Invading Iran and Ignoring Reality

Iran and nuclear are the new buzzwords, in fact, according to Google Trends, this month alone they have been googled as often as ‘Kardashian’. It’s a serious issue, the Obama Administration is facing a defiant, isolated regime that has proved to be dangerous, including ridiculous schemes like taunting the US with toy drones. So we now have a glut of articles espousing why or why we should not attack Iran. There is a disturbing trend in a few of the arguments–they are devoid of historical precedence created by invading Iraq. In fact, it’s like it never happened. For example, The Case for Regime Change in Iran by Jamie Fly and Gary Schmitt is a response to Matthew Kroenig’s article, Time to Attack Iran, that also supports striking Iran, but in a get-in, get-out strategy. Fly and Schmitt argue that the best approach is military action with a full strategy of destabilizing or taking out the Regime. I am not picking on these particular authors per se, but these are recent examples of strategies that do not use the lessons learned from Iraq. And it’s not 2002.

Having been privy to the pre-war planning in the run-up to the Iraq war, I can say first-hand that destabilizing a regime is not as simple as shock and awe. Unfortunately, we are not experts at nation building or regime change, that shouldn’t be a surprise to these authors. So this simplistic statement defies logic:

    If the United States seriously considers military action, it would be better to plan 
    an operation that not only strikes the nuclear program but aims to destabilize the 
    regime, potentially resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis once and for all.

Ask anyone that works in an Intelligence organization if they are confident regime change in Iraq has led to an end of the pursuit of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ by Iraq, forever. The fact remains that the US government did not plan for the reconstruction period and devise a strategy for nation building. Next, Fly and Schmitt do not mention nation building after the regime falls, but instead predict a welcoming crowd of happy Iranians:

    It is sometimes said that a strike would lead the population to rally around the 
    regime. In fact, given the unpopularity of the government, it seems more likely 
    that the population would see the regime’s inability to forestall the attacks as 
    evidence that the emperor has no clothes and is leading the country into 
    needlessly desperate straits. If anything, Iranian nationalism and pride would 
    stoke even more anger at the current regime.

I think we have been down this road before, predicting we would be embraced with warm hugs and cookies. The logic of the ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ does not hold up. On the contrary, the authors are advocating a full-on strike, including the urban neighborhoods, and they expect that the Iranian people would be ‘ok’ with it. It’s far more likely the Iranian nationalism would evolve into hatred toward the US after killing many innocent civilians.

And here is a question that answers itself:

    Whether a limited military strike or regime destabilization operation, Iran’s leaders  
    would almost certainly believe they would have to respond forcefully to such a 
    challenge to maintain their credibility in the region, employing missiles, proxies, 
    and their own terrorist operatives…… Given the likely fallout from even a limited 
    military strike, the question the United States should ask itself is, Why not take 
    the next step? After all, Iran’s nuclear program is a symptom of a larger illness — 
    the revolutionary fundamentalist regime in Tehran.

Now the whole point is regime change and not stopping the threat of Nuclear weapons? I would ask the authors, have you been reading or watching TV for the last 9 years? We aren’t in the business of regime change, we suck at it. Will it be necessary to stop Iran if we have intelligence that indicates they have nuclear weapons and are a threat to the United States? Of course, but to completely ignore the phase after the military strikes of nation building is, at best, naive. It’s like having a conversation about scuba diving, but not acknowledging that you need an oxygen tank. This discussion needs to evolve and mature in order for Political leaders to understand, we get it, we don’t want to make the same mistake again.  Invading Iraq will look like making cupcakes compared to dealing with Hizballah and Iranian organizations around the world.  We had best get our ducks in a row before we wax poetic about yet another military strike.