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Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

A Case For Invasion: Time Is Running Out Over Iran

Thomas Holsinger did a guest blogging piece over at Winds of Change.net. It's about the invasion option on Iran should they continue along their merry way. The piece is cited below. Trust me, read this piece. This man is not a military man at all. Neither am I, but that shouldn't shade anyone's idea about what he's saying, or what Marcie and I have been saying. It's time to deal with this problem now. We don't want it dealt with the way Sen. Clinton proposed two nights ago at Princeton; that we outsource it to China and Russia. Marcie put up a great piece yesterday, highlighting a Cox and Forkum cartoon in regard to the idea of outsourcing this mess to them. China and Russia have strategic and economic ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran. In other words, they'd be about as helpful as a broken arm.

No, no. This will fall to the powers of the West. I just hope that we can move before it's too late.

America has come to another turning point – whether our inaction will again engulf the world and us in a nightmare comparable to World War Two. This will entail loss of our freedom as the price of domestic security measures against terrorist weapons of mass destruction, though we might suffer nuclear attack before implementing those measures. The only effective alternative is American use of pre-emptive military force against an imminent threat – Iranian nuclear weapons, which requires that we invade Iran and overthrow its mullah regime as we did to Iraq’s Baathist regime.

All the reasons for invading Iraq apply doubly to Iran, and with far greater urgency. Iran right now poses the imminent threat to America which Iraq did not in 2003. Iran may already have some nuclear weapons, purchased from North Korea or made with materials acquired from North Korea, which would increase its threat to us from imminent to direct and immediate.

Iran’s mullahs are about to produce their first home-built nuclear weapons this year. If we permit that, many other countries, some of whose governments are dangerously unstable, will build their own nuclear weapons to deter Iran and each other from nuclear attack as our inaction will have demonstrated our unwillingness to keep the peace. This rapid and widespread proliferation will inevitably lead to use of nuclear weapons in anger, both by terrorists and by fearful and unstable third world regimes, at which point the existing world order will break down and we will suffer every Hobbesian nightmare of nuclear proliferation.

Iran has dramatically shortened the time required to acquire the necessary weapons-grade fissionable materials by purchase abroad of pre-enriched, but not yet weapons-grade, fissionable materials (not just from North Korea). Iran’s technicians already have the expertise to fabricate functional nuclear weapons. The latter opinion is held by, among others, Mohamed El Baradei, director-general of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, who said that Iran can produce nuclear weapons in a few months if it has the requisite weapons-grade fissionables: "And if they have the nuclear material and they have a parallel weaponization program along the way, they are really not very far—a few months—from a weapon."

It normally takes years to produce the highly purified fissionables required for nuclear weapons – that is the only obstacle after Pakistan let its nuclear weapons program director sell the knowledge of weapons fabrication to anyone with enough money. All estimates alleging that it will take Iran years to produce nuclear weapons assume that they will do so from scratch, but that is not the case. Iran purchased pre-enriched fissionables with the intent of “breaking out” in a short period to a fully stocked production “pipeline” of fissionables under enrichment at all stages of the process, from “yellowcake” at the low end to almost ready at the high end.

It is possible, and in my opinion has already happened, that Iran has purchased enough nuclear materials from North Korea to fabricate a few nuclear weapons and facilitate the following strategy. Iran could minimize the duration of a “window” of vulnerability to pre-emptive American or Israeli attack between their first nuclear tests (or announcement that they have nuclear weapons), and possession of enough nukes to
deter attack, by postponing the announcement and/or first tests until they have a full-speed production line going – everything from enriching fissionables to weapons-grade and fabricating those into nuclear weapons, to stocks of finished nuclear weapons. At that point most or all of the latter will likely be of North Korean origin, but those will be quickly outnumbered by made-in-Iran ones under final assembly at the time of the announcement. I believe this is the plan Iran is following, and that the announcement will come late this year.

The recent spike in world oil prices gave Iran’s mullahs billions of dollars more in hard currency for use in acquiring material for their nuclear weapons program. The timing of their ongoing breakout to public nuclear weapons capability, and the public threats of Iran’s president, indicate that some recent event has given them additional confidence here. I feel this was their purchase of enough nuclear weapons materials from North Korea to fabricate a few nuclear weapons. They might have bought fully operational North Korean nukes. Such North Korean complicity carries other implications.

