Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ira-2: Electric Boogaloo

Oy, so the war drums are beating with Iran the target this time.  How will this be different?
Here's a clue:

While not all allies jumped aboard the Iraq war bandwagon, Spain showed up last time and then had caveats and left early.  But this points to a key reality when it comes to allies.  They fear two things most--being abandoned and being dragged into a war they don't want to fight.  Japan gets to experience both, but the Spanish are focused on one.  While much of the 2003 support was fairly token--the Bush Administration wanted a long list of countries for their coalition of the willing with few doing real fighting, real burden-bearing.  Spain was one of the few countries that sent enough to attempt to deal with an entire sector.

Anyhow, I expect very, very few countries to join a Trump war in Iran for a few key reasons:
  • As problematic as the Iraq war was in terms of legitimacy, folks could rest on a few key things--UN resolutions, past aggression, past genocide, etc.  Iran has done bad things, but they agreed to a nuclear  arms deal that the US, not Iran, is breaking from.  So, who's going to tell their publics that they need to sacrifice blood and treasure for this war?
  • As unpopular as Bush was in 2003, US relations with most potential partners were not bad except for the war.  This time, US relations with everyone except Israel and Saudi Arabia are awful.  Trade wars, breaking the Iran deal, etc.  Even relations with the UK are not great.  It is hard to see how May could get a vote through parliament.  Trump is toxic.  And that matters for when leaders try to get votes through their legislatures.  
  • As incompetent as Rumseld and his folks were, they did not have that reputation until after they started to screw up the post-war phase.  Everyone knows that this administration can't do anything complicated.  Plus they are pardoning war criminals.  Which makes it even less attractive.
  • Oh, and there's the whole Iran thing.  Iran is a much, much tougher opponent than Iraq.  More territory, more people, a regime that has more legitimacy, one that has not been broken by decades of sanctions and lost wars.  So, anyone thinking about this war needs to get clear that it will not be a walk in the park.  
I don't know if the Trump administration is dumb enough to go to war with Iran. I am pretty sure that few other countries will be dumb enough to join them this time.  Just because Trump and Bolton don't possess learning curves does not mean others haven't learned from the past.

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