War Games

The Atlantic's War Games:

I've mentioned in the past my respect for Colonel Sam Gardiner, in spite of his attachment to conspiracy theories about US politics. Still, he used to be a top war game specialist at the National War College, and has done some impressive work over the years in modeling conflicts. Consider this old Wall St. Journal piece on India-Pakistan war games.

I saw this morning (via the excellent Arts & Letters Daily) that The Atlantic got Col. Gardiner to lead a war game on a US-Iran conflict. AEI's Reuel Marc Gerecht was involved as well. The article describes the results as "sobering," but I think they're wholly predictable. We all understand that a limited military strike would not be sufficient to derail Iranian nuclear development because they have spread out their resources and hardened them. We understand that a full-scale regime change would run into absolutely massive domestic and international political pressure -- the domestic pressure being the important part. The public seems to have the required patience to see through Iraq, but doesn't look likely to want to start fresh with another nasty insurgency.

This, the Atlantic team concludes, means that there is "no military option." I don't think that's right -- and indeed, a military option is absolutely necessary, so it has to be developed even if there weren't a 'regular' one on the table. As even the (Woodrow) Wilson Center recognizes, "it is as great a mistake to conduct diplomacy without considering military means as it is to wage war without diplomacy."

[S]tates that attempt to conduct complicated and dangerous diplomatic initiatives without the support of credible military options frequently fail to accomplish even their immediate goals—and sometimes create more severe long-term problems. The greatest danger lies neither in using force nor in avoiding it, but rather in failing to understand the intricate relationship between power and persuasion. Some rulers rely excessively upon the naked use of force, some upon unsupported diplomacy. History shows that the most successful of them skillfully integrate the two.
Yet there are some serious problems in the face of all the suggested military options here -- and additional concerns as well. "What if they move first to pre-empt us?" is a question that has to be asked -- with the probable answer, "As that becomes a serious risk, we have to move even faster." But move where?

This is not a rhetorical question. We've got some good military science thinkers on this board. What options do you see that aren't discussed here? What other thoughts do you have? Let's run our own war game, and see what we might come up with.

UPDATE: The Belmont Club points to an Army War College paper on the same subject. It is titled, "Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran."

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