Monday, June 23, 2008

Boxing Up the Crazies

"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.


  1. It is deja vu. Nobody that looks at this thinks it makes any sense yet we hear the same nonsense so carefully prepared being repeated again and again about the menace posed by Iran's nuclear weapons programme for which we have not the slightest reason for believing exists.

    I still think there is a political angle on this: put McCain in or else.

    This is why you can't sweep things like Iraq under the carpet and hope it will all go away. We are just going through the same motions again, because we have learnt nothing. We are all going down on this one, that is for sure. There will be no confining the consequences to the military families.

  2. Yeah, Chris, you have to keep banging the drum or folks will just forget, which is just what the neocons are counting on.


  3. Thanks Jeff! So it's not a bogus story..sigh. Well, being the politically Independent, I cannot say I'm really too surprised OR disappointed. The system will have politicians move around to where they can get the most voters. No matter how much Obama wants to take the high road, he's still stuck in a system where he basically needs to kiss ass.. pardon the unlady like language.
    So many people are riled up about the FISA bill (of course, who wouldn't be) but their Obama love affair is being strained. I'm not too sympathetic with them because how on earth can you expect someone to go all the way (in their case, taking LOTS of stands, not towing/toeing (?? well, hey I'm excused, this is my second language, [g]) the party line but what they do not want to accept is that he needs more votes than just theirs..
    Anyhow Jeff, thanks for doing the research. What do you think might happen? Do you really think that Obama would feel the need to keep the troops in Iraq just to posture that he's 'containing' Iran? It seems like suicide.. not just political suicide on his part, but this country's'. If Americans think people from other countries hate 'us' now.. sheesh..ok..gotta go.. I'm watching family guy (star wars parody) with the kids..

    thanks again for looking into this,


  4. Thank you for bringing the issue to my attention, Ingrid. I think I'll focus on this for the Thursday piece.

  5. You're welcome. Just before turning off the computer, I was just quickly browsing for independent bookstores and actually found a great link for you;

    now you can just delete this message since it's just info for you, but since I mentioned to you the possibility/strategy of 'peddling' the book to independent bookstores, I wanted to see if there was an easy quick research link. Again, I'll gladly check out our local independent bookstore and ask some questions as to what it takes to promote one's book, they're a pretty supportive bunch.
    Alright, note to self; Family Guy is not ahem, that appropriate for kids and thank the gods my 10 yr old doesn't know what 'boning my girlfriend' means.. geez..or

    Looking forward to your Thursday piece,


  6. wkmaier9:13 AM


    This was in the Warshington Post today:

    Senior officials at the State Department and beyond are mulling a proposal to open an interest section in Tehran, similar to the one the United States has operated in Havana since 1977. This would fall short of full diplomatic recognition, but it would open a channel to the Iranian people and, maybe, eventually, to the regime as well.

    The idea has been under discussion for close to two years and could be adopted within weeks -- though officials continue to worry about how to package such a proposal without having it appear, one said, "as a sign of weakness."

    (sure puts an end to the "appeaser" name-calling...)

  7. Thanks for the link, WK.

    Imagine, talking to a nation with an economy about six percent of ours is a "sign of weakness."

    Great. Caesar's. Ghost.

  8. I'm just so damned mad, I could spit.

    I've had it up to my eyeballs, with a U.S. Congress, which sees itself as an extension of the Knesset. And with a U.S. Military that acts as a supplemental to the IDF.

    You know that "fool me once" saying that GWB could never get straight? The "fool me once" part came in 2006, when we turned the Congress over to the Democrats. The "fool me twice part" and the "shame on me" part, could very well come in 2008.

    And, it just makes me so mad, I could chew nails and spit tacks.

    Allowing AIPAC to dictate our foreign policy, is --- in a word --- insanity.

  9. That's just what we're doing, EL, and it IS insane.


  10. It is insane. Ritter has been calling this very well, explaining that the confusion it breeds is in nobody's interest (including Israeli's).

    There is another wider and longer complementary way of viewing it which says that it is the Americans that have been corrupting the Israelis with much more severe consequence for the Israelis.

    I have also just written an article on the insanity of the situation. This is a pathology that needs to be understood and it doesn't stop with the neoconservatives--they couldn't continue to be effective if we weren't all caught up in this in some way.

  11. "...a willful refusal to accommodate the evidence..."

    Well said, Chris.


  12. If attacking Iran is part of the administration's attempt to establish a larger military footprint in the Middle East, doesn't that mean they'd have to invade and occupy Iran as well?

    How long would Russia and China remain on the sidelines if we did that?

  13. Russ,

    It actually works better if we don't attack. That way we just stay in Iraq and posture.

    Russia and China jump into a shooting match? I highly doubt it. They're rational actors.

  14. Recently a top adviser to John McCain stated that a new terrorist attack on the US would benefit McCain. With that type of logic, wouldn't being in the middle of a new war guarantee McCain's election?

  15. Anonymous12:22 AM

    Jeff, you may enjoy this:

  16. We are the North Korea of the Western Hemisphere. Like the North Koreans, this Administration is convinced that numerous, far-flung force are ready to attack at a moment's notice. Like the North Koreans, the administration is overwhelming populated by the super-rich for whom foregoing golf is "a major sacrifice for the troops." Like the North Koreans, our military is well fed, but many of our people are starving. Like the North Koreans, we are now infamous for our mistreatment of prisoners. And like the North Koreans, gasoline is expensive and getting more so.

    I'm not the greatest fan of Senator Obama, but it appears less likely he will continue this policy of misrepresenting America. Unfortunately, with the increasingly tighter embrace that Senator McCain delivers to the "W", it is all but certain he would be more of the same. (Point out to me a significant policy difference . . .)

  17. G Hazeltine11:41 AM

    Not directly on topic, but some how this short video says pretty much everything that needs to be said about America and its (colonial) wars.

    COIN anyone?

    From the Guardian, via Real New Network.

  18. G,
    Good God, that's pathetic. A total circle party.

  19. "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different."
    I guess we can thank Hans Steiner for those predictable rats in the beltway maze. LOL

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