Whatever the reason, Iran’s mullahs no longer seem to feel a need to wait for final processing of fissionables, and fabrication of those into nuclear weapons, before their nuclear deterrent against the United States is ready. They act like they presently have that deterrent, and are proceeding to backfill their fissionable processing and weapons fabrication line before announcing that they have nuclear weapons. America’s election cycle plus the Bush administration’s fictitious budget estimates might also have a role in the timing of this announcement.

Those who have considered the consequences of Iran’s open possession of nuclear weapons (as opposed to covert possession) have generally focused on its avowed threats against Israel and the United States. Those are certainly enough grounds for pre-emptive attack by both – Iran’s mullah regime is the one government in the entire world whose possession of nuclear weapons would most pose a direct and immediate threat to America and Israel.

Iran’s mullahs will use nuclear weapons as a shield against foreign attack while they more openly support terrorism elsewhere. American acquiescence in Iranian nuclear weapons will lose the war on terror by ceding terrorists a “privileged sanctuary” in Iran. We’ll have let terrorists have in Iran what we invaded Iraq to stop. The invasion of Iraq will have been a complete waste of effort, and our dead in Iraq will have died in vain.

The chief threat of Iranian nukes, however, is what they will lead to elsewhere – something which will make all of the above trivial by comparison, something which will go on and on long after Iran’s mullah regime is overthrown by the Iranian people.

If the United States does not forcibly prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, every country in the area will know to a moral certainty that they cannot rely on the United States for protection against Iranian nuclear attack, or Iranian nuclear blackmail in support of domestic opposition to the generally shaky regimes of the Middle East. American prestige and influence there will collapse. If we won’t protect ourselves by pre-emption, we can’t be relied on to protect anyone else.

So every country within reach of Iranian nuclear weapons will have enormous strategic pressure to develop their own nuclear weapons to deter Iranian nuclear threats. As a
recent strategic survey noted, Syria has many times the per capita and absolute GDP of North Korea, and Egypt several times the per capita and absolute GDP of Pakistan. If North Korea and Pakistan can develop nuclear weapons, so can Syria and Egypt, and also Saudi Arabia, all three of whose regimes are shaky. And they won’t be the only countries to develop nuclear weapons after Iran does - many more will join the nuclear “club” within a few years, some within months.

All of those countries having nuclear weapons will create a security nightmare – at some point terrorists will be able to buy or steal some (assuming that Iran doesn’t first give a few to favored terrorist groups). It is likely that at least some will use their nuclear weapons on each other, or in a domestic coup or factional fight. The latter might first happen in Iran.

Few have any idea of the degree to which international trade and prosperity relies on free movement of goods between countries. Container cargo is an ideal means of covertly transporting terrorist nuclear weapons. Once the first terrorist nuke is used, international trade will be enormously curtailed for at least several months for security reasons, and the entire world will suffer a simultaneous recession.

It won’t stop there, though. These same security precautions, once implemented, will significantly impede future economic growth – a ballpark estimate of reducing worldwide growth by 20-30% is reasonable. Consider the worldwide and domestic effects over a twenty-year period of a one-quarter across the board reduction in economic growth.

This will be just from security precautions against terrorist nukes –not physical destruction from such use nor, more importantly, the consequences of nuclear wars between or within third world states. Physical destruction from these will be bad enough, but that pales compared with the social and consequent economic effects – enormous tides of refugees, economic collapse and outright anarchy over wide areas.

We cannot avoid that washing over us from abroad even if we manage to avoid terrorist nuclear attack at home, and we are unlikely to be so lucky. Scores if not hundreds of thousands of Americans will likely be killed, and many more injured, from terrorist nuclear devices used in America when so many politically unstable countries possess hundreds of the things.

We better than most can economically afford the thoroughly intrusive security measures required to protect against terrorist nukes when the threat can come from anywhere, as opposed to Islamic extremists alone.

But the price of domestic security, when foreign security fails due to a failure of leadership and will by President Bush, will be something much more precious – our freedom.

Freedom everywhere will suffer due to those same security precautions. The greatest loss of freedom will come in those countries which are freest, i.e., especially America. Especially us.

