Getting warmer

Discussions on Afghan and world politics, including Islam.
Babadung
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Joined: Wed Dec 23, 2015 12:08 pm

Getting warmer

Postby Babadung » Sat Jul 22, 2017 6:48 am

Babadung Corner,

The neocons are at it again. This time It's Iran. We observed the same behavior leading up to Iraq war. The only difference is that this time, the U.S. will be a catalyst once the 80,000 smart minds in pentagon devise a plan to kindle the tinder nest. There is plenty of fuel to keep the flames going for a long time. Unlike previous wars, this time we have a strong Shia belt from Eastern Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. Shia Arabs are Shia first and Arab second. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iran will be a formidable force to reckon with. The plan is not to destroy Iran - it is to inflame Iran to a point where it will attack the interests of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain in the Gulf. This time Qatar will be a tossup between the two.



Is Iran in Our Gun Sights Now?

Patrick J. Buchanan By Patrick J. Buchanan | July 21, 2017 | 4:48 AM EDT

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, right, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Photo: Office of the Supreme Leader)
"Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement and appeasement is surrender."

Thus does our Churchill, Newt Gingrich, dismiss, in dealing with Iran, the policy of containment crafted by George Kennan and pursued by nine U.S. presidents to bloodless victory in the Cold War.

Why is containment surrender? "Because freedom is threatened everywhere so long as this dictatorship stays in power," says Gingrich.

But how is our freedom threatened by a regime with 3 percent of our GDP that has been around since Jimmy Carter was president?

Fortunately, Gingrich has found a leader to bring down the Iranian regime and ensure the freedom of mankind. "In our country that was George Washington and ... the Marquis de Lafayette. In Italy it was Garibaldi," says Gingrich.

Whom has he found to rival Washington and Garibaldi? Says Gingrich, "Maryam Rajavi."

Who is she? The leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, or Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which opposed the Shah, broke with the old Ayatollah, collaborated with Saddam Hussein, and, until 2012, was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.

At the NCRI conference in Paris in July where Gingrich spoke, and the speaking fees were reportedly excellent, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani were also on hand.

Calling Iran's twice-elected President Hassan Rouhani, "a violent, vicious murderer," Giuliani said, "the time has come for regime change."

Bolton followed suit. "Tehran is not merely a nuclear weapons threat, it is not merely a terrorist threat, it is a conventional threat to everybody in the region," he said. Hence, "the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs' regime in Tehran."

We will all celebrate in Tehran in 2019, Bolton assured the NCRI faithful.

Good luck. Yet, as The New York Times said yesterday, all this talk, echoed all over this capital, is driving us straight toward war. "A drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions — from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists — is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran."

Is this what America wants or needs — a new Mideast war against a country three times the size of Iraq?

After Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, would America and the world be well-served by a war with Iran that could explode into a Sunni-Shiite religious war across the Middle East?

Bolton calls Iran "a nuclear weapons threat."

But in 2007, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies declared with high confidence Iran had no nuclear weapons program. They stated this again in 2011. Under the nuclear deal, Iran exported almost all of its uranium, stopped enriching to 20 percent, shut down thousands of centrifuges, poured concrete into the core of its heavy water reactor, and allows U.N. inspectors to crawl all over every facility.

Is Iran, despite all this, operating a secret nuclear weapons program? Or is this War Party propaganda meant to drag us into another Mideast war?

To ascertain the truth, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should call the heads of the CIA and DIA, and the Director of National Intelligence, to testify in open session.

We are told we are menaced also by a Shiite Crescent rising and stretching from Beirut to Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.

And who created this Shiite Crescent?

It was George W. Bush who ordered the Sunni regime of Saddam overthrown, delivering Iraq to its Shiite majority. It was Israel whose invasion and occupation of Lebanon from 1982 to 2000 gave birth to the Shiite resistance now known as Hezbollah.

As for Bashar Assad in Syria, his father sent troops to fight alongside Americans in the Gulf War.

The Ayatollah's regime, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij militia are deeply hostile to this country. But Iran does not want war with the United States — for the best of reasons. Iran would be smashed like Iraq, and its inevitable rise, as the largest and most advanced country on the Persian Gulf, would be aborted.

Moreover, we have interests in common: Peace in the Gulf, from which Iran's oil flows and without which Iran cannot grow, as Rouhani intends, by deepening Iran's ties to Europe and the advanced world.

