[Are] Iran’s wizened generals, who mostly cut their military teeth in the 1980s as teenage volunteers during the brutal Iran-Iraq War, already in danger of overreach?
For decades, American military planners aimed to be capable of simultaneously fighting – and winning – two full-blown wars in different regions. It was a challenge, even for a superpower. Today, on a much smaller scale and with a sliver of the military means, Iran is attempting the same thing in the Middle East: It is deeply engaged in Syria and Iraq; waving the flag in Yemen; and very influential in Lebanon.
The two-war standard refers to committing troops to a full-blown war--not military assistance as Iran is conducting. That kind of assistance relies on money rather than numbers of conventional combat units.
We have about 90,000 Army troops alone serving abroad (and I don't count troops in America even if they are in Alaska or Hawaii as part of that). We train with allies to deter threats or assist allies in fighting threats in far more locations than Iran does. So that would be a better measure of comparison.
Iran is deploying small numbers of forces along with money to support allies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen--plus stirring up trouble in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Gaza. And Lord knows what they are doing in Eritrea and Sudan.
So while Iran may have been "overreaching" in being able to afford the money needed for all these missions, Iran's military is not stretched.
And by our nuclear deal with Iran that lifts sanctions and releases frozen assets, we've placed all these missions within easy financial reach.
By implication, of course, we should just sit back and watch Iran flail until they fail rather than worry about Iran and whatever nukes they might get in the future.
But let's go back in time two years and recall another place where the Obama administration figured we could just watch our foes defeat themselves--Syria (tip to National Review Online email link):
Accompanying a group of senior lawmakers on a day trip to the Guantánamo Bay naval base in early June, Mr. McDonough argued that the status quo in Syria could keep Iran pinned down for years. In later discussions, he also suggested that a fight in Syria between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda would work to America’s advantage, according to Congressional officials.
That was just one line of thought on what to do about Syria, but given our farcical attempts to arm rebels since then, this explanation makes the most sense to explain our policy since then.
And since then we've had the ISIL invasion of Iraq and expansion further abroad plus about 140,000 more dead in Syria including the life of one small boy carried from the sea in a picture that has tugged at the conscience of many around the world as his family tried to flee to Europe.
And even if you can sleep at night with a policy of letting slaughter go on in Syria without doing anything effective in order to tie down Iran, how does pumping huge sums of money into Iran's hands with the nuclear deal support this strategy when money is the key weapon? Is the life of that dead boy pointless even in the hard world of foreign policy realism?
So how well should we expect a policy of letting Iran fail when a policy of letting Syria wreck our enemies worked out this way?
I know. The Nuanced American crowd says that the alternative to doing nothing must be the dispatch of 150,000 American troops.
Just counting on things working out when our enemies are trying hard to win--and at a price our conscience can tolerate--is a bad bet to make.
Further, let me add that we don't have that point of comparison, the two-war capability, now--unless you conveniently assume a ground war in one place and a naval war in another place (both supported by our air power).
And when we had a post-Cold War goal of winning two ground wars, we didn't have that capability either. We had the ability to win two ground wars nearly simultaneously.
Which meant that we could react to an attack in one theater in order to win that war while holding the line in a second theater if a war begins subsequently until the first theater was won and we could transfer troops from the initial theater to the second theater.
Everybody always ignored the "nearly simultaneously" caveat.
Indeed, even in World War II when our Army was at its peak size, the invasion of Japan relied on massive numbers of ground troops to be transferred from Europe after the defeat of Germany.
Lord, give me strength.