THIS is what is really at stake – the freedom which makes us Americans.

It is obvious that Iran’s leaders cannot be deterred from developing nuclear weapons. The U.N. won’t stop them. Diplomatic solutions won’t – the mullahs’ bad faith is obvious. Their diplomacy serves the same purpose as Japan’s with us in late 1941 after their carrier attack fleet had sailed for Pearl Harbor - to distract us from the coming attack. We are at that same point now, only we know the Kido Butai is coming and have no excuse for surprise. Iran’s President has openly stated their real intentions. Iranian diplomacy merely lets the willing deceive themselves.
There isn’t time to overthrow Iran’s mullah regime through subversion before the end of this year, and President Bush’s toleration of factional disputes in our national security apparatus means that we lack the capability to do so, period.

Iran seems to be in a
pre-revolutionary state such that its mullah regime will collapse from purely domestic reasons within a few years even if we do nothing, but by then it will have openly had nuclear weapons for several years, possibly used them against Israel and/or been pre-emptively nuked by Israel, and widespread nuclear proliferation will have started with all the horrors that will bring.

Only military force THIS YEAR can prevent this nightmare. Bombing alone won’t do it – it will only postpone things, and Iran’s mullahs won’t just sit there while we’re bombing them. War is a two-way street. They have spent years preparing for this conflict, and will try to stop Persian Gulf oil exports. There will also be an instant massive uprising by Iranian-led Shiite militias in southern Iraq.

Half-measures in war only make things worse. If we really want to find out how much Iran’s mullah regime can hurt us, and relearn the lessons of Vietnam, we need only bomb without invading. That will maximize our losses. Those who advocate mere bombing have not considered that Iran might already have some nuclear weapons.

Israel does not have the military capability we do. Israeli air attack against Iran’s dispersed and hardened nuclear facilities will at most postpone Iranian production by a few months. The United States Air Force can postpone it for as long as we keep up the attacks, but the mullahs will counterattack such that we’ll be at war whether we want to be or not, only with no chance of victory while we’re afraid to win.

The only effective way to stop the mullahs from building nukes, while minimizing our losses from their counter-attacks, is to overthrow their regime by invasion and conquest as we did against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.Democratic military experts agreed in a recent
Atlantic Monthly article that eliminating Iran's mullah regime with a ground invasion is feasible - they were more optimistic about it than I am (my emphasis:)

"In all their variety, these and other regime-change plans he described had two factors in common. One is that they minimized "stability" efforts—everything that would happen after the capital fell. "We want to take out of this operation what has caused us problems in Iraq," Gardiner of CentCom said, referring to the postwar morass. "The idea is to give the President an option that he can execute that will involve about twenty days of buildup that will probably not be seen by the world. Thirty days of operation to regime change and taking down the nuclear system, and little or no stability operations. Our objective is to be on the outskirts of Tehran in about two weeks. The notion is we will not have a Battle of Tehran; we don't want to do that. We want to have a battle around the city. We want to bring our combat power to the vicinity of Tehran and use Special Operations to take the targets inside the capital. We have no intention of getting bogged down in stability operations in Iran afterwards. Go in quickly, change the regime, find a replacement, and get out quickly after having destroyed—rendered inoperative—the nuclear facilities."

I believe the durations mentioned in the Atlantic article should be at least doubled – it won’t take us only 7-10 more days to overthrow Iran’s regime than it did Iraq’s, not to mention locating and destroying the known and secret nuclear facilities scattered over a wide area. I feel the Atlantic panel significantly underestimated logistic problems. Our forces must pass through mountains to get to Iran’s capital of Teheran, while getting to Baghdad required passage only through deserts and broad river valleys. Iran is much bigger than Iraq, so our ground forces will have a greater distance to travel, while even minor resistance in mountain passes will cause significant delays.

