ThreatsWatch.Org: Commentary

Are The War Drums Beating?

By Craig Martelle

Seymour Hersh would have you believe that the United States has secret battalions, armed and waiting for black planes in the dead of night, or more appropriately, the nuclear missiles are fueled, warheads checked and ready to explode. Is this even remotely the case? And why would Hersh publish such an article? The result has been to discredit the administration, to call Bush's bluff regarding military action in Iran - inciting the peace-only crowd and sending politicians running for election-year cover...

Gerard Baker of the Times (UK) breaks down the situation from a perspective less inundated with political rhetoric than what one will see from within the borders of the big green machine.

Rightly or wrongly the Bush team is not remotely in the frame of mind it was in over Iraq four years ago. The political line-up is transformed — the collaborative strategy of Condoleezza Rice and Bob Zoellick at the State Department trumps all comers. The ambitious wings of the Pentagon’s civilian leadership have been clipped by setbacks in Iraq and infighting among the generals. Most important, even the hawks in the Vice-President’s office are far from convinced of the likely efficacy of pre-emptive strikes to take out Iran’s nuclear programme.

In the lead up to the war with Iraq, the outcry for armed conflict to remove Saddam's WMD capability was extensive and from both sides of the political aisle. Even John Kerry demanded action on Iraq.

"Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be President, or the credibility to be elected President. No one can doubt or should doubt that we are safer -- and Iraq is better -- because Saddam Hussein is now behind bars." Senator John Kerry (Democrat, Massachusetts), Speech at Drake University in Iowa, December 16, 2003

Not this time, though. How many politicians on Capitol Hill are giving more than half-hearted support for a military option? Not enough to convince the American public or the world. Although China and Russia's financial relations with Iran are similar to their relations with pre-war Iraq, it just feels different. Baker notes in his commentary the following.

China’s multilateral moment may have passed. At the White House last week President Hu Jintao offered little assurance of willingness to take action. Old worries are resurfacing about Europe. American diplomats look at France’s political paralysis and Germany’s costive coalition and wonder how big a priority either can make of nuclear Iran. Even from dependable Britain, they hear not the reassuring sturdiness of Tony Blair but the increasingly frantic shrieks of Jack Straw. Every time he shouts “War is nuts!” a little part of the wall of international resolution crumbles.

Without America's closest ally, the UK, there will be no military action against Iran. Without that possibility, Iran's bargaining position is vastly improved. North Korea has strung us along for years (and mislead the Clinton Administration masterfully) because we staunchly declared that we were not going to war with North Korea. War is a bad option - that is not in dispute. But when the bad guys know that it is not an option, the bad guys have a tendency to ignore any attempt at diplomacy.

North Korea can thumb its nose at us - we are still on the right side and the North Koreans are generally going to die off from starvation and lack of medical care. Their missiles and nuclear weapons will be sealed in their own tombs. The entire society is dying and is guaranteed to die without international aid. But Iran has already succesfully thrown out the infidels - do not forget history.

Jimmy Carter allowed the foundation to be built by the Islamists against the Shah and the ultimate overthrow of the Shah's Iran. American hostages, seized from our Embassy in Tehran and held for 444 days. Last time, the revolutionaries planned behind closed doors and caught the peace-loving world of Jimmy Carter off guard. Sorry, Jimmy, history has proven you wrong - peace is guaranteed through strength, not weakness.

But what of 2006 and the Bush Administration? When President Bush sends his message loud and clear, he has not wavered. What has his administration been saying on Iran?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday called for diplomatic action against Tehran, warning that the U.N. Security Council cannot permit the regime to "simply ignore its will and its word."

These sentiments are echoed across the board, even with the findings of the April 28th IAEA report. An analysis published yesterday seems to be right on target regarding the next steps that will happen - UNSC will discuss, China & Russia will veto any resolution regarding sanctions, more discussions and maybe added bluster, but still no real action.

Carpenter says the United States' next step will be to try to persuade China and Russia to agree to sanctions. If that doesn't work, he says, then Bush probably would bring pressure on Iran by making it clear that it would do everything in its power -- hinting at military force -- to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. After Iraq, Carpenter says, Iran would have to believe Bush is not bluffing.

Even if the threat of war is not a bluff, if Iran believes it to be so, then devastating consequences could result. The real threat of war is lost in diplomacy if it is not believed. Kennedy's nuclear brinksmanship with Cuba in 1962 resulted in a peaceful resolution, but only because the Soviet Union rightfully believed that Kennedy was ready to launch a nuclear war to stop the Soviet incursion into the western hemisphere.

Back in the early 1980's, as a young enlisted Russian crypto-linguist, I met an old crusty Marine who was a crypto operator in the early 1960's stationed overseas. He said that the countdown to nuclear war was under 30 seconds to launch when the "cancel" order was received.

Bluffing achieves nothing in diplomacy, unless the one bluffing is the lesser party. The U.S. should always be in the superior negotiating position. Period. When we concede that advantage, we allow tyrants, despots, and other anti-humanity types (let's call them Islamic Extremists for consistency's sake) move one step closer to taking the entire free world hostage. 1979 relived on a global scale.

Opposition politics have made Bush weak. This election year is resulting in massive information warfare gains for the bad guys. Al Qaeda is releasing videos as fast as Hot Air. But Al Qaeda receives global coverage and commentary - they are achieving their propaganda goals. Are we achieving our national interest goals? With the Republicans in full retreat on national security issues, who is left to protect us?

This is where the drums need to start beating. Bush himself has not ruled out military action against Iran, but because of political attempts by candidates to be all things to all people, no one believes that Bush will be able to act militarily if need be. Without this belief at home and without support from overseas, those aren't drums you hear beating - it's the sound of a bluff being called.