Friday, January 12, 2007

The Iraq debate: chasing dreck down the porcelain throne

The debate over sending more troops to Iraq is descending into the same Rovewellian jaw jacking that got us bow down in a sand dune from the get-go.

On MSNBC Friday morning, Senator Jon Kyle (R-Arizona) made boo noise about the choice between "success" and the dire consequences of "failure," but like most Bush backers, he failed to define what either success or failure might consist of.

Young Mr. Bush's Former Chief of Staff Andrew Card said, "No one else has offered a solution." Andrew Card must have missed all that stuff about the Iraq Study Group, or Jack Murtha's redeployment proposal.

In one of those he said/she said shouting contests that passes for honest debate these days, Pat Buchanan derided the Democrats for not having the guts to pull the plug on the war financially. Words like "cowards" and "unpatriotic" flew. Buchanan got in the ubiquitous slam on the media--the very media that pay him to call people "cowards" and slam the media.

On Capitol Hill, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "The stakes now are incalculable." Nothing's new about that. Everything is incalculable with the Bush administration: victory, defeat, cost, risk, causes, consequences…

Here we are, debating what may be the most important decision in the history of the United States, and the Bush echo chamberlains are feeding us the same standard menu of glittering generalities, straw man attacks, false limited choices, appeals to emotion (mostly fear), bait and switch tactics, and so on and so on and so on.

Disappointing, certainly, but hardly surprising.

Smoke, Mirrors and Escalation

The administration's camp warns that "failure" in Iraq will lead to a regional conflict, even as they support Bush's efforts to create one.

I was somewhat encouraged during Thursday's Senate hearings when Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) told Rice that Bush would need congressional approval to order military strikes against Iran, but I doubt if Rice was listening. Even if she was, I wonder why Biden bothered to tell her that; she doesn't have any control over U.S. foreign policy, and she sure as hell doesn't know anything about military matters.

At the hearings, Rice defended U.S. military deployments to the Gulf region as necessary to assure allies in that they "have the defense capacity that they need against a growing Iranian military buildup."

Modern Iran has fought one war. That was against Iraq in the 1980s, a war initiated by Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran. (Please note that the U.S. backed Hussein in that war.) Iran has never projected land power further than several miles beyond its own border. Its navy, a sea denial force, is designed to operate in the Persian Gulf and off the coastal waters in the Gulf of Oman and the Caspian Sea. Its air force is geared toward maritime patrol, air defense and close support of ground forces. We don't know whether they have ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, but we know they don't have them now and won't have them--unless they buy them from, say, China or Russia--for several years.

In short, Iran's military is designed to repel invasion, air attacks and, if strategically necessary, to shut down access to the Persian Gulf.

So Condi's talk of a "military buildup" is a purple herring. (A "red herring" is a false, distracting argument. A "purple herring" is red herring so old and so false that it's dying from lack of oxygen.)

Sleight of Hand

Among the things I find discouraging about Biden's admonition to Rice about Iran is that he seems to be missing three vital factors.

1) The heated rhetoric toward Iran and the increased U.S. naval presence in the Gulf lends itself to a repeat of the Tonkin Gulf incident that sparked major U.S. involvement in the Vietnam Conflict. For reasons I hope are obvious, I won't go into tactical or operational details, but given the nature of today's stand-off weapons and sensors, and the standard rules of engagement under which American naval forces operate, an accidental "incident" is not at all unlikely. That would give Mr. Bush all the political cover he needs to open a can of spank on Iran.

2) Biden and congressional opponents of Mr. Bush on both sides of the aisle seem to be completely ignoring what's going on in Somalia. We've apparently been wiping out entire villages there in hopes of killing one or two or three al-Qaeda guys suspected of having had something to do with the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Kenya in Tanzania.

Is it somehow okay for Mr. Bush to escalate his war against Islamo-fabulism in Africa without congressional approval, but not in the Middle East?

3) Andy Card said Friday morning that Mr. Bush has listened to a lot of experts, but it seems the only ones he's paid attention to are the neoconservative cabal fronted by Weekly Standard editor and Fox News pundit Bill Kristol, the same gang of political thugs who got us into this plumber's nightmare.

Is there anyone who can see beyond solutions that amount to little more than sticking fingers into leaks in the sewer pipe?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.


  1. Your commentaries have been invaluable to me as a civilian trying to understand all the issues involved with this disastrous Mid-East "adventure." But, I haven't yet seen you address what seems to me to be a huge issue, and that is that Bush plans to have our military personnel taking orders from Iraqis, something unprecedented as far as I know, and something unconscionable in the current situation. Doesn't this throw the entire "chain of command" concept into your "porcelain throne"? Which militias will be given the privilege of ordering our troops to do their bidding? We can't identify the good guys/bad guys NOW, so how do we decide who's giving the orders?

    I share your pessimism regarding Iran and Syria and our probable near-future actions. I take some hope from the fact that even Republicans are breaking ranks with Bush now, but it is likely to be too little, too late.

    Thank you, Jeff, for your continued attention to all of the developments. We clearly need people with your fortitude.

  2. Kathleen,

    I've addresed that obliguely in the past, and will do so more directly in the future.

    Thanks for bringing up the subject.



  3. Anonymous4:10 PM

    My Dad was a seabee building bases on the front line in Vietnam. I served 2 years with the 101st airborne as a private from 1999-2001. I was a grunt in Kosovo in 2000 and saw more than enough of modern war. I am opposed to the Iraq peacekeeping mission. Iraq is much like bosnia and kosovo in the sense that it's all about nation building. We were in Kosovo since 1999 trying to build a government with the help of NATO. We have a lot higher probablility of success in Kosovo than we do in Iraq. In Kosovo we don't have many IED's or crazy suicide bombers for allah. My Dad and I are both opposed to the nation building project in Iraq. The only people I talk to who were ever on a front line in a war are opposed to the Iraq mission. The people who are always for the Iraq mission are soldiers who served far in the rear in jobs that keep them cuddly and warm. Then those who are for the Iraq war are civilians who never served in combat or soldiers who never went to combat.

  4. Anonymous3:23 PM

    As noted by lurch over at, the Iran policy group has moved into action. For full report, see, but for a more or less summing up, the following quote from thei9r pressconference 11. can be seen as telling: "General Thomas McInerney, USAF (Ret.), Chairman, Iran Policy Committee Advisory Council, reinforced Jafarzadeh’s presentation and called it “powerful evidence” that Iran has become the primary killer of U.S. Forces in Iraq. General McInerney reviewed intelligence received at the request of the IPC from the National Council of Resistance of Iran. He pinpointed the industrial complexes in Tehran responsible for producing Improvised Explosive Devices that are used against U.S. Forces in Iraq. "

    Guess wich industrial complexes are going to get it first?