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07 October 2013


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Re: 'fist inside' and 'hyperwar'


From the section:



"As mentioned in an earlier section, Hyperwar planner's carry out a tandem, if incongruous, strategy of decapitation and "ultra air interdiction." In attempt to shut down Saddam's military machine, the Coalition heavily targeted Iraq's electricity and fuel production infrastructure. During Desert Storm, the allies flew over 200 sorties against the electrical plants and over 500 against 28 oil targets.(29) More than half of the 20 electrical generator sites were 100 percent destroyed. Only three escaped totally unscathed.(30) The intent, of this bombing is to deprive the Iraqi military the means to fight. By the end of the air campaign 42 of 53 Iraqi bridges were rendered impassable by Coalition attacks.(31) Modern forces are highly dependent on electricity for communications, radars and computers. Dependence on fuel is self-evident. Destroying the means of producing electricity is particularly attractive because it cannot be stockpiled.

Unfortunately for the civilian population, the electrical and petroleum infrastructure in Iraq, as well as other countries, is inherently a dual use commodity. Desert Storm planners recognized this from the outset.(32) What they might not have recognized, was how extreme hardships this type of campaign would cause civilians.

The bombing of Iraq's infrastructure was so effective, that on either the sixth or seventh day of the air war, the Iraqis shut down what remained of their national power grid.(33) It was useless.

Immediately following the war, Iraq was producing only 4 percent of its pre-war electrical capacity. Four months after the war's end, this electrical generation had only reached 20 to 25 percent of the prewar capacity of approximately 9,500 megawatts. This generating capacity is roughly analogous to that of the 1920's -- before Iraq had access to refrigeration and sewage treatment.(34)

The result of this destruction has led to severe malnutrition and endemic levels of typhoid and cholera. For the vast majority of Iraqis, there food is not refrigerated, their sewage is not treated, nor is their water purified. A Harvard team which visited Iraq shortly after the war projected that more than 170,000 children under five years of age will die this year from the delayed effects of the bombing.(35) The longer-term affects on the civilian population is anyone's guess."

David Habakkuk

Professor Bolan,

“Unfortunately, many now equate 'compromise' with 'appeasement' (in what is surely the most over-used historical metaphor of all time).”

It is I think absolutely right that ossified readings of the misadventures of British policy in the Thirties have come to have a nefarious influence on political debate in the United States, and also Britain.

This bears upon an ongoing argument I have had on this blog with Babak Makkinejad. Years ago, he pointed out that Mrs Thatcher had said that nuclear weapons had kept the peace in Europe since the war, and asked why this should not also be so in West Asia.

My own view has been that from the early Cold War on, misleading analogies with the Thirties led to a gross overestimate of the propensity of the Soviets deliberately to run major risks of all-out war, and therefore of the significance of nuclear weapons in maintaining the peace. At the end of ‘How War Came’, the very detailed survey of the diplomacy of the months leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War he published in 1989, Donald Cameron Watt remarked that:

“What is so extraordinary about the events which led up to the outbreak of the Second World War is that Hitler’s will for war was able to overcome the existence with which virtually everybody else approached it.”

The kind of ‘grand bargain’ with Germany which Chamberlain was seeking was based upon a perfectly rational appraisal of British and German interests. The mistake was in failing to appreciate the reckless and perhaps ultimately nihilistic element in Hitler – with practically any other German leader, ‘appeasement’ would very likely have worked. The notion that any such element is to be found in the contemporary Iranian leadership is simply not supported by any credible evidence – it is a figment of the propaganda of the current Israeli government and its American fellow-travellers.

