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Friday, April 14, 2006

Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran! 
Former Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Thomas McInerney sketches out a plan to keep Iran from getting nukes:

1. Bomb Iran.

2. Steal underpants.

3. ???

4. Regime change!

Comments:
Yeah, I noticed that large jump from bombing to regime change as well. Why do Air Force generals always make such outrageous claims for the efficacy of bombing? Bombing can be quite effective nowadays to be sure, even decisive, but not outside of a combined arms approach.

I do agree with the general's initial points...

Iranian Air defenses eliminated (check)
Iranian Navy eliminated (check)
Iranian C3I disrupted (check)
Straits of Hormuz defended, oil supplies flow with only minor hiccups (check)
Much of the publicly known nuke infrastructure destroyed or disrupted (check)

And I agree that ultimately regime change is needed to really be sure, since Iran undoubtedly has learned lessons from North Korea on how to build clandestinely.

But for him to claim we can somehow pull another Afghan-style victory ignores key military considerations, which even this amateur can discern.

Specifically:

Afghanistan was unique in that it already had a civil war raging between two relatively equal sides, neither of which had extensive air support. It is no wonder they were stalemated. It is also no wonder that by simply providing said air support to the Northern Coalition we were able to break the stalemate and rapidly collapse the Taliban. Afghanistan was a brilliant illustration of economy of force and maximizing leverage in a finely-balanced situation. If we could have brought B-52's to bear against WWI Germany the result would have been just as dramatic.

Iran on the other hand is not in a state of civil war, and the government has a firm grip on the instruments of power. While there are ethnic and political opposition groups in country, and while it might be possible, given time and serious support, to develop these groups into serious regime opponents. I doubt sincerely that this can be done within the framework of a short air campaign supplemented by special ops, no matter the amount of 'international support' or coalition building we might have done beforehand.

In short, with all due respect to the General, he still has a lot of operational planning to do before his regime-change plan is ready for consideration.
 
Brian:

You make good points about the key difference between Iran and Afghanistan. But I must take issue with "simply":

"by simply providing said air support to the Northern Coalition we were able to break the stalemate and rapidly collapse the Taliban."

I think you underestimate the role of the Special Forces here. Their most famous media moment may have been sitting on horses or donkeys with laser target designators, but they did one hell of a lot more than call in and target airstrikes. Their role in organizing and leading this hodgepodge of anti-Taliban resistance to overthrow their government was instrumental.
 
Oh certainly.

I emphasized air power here because that was what the General did in his article. But the special forces role in Afghanistan was definitely critical on many levels. The main point was that the Afghan situation was not comparable to Iran in any meaningful way I can see.

Here's a question. Is it your opinion that the Afghan campaign would have been successful using special forces in conjuntion with Northern Alliance, but without extensive air support? Was the coordinating role of special forces (re alliance factions) sufficient in this case to achieve victory? Another way of stating it: Assuming a unified effort by the Northern Alliance, would they have had sufficient power to achieve victory over the Taliban without air support from us?
 
Brian:

"I emphasized air power here because that was what the General did in his article."

Fair enough. I think we're pretty much on the same page, and I agree with your and Jason's main point.

"Assuming a unified effort by the Northern Alliance, would they have had sufficient power to achieve victory over the Taliban without air support from us?"

Fascinating question, and I think I must plead insufficient information/expertise, being (for now) merely an interested civilian. Despite my naivete, I'm comfortable enough suggesting that airpower, even with human infiltrators on the ground multiplying its lethality through better targeting, would not have sufficed.

But on your sort-of-converse question, whether SF plus indigenous fighters could have overthrown the Taliban without extensive air support, I can only say I don't know. The Taliban didn't have the kind of airpower they'd need to crush the revolt from the air. Between the level of popular misery, the boost to our indigenous allies of knowing we had their backs and were determined to see them win, and the sneaky inventiveness of SF (plus SOF), I'd speculate that we might have found a way to pull it off. But it would have made a risky campaign a lot riskier, and as General McCaffrey once said in a very different context, "We weren't looking for a fair fight."
 
here's a point of logic: if a group of people (say, the population of a country) does not institute regime change favorable to the USA's interests while they are at PEACE, why on earth would they do so after the USA has bombed the snot out of them?

I mean, really, if they Chinese bombed the USA extensively, do you think the Bush-bashers would rise up in joy and overthrow his government?

Or fight the Chinese?
 
Hmmm. Tough call. I think it would depend on whether or not the Chicoms were offering National Health Care as part of the deal.
 
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