Ready for War with Iran?

The Trump administration has been spoiling for war with Iran almost since the election of 2016. This article, which I posted in the spring of 2017, makes this obvious. Now we have Trump’s decision to kill Iran’s top ranking general, Qassim Suleimani, which can only escalate an already tense situation in the region. Anything is possible here, including wider war and major economic disruptions.

A couple of years ago, I remember writing that it wouldn’t surprise me to see a conflict with Iran in 2020, timed to coincide with the presidential election. And I’m hardly the only one to have predicted this. Trump does not want to lose the election. The question is: What is he prepared to do to guarantee victory, if only in his own mind? Is he willing to risk a devastating war in the Middle East? And who will act to stop him?

Trump fancies himself a tough guy, and practices posing like Winston Churchill. With a Republican Party willing to rubber stamp his every action and impulse, and with a Democratic Party that eagerly issues blank checks to the Pentagon, who is to stop Trump from bellicose actions that could lead, yet again, to a disastrous war in the Middle East?

Bracing Views

W.J. Astore

General Joseph Votel, U.S. Centcom commander, testified to the House Armed Services Committee this week that the greatest destabilizing force in the Middle East is Iran, and that the U.S. must be prepared to use “military means” to confront and defeat the Iranian threat to the region.

No doubt Iran is a pest to U.S. designs in the Middle East.  No doubt Iran has its own agenda. No doubt Iran is no friend to Israel.  But the greatest destabilizing force in the Greater Middle East?  That’s the USA.  We’re the ones who toppled Iraq in 2003, along with the legitimate government of Iran 50 years earlier.

Iran/Persia has lived in, and sometimes dominated, the Greater Middle East for 2500 years.  By comparison, the USA is a newcomer on the block. Yet it’s the Iranians who are the destabilizers, the ones operating in a nefarious “grey zone” between peace…

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41 thoughts on “Ready for War with Iran?

  1. W.J. – Joseph Tainter wrote, in “The Collapse of Complex Societies”:

    “The combined factors of increased costliness of conquest, and increased difficulty of administration with distance from capital, effectively require that at some point a policy of expansion must end. This was the state reached by the Roman Empire by the beginning of the current era. Under Augustus the size of the Roman Empire was essentially capped. Later additions were comparatively insignificant, and costly. The conquest of Britain by Claudius, and of Dacia by Trajan, probably never paid for themselves, since they were poor, distant, frontier provinces.” (P. 149.)

    With Afghanistan and Iraq still not pacified, adding Iran to the cauldron makes as much sense as Napoleon invading Russia while fighting in Spain, or Hitler invading the Soviet Union while still occupying hostile nations in Western Europe.

    But, hey: It makes for great drama.

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    1. Today’s technology renders the constraints the Roman Empire encountered, well…ancient history! The US Colossus has hundreds (I’ve seen 800 tossed around, or even 1000 or more) of military facilities (of varying sizes, obviously) on foreign soil. Troops and materiel can be transported anywhere in short order, wasting vast amounts of fuel and further polluting the planet, in the process. The US has already bankrupted itself financially trying to maintain this modern empire. The National Debt, which Trump has eagerly ballooned yet again via tax breaks for the rich and Pentagon toys, can NEVER be paid off. There’s already been movement toward crude oil being priced internationally in units other than US dollars, which upsets Wall Street no end. The sooner this whole thrice-accursed (I borrow from none other than V.I. Lenin for that phrase) System implodes, the better off the world at large will be.

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  2. In the 80’s, with the Iran/Iraq war raging, my boss wrote a paper for Air Command and Staff college to make the point that US interests would be best served by staying out of that conflict and making sure neither side would win. He was right. No clear way to make this better – the Iran nuclear deal was a good start – but there are an infinite number of ways to make it worse. Any moron can make it worse.

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  3. Many people are happy to see this “evil” Iranian “terrorist mastermind” assassinated.