And we have enemies in common: ISIS, al-Qaida and all the Sunni terrorists whose wildest dream is to see their American enemies fight their Shiite enemies.

Who else wants a U.S. war with Iran, besides ISIS?

Unfortunately, their number is legion: Saudis, Israelis, neocons and their think tanks, websites and magazines, hawks in both parties on Capitol Hill, democracy crusaders, and many in the Pentagon who want to deliver payback for what the Iranian-backed Shiite militias did to us in Iraq.

President Trump is key. If he does the War Party's bidding, that will be his legacy, as the Iraq War is the legacy of George W. Bush.



How the U.S. Military Would Strike Iran: Everything You Need to Know

In the event of an armed conflict with Iran, the single-seat, twin-engine F-22 would be integral in the opening minutes as the U.S. sought to gain air superiority over Iranian skies. Fortunately, this is the exact type of mission for which the F-22 was built. Iran’s military would have little effective recourse against the F-22.
After helping the U.S. gain air superiority, the F-22 could be put to use for any number of different missions, including attacking ground targets, electronic warfare and collecting signals intelligence. It’s no wonder that when tensions heat up with Iran, the U.S. deploys additional F-22s to air bases in the Persian Gulf.


The Islamic State of Iran was born in enmity toward the United States. Led by the fiery cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, revolutionary leaders animated crows in Iran by lambasting “Great Satan” for any number of crimes, both real and imagined.
It didn’t take long for this animosity to turn kinetic. As the Iran-Iraq War intensified throughout 1984, the two combatants began targeting each other’s oil shipments as a way to gain military advantage. According to Global Security, “Seventy-one merchant ships were attacked in 1984 alone, compared with forty-eight in the first three years of the [Iran-Iraq] war.”
This drew the ire of global powers, none more so than the United States, who sent in a naval task force to escort oil tankers and merchant ships through the Persian Gulf. This led the U.S. and Iran to exchange fire on a number of occasions. Not surprisingly, the U.S. came out on top in most of these exchanges.


This helped cement the United States as public enemy number one in the minds of many Iranian leaders, including those in the military. Since that time, Iran has sought to develop asymmetric military capabilities to offset America’s insurmountable conventional superiority. Five U.S. weapons should be foremost in their minds.

When Iranian aircraft began targeting U.S. drones conducting surveillance over Iran in 2013, Washington responding by providing the UAVs with High Value Air Asset Escorts. These escorts often took the form of the F-22 Raptor.
And for good reason, as Iran’s American-made F-4 Phantom fighters are no match for the U.S. fifth generation fighter. In fact, the F-22 pilots frequently toyed with their Iranian counterparts. As the Air Force Chief of Staff explained of one incident:
He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home.’
In the event of an armed conflict with Iran, the single-seat, twin-engine F-22 would be integral in the opening minutes as the U.S. sought to gain air superiority over Iranian skies. Fortunately, this is the exact type of mission for which the F-22 was built. Iran’s military would have little effective recourse against the F-22.
After helping the U.S. gain air superiority, the F-22 could be put to use for any number of different missions, including attacking ground targets, electronic warfare and collecting signals intelligence. It’s no wonder that when tensions heat up with Iran, the U.S. deploys additional F-22s to air bases in the Persian Gulf.

No threat from Iran terrifies the United States more than its burgeoning nuclear program. It is for this reason that every American president has said that when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program, all options remain on the table.
Should the U.S. have to resort to the military option against Iran’s nuclear program, the B-2 stealth bomber would figure prominently in the operations. One of Iran’s best defenses is its massive and unforgiving geography. The country is three times larger than Iraq and roughly equivalent to the size of all of Western Europe. Most of its major nuclear facilities, as well as some of its important military sites, are located deep inside the country. Some of these are also located near important cities, such as the Fordow nuclear enrichment plant that is located near the important religious city of Qom.
This is what makes the B-2 stealth bomber so key to any American attack on Iran’s nuclear program. As Northrop Grumman, who makes the plane, explains, the B-2 is “a key component of the nation’s long-range strike arsenal, and one of the most survivable aircraft in the world.” Not only can it penetrate heavily defended areas, and elude sophisticated anti-air defense systems, but it boasts incredible range with the ability to fly “6,000 nautical miles unrefueled and 10,000 nautical miles with just one aerial refueling.”
The B-2 stealth bomber can also carry an extensive payload, and deliver precision strikes, both of which would be necessary to ensure the U.S. destroyed the nuclear facilities in as few waves of attacks as possible. As Northrup again explains, each B-2 can “carry more than 20 tons of conventional and nuclear ordnance and deliver it precisely under any weather conditions.”

