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Pompeo and the Possibility of War with Iran

Thomas Wright speculates [1] that Mike Pompeo and John Bolton could be headed for a clash in the future:

Pompeo has a longer time horizon than Bolton. He needs his term as secretary of state to be a success and recognized as such. He can’t afford his own version of the Iraq war, whether it is against Iran or North Korea [bold mine-DL]. So he now has a consequential choice to make: Does he align with Mattis, believing that this sage warrior will be vindicated over the medium and long term? Or does he jump aboard the Trump-Bolton train of disruption?

It is possible that Bolton and Pompeo won’t get along, but if they do clash I don’t think it will be over attacking one or both of these countries. Pompeo is on record publicly advocating [2] the same bombing of Iran that Bolton has repeatedly endorsed [3]:

Rep. Mike Pompeo, who participated in the roundtable with Cotton, added that the United States and its allies should consider striking Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

“In an unclassified setting, it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces,” Pompeo, R-Kan., said.

Pompeo’s overconfidence in the efficacy of military action and his glib endorsement of starting a war against another country are very similar to Bolton’s views, so I would assume that they are more likely to be in agreement than not. Pompeo made this statement about bombing Iranian nuclear facilities in 2014, so I doubt that he has changed his mind about this in the last few years. His past support for attacking Iran matters because it suggests that Pompeo is like most hawks in minimizing the risks of war and assuming that military action offers a relatively easy solution to thorny international problems. It may be true that he “can’t afford his own version of the Iraq war,” but hawks never think that the wars they support will cost as much or last as long as they do. If Pompeo was talking up the idea of bombing Iran as recently as 2014, that strongly suggests that he hasn’t learned anything from America’s desultory foreign wars. Now that the U.S. is out of the nuclear deal–something Pompeo has wanted for years–it is not a stretch to think that he and Bolton would work together to push for an attack on Iran that both of them have supported as the alternative to negotiating with Iran.

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9 Comments To "Pompeo and the Possibility of War with Iran"

#1 Comment By Egypt Steve On May 9, 2018 @ 12:04 pm

Does Daniel or any commenter know what Bret Stephens is talking about in his NYT column today when he says:

“Yet even now Iran is under looser nuclear strictures than South Korea … .”

I haven’t seen this talking point before. I assume that both SK and Iran are signatories to the NPT, so the strictures they’re under are identical. What other strictures could there be against SK?

#2 Comment By SteveM On May 9, 2018 @ 12:27 pm

Re: Thomas Wright, “Does he align with Mattis, believing that this sage warrior will be vindicated over the medium and long term?”

I’m amazed at how the foreign policy cognoscenti have swallowed this Mattis as “sage warrior” myth.

Mattis’s diplomatic style is his “Don’t make me have to kill you” schtick. Hardly the musings of a sage. And this “warrior” appellation generally has been inflated into a warped deference to anyone who wears a uniform no matter how much of a clueless nitwit he actually is.

Mattis is just as belligerent as Pompeo and Bolton. Only he want to go after Russia and China. In other words, they are ALL aggressive militarists, with only inside baseball arguments on who to target first.

That’s a distinction without a difference for the taxpayers who see their dollars get flushed down the toilet no matter who is attacked by the War Machine for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the actual security of Americans.

And more about Mattis. His Centcom General (Votel) and EUCOM General Scaparrotti both fear-monger out the wazoo and are all in to the Global Cop Gorilla model. Mattis has said nothing to reign them in. So in other words, they are teeing up Mattis’s aggressive game plan for Central Asia and Europe.

For the icing on the cake of pathological militarism, Mattis will hoover up as many taxpayer dollars as he can into the Pentagon with fear-monger messages. Because he’s yet another “money is no object” Beltway Apparatchik when it comes to “defense” spending.

And OBTW, has Mattis initiated ANY discussions to actually implement an audit of DoD, the home of Boondoggle Central?

James Mattis is a narrow minded war-monger hack, no more and no less.

#3 Comment By Raymond On May 9, 2018 @ 2:10 pm

“James Mattis is a narrow minded war-monger hack, no more and no less”

Steve,

Having never met the man personally I cannot disagree with you categorically, but my impression of him from his reported comments, and his apparent priorities in uniform and since, has always been that the “don’t make me kill you” bit is the shtick. An act for the cameras. The sage warrior is the reality.

This impression is consistent with other Marines I have known and worked with. They like the blunt language, and they are indeed tough, but they are not, in my experience, bloodthirsty.

