The View From Olympus: Does a Republican Congress Mean Another War?

With most other conservatives, I regard the Repulican victories and the new Republican Senate as generally good things. But there is one glaring exception. Most Republicans, and some Democrats, refuse to understand that another war–which will probably become another lost war–is the last thing this country needs.

President Obama has already committed himself to going to Congress for approval of his new war with ISIS. That war is doomed to become another lost war, because the president has set an unattainanle objective, defeating and destroying ISIS. Congress’s answer should be, “No.” That is the answer most Americans want Congress to give. But the combination of Republican war hawks and Democrats who feel they must support a Democratic president probably mean Congress will approve the request. At least this defeat will be a small one.

The big war that congressional Republicans must play a central role in either causing or preventing is a war with Iran. The Administration is working hard to make a deal with Iran, and it appears that effort has at least a 50% chance of success. But if a deal is struck, it must be approved by Congress, because only Congress can remove the sanctions on Iran. Obviously, if Congress refuses, the deal falls apart. If that happens, we are on the road toward war with Iran.

Three forces are propelling congressional Republicans toward disaster on the question of a deal or a war with Iran. The first is pure partisanship: if Obama wants something, many Republicans think they must oppose it. Nothing else counts, not even the prospect of pouring billions of dollars and thousands of lives down another Mideast sinkhole, plus the consequences of a likely defeat. Second come the Republican war hawks, led by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who never met a war they did not like. Third will be the Israeli lobby, or more precisely the Likud lobby, which continues to follow a strategy devised largely by American neo-cons that calls for America to destroy every Middle Eastern state that Israel does not like. Likud is incapable of grasping a fact now in its own back yard, namely that any Middle Eastern state, including Iran, is less of a threat to Israel than the Fourth Generation entities that will probably replace it if it is destroyed. The Israeli lobby also has vast influence on Democrats, some of whom will crumble and vote to continue sanctions on Iran.

Elements in the Pentagon, desperate to show they can still win a war, think they can defeat Iran. Their calculus is that a war with Iran will be largely or entirely a naval and air war, which we can in fact win. As usual, however, the Pentagon errs in thinking symetrically. Iran’s obvious response to American air and sea attacks is to counterattack on the ground, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, with the aim of seizing the U.S. Army personnel deployed in those places and using them as hostages. In Iraq, the Iranians will almost certainly have the help of Iraqi Shiite militias and possibly of the Iraqi government and army as well. Iran and the Taliban hate each other, but that does not exclude a short-term alliance of convenience while Iranian ground forces round up the remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Their only way out would probably be through Russia, a country Washington’s idiotic foreign policy has thoroughly alienated. Putin might well blow the bridge.

As remote as the danger of war with Russia appears, the Republicans in Congress are leading a charge in the wrong direction here as well. Russia is now preparing to act militarily to end the incessant shelling of eastern Ukrainian cities by the Ukrainian army and associated militias. When it does so, McCain and Graham will undoubtedly be on their feet, calling for a “tough” American response. The fact that Ukraine can do nothing for us while Russia could do a great deal means nothing in their (and the neo-libs) vision of the world as a B-grade western where America must always play the marshal. If our troops end up trapped in Afghanistan, the Republican hawks should be at the head of the list of those held responsible.

Fortunately, there are Republican voices in Congress for a sane foreign policy, one aimed at keeping us out of war. Senator Rand Paul is the most prominent. I suspect he, and some others, know that rejecting a deal with Iran means war with Iran. So do some Democrats. Will they be enough? Right now, I don’t think they have the votes. favicon