The B-2 bomber is also crucial to a U.S. strike against Iran’s nuclear program in another regard. Namely, it is the only aircraft capable of carrying the Air Force’s GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator.
While the U.S. has sought to deny the operational concept formerly known as Air-Sea Battle was directed at China, it has been less coy about the purpose of the massive bunker-buster. If the U.S. decided to attack Iran’s nuclear program, it would almost certainly use the MOP to destroy Iran’s Fordow nuclear enrichment site, which is buried deep inside a mountain.


At 30,000-pounds (13,600-kilograms), 31.5 inches in diameter and 20.5 feet long, the Boeing-made MOP is around six times the size of the next biggest bunker-buster in the U.S. or Israeli arsenals.
The GBU-57A/B MOP project began as early as 2004, and picked up steam under DARPA’s direction in the years that followed. Testing began under DARPA in 2008, and in February 2010, the program was transferred to the Air Force. In 2012, the Air Force ordered upgrades to the MOP, and began conducting tests of the upgraded bomb in 2013.
The MOP reportedly packs some “5,300 pounds of explosive material and will deliver more than 10 times the explosive power of its predecessor, the BLU-109.” This allows it to burrow through some 60 feet of reinforced concrete, and explode 200 feet underground, allowing it to destroy even the most hard-to-reach targets underneath the earth.

Amphibious Combat Vehicle:
Beyond nuclear weapons, Iran threatens the U.S. with its anti-access/area-denial capabilities. Like China, anti-ship missiles figure prominently into Iran’s A2/AD strategy. Unlike China, Iran has a less sophisticated arsenal of medium-range and over-the-horizon precision-guided missiles.
To compensate, Iran would need to rely on its geographical advantages to execute any A2/AD strategy in the Persian Gulf against the United States. Fortunately for Tehran, Iran has by far the largest coastline inside the Strait of Hormuz at some 1,356 miles (to go with 480 kilometers of Arabian Sea coastline property). Moreover, as Robert Kaplan has pointed out, geographical features like “bays, inlets, coves and islands” along Iran’s coastline are excellent for concealing weapon systems at close range to U.S. naval assets operating in the Persian Gulf.
As such, in the event on an Iranian-U.S. conflict in the Persian Gulf—such as Iran trying to shut down the Strait of Hormuz—the U.S. might find it necessary to seize some of Iran’s coastal property, including the three Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb. This will require the U.S. to execute amphibious landings, which have become increasingly difficult in light of the proliferation of precision-guided munitions.
Fortunately, the U.S. Marine Corps has just the answer in the form of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) 1.1. Much about the ACV 1.1 is still unknown, but the original Request for Information in 2011 called for a vehicle that could “self-deploy from amphibious shipping and deliver a reinforced Marine infantry squad (17 Marines) from a launch distance at or beyond 12 miles with a speed of not less than 8 knots.” Crucially for the current context, the Marines demanded that the vehicle must be “able to protect against direct and indirect fire and mines and improvised explosive device (IED) threats.”
Since then, the Marines have signaled they are scaling back some of the ACV 1.1 requirements primarily because of cost, and the program has come under considerable criticism internally. Furthermore, for the time being, the Marines may rely more on an upgraded version of the current AAV-7. A version of the ACV 1.1 is still in the works, which is expected to reach initial operating capability around 2020. This will be followed by an even more formidable ACV 2.0 when the available technology reaches envisioned needs. None of this bodes well for Iran.

While still in the early part of their development, military laser systems are quickly becoming a reality. According to various news reports, recent tests of the Navy’s Laser Weapons System [LaWS], “surpassed their expectations in how quickly and effectively it tracked and destroyed ever more difficult targets.”
This is bad news for Iran and its A2/AD strategy. One of Tehran’s most important A2/AD capabilities is the use of massive fleets of lightly armed speedboats to “swarm” American naval vessels operating in the Persian Gulf. In addition, Iran has also invested heavily in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). While these will be utilized for multiple ends, there is good reason to think Iran may use some of them to swarm U.S. platforms.
In both cases, Iran seeks to use the many and cheap to overcome the few and expensive. That is, swarming seeks to use basic arithmetic to overwhelm America’s superior military systems. To do this successfully, swarming must mirror missiles in being overwhelmingly cheaper to use offensively than to defend against.

