Friday, October 12, 2007

The Iranian Gambit Opening

Chess analogies are overdone, but chess is a good way to explain the narrative fallacy--the tendency of humans to be able to explain things in hindsight much better than understand them as they unfold. So I'll explain in hindsight how two current events led to our bombing Iran:

Trying to invade and hold Iran is a fool's errand. OK, so was bombing Iran, but it seems that the we didn't understand that at the time. Rather, we opted for a strategy of bombing key sites, and holding and occupying a few other key areas (Khuzestan, Bandar-e-Abbas, etc.), without attempting to occupy the entire country. In order to do that, we needed to address a force problem: all of our ground forces were tied up on the ground in Iraq. Specifically, the US Marines, the force most capable of larger expeditionary actions, was spread thin in a counter insurgency and peacekeeping role. We needed to make a significant chunk of Marine Corps manpower available for use against Iran. The problem was that the American people (before that rather effective PR blitz and those statements by Hillary) were quite opposed to attacking Iran. We couldn't just pull back an entire expeditionary force into a staging area in some Gulf Emirate airbase without raising several red flags. And anything originating out of the Vice President's office would look suspect, as well. BUT, if we got the Commandant of the Marine Corps to say that the Marines are meant to operate in an expeditionary role, and that they should leave Iraq and go to Afghanistan, that would have exactly the same effect, but seem quite legitimate. Suddenly, the Marines would be nicely staged for aerial redeployment within theater when they would be unexpectedly re-tasked (from their trans-shipment point conveniently near Bandar-e-Abbas) before they were actually spread thin on the ground in Afghanistan. It's easy to explain these kind of set-up moves on the chess board eight moves later, but understanding how today's move is intended to set up an attack eight moves down the road is much more difficult.

Of course, we needed more than just ready-to-deploy Marines. There was that sticky issue of American public opinion that was, at the time, against attacking Iran. Discussions of their nuclear ambitions were too speculative after the WMD debacle, we needed something more tangible. We had been issuing press releases to everyone who would listen that Iran was supplying the weaponry used by Shi'a insurgents against our forces in Iraq for months, but it really hadn't galvanized American behind attacking Iran. However, sometimes your enemy is your friend. The insurgency in Iraq had been operating under a model of open-source innovation for quite some time. They had tried many indirect fire attacks against US bases with mortars and rockets, and on occasion had minor success. It was natural to expect them to learn and improve over time. But this time, their tactical improvements (combined with a re-entry of certain Shi'a militias into a more active role) allowed us to point the finger at Iran. Beginning with the relatively minor but accurate attack on Camp Victory that killed 2 and injured 40, and escalating into the string of more deadly attacks that followed, we were able to spin this increase in accuracy to point the finger not at the expected improvements of an open-source enemy, but as a result of training and improved guidance systems and munitions provided directly by Iran. It was surprising, even to the most cynical among us, how quickly the American people rallied around the flag.

The rest, as the saying goes, is history...


Big Gav said...

Interesting theory about the Marine Corps move.

I know I'm way out of touch with American public opinion, but could any event short of an actual Iranian military attack really be enough to make a significant dent on public opinion ?

I'd like to think not, but maybe Barnum was right...

Jeff Vail said...

I'd sure like to think so.

That said, in September of 2002 I bought tickets for a family vacation to Kauai. We may be stupid, I thought, but we're not that stupid. I deployed with my unit to the Persian Gulf in November '02.

Once burned. I already had the mentality that it's tough to underestimate the stupidity of a large group of people. It seems that I didn't take my own maxim seriously enough last time. I am trying to avoid that mistake as second time. (at least this time I won't be the one going somewhere, but oddly I find that to be little solace...)

james said...

And then the Iranians dropped scuds on the Saudi, UAE, and Kuwaiti oil terminals - and choked off the Straight of Hormuz.

As the price of oil skyrocketed the US dollar started to wobble. The Iranians told the Chinese that they were not going to let up until the dollar collapsed, and that the Chinese could shorten everyones suffering by dumping their US T-Bills onto the market. The Chinese, taking the long view, declined to help attack the dollar.

But Wall Street was paying attention. Petrodollar recycling from the gulf arab countries had been supporting the US dollar for decades and now these countries were actually *withdrawing* funds from US denominated assets, while the US was hit by skyrocketing inflation as the 20 times price increase in fuel flowed into the rest of the economy.

With the writing on the wall, speculators around the world started to short the dollar ... and the rest is history.

Linda said...

Jeff, I've enjoyed reading you for about a year, but sometimes think you use big words to confuse us cretins. I completely agree with your take on Iran. The clouds are gathering, and nobody's paying attention. Is everybody asleep or are we all acquiescent that we need that oil?

fdg said...

I like your blog. Thank you. They are really great . Ermunterung ++ .
Some new style Puma Speed is in fashion this year.
chaussure puma is Puma shoes in french . Many Franzose like seach “chaussure sport” by the internet when they need buy the Puma Shoes Or nike max shoes. The information age is really convenient .

By the way ,the nike max ltd is really good NIKE air shoes ,don’t forget buy the puma mens shoes and nike air max ltd by the internet when you need them . Do you know Nike Air Shoes is a best Air Shoes . another kinds of Nike shoes is better . For example , Nike Air Rift is good and Cheap Nike Shoes .the nike shox shoes is fitting to running.

Spring is coming, Do you think this season is not for Ugg Boots? maybe yes .but this season is best time that can buy the cheap ugg boots. Many sellers are selling discounted. Do not miss . Please view my fc2 blog and hair straighteners blog.
.thank you .

I like orange converse shoes ,I like to buy the cheap converse shoes by the internet shop . the puma shoes and the adidas shoes (or addidas shoes) are more on internet shop .i can buy the cheap nike shoes and cheap puma shoes online. It’s really convenient.
Many persons more like Puma basket shoes than nike air rift shoes . the Puma Cat shoes is a kind of Cheap Puma Shoes .
If you want to buy the Cheap Nike Air shoes ,you can buy them online. They are same as the Nike Air shoes authorized shop. Very high-caliber Air shoes and puma cat shoes . the cheap puma shoes as same as other.

polo shirts

ralph lauren polo shirts
chaussure puma

chaussure sport

chaussures puma

puma CAT

ed hardy clothing

ed hardy clothes

ed hardy womens

ed hardy sunglasses

fdg said...