Monday, October 01, 2007

Shifting Targets

Sy Hersh's latest in the New Yorker more or less amplifies what's been proffered here.

Although it's worth noting Hersh's description of the change in PR tactics ("What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism."), I think what's most interesting in his report is that the proposed attack on Iran is being sold now as quite limited, rather than the more wide-scale assault against nuclear facilities that would entail, by most accounts, several thousand sorties.

Hersh claims that this smaller, focused assault is going down better with the Pentagon and, presumably, Capitol Hill. In other words, shrinking the war is proving to be a better way to sell the war, albeit to the people who will be pulling strings.

What needs to be recognized is that any attack on Iran will undoubtedly be met with some kind of retaliation, and that action is what the administration will use to justify an all-out assault. Above all, what's desired by Cheney & Co. is a casus belli for unleashing the larger attack while incurring the least amount of domestic and international opposition.

So I could see the US going in and hitting Iran in a limited manner initially, purportedly to protect "our boys" in Iraq, but the subsequent response by Iran will enable the US to then take the gloves off so that the comprehensive attack aimed at thousands of targets and meant to topple the regime can be couched as retaliation. Like with the "Israel first" option, this would help dampen the need to manufacture large amounts of support for the campaign. It would also, crucially, bring the military brass into the sort of fight that it doesn't necessarily want, but one that it could not reasonably push back against. The momentum and pace of events would preclude any braking. After initially signing off on small, they'd get big real quick.