A thoughtful piece in the New York Times has set out in detail how the US intervention has given Iraq as a gift to Iran, with Iran now consolidating its road to the Mediterranean via Syria. How good or bad that may be for the wider world is another matter, the point first is that intervention in Iraq, at one time the single greatest error of strategic judgment in Australia’s history, shuffles forward to assume the same status for the US, putting Vietnam in the shade, the latter now a problem that has kinda solved itself in a way the Middle East can’t.
But now today the Washington Post reports that Trump, with resistance from most of his security advisors, wants conflict with Iran. There is doubtless a psychological problem for Trump in that the president is obliged every 90 days to report to congress on whether Iran is complying with the 2016 nuclear deal.
Apart from its substantial control of Iraq, a country of almost 40 million people, Iran itself has a population of 80 million (one Germany) and territory equal to one Germany plus one France plus two x UK. And, um, it has porous borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.... oh and also with Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey.
Who can count the numbers of wars in this wide expanse, children? Who can imagine the current and potential number of non-state violent actors.
I can list the two interventions in which the US has been successful since the Second World War:
- Grenada, population 91,000
- Panama, population small too and just a US-installed president to abduct.
Those links will provide detail of the phenomenal order of battle of US forces for such small targets. Rather than divide the population of Grenada into the population (and territory) of Iran, consider that this whole US order of battle absolutely hasn't been able to win in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Oh, I've not mentioned North Korea. Population one Australia, adjoining South Korea, population 2 x Australia, South Korea's GDP = Australia's GDP.
The old Chinese image for the problem of the US strategic posture in the 1970s still fits: "ten fleas under ten thumbs." The difference between the 1970s and 2017 is that now many more nations and non-national actors see the emperor's lack of clothes. Trump and Kim Jong-il both have to act frenzied to sustain their domestic support.
In these troubled times, ructions – or loss of grip on common sense – in the ruling Australian conservative government have led to the keys to national security being handed to Dr Goebbels's dog.
Alison Broinowski put it more elegantly at John Menadue's blog. And more alarmingly.