August 30, 2009

Fun With Dick and Arthur

Hatched by Dafydd

My fave at my fave still doesn't quite seem to get a critical point. John Hinderaker, discussing Dick Cheney's support for military action against Iran's nuclear capability, concludes thus:

At the time, it seemed to me that we had our hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan and military conflict with Iran was not a serious possibility. It will be interesting to see how Cheney rebuts that premise.

While he's a bit ambiguous, it sure seems to me as if John mistakenly imagines a military invasion of Iran, à la Iraq, or at least Afghanistan: That is, he's thinking of tens of thousands of troops, airlifted tanks, and a prolongued campaign, with armored cavalry regiments battling their way from Baghdad and Kabul across mountain and desert to Teheran.

But that sort of military action was never in the cards. Rather, the most likely strike, and the only one likely to succeed (given the political reality John himself enunciates), is what I call the Herman Option, after military historian Arthur Herman, who enunciated it in an article in Commentary magazine:

I reprint below the guts of the Herman Option...

Herman suggests a seven-point plan to break the logjam with Iran:

  1. Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
  2. Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
  3. Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
  4. Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
  5. Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
  6. Finally, and most important, continue the campaign to take out all of Iran's gasoline refineries.

Herman points out the critical choke-point for Iran and the focus of this campaign:

It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

Contingent upon the completetion of the first six steps, Herman suggests the coup de grâce:

  1. American special forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island (the small, unmarked island just off Iran's coast, due east of Kuwait and about 10 o'clock from Bushehr).

Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able "to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch."

I would add an eighth step, per our Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack, linked above:

  1. Simultaneously with the American attacks above, Israel strikes hard at Hezbollah, crippling that organization with airstrikes and missile attacks.

Whether this would have worked or not -- and I was (and am!) an optimist about its chances -- it would not have involved the sort of military committment that the Iraq or even the Afghanistan war did. It would be a surgical strike, with only a small number of Special Forces at risk, along with a general blockade of the Strait of Hormuz using the Navy.

My second greatest disappointment of the Bush era is that he did not "go out with a bang," by decapitating the third head of the jihadist ogre, Iran.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 30, 2009, at the time of 1:53 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Tregonsee

You will recall that there was an intelligence report which purported to prove that Iran was not in fact conducting a weapons program. There were numerous reports from other nations' agencies that this was completely at odds with what they were seeing. France, Germany, and Israel for instance. That didn't matter to the Left or the press, but I repeat myself. In fact, Biden in full ego mode stated that if Bush invaded or attacked Iran, he would be impeached. I have little doubt that would have happened, and talk of acting against Iran ceased. And so an opportunity was lost.

The above hissed in response by: Tregonsee [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 30, 2009 2:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: Davod

Dafydd: I listened to the interview on the radio via the C-Span replay. As I recall, and I may be wrong, Cheney said he was the lone proponent of the military option, which pretty much ruled it out.

I agree that the Herman option would be the most likely use of miltary force. However, I agree with Tregonsee, that, the atmosphere in Washington was so poisonous I doubt Bush could have even enacted a blockade, much less the full operation.

On a more general matter. With Bush's second term, foreign policy saw a reversal from the strong words and firm action of the first term. For some time the words were the same but the words were not transformed into action.

It seemed to me that when Rice moved over to State, she brought State's view to Bush, instead of implementing Bush's policies at State.

"You will recall that there was an intelligence report which purported to prove that Iran was not in fact conducting a weapons program."

You may recall that, while the report was supposed to reflect the analysis of varied intelligence organizations, the final product was written by three people. One of these guys worked on non proliferation and actively disparaged the idea that Iran was trying to develop the bomb. So much so that he was removed from his State Department position overseas.

The report bought the Iranians at least eighteen months.

When reviewing Obama's foreign policy actions it is important that we discount any use of inexperience as a mitigating factor. The background of many of his staffers suggests that the speeches and the policy reflects the views of Obama's adivsors.

The above hissed in response by: Davod [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2009 5:00 PM

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