Laser systems seek to deny swarming tactics this advantage. Instead of defending against swarming tactics with expensive anti-ship and anti-air missiles, lasers will allow America to destroy large swarms of speedboats or drones cheaply. At $1 per shot of a directed energy source, the Navy has said the cost of these laser systems is about 1/100th of existing missile systems. Equally important, unlike missiles—where space constraints limit the number warships they can carry—lasers never run out. As Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder said of lasers last year, "This is a revolutionary capability…. this very affordable technology is going to change the way we fight and save lives."
Not surprisingly, the Navy is currently testing the LaWS in the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Ponce. That ship features a gun that uses “electromagnetic force to send a missile to a range of 125 miles at 7.5 times the speed of sound.” Although lasers still face crucial limitations, such as their ability to operate in less than perfect weather conditions, expect the Navy to work out the kinks in the years ahead.




Trump’s Obsession With Generals Could Send Us Straight Into War With Iran

The president’s foreign-policy picks have set the stage for an aggressive military-first administration.
By William D. Hartung MARCH 6, 2017

President Donald Trump introduces retired Marine Corps general James Mattis as secretary of defense during a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on December 6, 2016. (AP Photo / Gerry Broome)

In the splurge of “news,” media-bashing, and Bannonism that’s been Donald Trump’s domestic version of a shock-and-awe campaign, it’s easy to forget just how much of what the new president and his administration have done so far is simply an intensification of trends long underway. Those who already pine for the age of Obama—a president who was smart, well-read, and not a global embarrassment—need to acknowledge the ways in which, particularly in the military arena, Obama’s years helped set the stage for our current predicament.

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.

As a start, Nobel Prize or not, President Obama sustained, and in some cases accelerated, the militarization of American foreign policy that has been steadily increasing for the past three decades. In significant parts of the world, the US military has become Washington’s first and often only tool—and the result has been disastrous wars, failing states, and spreading terror movements (as well as staggering arms sales) across the Greater Middle East and significant parts of Africa. Indicators of how militarily dependent Obama’s foreign policy became include the launching of a record number of drone strikes (10 times as many as in the Bush years), undeclared wars in at least six countries, the annual deployment of Special Operations forces to well over half of the countries on the planet, record arms sales to the Middle East, and a plethora of new Pentagon arms and training programs.

Nonetheless, from the New START treaty (which Trump has called “another bad deal,” as he does any deal the Obama administration concluded) to the Iran nuclear deal to the opening with Cuba, Obama had genuine successes of a sort that our present narcissist in chief, with his emphasis on looking “tough” or tweeting at the drop of a hat, is unlikely to achieve. In addition, Obama did try to build on the nuclear-arms-control agreements and institutions created over the previous five decades, while Trump seems intent on dismantling them.

Still, no one can doubt that our last president did not behave like a Nobel Peace Prize winner, not even in the nuclear arena where he oversaw the launching of a trillion-dollar “modernization” of the US nuclear arsenal (including the development of new weapons and new delivery systems). And one thing is already clear enough: President Trump will prove no non-interventionist. He is going to build on Obama’s militarization of foreign policy and most likely dramatically accelerate it.

It’s no secret that our new president loves generals. He’s certainly assembled the most military-heavy foreign-policy team in memory, if not in American history, including Gen. James Mattis (ret.) at the Pentagon; Gen. John Kelly (ret.) at Homeland Security; Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as national-security adviser (a replacement for Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who left that post after 24 days); and as chief of staff of the National Security Council, Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg (ret.).

In addition, CIA Director Mike Pompeo is a West Point graduate and former Cold War–era Army tank officer. Even White House adviser Steve Bannon has done military service of a sort. The military background of Trump’s ideologue-in-chief was emphasized by White House spokesman Sean Spicer in his defense of seating him on the National Security Council (NSC). Bannon’s near-brush with fame as a naval officer came when he piloted a destroyer in the Gulf of Oman trailing the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz that carried the helicopters used in the Carter administration’s botched 1980 attempt to rescue US hostages held by Iran’s revolutionary government. As it happened, Bannon’s ship was ordered back to Pearl Harbor before the raid was launched, so he learned of its failure from thousands of miles away.

