Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Renuart of the Joint Chiefs on Iran

Last Friday the Telegraph (UK) carried a story about the public remarks by U.S. Lieutenant General Victor Renuart, Director for Plans for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was in the UK.

Renuart’s basic message was that military attacks on Iran pose enormous operational risks as well as high geo-political costs in terms of regional stability and U.S. standing. “Any action militarily is very complicated. And any action by any country will have second-order effects, and that is a strong case to continue the diplomatic process and make it work.”

So is Renuart playing point man for the Chiefs to see who reacts and how. Possibly – but if so, cautiously.

Renuart seems to me to be saying what military professionals know and civilians who govern from ideology always fail to contemplate: war is inherently unpredictable. These unknown unknowns – as Rumsfeld might put it – are the knock-on, second-order effects and the repercussions Renuart cites.

While Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice always make the point that all options are on the table, Bush and Rice in particular also say that the U.S. is working for a non-violent resolution of the stand-off.

Renuart and the Joint Chiefs don’t want and won’t support military action against Iran as long as the U.S. is tied down in Iraq. For what its worth, that is my interpretation of what Renuart is saying – both to the Brits and to the White House.


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