Peaceful Republic or Vicious Empire?

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UN inspectors are back from Iran after a two-day visit. They wanted to inspect several sites where Iran is likely to be doing the scientific and engineering work that provides the specific knowledge of how to construct a nuclear bomb without actually building it. Iran refused them access to these sites.

One official said that the UN team "could not find a way forward". Another said "”We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached."

Two days ago General Martin Dempsey said that attacking Iran was "premature" and that sanctions should be given time. He did not, however, say that such an attack was inadvisable due to its consequences. He did not speak against using the "military option". He could not do so without going against Obama's stated policy that the U.S. will attack Iran if Iran tries to blockade the Strait of Hormuz.

Dempsey said that he had made clear to the Israelis that "a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives." This is a weak and ineffectual warning. This is not a warning not to strike at any time, only at this time. In fact, Dempsey allowed as how the Israelis have "unique" national interests and "consider Iran to be an existential threat", which weakened his warning even more.

Obama needs to do more to if he wants to stop Israel, such as by preventing Israel's airplanes from flying over Iraq or Saudi Arabia. We have no indication that he is doing much of anything concrete to stop an Israeli attack. Obama is intentionally sending weak messages to Israel and intentionally sitting on his hands, so far as we know.

Obama is leading America into war with Iran. Israel has the U.S. right where it wants it. This is, however, where Obama wants to be. So it seems. Let us hope it is not so.

There are no good reasons for such a war. Iran is no threat to the U.S. There are no significant gains to Americans from such a war. The only gains, and they are far from assured, is that the U.S. regains political control over Iran. But even that is worth very little to the American public. Iran will sell its oil into the world market no matter what form of government it has.

An Israeli attack on Iran is a tripwire that will being the U.S. into war with Iran. Obama can stop Israel from attacking Iran. So far he hasn't. Obama is acting "passively" with respect to Israel so that, if and when Israel attacks, he can be seen as having been forced to react against Iran if and when it retaliates against Israel. Obama has already orchestrated such a "forced" response by the U.S. by proclaiming a "red line"that, if crossed by Iran, will result in U.S. retaliation.

Iran can let Hezbollah loose on Israel with rocket attacks. It can take military action in the Persian Gulf. Obama regards the latter as a "red line" that prompts U.S. attack. He could regard the former or any number of other Iranian responses also as triggers for attacking Iran.

Iran has already made clear that it regards an attack by Israel as an attack by the U.S. It will retaliate against Israel if Israel attacks it. It may retaliate against U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf. In all probability, an Israeli attack will therefore end up with the U.S. attacking Iran.

This sequence is ideal from Obama's standpoint. Obama has arranged the entire sequence of events for public relations effect and so that he will not appear to the American public to be the aggressor. Israel attacks Iran. Iran responds. The U.S. then responds while blaming Iran for having crossed a red line that the U.S. previously warned about.

Obviously Iran has to violate some red line or other if it is to respond to an Israeli attack at all. What does Obama expect, that Iran will sit idly by and be bombed by Israel? Of course not. He knows full well that Iran will respond and that he will have a suitable propaganda hook of his own scheming concoction on which to base his own attack.

Israel is paranoid concerning Iran. The existence of the peoples living in Israel are not at stake. The existence of the State of Israel is not at stake. However, the power and prestige of Israel as a state in the region are a growing problem for Israel. As Iran develops economically and militarily, which it is doing, it becomes more dominant in the region. Its political power grows. This is what the U.S. and Israel do not want to see happen, but, in the long run, they are helpless to stop Iran's development, economically, militarily and politically.

It is far better to join u2018em, not fight u2018em.

What the U.S. wants most is to control that development. But this can't be done without overturning the Islamic Republic of Iran. This will take more than air strikes on Iran's suspected facilities.

Has the U.S. government thought through the consequences of getting into war against Iran? Can it be a limited war with a limited objective of keeping the Strait of Hormuz open? Or will the U.S. take the opportunity to bomb Iran extensively and aim for its total defeat?

