Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Risk of Mr. Bush’s Continued Pursuit Of A Failed Middle East Policy

Bloomberg reported today on Mr. Bush’s effort to freeze the assets of an Iran-Linked Bahrain Bank:

“The Bush administration will freeze any U.S. assets of Future Bank B.S.C., a Bahrain-based bank controlled by an Iranian lender linked to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, the Treasury Department said in a statement.”

To paraphrase former President Regan: “Here he goes again.”

After years of implementing his unilateral ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ form of foreign policy in Iraq, Mr. Bush is, once again, trying to build a case for a war with Iran. I guess Mr. Bush doesn’t like diplomatic approach to foreign policy.

Risks Arising From A War With Iran (May It Not Happen)

Risk of Our Military Structure Breaking Down: Our military resources are already overstretched with its war in Iraq and Afghanistan and risk. According to MSNBC report, the military may be at a breaking point. If this occurs, our national defense may be vulnerable to attack since 40% of the national guard troops, the very soldier we rely on for national defense, are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Risk of Substantially Increasing Our National Deficit: We have spent more than $510 billion in the Iraq War and the cost of the Iraq War, according to MSNBC, running at $200 million a day may top $1 trillion. A more recent Washington Post report indicates that the cost may top $1.3 trillion. Our FY 2008 national budget is $3 trillion. So, the total cost of the Iraq War is 1/3 the total U.S. budget for 2008. If we persist in pursuing a foolhardy war with Iran, then the cost to the U.S. could exceed $3 trillion. In fact, Paul Farrell of Market Watch estimated that a war with Iran would cost $32,000 per American, or $9.6 trillion, based on U.S. population of 300 million.

Risk of Severe American Casualties: No one is willing to estimate number of U.S. casualties should we go to war with Iran. However, with more than 168,000 troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is highly probable that any attack on Iran will result in increased terrorist attacks to our ground forces. Moreover, it is not unlikely that Iran may employ wholesale suicide-like ground attack by the Revolutionary Guards, similar to the attacks employed during the Iraq-Iran war, on our troops in Iraq, causing tens of thousands of American casualties.

Macroeconomic Risks: Econbrowser, a blog about economic condition and policy has a very detailed analysis about the macroeconomic risks of going to war with Iran. The immediate implication is the price of oil skyrocketing up, perhaps as high as $250 per barrel, as the flow of up to 20% of the regions oil supply is curtailed due to Iranian attacks on shipping lanes and as Iran cuts off supply of its own oil to the west. Overall, the GDP of western countries may see a drop of 1%.

Risk of Increased Internal Security Costs: As a response to 9/11, U.S. government has spent $160 billion in additional security. Also, many U.S. cities and businesses have spent millions of dollars to install or upgrade their security systems, and modifying their operations to comply with the new legislation, such as the Patriot Act. If the U.S. goes to war with Iran, the cost of security will surely increase dramatically.

Risk to U.S. Interests Overseas: With most U.S. companies now having a footprint in the global economy, our interests abroad are substantial. Many companies have offices and factories in third world countries that have lower level of security. It is highly probable that a war with Iran will have a direct negative repercussion to these facilities.

Risk to U.S. Travel Abroad: Iranians have been known to sponsor terrorism. A war with Iran will escalate Iran sponsored terrorist acts, especially on U.S. citizens abroad. The probability of hijacking, kidnapping, and killing of U.S. citizens while abroad on business or pleasure will dramatically increase.

Risk To Our Personal Freedom: Our constitutional rights have been trampled upon with our tacit assent shortly after 9/11. We now have wiretapping of phone calls, FBI surveillance of emails and other forms of communications, added level of security screening at airports, and even bag checks and fingerprint screening at Disney World. If we enter a war with Iran, the risk that our freedom may be further limited in the name of security.

No Benefit From A War With Iran

While the risks are great, there are no substantial benefits from a war with Iran, even if it was a quick one.

In looking back at the ‘benefits’ stated by M. Bush for going to war with Iraq: Promoting Democracy in Iraq by removing the Dictator Hussein, Combating Terrorism, Going After Al Qaeda, and eliminating WMD. Of these ‘benefits,’ the war in Iraq managed to achieve none of these. In fact, I think that we are in a worst situation than before the war.

What Is Bush Thinking?

I think Robert Draper in his book DEAD CERTAIN, The Presidency of George W. Bush nails the reason why Mr. Bush will not change his tactics and try diplomacy with Iran. In sum, Mr. Bush is stubborn, obstinate, and willfully optimistic that he is right. And anyone who disagrees with him is removed.

This view is echoed by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. According to the CBS report, Mr. O’Neill stated that:

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that Bush “did not make decisions in a methodical way: there was no free-flow of ideas or open debate.”


”he [Paul O’Neill] thinks the Bush Administration has been too secretive about how decisions have been made.” and that “At cabinet meetings, he [Paul O’Neill] says the president was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection," forcing top officials to act "on little more than hunches about what the president might think."

Thanks Goodness For Term Limits

Luckily we have Presidential term limits. Hopefully, we can prevent Bush from starting a war just long enough to elect a new president who would look at international policies in a more rational light. I don’t know who the next President of United States will be. But, if this video is any indication, Mr. McCain may be another one who feels that use of force is better than talking.

Ed Kim

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