    But, as I wrote to a friend, All too often, when the U.S. acts militarily overseas, domestic political concerns are really the primary focus. I find the timing ominous, and the rationale of a “defensive” attack questionable. Always question authority — or do you have newfound confidence in the wisdom of Trump?

    Trump is very crafty. This killing is a major distraction from the impeachment trial looming. Also, my guess is that Trump sees this as a sign of his own toughness — that he did what Obama and Bush were reluctant to do (due to sensible fears of escalation/war).

    I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m surprised at the number of Americans who reflexively trust and applaud the government whenever it takes lethal action against “evil.” I guess the Pentagon Papers, the Afghan Papers, the absence of WMD in Iraq, etc., have no impact on their faith and trust in military action.

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    1. Your final paragraph is also my assessment. I’m long past surprise or amazement. Rather, I just hang my head in sorrow (and shame) that our (we Americans) blood lust and willingness to engage are undeterred by thoughtful analysis or even a blunt, snap judgment.

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    2. Bill, what defines an ‘”evil” Iranian terrorist’? Here is a definition of evil: having no concern for the welfare or lives of others or the environment. Perhaps that fits Iran, I don’t know for sure, but I am certain that it fits the USA since 1945 and the deployment of nuclear weapons.

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    3. Yes WJA, your last paragraph above gets to the underlying problem – a lack of ‘healthy skepticism’ regarding US military pronouncements in the majority of the US populace. As long as these voters (a majority, at least since ~1980) want to support military hawks in politics, I for-one find it hard to predict a peaceful drawdown in our US militarism. It’s conceivable that the omnipresent US greed could theoretically start to rein-in the profligate military spending, but then there would undoubtedly be a new ‘emergency’ (another Hitler emerging) that would ‘require’ our ‘humanitarian intervention’, in the form of bombing the hell out of another 3rd rate military power, so I’m not optimistic about that.
      As you and others have written, this is in large-part due to the REMOTENESS of all our nasty military activities. This stuff is happening out of sight of US voters (especially with the MSM’s agreement to the military censorship, even to the point of not publishing photos of caskets of US military casualties) — and our TV & movies (whose images convey a visceral sense of ‘presence’ that is typically much stronger than words alone) are almost all laudatory of our military aggressions (nobody ever went broke pandering to the US public, to paraphrase HL Mencken*). When a lone bomber in this country is unfortunately able to kill 10, 20 or more innocent people, everyone is understandably aghast, and hyperbole ceases to exist in condemnations of the act. But when the US military is able to obliterate villages and cities with bombs that that are hundreds of times more powerful, the US populace is mostly “Eh… Did you see that pass that Aaron Rodgers threw on 4th down last night?”

      We may be an ‘exceptional country’, but it’s not in a positive way.

      * “No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” HL Mencken, Sept 19, 1926

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  4. One might ask what was an Iranian general known for heading up insurgency operations doing in Iraq anyway? The implication being he had no business being there except to be up to no good.

    But then one might also ask what is the US doing in Iraq, invading at the cost of many thousands of Iraqi lives?

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    1. Indeed, what is the US doing in almost every nation on the planet, with its spies and military installations? By the way, one presumably unintended consequence of the ouster of Saddam Hussein was that Iraq came under the sway of Iran. I believe Shia are the majority in Iraq now. The commander of the Revolutionary Guards was not necessarily at the Baghdad Airport covertly!

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    2. Clif, probably not widely reported but Iran has been one of the chief fighters against the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Reason for an Iranian General being in Iraq? Or how about a senior person from one neighbouring country visiting another neighbouring country to discuss matters of mutual interest?

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  5. a technical note – for some reason my comments get through rarely now. I think it has to do with WordPress spam blocking. I compose a comment, WP asks me to log in, I do, nothing appears. I’ve avoided any links in case that is flagged. I’m about to give up. But keep up the good work Prof. Astore, I hope this gets through. If this is happening to me it may be happening to others as well. At any rate, I’m still reading.

