With the US midterm election fast approaching, pundits and observers are watching very closely to see if the Bush administration gives any sign of what it indends to do to Iran.
I highly doubt the US will invade Iran. For one thing, the US military cannot even afford the Iraq war, let alone a third engagement.
For another, even if the Pentagon could afford it, there are not enough troops to maintain current levels in Iraq, let alone deploying even more to another theatre.
So the US won't invade Iran, except possibly a small area in the southwest corner near Iraq and Kuwait (and where the oil is located).
If the US and/or Israel does make a move against Iran, it will most likely be missile strikes to take out Iran's nuclear development facilities and possibly its leadership.
Yes, this will be a monumentally bad decision, as far worse than invading Iraq as invading Iraq was worse than invading Afghanistan, which was itself a bad decision.
Unfortunately, I see no evidence that the neoconservative ideologues at the helm of US foreign policy have learned any lessons from the mistakes they've already made, so the possibility of a bombardment is very real.
I'm not sure how the Hezbollah smackdown against Israel will affect military policy in that country. Clearly, Israel invaded Lebanon at least partly to bolster Ehud Olmert's war credibility since, unlike most Israeli Prime Ministers, he's not from the military leadership.
The fact that Israel slunk back out again just a month later without having achieved its objective of punishing Hezbollah into weeping servitude means Olmert still has something to prove. The tactical defeat could make him more cautious, but it could also make him more determined than ever to make an unambiguous show of strength.
Iran, of course, is in a win-win situation. If America does not invade, then Iran demonstrates to its fellow anti-hegemonists that it can stand up against US pressure to conform. If America does invade, then Iran can hold this up as clear evidence that its rhetoric about US imperialism is valid.
Stupidly, the US has backed itself into a corner, believing it could simply swagger back out on a foundation of fear and admiration. But while US President George W. Bush screwed around in Afghanistan and Iraq, a new non-aligned movement backed by Venezuelan and Iranian oil revenues began piecing together an anti-hegemonic power base that is already a remarkably effective countervail against US aggression.
Because the United States has lost what Zbignew Brzezinski called the "cultural appeal" of its vassals and protectorates (if you haven't read Brzezinski's 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, you need to do yourself a favour and find it), it must rely increasingly on raw force to achieve its objective.
Unfortunately, as chess players understand implicitly, each time it uses force in another region, the US squanders its threat of force and further exposes its own weaknesses to asymmetric retaliation.
The Queen is dead, boys.
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