Many of our reactionary compatriots are pumped for a new war, in Iran. It is unlikely that reason will prevail with them, but for the rest, we could all do well to consider the implications of such an idea.
The United States military is stretched to limits of its resources. Soldiers are being sent back for additional tours, including Guardsmen and Reservists. Recruiters can no longer meet thair targets, and they report that parental consent is one of their biggest stumbling blocks. Approval ratings for Bush on his conduct of the war have been sliding since the election. Many people are becoming convinced that, in a charitable construction, the administration was less than truthful about the reasons for the invasion of Iraq. Credibility for a new war is very likely to be lacking. The Muslim world is already suspicious of the motives of the West, and the United States in particular. It doesn't help that so many loud mouthed conservative idiots use terms like crusade, and rant about how bad Islam and all Muslims are by definition. The rest of the international community has lost respect for the United States, and there is little prospect of support for such a war. With the lack of troops so evident--many soldiers have done two tours in Iraq, and the military are talking about a third, and that includes Guardsmen and Reservists--conscription would be the only way to produce sufficient cannon fodder. That issue was bad enough during Vietnam, when conscription had been a fact of life for thirty years. It's now been thirty years since conscription ended, and any attempt to restart it is going to make the reaction to the invasion of Cambodia look tame (for the younger ones amongst us, Nixon launched an "incursion" into Cambodia in 1970, which restulted in the Kent State massacre and widespread opposition to the Vietnam War from all areas of the population, including massive demonstrations). This is the wrong time to even publicly discuss such a war, let alone actually attempt it.
Below is a relief map of Iran (meaning the geographical features are shown):
Several things (which to me, seem as though they ought to be obvious) are to be seen from this map. On the land borders of Iran, the country is girt by mountains. Looking at the southern end of the country, you will see the provinces of Baluchistan, Kerman and Fars. These are desert, and worse, they are relatively high altitude desert. They are as dry or drier than the Syrian desert, through which the Army was obliged to travel to get from Kuwait to the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which runs through the heart of Iraq. When the army of Alexander of Macedon mutinied and he was obliged to turn back to the west, part of the army travelled by sea, and the rest marched through Baluchistan. Without having to fight anyone, he lost half the portion of the army which tried to cross southern Persia. Those conditions have not changed in the more than two thousand years since that disaster, and there is no convenient, modern Kuwait from which to stage an invasion in that direction. Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan can provide the facilities which Kuwait provided, and there is no net of good roads leading from those countries into Iran--the railroads don't even run into that region. The Syrian desert is mostly flat, and in many places, armored columns don't need a road, they can spread out and just drive flat out. Baluchistan is as rugged as any mountainous region in southwest Asia, in addition to being a desert. Southern Iran is no place to attempt an invasion, and you can be certain the Persians would be there, spread throughout those mountains, to make us pay a very high price were we stupid enough to attempt that.
Now look to the west, to the border with Iraq. From Khuzestan through Ilam (the biblical Elam) is the region most heavily fought over in the Iran-Iraq war. It is mountainous, but there are many passes, and the elevation rises gradually, which is why it was the only place which made sense for an invasion in that war. The Zagros Mountains, running up to Tabriz in the north, beginning to rise dramatically north of Ilam, effectively creating a wall. We could cross that wall, but they'd see us coming from a long way off, and our troops would be sitting ducks until they were almost on top of Teheran, which is why the Iraqis didn't try it.
The Persians have good maps of the region of Khuzestan and Ilam, their veteran officers and non-commissioned officers fought there for ten years, and they know every inch of that ground. Both the Iraqis and the Persians shed a lot of blood in that region, and the Persians demonstrated that they were willing to lauch "human wave" attacks if that was what it would take to stop the Iraqis. Hussein committed half-a-million troops to the effort. We don't half that
number of troops in Iraq as it is. The only seriously mountainous region in Iraq with which we had to deal in the invasion was in the north, in Kurdistan. The Kurds pretty well handled that for us, with crucial aid from us, and with the no-fly zone and the peshmurga
(the Kurd militia), the Iraqis were not able to mount a credible defense as it was. The same would definitely not
be true in Iran.
In the northeast, on the western border of Afghanistan, the region is not only arid and mountainous, but it has two huge, hellish features. You will see two green shaded areas there. These are salt pan deserts. Think of the Bonneville salt flats in Utah, and then imagine them a hundred times larger. Currently, we don't even try to control the region of Afghanistan which borders Iran there, Herat and Shindand are controlled by the local "governors," who are warlords in fancy dress. It would be madness to attempt to stage an invasion from that direction, and once again, the Persians would see us coming from a long way off. From Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia to the north, the same mountainous walls exist, and we don't have any presence on the ground in any of those countries. Added to that is the likely opposition of the Russians to any attempt to put American troops in those regions, even temporarily.
So ask yourself just how an invasion would be launched. The only reasonable answer is the obious one--from Basra through Khuzestan, and from Baghdad through Ilam. The only viable route would be right through the killing grounds of the Iran-Iraq war. You can bet your bottom dollar they'd be waiting for us, and that they'd be ready. This is the wrong place for a war. You could not invent a more nightmarish scenario for an invasion. We can only hope the madness ends before the venal and irresponsible crew in D.C. attempt anything so suicidal.