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    1. Clif–I also had a comment rejected recently, containing no links. WordPress is not 100% reliable in my experience. Not many things are, eh?

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    2. No, Clif; you have to log in 1st. I had the same problem awhile back. Also, the log in does not last forever: had that problem too. It can be on the same post in fact. Make sure when ‘Leave A Reply’ appears, you’re logged in 1st.

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  6. I think I’ll go bump off a next-door neighbor tonight, for kicks. My defense will align with Mitch McConnell’s justification for the US’s attack: “It was a pre-emptive, defensive action, Your Honor. I know the guy was planning to mess with me!”

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  7. Thank you very much for your insightful post! I really enjoyed reading it and hearing your perspective on this developing event. I have recently published an article on my blog about Trump’s actions from an outsider’s perspective. If you have time, it would be great if you could check out my post and let me know your thoughts! Thanks 🙂

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  8. What I want to know is who has the American flag concession in places like Iran? People always seem to have immediate access to one and there always just happens to be a camera crew on hand the moment the matches and lighters come out. Aren’t there more relevant photographs that could be presented? Such “events” slipped into the “stock footage” file a few decades ago ….

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  9. There is an insanity that is abroad on our planet.
    I think that it has a medical terminology, but that it has yet to be incorporated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (currently DSM 5), so I see my big opportunity in the coming year and years will be to work with the American Psychiatric Association to get it described and inserted in DSM 6, and to collaborate with the international pharmaceutical industry to create a drug treatment for it – all mental disorders in the DSM have a drug treatment – or several – attached to them.
    The condition that I have identified is called ‘American exceptionalism’ and it is very widespread, but fortunately only within a small number of classes, professions or occupations – bankers, financiers, politicians, militarists, military-industrial employment, mainstream media.
    If we take all that lot together, it should comprise a reasonably-sized market to offer the pharmaceutical fraternity a proper return on its investment, as well as a pay-off to me, especially since I have done some serious thinking on what this drug might look like in order to save the pharmaceutical industry a great deal of time, money and effort on research.
    At the moment, I have narrowed it down to something like arsenic, botulinum, cyanide, polonium, ricin, strychnine – any of those, either singly or in combination, to be taken internally, would do well. Unlike the treatment of other medical disorders, this treatment is expected to need just a single dose and that might be a shortcoming that I have not properly provided for.

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    1. Sorry, Mike Boddington, but I beat you to this diagnosis. I’ve been calling “American Exceptionalism” the “American Disease” for some time now. Your proposed drug treatment program is interesting, but I have a somewhat more humane (as if these criminals deserve it!) prescription: daily heavy doses of Thorazine! Watch the War Lords shuffle up and down the corridor all day long, great entertainment!!

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      1. Well, Greglaxer, as a pacifist I am not in mind to kill anyone at all. So I accept your rebuke and your alternative suggestion. My friend Yosh has an excellent alternative, too:
        ‘I seriously doubt that the APA would adopt the pharmaceutical interventions that you propose. Taking baby steps, I would first suggest Ayahuasca or mescaline taken every weekend for at least one year. I believe that these interventions will bring about an awareness of the interconnectedness of all life and perhaps a deep appreciation for Mother Earth.’

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        1. No “rebuke” intended! Just wanted to set the historical record straight. And BTW, I’m not sure psychedelics can mellow a deranged hater like what passes for our current POTUS. If Congress had discharged its responsibilities to defend the Constitution, the “stable genius” would have been removed from office before he could do this current damage. But we know that would’ve required politicians to put country before party loyalty. Ergo, a non-starter.

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  10. The Pentagon speaks of “investing” in the military. Well, we have “invested” so much in the military that we see it as our go-to solution for every problem, real or perceived. Plus we have become the world’s top producer and seller of weapons. And our ideology is based on “global reach, global power” and a sense we can do no wrong.

    Add all this together — militarism, weaponry, imperialism, exceptionalism — and you get violence and war.

