Tuesday, November 20, 2007
As forlorn as it sounds, we can only hope that the US military disobeys an order to launch the attack.
The last, best hope for averting a war with Iran lies with the United States military. The Democratic Congress, cowed by the Israel lobby and terrified of appearing weak on defense before the presidential elections, will do nothing to halt an attack. The media, especially the electronic press, is working overtime to whip up fear of a nuclear Iran and tar Tehran with abetting attacks against American troops in Iraq. The American public is complacent, unsure of what to believe, knocked off balance by fear and passive. We will be saved or doomed by our generals.
The last wall of defense that prevents the Bush administration from targeting Iran, an attack that could ignite a regional conflagration and usher in apocalyptic scenarios in the Middle East, runs through the offices of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Adm. William Fallon , the head of the Central Command (CENTCOM); and Gen. George Casey, the Army’s new chief of staff. These three figures in the defense establishment have told George W. Bush and the Congress how depleted the U.S. military has become, that it cannot manage another conflict, and that a war with Iran would make the war with Iraq look like an act of prudence and common sense.
The reliance on the military command, however, to be the voice of reason in the debate about a new war is not a healthy sign for our deteriorating democracy. Compliant generals can always be found to carry out the Dr. Strangelove designs of a mad White House. Those who resist implementing decisions can easily be removed. The protective cover provided by these figures in the defense establishment could vanish.
The United States is able to launch a massive and devastating air attack on Iran’s military installations. It can obliterate the Iranian air force. It can cripple if not dismantle effective communications and military command and control. It can destroy some of Iran’s underground nuclear facilities. But our intelligence inside Iran, as was true in Iraq, is uneven. We do not know where all of Iran’s nuclear facilities are. And it is probable that an Iranian response against American targets, such as the Green Zone in Iraq, as well as Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks on American soil, would follow. Shiites in the region would interpret an attack as a war on the Shiite community and would unleash unrest, terrorism and violence against us and our allies from Lebanon to Pakistan.
The battle is between the Cheney camp, which would like to carry out strikes on Iran before Bush leaves office, and Gates and his senior generals. Cheney, who has always been able to push aside the feckless Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is having a tougher time with the military. Fallon, for example, was successful in his attempt to block efforts by Cheney to move a third aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf earlier this year and bluntly said that “there would be no war against Iran” as long as he was chief of CENTCOM.