Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iran and the Uses of "Preventive" War

by Col. DAN SMITH

“For the cause of all wars and revolutions–in a word, of
all violence–is always the same: the negation of hierarchy.”

Meditations on the Tarot (Anonymous)

History, it has been said, is what the winning side–the strongest, the most nimble, the most devious, and on occasion the most enlightened–remembers and records for posterity. But in the 21st century, there is a conscious and calculated undercurrent–manifested in the use of military power in preventive war–that seeks to freeze the future by forcing the present to conform to an unchanging hierarchy of power among nation-states.

(This of course, assumes that the “record” survives; particularly when history was primarily oral, emendations and omissions would not be rare. And even when histories were written, manuscripts could disintegrate or be destroyed in subsequent natural or man-made catastrophes.)

There are competing views of history–e.g., that great men (and women) are the catalysts for history and shape it, or that the unfolding of events calls forth the women and men with the talents, energy, and drive to seize the moment.

This latter, it seems, is where the world is today, at least as seen by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and U.S. President George Bush. After months of verbal jabs at the U.S., the UN, and others trying to find a way out of the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program, Ahmadinejad sent Bush an 18-page letter that, as a cartographer might say, was “one over the world.” Perhaps not willing to study such a wide-ranging tome, the White House dismissed the letter as philosophical and irrelevant. Reportedly, among other subjects, the Iranian president pointed to what he saw as a chasm between Bush’s professed Christian values, his actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his threats against Iran.

The problem, as the administration sees it, has nothing to do with spiritual values and everything to do with nuclear values–who is trustworthy enough to join the select club of countries permitted to operate the nuclear fuel cycle. Washington says that Tehran’s 18-year history of concealing its nuclear research program makes it untrustworthy to operate domestically the nuclear fuel cycle.

Thus Bush’s efforts at the UN to write or at least influence history.

The first attempt by the U.S. to get a UN Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran for re-starting its uranium enrichment program stalled in early May when both China and Russia declined to endorse a condemnation under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Over the subsequent two weeks, the European Union -3 (Britain, France, and Germany) have been putting together a new packet of “carrots and sticks” to entice Iran to reconsider its defiance and accept control of the fuel rods (supply, insertion, extraction, return to Russia) necessary to run its Russian-built reactor.

The U.S. is backing the EU-3’s efforts largely because it has no military option to employ–which the Iranians know. Nonetheless, the U.S. “all options are on the table” rhetoric survives and even thrives–including preventive war. And considering the lead-in to the Iraq war, this cannot be ignored as a possibility if Iran does not change its course. For Iran’s part, their very latest letter is an offer–which when made by the U.S. to Tehran earlier was rejected–to sit down for one-on-one discussions.

Given the quality of the challenges made and the responses elicited, it appears that neither president did very much to actually unravel the Iranian nuclear conundrum.

Another way to consider how history is made acknowledges the unfolding of natural forces and rhythms which form the backdrop for the movements and activities of animals and humans–or in some cases their lack of activity.

This latter aspect is not trivial. Inaction is a shaper of history as much as action is, for each constitutes a choice, and the future is charted–or perhaps distorted — through the myriad choices made or perhaps simply accepted. And because we live in a single, still unfolding universe, we cannot achieve an Archimedean point from which to look at our universe and see how great any one distortion might be.

At one time, war was considered one of the great rhythms of life. Even a cursory look at the history passed down through the generations reveals that the causes of war are legion and could be aggressive or defensive. From time to time, the so-called” Great Captains” would emerge, men who seemed at home on the battlefield making the history that others would record.

But war is not simply a rhythm. War is a choice. Most particularly, preventive war is a distorted choice, for it comes not in the face of a plausible and imminent threat but because a ruler comes to believe, based on present day actions or inaction, that at some indeterminate time in the future, another country or group will pose a threat of great magnitude to that ruler’s successors and to their country.

This was the Bush administration’s calculus for Iraq in 2002-2003. Glimpses of the same calculus can be seen with respect to Iran. Before the White House orders the Pentagon to do a detailed update (“operationalize”) of its war plan for Iran, Congress needs to reassert its constitutional power by putting the administration on notice that “war (against Iran) is not the answer.” Instead, in trying to induce Iran to abide by UN decisions and guarantees, Congress should lay down a marker stating that U.S. policy is to engage Iran bilaterally, through the UN, and in other multilateral fora, to develop and implement procedures for safeguarding fissile materials, while permitting Iran to develop peaceful nuclear energy programs in accordance with the provisions of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Among the myriad possible combinations of today’s events, personalities, and choices, one will eventually emerge to form a yesterday in human history. The conundrum confronting the international community is to anticipate which among the myriad possible combinations of today’s events, personalities, and choices will eventually emerge to form a yesterday in human history. The options available are largely known on the macro scale, but their interaction is largely unpredictable. Hence strong efforts are needed to circumscribe the unpredictable elements to diminish ensuing disruption, distortion, and destruction.

This is the philosophical and pragmatic failing of preventive war. At first glance it appears to short circuit a future potentially more distorted by “correcting” it before the cost can grow exponentially. But the instigator of preventive war assumes, consciously or unconsciously, that future intentions and actions can be predicted based on an extrapolation of the past into the context of today’s status quo. Preventive war purports to freeze history, thereby contradicting the fundamental law that the only universal constant is change.

Even in Iran.

Col. Daniel Smith, a retired colonel and Vietnam veteran, is a West Point graduate and a grad against the war. He can be reached at: dan@fcnl.org

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail