(To read the rest of our series, “The Case Against War with Iran”, please click here.)
"Iraq Is All but Won; Now What?"
The Los Angeles Times posed that question on April 10th, 2003. In seven words, that (formerly) esteemed southern California paper captured why we don’t make predictions here at On V: much of the time, predictions will make you look foolish.
We bring this up because, to make the “case against war with Iran” omelet, we’ll need to break a few On V editorial rules (eggs).
Rule 1: We hate making predictions.
To say, “The US should not go to war with Iran” predicts that:
1. War is more likely than not.
2. If the US does go to war with Iran, it will go badly. At least the benefits will not outweigh the costs.
As Eric C pointed out to me, many pundits, journalists and politicians declared victory in Iraq within weeks of the initial invasion. Unfortunately, the mission was not accomplished. (Regarding those two links, one of which comes from a forum, we have checked the quotes and the majority are not “quotes behaving badly”.) Eric C’s especially favorite quote comes from Chris Matthews, “What's [Howard Dean] going to talk about a year from now, the fact that the war went too well and it's over?”
Take Libya too, which flips the narrative on its head. Few forecasters predicted Iraq would turn out horribly; plenty predicted that Libya would mire the U.S. in another ten year war. Iraq turned out horrible; Libya did not.
And like a mouse who gets a cookie, making one prediction means making two, then three and so forth. I think the war will go poorly; that means that either Iran or the U.S. will escalate the conflict, a prediction. Escalation begs the question, “Will the U.S. put ground troops into Iran?”, another prediction. And then how will all of that effect US operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? Predictions, predictions, predictions, and we will invariably miss on a few.
Yep, we’ll get something wrong, but that’s why we hesitate in the first place.
Finally, we need to make careful predictions. I dislike bold, all-or-nothing predictions. Predictions, like ours about Iran, should always be couched in terms of probability. Preferably, what are the odds that Iran has a nuclear weapon? Or what is the likelihood that following a U.S. military attack on Iran, they can sink a U.S. capital ship? I don’t trust predictions couched in terms of near certainty, so, as we wade into a sea of predictions, we will try to avoid them.
Rule 2: We don’t “chase the news”.
We’ve rarely written about current events like this. Though we completely supported repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a policy, we never wrote about it. Though we had thoughts about the recent National Defense Authorization Act, we avoided it too.
We don’t chase news stories because, unlike say an op-ed columnist, we just don’t have insights on every single foreign affairs event. For example, the shooting in Afghanistan last week. We don’t necessarily have a must-read take. We have an opinion, but not an earth-shattering, groundbreaking one. I mean, how many blog posts to do you read around the interwebs that begin, “Well, I guess I have to comment...”
When it comes to war with Iran, unlike other topics, Michael C’s intelligence training gives us that unique viewpoint. Current events will probably outpace our three to four times a week posting schedule, but we’ll make do.
Further, chasing one news story means ignoring another, Syria, just like we ignored Libya last year. What gives? Well, we believe that the Iranian situation--with nuclear weapons, Israel, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, terrorism and Hezbollah, JSOC, oil prices, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the straits of Hormuz involved--is a much more complicated, dangerous and potentially explosive situation. Apologies Syria, but we believe--and again, this is a prediction--that a conflict with Iran has a better possibility of turning into a full-scale war.
Tomorrow we will discuss why we have finally started making these predictions.