The Atlantic article concluded that eliminating the mullah regime was feasible – we agree that Iranian ground resistance will be minor, especially compared to our forces’ extreme effectiveness - but the Atlantic panelists felt that the consequences had too high a price. I agree that the occupation campaign afterwards will be much worse for us, in terms of intensity and required manpower, than the occupation campaign in Iraq – they felt the necessary manpower required for several years’ occupation duty would be prohibitive. They did not, however, even attempt to weigh that against the consequences of letting Iran have nuclear weapons, the effects of it already having some, and the probable duration of an occupation campaign. I do. The tradeoffs between the cost of an extended occupation in Iran, and its desirability, change dramatically if we must search for easily concealed, ready-to-use nuclear weapons, as opposed to merely destroying the physical ability to produce them.

I also feel the occupation campaign in Iran will take much less time than the one in Iraq for the following reasons:

(1) Iran has a functioning civil society and democratic tradition while Iraq didn't. The mullahs veto candidates they don't like, more in the past few years than earlier, but the systems and mindset for a functioning democratic society are present.

(2) We can use many of the Iranian army's junior officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel as a cadre for the new democratic regime's security forces. We couldn't do that with Iraq's army as the officers and non-coms were almost exclusively Sunni Arabs aka Baathist regime loyalists, and the mostly Shiite conscripts had almost all gone home.

3) Iran has at least one order of magnitude, and probably several orders of magnitude, less loose explosives than were present in Iraq, for possible use in improvised explosive devices. The mullah regime die-hards will die much faster than the Baathist die-hards in Iraq, because the ones in Iran will be attacking our forces mostly with direct-fire weapons. That is suicidal against American forces.

4) Language and ethnicity differences mean that Al Qaeda's purely Sunni foreign terrorists won't be able to operate much in Iran. The latter operated only briefly in Shiite areas of Iraq - those that didn't leave quickly died horribly at Shiite hands. While there are a lot of Sunnis in Iran, few of those are Arabs - they're Kurds, Azeris, etc.

My rough estimate of American casualties in the conquest and occupation campaigns for Iran, assuming that the mullahs don't nuke us, or use chemical weapons, is that we'd take about 50% more casualties in the first 18-24 months in Iran than in three years in Iraq, mostly in the twelve month period after the initial conquest.

I agree with the Atlantic panelists that the conquest campaign in Iran would, in terms of casualties, cost little more than Iraq’s - several hundred allied KIA. I just think it would take longer.

Everyone I know of with opinions on the subject agrees that the occupation campaign in Iran would be more intense than Iraq's, but Iraq's has seen only about 1700 KIA (or is it total fatalities including accidents?) during the 33 months of the occupation to date. That is about 50 fatalities per month for an average of about 120,000 troops (1 fatality per month per 2400 troops).

If Iran's occupation entails 200,000 men and is twice as intense as Iraq's in terms of casualties, we're looking at 1 fatality per 1200 men per month. 200k x 12 months = 2400k divided by 1200 = 2000 fatalities per year. This is certainly a lot compared to Iraq’s occupation campaign, but it also indicates that American casualties in Iran will be acceptable by any reasonable standard.

In my opinion the occupation campaign in Iran will be awful only for the first year, and then conditions will improve much faster than in Iraq for reasons mentioned above in this post. My guesstimate at this point is about 3000 American fatalities over two years for both the conquest and occupation campaigns in Iran, though the first year would be ghastly.

That Iran may already have some nuclear weapons (IMO this is likely) complicates a prospective invasion. We’d had
a plan for several years to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons capability (i.e., the launchers as well as the warheads) – it is called variously “Global Strike” and CONPLAN 8022. The United States Air Force excels at blowing things up.

Consider also, that, if small numbers of Iranian nuclear weapons are enough of a threat to seriously menace an American invasion, they are enough of a threat to merit pre-emptive attack with American nuclear weapons. Get real - our nukes are bigger than theirs, and we have lots more than they do. And if Iranian nuclear weapons aren’t enough of a threat to merit pre-emptive use of our own, they’re not a reason to avoid invading. It is not likely, however, that the USAF will need nuclear weapons to keep the mullahs from getting any off.

Did I mention the bribes? Now is the time for some breathtaking bribes – say a billion dollars per Iranian nuke delivered to us, which would be cheap given the alternative. Once we demonstrate the will to invade and eliminate the mullah regime, such bribes would be more effective than most think. Psychological warfare was wildly successful in the invasion of Iraq.