The irony of it is that those of us whose profession involves sending young people into harms way – young people who we have been taught all our careers to treat almost as our own sons and daughters – are highly reluctant to do so on flimsy grounds. As well, the experience of the last generation has taught us that our political leaders are more than willing to conjure spurious reasons to do so.

Furthermore, our experience and professional education has taught us the limits of force. More than most, perhaps, we are conscious of what soldiers can and cannot do, and what harm war can inflict on our own nations and their interests. We also see first hand the harm war inflicts on innocent civilians and we don’t like that either.

To be sure, when ordered to fight we do so to the best of our ability and the limits of our strength. We talk matter-of-factly about killing people because that is what our governments and our citizens have ordered us to do in their name. We have a duty to be good at it. It is our profession.

But we are, in general, much more skeptical of of force as the tool for all problems than you seem to imagine. There are exceptions of course. Every group has its best and worst. But Mattis strikes me as wise.

#4 Comment By Jay C On May 9, 2018 @ 3:16 pm

BTW, I have to wonder what “coalition” Mr. Pompeo is expecting to participate in this planned aerial “cakewalk” of “under 2,000 sorties” which he imagines is going to do the trick in Iran? Israel and Saudi? A couple of the Emirates (presumably those out of range of Iranian aircraft)? Even in 2014 getting anybody else on board for a pre-emptive/preventative strike was going to be an uphill climb: now that Trump has trashed US prestige and credibility, who else is going to jump on the war-wagon?

#5 Comment By SteveM On May 9, 2018 @ 4:23 pm

Re: Raymond, “But we are, in general, much more skeptical of of force as the tool for all problems than you seem to imagine. There are exceptions of course. Every group has its best and worst. But Mattis strikes me as wise.”

Raymond, I appreciate your response. But see this Phillip Giraldi essay which articulates my assessment of Mattis:

[4]

When Mattis presented the updated National Security Strategy at Johns Hopkins in January he essentially codified the complete militarization of U.S. foreign policy.

Russian and China are termed “revisionist powers” which is thinly veiled code for “enemies”. The “wisdom” of Mattis apparently prevents him from recognizing the paradox of an “enemy” that ships over half a TRILLION dollars of goods to the U.S. every year and sends over 300,000 nationals every year to be educated in the United States.

As if the U.S. War Machine could destroy Chinese assets and kill Chinese nationals without affecting the massive U.S. economic dependency on China. I.e., if China closes the store and calls it’s students home the U.S. economy would be paralyzed.

Mattis made absolutely no reference to the U.S. dependency on Chinese manufacturing in his presentation. As if it doesn’t matter.

Moreover, Mattis et al. claim that Russian and Chinese economic activity in and of itself is a threat to U.S. national security. I.e., merely engaging in trade that the U.S. can not control is a threat.

In other words, The China/Russia BRI, AIIB, SCO and EAEU initiatives which are economic development platforms should be challenged by U.S. military might. Simply because the U.S. as Global Cop Gorilla thinks it should have veto power over economic activity.

Mattis and his Pentagon ilk are clueless. The days of the U.S. as absolute hegemon are over.

#6 Comment By b. On May 9, 2018 @ 4:57 pm

“Mattis, [..] this sage warrior [..]”

Full stop. Yemen. Try again.

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 9, 2018 @ 9:34 pm

” I assume that both SK and Iran are signatories to the NPT, so the strictures they’re under are identical. What other strictures could there be against SK?”

South Korea is occupied by anuclear armed U.S. military, while Iran is not (yet.)

#8 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 9, 2018 @ 9:38 pm

“Even in 2014 getting anybody else on board for a pre-emptive/preventative strike was going to be an uphill climb: now that Trump has trashed US prestige and credibility, who else is going to jump on the war-wagon?”

The war will be sold as an economic boon, with whomever joins in getting a share of the military-industrial plunder to be had. Canada, Britain, France and the other allied powers have already expanded their military industrial bases, and the wars thus fueled are sold as “jobs, jobs, jobs” to the public, and windfall war profit dividends to the investor class.

#9 Comment By JohnT On May 11, 2018 @ 8:28 am

Ah, what da’ heck! Trump and Pompeo will have another opportunity to share a few dozen Big Macs while reliving their glory days on the battlefield. Should not take long. Dick Cheney can help them figure out how to funnel more of the financial gains of war in their direction.