"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different."
-- attributed to Benjamin Franklin
One problem with using the rational actor model to forecast what the George W. Bush administration may do next is that the model wasn’t designed to analyze people referred to as "the crazies in the basement." There is near universal agreement, for example, that for the U.S. to attack Iran would be the ultimate act of insanity. Unfortunately for us, the more insane any given course of action is, the more likely it is that the Cheney-centric Bush administration will pursue it.
The rational actor model is based on rational choice theory, which says that rational decisions are made through goal setting and value-maximization. Setting goals and maximizing values are excellent decision making tools, but using them to predict political behavior assumes, often erroneously, that we know the decision makers real goals and that they have the a value set similar to ours. The Bush crazies have never been candid about what they're up to, and it's a good bet that they don't value the same sorts of things that, say, Albert Schweitzer did.
Rather than try to guess what's gong on between their ears, we're better off observing what they have done and what they have said that gives away their ultimate aims.
Bill Kristol's infamous Project for the New American Century think tank wrote the neoconservative manifesto Rebuilding America's Defenses in September 2000. From it we know that their desire was to increase America's military footprint in the Middle East in order to control the flow of the region's oil. Saddam Hussein was little more than a convenient excuse to establish a strategically superior central base of operations from which they could dominate the region with U.S. troops. The neocons knew that they'd need something on the order of a "new Pearl Harbor" to get the American public on board with their ambitions, but as things turned out, 9/11 gave them just the catalyst they needed.
We know that they manufactured a case that Hussein had a hand in the 9/11 attacks and was actively pursing a weapons of mass destruction program, and the mainstream media, most notably the New York Times, helped Dick Cheney's White House Iraq Group and Donald Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans sell it to the American public.
We know that then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ignored the advice of senior military leaders like Army chief of staff General Eric Shinseki who told him we'd need more troops to make the Iraq invasion successful, he threatened to fire anyone who worked on plans for the post-hostilities phase of operations, and the rest has been a biblical scale blunder.
So they started over with Iran. The similarities between the run up to Iraq and the Iran foreplay are haunting: the Office of Special Plans has transformed into the Iranian Directorate, the administration is making wholly unsubstantiated allegations about Iran's arming of Iraqi militia groups and its nuclear intentions, and the mainstream media, most notably again the New York Times, are helping Cheney and his chamberlains sell the narrative to the American public. As historian and journalist Gareth Porter has noted, if the White House opts to attack Iran, it will have once again ignored the cautions of its senior military professionals.
It appears that they're about to commit a Ben Franklin-class act of insanity until you stop and recall their original stated objective, which was to establish a larger military footprint in the Middle East.
By early 2006 it was obvious to all but the Bush administration's most pathological followers that things had gone south in Iraq, and America was running out of patience with U.S. occupation of that country. It was time to come up with a winning strategy before public demand forced a withdrawal. But the possibility of actually winning also had its drawbacks—a "victory" in hand would make it as hard to justify maintaining a troops presence in Iraq as losing did.
Hence, when the new National Security Strategy rolled off Mr. Bush's desk in March 2006, it contained the proclamation: "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," and the bogey manufacturing commenced. Never mind that biggest "challenge" has an economy about half the size of Mexico's and a defense budget that's only 2.5 percent of its economy. No one has bothered mentioning those factoids, including and especially the New York Times.
As I've said in the past, truly diabolical strategies can succeed in many ways. The Cheney Gang has marketed the Iranian threat incredibly well. President McCain could have an easy time of maintaining major troop presence in Iraq for a hundred, a thousand, a million years, whatever it takes to contain the Persian Peril. The less obvious outcome of the Iran information campaign is that President Obama may have committed himself to maintaining a force presence in Iraq to counter the Iranian threat as well.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a spin off of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), recently published a report by its Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel relations that says the U.S. and Israel should discuss policy options that include "preventive military action" against Iran. Among the report's signatories were Tony Lake and Susan Rice, two of Barack Obama's key foreign policy advisers.
Then again, if AIPAC gets its way, Congress may declare war on Iran before either Gramps or Bomber jump in the left seat.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.