When it comes to national-security posts of any sort, it’s clear that choosing a general is now Trump’s default mode. Three of the four candidates he considered for Flynn’s spot were current or retired generals. And that’s not even counting retired vice-admiral Robert Harward, who declined an offer to take Flynn’s post, in part evidently because he wasn’t prepared to battle Bannon over the staffing and running of the NSC. The only civilian considered for that role was one of the more bellicose guys in town, that ideologue, Iranophobe, former UN ambassador, and neocon extraordinaire John Bolton. The bad news: Trump was evidently impressed by Bolton, who may still get a slot alongside Bannon and his motley crew of extremists in the White House.

Another early indicator of the military drift of future administration actions is the marginalization of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the State Department, which appears to be completely out of the policy-making loop at the moment. It is understaffed, underutilized, slated to have its funding slashed by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent, and rarely even asked to provide Trump with basic knowledge about the countries and leaders he’s dealing with. (As a result, White House statements have, on several occasions, misspelled the names of foreign heads of state, and the president mistakenly addressed the Japanese Prime Minister as “Shinzo,” his first name, not “Abe.”) The State Department isn’t even giving regular press briefings, a practice routinely followed in prior administrations. Tillerson’s main job so far has been traveling the planet to reassure foreign leaders that the new president isn’t as crazy as he seems to be.

Although Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were far more involved in the crafting of foreign policy than Tillerson is likely to be, the State Department has long been the junior partner to its ever-better-resourced counterpart. The Pentagon’s budget is currently 12 times larger than the State Department’s (and that’s before the impending Trump military build-up even begins). As then–Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once noted, there are more personnel in a single aircraft-carrier task force than there are trained diplomats in the US Foreign Service.

Given the way President Trump has outfitted his administration with generals, the already militarized nature of foreign policy is only likely to become more so. As former White House budget official and defense expert Gordon Adams has pointed out, his military-dominated foreign-policy team should be cause for serious concern. Policy-by-general is sure to create a skewed view of policy-making, since everything is likely to be viewed initially through a military lens by men trained in war, not diplomacy or peace.

For the military-industrial complex, however, many of Trump’s national-security picks are the best of news. They’re “twofers,” having worked in both the military and the arms industry. Defense Secretary Mattis, for instance, joined the administration from the board of General Dynamics, which gets about $10 billion in Pentagon contracts annually and makes tanks and ballistic-missile submarines, among many other weapons systems. Trump’s pick for secretary of the Air Force, former New Mexico Representative Heather Wilson, is an Air Force veteran who went to work as a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin’s nuclear weapons unit when she left Congress. Deputy National Security adviser Keith Kellogg has worked for a series of defense contractors, including Cubic and CACI. (You may remember CACI as one of the private companies that supplied interrogators implicated in the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal during the US occupation of Iraq.) This practice is rife with the potential for conflicts of interest, as such officials are in a position to make decisions that could benefit their former employers to the tune of billions of dollars.

While rule by generals and weapons company officials may be problematic, an even more disturbing development is the tendency of President Trump to rely on a small circle of White House advisers led by white-nationalist Steve Bannon in crafting basic decisions, often with minimal input from relevant cabinet officers and in-house experts. A case in point is Trump’s disastrous rollout of his Muslim ban. Homeland Security head John Kelly asserts that he was consulted, but Bannon disregarded his advice to exclude green card holders from the initial ban. Kelly later issued a waiver for them.

Mattis was evidently only informed about the contents of the executive order at the last minute. Among the issues he later raised: The ban was so expansively drawn that it could exclude Iraqi translators who had worked alongside American troops in Iraq from entering the United States. Now that the courts have blocked the original plan, the Trump team is working on a new Muslim ban likely to be almost as bad as the original. And the fingerprints of Bannon and his anti-immigrant sidekick Stephen Miller will be all over it.

Numerous commentators have welcomed the appointments of Mattis and McMaster, hoping that they will be the experienced “adults in the room” who will help keep Bannon and company in check. Former Obama Pentagon official Derek Chollet, a member of Foreign Policy magazine’s “shadow cabinet,” put it this way: “Other than the dark figures in the White House cabal, Trump’s national security team is led by nonideological, level-headed policy technocrats from the military or industry.” President (and also General) Dwight D. Eisenhower, who introduced the term “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address to the nation, is probably rolling over in his grave at the thought that a government packed with ex-military men and former arms industry officials is in many quarters considered the best anyone could hope for under the Trump regime.

