Friday, September 28, 2007

Escalation Dominance and Strategic Dominance

In July a report by Michael Gerson was published in the Washington Post and reprinted in other locations. It was the first place I had seen the idea advanced that, in the eyes of US military planners, Iran has achieved escalation dominance over the US.

Beyond Iraq's borders, the options become difficult: engaging in hot pursuit against weapon supply lines over the Iranian border, or striking explosive factories and staging areas within Iran. This sort of escalation is opposed both by the Iraqi government and by American military leaders. The Department of Defense fears what is called “escalation dominance” – meaning that in a broadened conflict, the Iranians could complicate our lives in Iraq and the region more than we complicate theirs.

"Escalation dominance" was a new term to me, but the argument that the US ability to strike Iran was limited by the fact that Iran would win the following war was old. I took mental note of the article though, because it quietly said that the US military establishment does have enough sense to understand that attacking Iran would hurt the US strategically - and over the medium to long term it would hurt the US more than it would hurt Iran.

If the US understands this, it becomes really difficult to imagine the US knowingly taking counterproductive step of bombing Iran either over arms to the militias or over the nuclear program. The use of that term means the US understands the concept. I took it as that, but nothing more.

Gareth Porter though, has brought the term into public view for the second time with an interesting connection that I've seen hinted about but never made explicitly.

The Bush administration now believes that Iran's "larger strategic aim" in allegedly providing modern weapons such as 240mm rockets to Shi'ite militias targeting US and coalition forces in Iraq is "to attempt to establish escalation dominance in Iraq and strategic dominance outside", according to the official.

The official said, "Escalation dominance means you can control the pace of escalation." That term has always been used to refer to the ability of the US to threaten another state with overwhelming retaliation to deter it from responding to US force. The official defined "strategic dominance" as meaning that "you are perceived as the dominant center in the region".

Here "escalation dominance", a term I read in public in July, can be converted to Iran being "perceived as the dominant center in the region". And this perception is one that the US is scrambling to find a way to counter.

Today the team of the US and Israel are perceived as the dominant power in the region. I always laugh when US commentators, advocates or diplomats speak of the fear the Arab countries have of the Iran achieving this perception of dominance. Firstly because there has never been a direct quote to support the idea, and second it does not make sense. The Arabs like the US and Israel more?

Condoleeza Rice (among many others) consistently says this from one venue to another with a straight face. As far as I've seen, she's never been challenged on it. I'm always puzzled about the boundary between the US' naive lack of understanding of the region and cynical US attempts to deceive others. The US naivety though, is the result of years of compounded self-deception. There is now a reflexive tendency of US commentators, advocates and diplomats to divert attention away from the basic unpopularity in the Middle East, even among the elite who tolerate it for various corrupt reasons, of the Zionist project.

Escalation dominance in Iraq which can lead to strategic dominance in the region. The story of the Middle East right now is the story of the US scramble to avert or deal with these realities.

1 comment:

Sam Hopes said...

France now it plans for more than that, which will create nuclear dominance. So how does France expect to lower its dependence and what will this mean for nuclear power globally?