Important essay in FA which hints at a very plausible route to a collapse of US policy toward Iran. First: more evidence that the bullying approach just doesn't work. US "maximum pressure" didn't cause back-down + deepened IRGC economic role in Iran…
Then, on future: Space for grand bargain is gone. Tehran doesn't see value of abandoning JCPOA but feels no urgency to fully revive it. Potential = public Iranian claims of willingness to renew while demanding US concessions (sanctions) + slow-motion expansion of nuke capability
This NYT story has been rightly criticized as alarmist + too simple, but it does highlight a seemingly clear underlying trend. An actual time frame of 6 months vs 1 won't reassure the US, Israel or others…
So where do we end up? A zombie JCPOA implicitly in place (w/some IAEA verif) but w/o many formal elements. Iran nukes growing slowly but surely. RU + CH helping Tehran. US sitting by and watching, unable to tighten screws but w/no ability to get better situation w/carrots
And then we re-run the DPRK history after 1994, with gradual breakout never providing basis for extreme action, costs of war too high, US rival not really interested in economic carrots, third parties dampening the effects of int'l sanctions and warning US off military action
So maybe we never get to a "breakout crisis," b/c it unfolds over 10+ years, but nonprolif fails, Tehran = emboldened and Israel becomes progressively more anxious. And it is unclear--as w/DPRK, as w/CH etc--what tools we have to prevent these outcomes

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More from @MMazarr

3 Sep
For those hardy few interested in professional military education: Another misleading take on the role of war colleges in producing national tragedies. I get the idea and agree w/their ire at jargon + abstract guidance. But many problems w/this thesis…
1: Generals don't set national strategy. Blaming the "graduates of this [PME] system" for Iraq and Afgh. presumes that bad military strategy was the source of failure. Instead it was the choice to go to war combined w/fact that the conflicts weren't resolvable by military means
No magic PME curriculum will generate strategists able to overcome the problems the US faced in Afghanistan. We do need military leaders more willing to state openly that a given mission isn't feasible--but that's an issue of service culture + civil-mil relations, not PME
Read 19 tweets
23 Aug
Someday we'll know the full story of what the US told its allies and when, how much time it gave them to react. Many reports do make it seem like this was terribly botched. But the general narrative of US unilateralism + European victimhood is too simple…
Take 2009: Obama decides to surge; US military knows it needs more troops than he'll give them. The appeal goes out to NATO, and: NATO leaders "gave a tepid troop commitment to President Obama’s escalating campaign in Afghanistan ...…
... mostly committing soldiers only to a temporary security duty. ... Despite a glowing reception and widespread praise for Mr. Obama’s style and aims, his calls for a more lasting European troop increase for Afghanistan were politely brushed aside"
Read 13 tweets
22 Aug
There's been bitter political criticism of the administration and Biden over what is indisputably a fiasco in planning and execution. But let's subject other post-war presidents to the "how did you end the war" test and see how they fare ...…
Nixon: Pretty obvious (can we all say "decent interval"?). Talking w/Kissinger Nixon contradicted his public stance: "I look at the tide of history out there, South Vietnam probably is never gonna survive anyway." And injected political considerations too…
Kissinger's reply: "If a year or two years from now North Vietnam gobbles up South Vietnam, we can have a viable foreign policy if it looks as if it's the result of South Vietnamese incompetence. ... We've got to find some formula that holds the thing together a year or two ...
Read 14 tweets
21 Aug
Worth a re-read: George Packer's marvelous @ForeignAffairs essay on Richard Holbrooke, which offers great perspective on events. Holbrooke served in Vietnam + Afghanistan--yet somehow his experience in one didn't force him to break from policy on the other…
Holbrooke was skeptical of US chances in Vietnam. His advisor job, he wrote, "puts me continually in the position of advocate of plans and projects which would seek to make a reality out of the clichés that everyone pays lip service to"
In 1967, at 26, he wrote a memo railing against the chances for victory: "Hanoi uses time the way the Russians used terrain before Napoleon’s advance on Moscow, always retreating, losing every battle, but eventually creating conditions in which the enemy can no longer function"
Read 21 tweets
21 Aug
Much commentary on the Afghan tragedy is badly overheated, making bold points rather than offering wider context. Example: "For the US the flight from Kabul is a strategic defeat. And for Europe it is a jolting description of the world as it has become"…
"Strategic defeat"? Ending a war the US (+ EU) promised to end many times (by 2014), and made a deal in 2020 to depart? This is a tragedy, to be clear, and a "loss." But winning distant wars (esp irregular ones) has never been essential to the strategic position of great powers
"The world as it has become"? Which is what, limits to US power? Reality of extremism? Others using US/allied losses for political gain? None of that is new. US GDP, domestic renewal plans, pledge to NATO, policy toward China, or climate + pandemic threats aren't changed by this
Read 4 tweets
19 Aug
For a depressing forecast of the ultimate outcome in Afghanistan and the problems with US policy, consider the following quotes from a trenchant analytical assessment of a little while back. [A substantial thread but I promise there's a punch line]:
"The US grossly misjudged what it could actually accomplish with the huge effort it eventually made, and thus became more and more wound up in a war it couldn't ‘win’ the way it fought it."
"Perhaps the most important single reason why the US achieved so little for so long in Afghanistan was that it could not sufficiently revamp, or adequately substitute for, an Afghan leadership, administration, and armed forces inadequate to the task. ..."
Read 18 tweets

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