    Trump, of course, is yet another wild card. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ordered this strike because Obama decided against assassinating this Iranian general. Trump always likes to think he’s tougher/smarter than Obama because the latter mocked him at the Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011.

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    1. Yes, he roasted Mr Trump but he was no better. At the same event he talked about DRONING Jonas brothers!! At least I did not think it was funny!

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    2. It troubles me how the meaning of words has become situational or co-opted by the current administration, the military, and corporate America, something the media has lapped up without a murmur and the Great Unwashed takes in stride. They’re only words, after all.
      In international relations, we no longer have pacts, treaties, agreements, or accords. We have, instead, “deals.” Used car salesmen and overstocked surplus warehouses have “deals.”
      And then there’s this business of “investing” in the military. Investing is supposed to be a voluntary act, with a reasonable expectation of a positive return. I’ve yet to see a box on a tax form I could check to opt out of paying the percentage of my taxes that go to the military. I don’t expect I could claim the military as a dependent or the alluded to percentage as a loss, either. (If memory serves, it was Joan Baez who back in the dim & misted Sixties once withheld the percentage of what she had to pay that went to the military’s budget … didn’t end happily.)
      We “invest” in the military the same way banks used to “invest” in Butch & Sundance’s retirement fund.

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      1. Well, we still have things called treaties and accords and agreements. But we are saddled with a POTUS who simply rips them into little pieces when they don’t accord with his ideology of doing maximum harm to the planet. Prime example: not so long ago, there was an agreement with Iran that they would put limits on their development of nuclear technology. Commander Bone Spurs did not care for that deal, like he didn’t care for the Paris Climate Accords (which promoted awfully minimal progress anyway, truth be told). And for added irony, if we can stomach it, this man claims to be THE Master of Dealmaking!! Yep, great progress he’s made with the Korean situation! China appears to be yielding to Trump’s trade demands, because the US is THE monster consumer of goods on the planet. I am irritated with China for allowing Trump any “victory” to crow about!

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    3. “”Investing” in the Military?” In all my years, I’ve never heard such nonsense; One invests in roads, bridges, skyscrapers, Ocean Liners, COMMERCIAL planes, to increase profitability and produce jobs, keep peace.
      In history, Military expenditures were only to protect their societies, and their well being & profits. I guess now “Investing” in the Military is proCapitalist? Couldn’t be “wronger” said Phyllis Diller, in a skit.
      Being an airplane buff, we should all study the MIC “winners” on Wall Street, but losers in commercial aviation: Northrop, Grumman, Lockheed, Martin. Kings from 30’s to 90’s they all fell commercially. No airline wanted them!
      So let the US taxpayers pay for their mistakes! And watch out US taxpayers in 2020! I’m ballsy enough to add BOEING to the list! The 737 ‘MAX’ is a product that killed the above- not that Boeing hasn’t had many gift$ from the MIC & State Dept fines on Airbus. It’s unstable, trying to fit new engines to a 40+ year old frame. NEEDS computers to keep it “safe”.
      So it doesn’t matter what FAA says: no body believes them. Very sad. I never thought my country would detioraiete to such a low position.

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      1. Oh, absolutely, Boeing Corp. is very confident the teat of Uncle Sam (an odd anatomical arrangement for a national symbol considered very much male!) will keep it afloat no matter how badly it bungles its commercial aircraft line!

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    4. What I find very sad is the spectacular success of the Ruling Class’s media in transferring the arrogance of the US military down to the populace. If/when this decision to assassinate blows up into full-scale war, I guarantee you our fellow citizens will wave the flag and dust off (or purchase new) yellow-ribbon stickers for their (mostly gas-guzzling) vehicles proclaiming “Support Our Troops.” As an old song inquired, “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”

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  11. It was all about Oil ever since the navies in the West and Japan converted from coal fueled naval vessels to oil. Modern armies and air forces of the early 20th century also needed oil.

