Doctor Science Knows

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Iran and Israel at the Atlantic, Day 5

Patrick Clawson wrote The U.S. and Israel: Same View of Threat, Different View on Force.
it appears that Washington and Jerusalem see eye-to-eye in their assessment of where Iran stands and how quickly it is moving forward. Their common view is the product of an extraordinarily close consultation among their respective intelligence, military, and political leaders. And the degree of their consensus is an important confidence-builder in Israel.
Jeff would still have captured only one of two key reasons for Israeli-American disagreements about the use of force -- namely, the differing threat perception. The other factor, arguably as important, is the differing perception about military force. Americans tend to like and embrace the Powell Doctrine: the overwhelming use of force to achieve decisive results. The view of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is encapsulated in the unfortunate expression "mow the grass"

I am stunned that Mr. Clawson mis-states the Powell Doctrine, even as he's linking to a Wikipedia article that exposes his mistatement.

IMHO what Americans like about the Powell Doctrine is the tests a proposed action must pass, including: Do we have a clear attainable objective? Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed? Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted? Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement? Do we have genuine broad international support? These tests overlap with traditional "just war" jus ad bellum criteria, especially those specifying a just cause, probability of success, proportionality, and last resort.

It is painfully obvious that Powell's own promotion of the Iraq War violated the Powell Doctrine (not to mention Just War Doctrine, as the Pope pointed out at the time). Nonetheless, the Powell Doctrine -- as I at least understand it -- crucially depends on circumspection, reluctance to use force, and careful planning, before you get to the fun part bit about overwhelming force and decisive results.

I *really hope* that Mr. Clawson's limited understanding of the Powell Doctrine is his alone; I very much fear that he reflects the general consensus of the US policy/security community. This may be due to the extraordinarily close consultation among their respective intelligence, military, and political leaders to which he refers -- Israel, of course, cannot use the Powell Doctrine, because they can't have limited engagements or an exit strategy for their own region.

Yes, I may have been being just a *little* sarcastic there. It's curious, though, that Clawson cites the Powell Doctrine to support his position -- even though it doesn't.

I couldn't bear the thought of reading "Supreme Command", so I'll ask you: does it suggest that American military policy people have picked up the "mow the grass" mindset from the Israelis?

Gary Milhollin replied to Clawson, and to NY Times reporting that U.S. Assures Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent.
the assumption is false. The clock is still ticking, vigorously.
But why quibble about how long the final phase of bomb making might take? Instead, we should keep our eyes on the big fact here, which is that Iran is fast approaching the status of a "virtual" nuclear weapon state -- one with the ability to kick out UN inspectors and build a handful of nuclear warheads. This is not an argument for bombing Iran, by Israel or anyone else. But it is a warning -- a warning that we must confront the growth of Iran's nuclear capability, and not be lulled into imagining that it's not real.

I commented:

[replying to democraticcore:]
Timing is everything. The best way to speed up the clock is to start dropping bombs.
And, as you've pointed out, calmness and a low threat level from the US is at least as important as Israel's belligerence, because the US has far more ability to attack Iran than Israel does.

[replying to skamble, in Gerecht's post]
When Saddam Hussein attacked Iran, more than a million people were killed in the resulting war
A war which continued so long in part because the US provided and enabled financial backing for Saddam.
It also was provoked by the pro-Saddam insurgents and not by Americans
Dude, we *invaded their country*. It doesn't get much more provoking than that.

Elsewhere in this debate, you've made numerous comparisons between the situations under discussion and some aspect or other of WWII. If the US (or Israel) starts a war "pre-emptively", that makes us analogous to, say, the Japanese striking Pearl Harbor pre-emptively. "The war's going to start anyway, we have to make sure that we get the first hit in." Is this *really* the parallel you want to draw?

[continuing discussion with democraticcore, in Burns' post:]

I've been thinking about this some more, and if I were an Iranian leader I'd think of nukes as deterring Russia as well as the US. Iran's relationship with Russia is currently good, but a minimally prudent leader would not count on that long-term.

Batman has a stock of kryptonite -- just in case.

[replying to skamble, also in Burns' post:]
But would there be any aggressive intentions by anyone against Iran if Iran did not try to develop nuclear weapons?

Yes. Because, as you'd know if you had even the most minimal familiarity (=Wikipedia) with Iran, it has oil. And the US has been interfering there since the 1950s.

Iran's nuclear ambitions are a relatively recent development.

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