John Chuckman



The American empire has overreached itself in recent decades, in places like Afghanistan and Syria and Libya and Somalia and Yemen and even in Iraq. America has basically lost all of those wars in the sense of having created enduring unstable conditions and great hostilities, not peace or stability and not democratic values. All those places are wrecks with smoldering conflicts continuing and outcomes uncertain. The Neocon Wars of the Middle East have been a disaster, but Trump is closely tuned into the Neocons. He is literally surrounded with them.

Even though America clearly won the Iraq War, a war advocated for directly by Ariel Sharon, with a victory memorialized in the blood of a million Iraqis, it was a kind of technical victory, because the key result was something completely unwanted, that is, greatly strengthening Iran as a regional power. Iraq was a war that should not have been fought, but Washington was incapable of seeing that as a result of both its imperial hubris and its vulnerability to Israel’s tireless efforts to influence. Iraq’s invasion has been called by a number of experts America’s greatest strategic blunder ever.

Just as many Israelis live in a kind of foggy fantasy of sentimental Biblical names and notions combined with efforts to recreate American middle-class urban society in a hostile environment – Ozzie and Harriet on the Desert – all floated on an immense Noah’s Flood of American subsidies, public and private, many of them do not realize the full impact of what they do in the region. They believe America is there to bail them out no matter how badly they behave towards others and create unnecessary hostilities. America can flatten Iraq. American can topple Syria. And America can topple Iran. The thinking is terribly wrong and self-indulgent and dangerous. And people subservient to the Neocons, like Trump, are immersed in it.

Trump now seems perilously close to repeating the mistake of Iraq, only on a far grander scale, with Iran. There are many powerful Israeli interests who want to see America go to war with Iran, something they realize is beyond the capacity of Israel despite its rhetoric and threats. The assassination of General Soleimani seems almost certainly to have been a trap designed for that purpose, and Trump just thoughtlessly walked into it. If Iran had not proceeded in the carefully considered way that it did, giving Trump room to slip out of the trap, and without being humiliated, we would have a big new war.

The set of events carries important lessons. First, there is the remarkable steadiness and rationality displayed by Iran’s leaders. They are responsible for avoiding a gigantic, unnecessary conflict.

Second, I think are the unmistakable signs of American imperial decline. Iraq has asked America to leave. Iran has promised new pressures for America to leave. Syria is also effectively telling the United States to leave. America has been reduced to sophomoric jokes about stealing oil, and its treatment of the Iran nuclear agreement has made its word for many close to worthless. It’s pretty hard to stay in a place where the people don’t want you and where long and costly efforts have yielded little of worth. Especially as the near-term future promises nothing but continued relative economic decline for the United States with the privileged position of the dollar gradually disappearing.

Trump has listened to Israel’s bad advice time after time. And the assassination was just the most explosive instance. You do not increase stability or security with such acts. You actually create instabilities that weren’t there before. They may not all be matters to appear in tomorrow’s headlines, but they are like new fault lines in an earthquake-prone zone.

In the end, despite all the bluster, Trump was unwilling to retaliate against Iran. Of course, Iran made it as easy as possible for him with its orchestrated missile attack, an event perhaps better described as an orchestrated missile demonstration. Trump now looks more ineffectual and less in command than ever. The only people looking to him are special interests in Israel, dangerous ones that view him as a big piñata to be poked at with sticks for gifts, and the degree to which he listens to them measures our risk of war.

Trump is likely aware that Iran holds some important cards. No, Iran cannot possibly defeat the United States in a war, but Iran has never sought a war.

Perhaps I shouldn’t speak of “cannot possibly defeat the United States.” We must never forget what the tough and resourceful people of Vietnam achieved vis-à-vis the United States. Wars can go on for very long periods of time, and sometimes a less wealthy, less complex society is able to absorb the costs and demands better than a wealthier, privileged opponent. There have been other instances of that. Note that the United States has been killing peasants for eighteen years in Afghanistan, and the Taleban still controls major parts of the country, as much or more of it than when America started.

If you invade or attack someone without a clear and powerful purpose, you are condemning yourself to an unhappy future. It’s like trying to pour concrete without a mold. And the United States has done that time after time, confident just in its arrogant sense of overwhelming superiority. It is foolish, and absolutely no one is more subject to the illusion of American superiority and exceptional status than Donald Trump.

First, a war means Iran’s hurling fleets of missiles against Israel. It has the missiles. The missiles are very capable, as has been demonstrated several times. They are highly accurate. Iran has literally thousands at its disposal. Underground bunkers packed with them. So, unavoidably, the reason for starting a war against Iran, Israel’s intense and unwarranted hostility against Iran, will result in large-scale destruction of Israel.

The effort to build a deterrence has been one of Iran’s national projects, especially after the ghastly Iraq-Iran War, 1980-88, inflicted upon it.

That deterrent capacity is why Trump wants to strip Iran of its missiles, demanding, as he does, that missile technology be added to the terms of his notion of a new nuclear agreement. But that is like asking Iran to disarm itself and doing so at gunpoint. It will not happen.

Israel makes a rather compact target, meaning a determined opponent can saturate it. Iran can accurately target most of what is worth targeting in Israel. Israel’s anti-missile defenses would be overwhelmed. Besides past incidents demonstrated those defenses fail in part even under the highly favorable circumstances of a limited number of unsophisticated missiles.

Iran can also do the same thing to a number of American bases in the region.

Places like the Saudi oil facilities and the facilities of the Strait of Hormuz could quickly be rendered totally inoperable, bringing the world’s oil economy to a desperate crisis.

Iran several times has demonstrated how resourceful it can be at unconventional or guerilla operations. Any war with the United States would see these capabilities used fully.

Those and other hard facts do make starting a war with Iran an act of madness.

But if you put yourself into a bad situation deliberately, as Trump does, madness can easily happen.

Posted January 10, 2020 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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