Let’s think for a moment about what such a “best case” scenario might look like. Imagine that, in the battle for Trump’s brain, Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly wrest control of it from Bannon and his minions when it comes to foreign-policy decision-making. The assumption here is that the generals have a far saner perspective than an extreme ideologue (and Islamophobe), among other things because they’ve seen war up close and personal and so presumably better understand what’s at stake. But we shouldn’t forget that Mattis and McMaster were at the center of one of the most disastrous and unsuccessful wars in American history, the invasion, occupation, and insurgency in Iraq—and it appears that they may not have learned what would seem to be the logical lessons from that failure.

In fact, as late as 2011, overseeing Washington’s wars in the Greater Middle East as the head of Central Command (CENTCOM), Mattis actually proposed a radical escalation, an expansion of the conflict via a direct strike inside Iran. The Obama administration would, in fact, remove him as CENTCOM commander five months early in part because the president disapproved of his proposal to launch missile strikes to take out either an Iranian power plant or an oil refinery in retaliation for the killings of US soldiers by Iranian-backed militias. In August 2010, shortly after taking control of Central Command, Mattis was asked by President Obama what he thought were the top three threats in his area of responsibility, which stretched from Egypt to the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan and included the active war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. His classic (and chilling) response, according to a “senior U.S. official” who witnessed it: “Number one: Iran. Number two: Iran. Number three: Iran.” He will now have a major hand in shaping Washington’s Iran policy.


As for McMaster, a warrior-strategist widely respected in military circles, his biggest potential flaw is that he may be overconfident about the value of military force in addressing Middle Eastern conflicts. Although his 1997 book Dereliction of Duty opens with a searing indictment of the costs and consequences of the failed US intervention in Vietnam, he may draw a different set of lessons from his experiences in the Middle East and Iraq in particular. McMaster cut his teeth in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, a quick and devastating defeat of Saddam Hussein’s overmatched military, a force notably short on morale and fighting spirit. Along with General David Petraeus, McMaster was also a key player in crafting the much-overrated 2007 “surge” in Iraq, a short-term tactical victory that did nothing to address the underlying political and sectarian tensions still driving the conflict there. Military analyst Andrew Bacevich has aptly described it as “the surge to nowhere.”

Boosters of the surge in Iraq frequently refer to it as if it were partial redemption for the disastrous decision to invade in the first place. At a staggering cost in money and Iraqi and American lives, that invasion and occupation opened the way for a sectarian conflict that would lead to the rise of ISIS. It cannot be redeemed. And the suggestion that things would have turned out better if only President Obama had kept significant numbers of US troops there longer—overriding both the will of the Iraqi parliament and a status of forces agreement negotiated with Iraq’s leaders by the Bush administration—is a pipe dream.

Logically, the American experience in Iraq should make both Mattis and McMaster wary of once again using military force in the region. Both of them, however, seem to be “go big or go home” thinkers who are likely to push for surge-like actions in the war against ISIS and possibly in the Afghan war as well.

The true test of whether there will be any “adults” in the room may come if Trump and Bannon push for military action against Iran, an option to which Mattis has been open—as a long history of statements and proposals urging exactly that course of action indicates. Such a war would, of course, be better sold to Congress, the public, and the media by the generals.

Ultimately, another Middle Eastern war planned and initiated by generals is unlikely to be any more successful than one launched by the ideologues. As Ali Vaez, an Iran expert at the International Crisis Group, noted after then–National Security Adviser Flynn declared that the administration was putting Iran “on notice”: “In an attempt to look strong, the administration could stumble into a war that would make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.”

Trump’s generals should know better, but there’s no reason to believe that they will, especially given Mattis’s history of hawkish proposals and statements about “the Iranian threat.” Even if he and McMaster do prove to be the adults in the room, as we all know, adults, too, can make disastrous miscalculations. So we may want to hold off on the sighs of relief that greeted both of their appointments. Washington could go to war in Iran (and surge in both Iraq and Afghanistan), regardless of who’s in charge.

William D. HartungWilliam D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a fellow at the World Policy Institute.