Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed

The U.S. and Israel are operating from very different assumptions.

The results of the war game were particularly troubling to Gen. James N. Mattis, who commands all American forces in the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, according to officials who either participated in the Central Command exercise or who were briefed on the results and spoke on condition of anonymity because of its classified nature. When the exercise had concluded earlier this month, according to the officials, General Mattis told aides that an Israeli first strike would be likely to have dire consequences across the region and for United States forces there. 

The two-week war game, called Internal Look, played out a narrative in which the United States found it was pulled into the conflict after Iranian missiles struck a Navy warship in the Persian Gulf, killing about 200 Americans, according to officials with knowledge of the exercise. The United States then retaliated by carrying out its own strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. 

 The Israelis, apparently, view this differently.

I am not capable of sorting through the elaborate layers of bluff and counterbluff that may lie behind the Israeli assumptions, or assertions, that Jeff Goldberg reports. And neither I nor anyone else can prove what I strongly believe: that such "best-case" predictions, assuming that the Israeli officials really hold them, are wildly unrealistic. The first, in particular, smacks unmistakably of Dick Cheney's "we will be greeted as liberators" forecast about invading Iraq, or the earlier CIA fantasies that the downtrodden people of Cuba would rise to welcome the Bay of Pigs landing party in 1961.

What I can say is this: if Israeli officials really have adopted best-case-ism as their military "planning" doctrine and basis for decision-making, we are fully into "March of Folly" territory, and the "psychological inversion" that a reader described recently has in fact taken place.

When Barbara Tuchman coined the phrase March of Folly, she meant self-destructive behavior on a collective, organizational scale, as a group walked into a disaster it could easily have avoided.To qualify as epic-scale folly, by her standards, a ruinous decision had to:
  -arise from a sustained set of policies, not just one instantaneous wrong choice;
  -involve many people's agreement and collaboration, not just the excesses of one madman;
  -prove clearly destructive to the long-term interests of the group involved; and
  -have been warned against in real time, before the bad consequences happened, not just in retrospect.

If Netanyahu's team goes ahead, they will have met those tests.

Meanwhile, back to the Times report:

Israeli intelligence estimates, backed by academic studies, have cast doubt on the widespread assumption that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would set off a catastrophic set of events like a regional conflagration, widespread acts of terrorism and sky-high oil prices. 

“A war is no picnic,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio in November. But if Israel feels itself forced into action, the retaliation would be bearable, he said. “There will not be 100,000 dead or 10,000 dead or 1,000 dead. The state of Israel will not be destroyed.” 

Folly, indeed.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com Site Meter