If you’ve been following the news coming from the Middle East, you are aware that a week ago an Israeli-owned oil tanker, the Mercer Street, was attacked by drones while sailing in the Arabian Sea in international waters off the coast of Oman.
English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain came home from a meeting with Hitler in Munich in September 1938 with the triumphant notion that he brought with him “peace for our times” in the form of some nonsensical agreement with a treacherous tyrant, Adolf Hitler.
Very few men were able to realize that you cannot make peace with a wolf by feeding it. When it is hungry, it will come again to the world’s door and that is exactly what happened.
Lord Hugh Cecil, an English contemporary politician would describe it like “scratching a crocodile’s head in the hope of making it purr.”
Chamberlain had a piece of paper, a set of words — nothing of substance.
The other day, the Iranian navy decided it was a good idea to harass six American warships (US Navy and US Coast Guard ships) in the Straits of Hormuz. Huh?
Eleven armed Iranian vessels — some looking like cabin cruisers with mounted .50 caliber machine guns — from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGDN) came as close as thirty feet from the US Coast Guard cutter Maui. This required the Maui to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
In global affairs, Power–Risk–Leverage are a three-legged stool whereby nations (both friend and foe) evaluate whether and how they should relate to and work with each other.
Countries do not have friends; they have alliances which are driven by changing relationships amongst Power–Risk–Leverage.
Consider the relationship between the United States and Iran as an example.
During the Obama administration:
1. The nation of Iran believed it had little risk of the United States taking any kind of military action against it. They mocked the US and chanted, “Death to America!”
They seized US Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. They supported terrorists who targeted Americans. They impudently conducted their terror affairs in the open. They maimed and killed US soldiers with their EFPs (explosively formed penetrators), shaped charges that cast molten copper to destroy vehicles and to maim soldiers’ limbs.
EFPs are the size of a coffee can and can fire copper slugs at the speed of Mach 6 — 2000 meters per second — which can penetrate armor and cut soldiers’s arms, hands, legs, feet off. The Iranians made them for deployment inside Iraq. More than 600 Americans were killed by EFPs and more than 1200 were wounded.
2. Iran believed they had considerable leverage because they had been on the verge of nuclear breakout with a nuclear weapon and the world valued that capability as an enormous risk, thereby attaching considerable value to forestalling it.
3. Iran had control of the Straits of Hormuz, and,
4. Iran had closed the Iranian Crescent (the land bridge from Iran through Iraq, through Syria, to Lebanon and the West Bank thereby exerting leverage over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel).
The world fanned the Iranian self-assessment by entering into the infamous Iran Nuclear Deal also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We, the US, led the world in allowing Iran to think they punched way above their weight class.
When President Trump was sworn in one of the knocks on him was his lack of presidential bearing and gravitas. I thought at the time it was a fair concern though I also thought he would grow into the job.
I don’t hear these complaints today, but I have heard in its place a lament about his lack of restraint. In my mind, it is a balancing act — American restraint being the garden party voiceover for procrastination or the inability to actually accomplish things.
The American Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel — as teaching point
An example I find worthy of discussion is the intransigence about the movement of the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This move was ordered by the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 with the Senate approving it at the time by a vote of 95-5 and the House approving it with a 374-37 vote. The law demanded the Embassy be relocated by 31 may 1999.
The law provided for a series of six month waivers for “national security” justifications. Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump waived it for 22 years.
Then, on 6 December 2017 — first year of the Trump presidency — President Trump publicly announced the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and ordered that the planning for moving the Embassy should begin.
Two big things:
1. From 1995 until 2017, American Presidents failed to implement the almost unanimous intentions of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 — a period of 22 years.
2. In the first year of his presidency, President Donald J Trump said, “Let’s get on with it. We’ve been clutching our pearls for too long. Now.”
On 14 May 2018 — on the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence — the US Embassy opened in Jerusalem in what had once been the Arnona consular building. The relocation turned out to be a renovation rather than a new build to suit. [President Trump is a builder and knew value when he saw it, saving us billions of dollars.]
That is the kind of lack of restraint that I applaud. President Trump gets things done that other presidents have kicked down the road for decades (NATO funding, trade, China, North Korea, Iran, immigration) — 22 years, three presidencies for the Jerusalem US Embassy. President Trump got it started in his first year, completed in his second year.
Good friend of mine sends me an email, says, “Hey, amigo, you know all that military crap. Are we going to get slapped around by Iran? Poke the sleeping bear meme real? Are all the baristas at Starbucks going to get drafted?”
I laughed, called him, and said, “Where do you get this crap? Let me lay some facts on you.”
If the Iranians decide to retaliate for the US’s hit on Soleimani, the confrontation will likely degenerate into an air campaign from the American side.
Why? We don’t want to put ground troops into Iran. Make sense?
The Iranian Air Force
The Iranian Air Force has the following mixed bag of combat aircraft:
Russian MiG 29 multirole (fighter/bomber) aircraft — 20
Russian Su-17/20/22 attack aircraft — 10
Russian Su-24 attack aircraft — 23
US F-4 Phantom II fighter bomber aircraft — 63 (16 unarmed, recon only)
US F-5E fighter aircraft — 20 (includes some reverse engineered derivatives)
US F-14A/AM Tomcat fighter interceptor aircraft — 26
French Mirage F1 fighter aircraft — 9 (from Iraq when fleeing Desert Storm)
Iranian HESA Kowsar fighter aircraft — 7 (good avionics based on F-5 airframe)
Chinese F-7 fighter aircraft — 17 (built by Iran under license from China based on MiG-21)
I agree with the decision to kill Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, the commanding general of Iran’s Quds and the overseer of their proxy terror network. He was a ruthless, vicious murderer who ran the Iranian operations — in particular bomb making — for more than 40 years. He was bathed in blood and responsible for the death of thousands, including thousands of Americans.
It is regrettable that this action occurred on the sovereign territory of Iraq, but that is like arguing the merits of a drone rocket v an airplane bomb. We must go where the targets go. [BTW, nice intel get by whoever fingered Suleimani’s whereabouts and travel plans. This is good battlefield intel. Bravo.]
No man, with the possible exception of General of the Army Dwight David Eisenhower, has ever been ready to become President of the United States on day one.
The job is bigger than any man, more complex than any man’s experience, throws him into a malestrom of competing voices and opinions while uniquely challenging its holder to make life-and-death decisions beginning day one. Looking at that sentence, I believe that Ike was ready to go right after the Inauguration.