Monday, January 07, 2008
and bureaucrats engaged in efforts to try to reach a resolution:
Is "Hormuz" Farsi for "Tonkin"?

Q: Admiral, it's Andrew Gray from Reuters.

Can you characterize how serious this incident was from your point of view?

Following off of Bob's question, have you known an incident as serious as this since you took command here?

ADM. COSGRIFF: Well, this particular body of water, no; this is more serious because of the aggregate of the actions, the coordinated movement of the ships, the boats, the aggressive maneuvering, the more or less simultaneous radio communication, the dropping of objects. So these are -- in my unnecessarily provocative -- in international waters incidental to a routine transit of a(n) internationally recognized strait. So yes, it's more serious than we have seen, but to put it in context, we do interact with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their navy regularly. For the most part, those interactions are correct. We are familiar with their presence, they're familiar with ours. So I think in the time I've been here I've seen things that are a concern, and then there's periods of time -- long periods of time where there's not as much going on.

We will assess this now. This is a situation that the Iranians have developed, and we will assess this in the fullness of time as we continue our routine operations contributing to the security and stability of the maritime region in this part of the world.

Obviously, this needs to be watched closely to determine what really happened and what the appropriate response should be.

But earlier today I was talking to a conservative friend who referenced Iranian acts of war against the United States -- namely Iranian attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. Now, stipulate for a moment that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps really has attacked U.S. troops. That's an unambiguous act of war. The U.S. would be justified in retaliating militarily. But that doesn't mean the U.S. would be wise to do so.

The question is whose interests would be better served by a U.S.-Iranian conflict -- the U.S.'s, or Iran's. And there the calculus really favors Iran. A U.S. bombing campaign will increase America's diplomatic distance from the rest of the world; will leave the Iranian regime in place to say that it survived an attack from the Great Satan, as Hezbollah did in 2006 from the Little Satan; will make the Arab states think the U.S. doesn't care about the consequences of such an attack for them, causing all sort of intransigence on other U.S. regional priorities; will result in an escalation of Iranian-sponsored violence against U.S. forces in Iraq and perhaps Afghanistan as well; will accelerate the exhaustion of U.S. military assets in the region; will cause oil prices around the world to skyrocket, resulting in significant economic disruption. And that's if the U.S. doesn't invade. If we do, then we're stuck with a third bloody, protracted, expensive occupation of a Muslim country in eight years.

Luckily, there's an alternative: diplomacy. According to U.S. officials, the Iranians are scaling back whatever anti-U.S. activities in Iraq they've been engaged in. That proves that they're not beyond the pale of reason and recognize that provoking the U.S. has consequences. All that should be factored into the mix of what advances our interests and what makes us feel like we've got thicker, heavier ones than the Iranians do.

--Spencer Ackerman
Israel and its supporters should've thought out their actions this way during the 2006 Lebanon disaster.

In theory, Israel had a right to respond to Hezbollah's military provocation...but Israel's actual course of action was foolish, and foolish violence is useless, and useless violence is immoral.
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