprise Institute building in Washington D.C. as America transforms itself into a permanent militaristic oligarchy with theocratic underpinnings.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.