Since Iran is likely to retaliate, the U.S. is likely to be drawn deeper and deeper into full scale war. An Iranian response will not allow a war to remain limited. The hawks in the U.S. will push for decisive action. The neocons will see this as an opportunity to overturn Iran's government. The war will not remain limited for long, if at all. The U.S. is likely to go for broke.

Will this cause World War 3? I don't think so.

Pakistan has announced that it will not allow Pakistan to be used for basing operations of the U.S. military against Iran. Karzai in Afghanistan has made weaker but similar statements. Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan have just concluded a three-way summit and said that regional issues should be settled without foreign (U.S.) intervention. These states are acting more and more jointly in their joint interests. In the same cooperative vein, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, now consisting of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan started up in 1996. There are associated observer states that include India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan. Throughout this vast region, there is movement toward peaceful cooperation along a number of dimensions.

World War 3 is unlikely to break out because the U.S. attacks Iran. These states are not going to rush to the defense of Iran. Their links are not of that sort, and their interests do not go that far. They stand to gain by sitting on the sidelines. What is it to them if the U.S. gets bogged down in another war?

What are the implications of a U.S. war against Iran?

Iran's people suffer. The country endures a massive setback. Its politics become unstable. The U.S. gets tied down for years. It is far from clear how the U.S. can change Iran's government or "de-Islamisize" Iran.

A large number of Iranians may mobilize, either for direct or asymmetric warfare. Iran can keep up asymmetric warfare for a long time if matters go in that direction. It can hit weak spots in Israel and the U.S. for many years to come. The U.S. and Israel will face protracted attacks in any number of places worldwide and be under siege for a long time to come.

Oil production will fall and oil prices rise worldwide. There will be economic fallout.

There are no perceptible gains to the U.S. from attacking Iran, any more than there were for attacking Iraq or Libya.

War with Iran means that the U.S. will be drawn even more deeply into Israel's affairs as protector and supporter because Israel will face greater and prolonged hostility from Iranians.

The prestige of the U.S. will decline. The rest of the world will perceive that the empire has reached its limits. The U.S. will be viewed as a retrogressive element in world affairs.

The members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and other states in central Asia will draw closer together as a progressive element.

When and if the U.S. gains controls of Iran, attention will turn to "what's next" or "where next". Obama has already announced the Pacific as where next. War against Iran is going to firm up opposition from China and other countries associated with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. War with Iran will weaken the leadership position of the U.S. in the world. It will signal the decline of the U.S. empire.

It will be quite difficult to bring this war to a satisfactory conclusion once it widens into more than attacks with limited objectives.

If the U.S. keeps its attacks limited to keeping the Strait of Hormuz open and to destroying suspected nuclear development sites within Iran, and if it leaves untouched the existing Iranian government, then Iran may redouble its nuclear efforts. Bombing does not destroy knowledge or will. Iran will become even more firm in its antagonism to Israel and the West. It will develop alternative weapons that it can employ worldwide against Israel and the U.S. It will build up its conventional forces even more and become a really serious military threat. It is for these reasons too that the U.S. will not engage in a limited war but will seek to change Iran's government and greatly reduce its military capacity.

I view the U.S. empire as already in decline. Its last three elective emperors, Clinton, Bush and Obama, all have made serious mistakes in their management of the empire, particularly by going to war instead of finding other means of using America's strengths. They have all let the superpower status of the U.S. go to their heads. All three have been "do-gooders" who have thought they could use military strength and war to remove or eliminate perceived evils. That is not how to run an empire. Not one of them had or has the skills to manage the enterprise of empire in such a way as to hold it and lead the world forward. Each in his own way has failed to have the vision, courage and leadership skills to see the big picture and control the interest groups constantly pressuring them or to control their own impulses and predilections.

It is to be expected that in a political system such as America possesses, capable leaders of empire will not rise to the top. It seems the English system may have been better at it. I do not know. At any rate, America again faces the sad spectacle of an elective emperor leading it into a war in which there is little to be gained and much to be lost.

America should make up its mind what it wants to be. Does it want to be a peaceful republic or a dominating empire? Its form of government on paper is suitable for a republic, while its actions are those of an empire. The one is incompatible with the other.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.

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