Ready for War with Iran?

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 and war, at least according to U.S. generals.

According to General Mattis, the Iranians are the greatest threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.  The U.S., with its massive military and extensive weapons sales, only safeguards peace and stability. 

Besides the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which accidentally helped Iran, the U.S. continues to sell massive amounts of weaponry to Iran’s rivals, most especially Saudi Arabia. U.S. military operations in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East have both destabilized the region and created marketplaces for U.S. weaponry and opportunities for economic exploitation by multinational corporations.

I’m no fan of Iran and its leaders, but can one blame them for resisting U.S. military and economic incursions into their sphere of influence? Recall how we reacted when the Russians put missiles into Cuba. Look at all the hostile rhetoric directed today against Mexico and its allegedly unfair trade practices vis-a-vis the U.S.

Let’s not forget that for 25 years (1953-78), the Shah of Iran was an American ally.  The U.S. military loved to sell him our most advanced weaponry, which at that time included F-14 Tomcat fighters and HAWK missile systems. That cozy relationship died with the Iranian Revolution (1979); ally turned to enemy as the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein and Iraq during the bloody Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

Yet, despite all this history, despite all the U.S. meddling, all the weapons sales, all the invasions and sanctions, somehow it’s the Iranians who are the destabilizing force, the ones deserving of more “disruptive” U.S. military action.

As America’s designs are frustrated in the Middle East, American generals never look in the mirror to see their own faults and failings. Instead, they cast about for new countries to blame — and to attack. Iran is seemingly next on the list, a country that General Mattis, America’s Secretary of Defense, said is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”

Anyone for war with Iran?  U.S. generals are ready.

Two Afghan Stories

The three Afghan officers who went missing (Cape Cod Times)
The three Afghan officers who went missing (Cape Cod Times)

W.J. Astore

Two Afghan stories this week suggest much about U.S. progress in winning hearts and minds there.  The first involves Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan’s departing president, the “Mayor of Kabul,” Karzai asserted that “America did not want peace for Afghanistan, because it had its own agendas and goals here.”  It’s easy to paint Karzai as a dissembling ingrate, which is exactly what the American ambassador to Afghanistan did in response. But it truly says something that Karzai, the recipient of more than $100 billion in developmental aid from the U.S. for Afghanistan (not including military aid!), portrays the U.S. as working against the interests of the Afghan people.  There’s one heart and mind the U.S. plainly didn’t win.

The second story involves three Afghan officers, one major and two captains, on a training mission at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts. The three officers, carefully vetted by U.S. Central Command, decided they had had enough of working with America. They drove to New York and attempted to enter Canada at Niagara Falls, seeking asylum, or so it seems.  There are three more hearts and minds the U.S. plainly didn’t win.

The details of this particular story are farcical.  The night before their unauthorized trip to the Canadian border, they enjoyed the pleasures of a genuine American strip club, where they were reportedly “well behaved” according to the club owner.  The next day, they were brought to an American shopping mall as part of their introduction to “the cultural aspects of American life.”  At the mall, they gave their escort the slip and headed to Canada, where they were eventually intercepted at the border crossing at Niagara Falls.  According to The Cape Cod Times, when the three Afghan officers went missing, among the first places the U.S. military looked for them was at the strip club.

Talk about an introduction to American culture!  First a strip club on Friday night, then a shopping mall on the weekend, then an unscheduled road trip to a major tourist attraction.  These Afghan officers may have absorbed too much of the American way.

In all seriousness, what does it say about the success of American efforts vis-a-vis Afghanistan when its former president denounces the U.S. and visiting Afghan officers, after sampling American fleshpots and temples to consumerism, attempt to flee to Canada?

There’s a lesson here about folly, if only we would care to draw it.