Fear of possible Iranian nuclear weapons use against an American invasion is not a valid reason for doing nothing. A thousand more American civilians have been killed by enemy action at home in this war than American servicemen killed at home and abroad. Not invading Iran will increase this disparity by several orders of magnitude. We have armed forces to protect our civilians from the enemy, not vice versa – soldiers die so civilians don’t. We will invade Iran to protect the American people from nuclear attack. That is worth the risk posed by Iranian nuclear weapons to American soldiers, and the burden of deploying 200,000 troops there for several years. Our reserves knew when they enlisted that they’d be called up for the duration of a major war. Invasion of Iran to protect America from nuclear attack, and preserve our freedom, counts as a major war.

This would, however, make absolute hash of the Bush administration's quite fictitious future budget estimates, which are the reason why it refused to significantly expand our ground forces after 9/11 though such was obviously necessary. Those phony budget estimates are arguably the biggest obstacle to our invasion of Iran this year. Iran’s mullahs might even have counted on this in timing their breakout to public nuclear weapons possession.

And if we don't invade this year, it won't matter much after that. We'll be in the worst case scenario. And President Bush will be reviled as America’s worst President – the one who through inaction cost us our freedom.

This is an outstanding piece written by Mr. Holsinger, and I have very little contention with it. For the most part, I'd argue his point regarding whether or not Iran actually possesses nuclear weapons. From what I've read, from what I know, that answer is--right now, and quite luckily--no. However, Dr. A.Q. Khan made Pakistan a virtual Wal-Mart for the bargain-basement nuke hunters; those desiring nuclear weapons, and no cost was too high. As Kenneth Timmerman points out in his new book "Countdown to Crisis," "the shelves are empty and the inventory has been sold."

Yes, we are at nexus right now. A turning point, and the next few weeks and months will determine our course in history. Will we turn a blind eye to the problem of Iran, and play games with them as we did Saddam Hussein? Iran is much, much closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon than Saddam ever was. It's not wise to play this game. Iran should be referred be given one chance, and one chance only.

Open up your facilities to the IAEA, come clean with all of your projects, and show the world what you have developed already. There will be severe consequences if they don't, and no, I'm not referring to 12 empty resolutions from the Turtle Bay Glee Club. I mean military action. And Mr. Holsinger does a good job of breaking down the casualty numbers; what we can expect from such an incursion.

But he's also right to point out that our presence in the country may not need to be as long as many of the naysayers believe. Going back to Mr. Timmerman, and I'll inject Mr. Miniter from his last book "Shadow War," the mullahs biggest fear in Iran is their youth; the ones very young during the Islamicists seizure of power in 1979, and those born after that seizure. The youth in Iran don't buy the Islamicists garbage, and are far more West-friendly than the mullahs truly know. Add to the fact that they see their neighbor, Iraq, as a full-fledged democracy now, full of freedoms they wish they had. The mullahs have no way to control these people because they don't fear a reprisal from them. They fear that their one, true chance for freedom may diasappear if something isn't done soon.

If we can put together a quick government, with a ready, stable military, our presence in the country could be cut as short as 12 to 24 months. But regardless of the length of the stay, this needs to be done. We can't allow Iran to join the nuclear club. They're already in violation of Article 2 of the Nucleare Non-Proliferation Treaty by not being open and forthcoming regarding their facilities and efforts to develop nuclear energy.

The time for waiting is almost at an end. WE were in favor of pre-emption in the case of Iraq. This time around, the stakes are higher, and the danger is greater. I don't want to do this, but the diplomacy game can only be played for a very short time. Come on, guys, even Jacques Chirac is trying to sound tough in this new world against terrorists. (And my very beautiful and quite talented better half did an excellent job on that piece.) If we fail to act now, and do so decisively, we may watch a nuke war go off over the Middle East between Israel and Iran. That's not a prospect I really want to entertain. Worse, should they acquire an ICBM, there's nothing to stop Iran from hitting us. And we only have one response to an attack from a weapon of mass destruction.

Publius II


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting piece although I'm not sure I agree with some of his statements Iran isn't the only country in the region that poses a threat. Iran has targeted Israel. I expect Israel to defend herself by taking out Iran's nuke facilities. There's no need to invade that country. The bottom line remains Islam vs Civilization. Rawriter

11:05 AM  

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