There is also no reason whatsoever to believe it characterised the Soviet leadership, either in the immediate post-war period or subsequently. During the months about which Watt was writing, Charles ‘Chip Bohlen’, who would become one of the two most significant post-war State Department Soviet experts, had a ringside seat in Moscow, watching Stalin twist and turn as he sought to avoid war. In October 1951, Bohlen would deploy the lessons he had learned then and subsequently in a contemptuous dismissal of central features of the analysis of the crucial NSC 68 strategy paper, masterminded by Paul Nitze in the spring of the previous year:

“No attempt whatsoever [Bohlen wrote of NSC 68 and its follow-up papers] is made to analyze the great body of Soviet thought in regard to war between states or the even more elementary fact that any war, whether the prospect of victory be dim or bright, carries with it major risks to the Soviet system in Russia. The fact of war alone, its attendant mobilization, added strain on an already strained economy, exposure of Soviet soldiers to external influences, the entire problem of defection, the relationship of party to Army, the question of the peasantry and many other factors, which I am convinced are preponderantly present in Soviet thinking on any question of war, are either ignored or treated as insignificant. In short, it would appear that this series, designed merely to justify the need for military buildup, strays in a rather superficial and unnecessary way from incontestable truths which afford ample justification for military buildup.”

Precisely some of the most unpleasant features of the Soviet tyranny, Bohlen was arguing, worked to make it cautious about deliberately running risks of large-scale conflict. He might have added the obsessive fear of heresy within the international communist movement which was a central feature of Stalin’s policy. It is far from clear that he would have wanted to see communist parties come to power in major states he could not realistically hope to control, as Bohlen’s colleague George Kennan was pointing out from February 1947 onwards.

What Bohlen’s final comment suggests is what I think to be true – that the political problems involved in securing support for the new global role into which the United States was effectively pushed by the outcome of the Second World War led to pressures towards ignoring the differences between the dynamics of the Nazi and Soviet tyrannies.

Moreover, as NSC 68, read carefully, brings out, it is only the appearance of nuclear – and even more thermonuclear – weapons, which makes it possible to conceive of a rapid and decisive victory for either the Soviet Union or the United States in a war between them. Absent these, both sides would be facing a long drawn out war of attrition, which both had good reasons to avoid. From the Soviet point of view, even if they succeeded in eliminating the bridgeheads on which American power could be deployed in Eurasia, they would still be left confronting an adversary with a massively superiority in military-industrial potential and technological competence.

And after all, we were not dealing with the decadent American, or indeed British, of today. Less than a year after it was pushed into the war by the Japanese attack in December 1941, the United States was landing in force in North Africa, having already inflicted what the military historian John Keegan “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare” on the Japanese at Midway. The demonstrated capabilities of American – and also British – forces for landing, and supplying, large forces by sea, and also strategic bombing, would have further factors reinforcing the imperative of caution in Soviet policy, had nuclear weapons never been invented.

Babak Makkinejad

I add that nuclear weapons now are keeping peace in both South Asia and in North East Asia.

A few more nuclear weapons states and the dream of universal peace could be realized; evidently.

Babak Makkinejad

I do not believe very many people in the so-called West or in Israel understand the gravity of the accusations against Iran, the Iranian people and the Iranian leaders as "a bunch of millennialist, apocalyptic nuts".

It is nothing less than a declaration of religious war against Imam Hussein; a fool's errand.


Chris Bolan said

“What proof do you offer that Iran has a nuclear weapon? People have been predicting for decades that Iran is within months of developing a nuclear weapon”

Recall those 'expert' statements going back to Reagan years!!! close to 30 years of hasbara, but, we have not yet reached the comment, “Every body duck NOW, 45 sec to a mAshroom cloud”!!!!!!! or some such notion.

the nuclear issue is nothing but a pretext, this may not be so obvious to most people in US, but it is the case.  If all the nuclear elements were to disappear entirely over nite, US would use other excuses to challenge the independent status of IRI. Iran during the shah was one of US strategic pillars in the ME. That loss has been hard to swallow, as you can imagine.

The question would be, if US  lone super power status is diminishing, what are the US strategic options?  

They can work with the Russians in managing world affairs and consent to a bipolar status.  Or they can explore 'some' detente with Iran, given the importance of ME and energy resources, hence promoting a multi-polar approach.

For US, obviously, maintaining the unilateral status would the game. Short of that goal, one has to weigh the pro/con of each approach to see the [US} crystal ball has any potential for some 'detente' with IRI.

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