Thursday, April 13, 2006

Louder Rattling, Earlier Warnings

Via Kevin Drum, I see that William Arkin has added his usual dose of depth and detail to the discussion on military options vis a vis Iran. His analysis provides a nice addendum to my prior post assessing the credibility of saber rattling threats, and the perception of the seriousness of those threats by Iranian leaders. Says Arkin, in an extended excerpt:

World pressure and American diplomacy would be mightily enhanced if Iran understood that the United States was indeed so serious about it acquiring nuclear weapons it was willing to go to war over it. What is more, the American public needs to know that this is a possibility. [...]

...The President of the United States insists that all options are on the table while the Secretary of Defense insists it "isn't useful" to discuss American options.

I think this sends the wrong message to Tehran. Contingency planning for a full fledged war with Iran may seem incredible right now, and Iran isn't Iraq. But Iran needs to understand that the United States isn't hamstrung by a lack of options, Iran needs to know that it can't just stonewall and evade international inspections, that it can't burrow further underground in hopes of "winning" because war is messy.

As I've said before in these pages, I don't believe that the United States is planning to imminently attack Iran, and I specifically don't think so because Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons and it hasn't lashed out militarily against anyone.

But the United States military is really, really getting ready, building war plans and options, studying maps, shifting its thinking.

It is not in our interests to have Tehran not understand this. The military options currently on the table might not be good ones, but Iran shouldn't make decisions based upon a false view. Two so-called "experts" are quoted in The Washington Post today saying that there are no options, that there is no Plan B, that the United States will just live with Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. They are fundamentally wrong about the options, and misunderstand the Bush administration as well.

But most important, this constant drum beat in the newspapers and the media sends the wrong message to Iran. This is why Secretary Rumsfeld should be saying that the U.S. is preparing war plans for Iran, and that the United States views the situation so seriously that it would be willing to risk war if Iran acquired nuclear weapons or lashed out against the U.S. or its friends. The war planning moreover, Rumsfeld needs to add, is not just routine, it is not just what military's do all the time. It is specifically related to Iran, to its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons, to its meddling in Iraq and support for international terrorism.

Iran needs to know the facts and the American public need to know the facts. But most important, the American public needs to hear the facts about American war plans, military options and preparedness from the government so that they can understand where we are and decide whether they think the threat from Iran justifies the risks of another war.
Read the rest of his post for a look behind the scenes at the actual war-gaming and planning going on. I don't know if this is a source of comfort or not. But if it's sabers we want to rattle, then Arkin has the right idea.

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