    Friendly puppet dictatorships in the Middle East were established to keep the oil flowing. The USA and British Coup in Iran in 1953 was all about controlling Iranian Oil. The pathetic Shah of Iran was a puppet of the USA and British.

    Since 1953 no matter who was President the power of the American War Machine, was used to enforce the control of the oil fields.

    It is interesting the two countries in the Middle East that hate the Iranians with a passion are Israel and Saudi Arabia. President Agent Orange has gone out and supported both Israel and Saudi Arabia with a blank checks. Who knows what is in this relationship for President Agent Orange??? Well money is good answer.

    I have been looking at my Facebook “Friends” who are strong followers of President Agent Orange. Naturally, they are flag waving our troops onto the Middle East as they sit on their collective fat asses on a computer. President Agent Orange is hailed by these Trumpter’s as the stand-up example of a Male Authoritarian Leader in contrast to Obama’s weak knees. Although truth be told Obama did his share of drone attacks also.

    The CIA coined a phrase “Blow Back” to describe the reaction to American meddling that happens. We can at this point only wait for Iranian or their allies blow back.

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    1. Ah yes, blow-back. There WILL be blow-back, which is one of the intended results of this provocation. The more blow-back, the more “justification” (and I can already hear Democratic elected officials cheering it on) for additional “pre-emptive” strikes. And the great majority of casualties, on all sides, will of course be civilians. In a sane and humane world, the crude oil would be left in the ground and nation states would not be warring for its control. But we are many, many light-years away from such a world.

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    2. Ah, yeah ML, and guess who figured that out? Kaiser Wilhelm 2 building a railroad from Baghdad to Bremen! (It needed sand.) That aside, he handpicked Jewish Albert Ballin to run his new competition of Atlantic shipping, ruled by the Brits. They succeeded building far more luxurious liners & cargo ships than them. The REAL Start of WW1. Ballin built his fabulous liners, oil fired, Bismarck, Vaterland, Imperator. Ritz Hotels ran the restaurants. Interestingly never bombed in Bremen, but taken as warthrophies by US, Britain, France.
      I won’t go on, but know the new names of these stolen ships: part of which led to the rise of Hitler.

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    1. No time to follow that link but I will state with great certainty: the Articles of Impeachment are “closed.” The Dems will NOT go after Trump, other than with a few words of criticism, over this situation.

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      1. I agree, the Dems or Dumbs are already spouting the script of how Suleimani, had it coming in one way or another. Exactly, why he had it coming is just a glossed over detail. I suppose at some point Suleimani will be compared to some nefarious historical criminal: like Heydrich. Since President Agent Orange ordered up the “HIT”, the Dems or Dumbs have their knee jerk reaction of how Obama or Hillary would have taken a more nuanced approach, he should have consulted Congress and blah, blah, blah. Nevertheless, the Dems or Dumbs have lost their spines and are now crawling along, waving their little Impeachment Flag.

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  12. Isn’t this the sort of thing the Republican “leadership” and its lap dogs in the media assured us “the adults in the room” would keep from happening?
    Exactly what do you have to do to get tagged as a “rogue nation” these days? What box remains unchecked?

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    1. Outside the borders of the US, with its insular know-nothing population, I dare say this country is indeed recognized as the most dangerous rogue on the planet. If this statement makes me appear some kind of “elitist,” just behold Trump’s ever-faithful base. For what we’re told is The Greatest Nation there’s ever been, or ever could be, we have an alarming percentage of imbeciles among us!

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      1. As my 7th Grade American History teacher told me one day in the winter of 66/67, “This world is filled with fools and desperados, and you’ve got to watch your back.” Truer words, as they say … I thought it would all balance out but we’re way off the map now, well beyond “there be monsters here” territory.

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        1. More words of wisdom: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” We will soon see millions of suckers waving their American flags, cheering on “our” troops. For the record, they are NOT “my” troops. They won’t be fighting to defend me or the turf I live on. My only support for them is my demand that they be demobilized.

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