In this week's New Yorker, Seymour Hersh again makes a cogent case that the US is headed towards war with Iran despite intense internal/external opposition. Of course, I concur. More war is indeed on the near term horizon (with the timing slaved to the Presidential election clock).The only prewar uncertainty is the method we will use to attack Iran. Here again, Hersh's article is useful. It is laden with comments that indicate that the air power intensive operation I laid out in my "Collapsing Iran" brief will be selected. For example:
“The Air Force is hawking it to the other services,” the former senior intelligence official said. “They’re all excited by it...
“Rumsfeld and Cheney are the pushers on this—they don’t want to repeat the mistake of doing too little,” the government consultant with ties to Pentagon civilians told me. “The lesson they took from Iraq is that there should have been more troops on the ground”—an impossibility in Iran, because of the overextension of American forces in Iraq—“so the air war in Iran will be one of overwhelming force.”
Seeing Around CornersOf course, beyond the method of the attack (an EBO that attempts to cause Iran's collapse), we should also look at its potential implications. This is a stretch, since it involves seeing around corners (something I enjoy, and if you are reading this weblog, so do you). One good method we can use to approach this would be to view the attack within the larger context of the emerging tightly coupled global system (a system where shocks rapidly travel through mutual network interdependencies). My earlier conclusion was that this new global system is dynamically unstable, which means that positive feedback loops started by system shocks can overwhelm dampening forces (such as political/social systems that provide negative feedback). Within this context, we can build a scenario based on three waves of effects. Each wave will be of a greater magnitude than the first, with each propagating quickly in succession. Of course, I hope this analysis is all for naught and it doesn't play out like this, but here's my take regardless:
- The military wave: local counter-attacks. Substantial disruption in Iraq due to domestic revolts by Shiite militias. Potentially, an attempt by Iranian forces still intact to invade Iraq. Attacks on Persian Gulf shipping and a shut down of Iranian oil exports. Oil prices spike. Global condemnation of the attack. The fighting is locally intense.
- The political wave: the instability spreads across the globe and America is incapacitated. Attacks on vulnerable Gulf monarchs put regional powers on the edge of failure. Terrorist attacks on American interests occur worldwide. America is forced to withdraw from Iraq (due to intense pressure from a hostile government and militias that are interdicting supplies) and must destroy much of its equipment in place to facilitate a rapid departure. Protests against American policy abound (including domestically in the US), many of these may get violent. American businesses suffer. The US is plunged into a domestic political crisis. Shortages of oil cause rationing in some countries and radical reductions in economic activity globally.
- The economic/societal wave: state failures. A gulf monarchy falls. Successful terrorist attacks on oil production systems have deepened the global energy crisis (and it appears it will continue indefinitely). The global economy goes into a severe and prolonged contraction. The worst finally happens: China's export oriented economy collapses (NOTE: when a bubble economy running at nearly 10% yearly growth falls apart, the rate of contraction will likely exceed the rate of growth). Protests, currently running at 200 a day, spike to thousands and they are increasingly violent (as protesters clash with domestic militias). The government attempts to crack down with the army but finds neither support nor a passive population during this attempt. Further, the scale of the unrest is too vast. Lacking legitimacy due to a decade of rampant corruption and an inability to deliver rapid growth anymore, the country fragments.