Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Would Pace attack Iran if Bush ordered it?

Gwynne Dyer, writing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, poses an interesting question.
So would Pace attack Iran if Bush ordered him to? His only alternative would be to resign, but he does have that option. Senior officers like Pace, while still bound by the code of military discipline, acquire a political responsibility as well. Like Cabinet ministers, they cannot oppose a government decision while in office, but they have the right and even the duty to resign rather than carry out a decision that they believe to be disastrous.

...The resignation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- and possibly several of the other chiefs as well -- would be an immensely powerful gesture. It could stop an attack on Iran dead in its tracks, for the White House would have to find other officers who would carry out its orders. It would doubtless find them, but such a shocking event might finally enable Congress to find its backbone and refuse support for another illegal and foredoomed war.

This is not a hypothetical discussion: My guess is that both the Joint Chiefs and the White House understand that the option of resignation is on the table. Consider the dance that was done around the question of Iran and "Explosively Formed Penetrators" in the past couple of weeks.

...something unscripted happened. Pace, visiting in Australia, said that Iranian government involvement was not proven: "We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran, but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit." A day later, in Jakarta, Indonesia, he repeated his doubts: "What [the evidence] does say is that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers."

Generals as experienced as Pace do not contradict their political masters by accident. The White House got the message, and retreated a bit. "What we don't know is whether the headquarters in Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did," said President Bush on Feb. 14. But he didn't really back down: "I intend to do something about it ... we're going to protect our troops."

There is a civil/military confrontation brewing in the United States more serious than anything seen since President Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War. But this time, if the general acts on his convictions, he will be in the right.
See what I mean about interesting? I have to admit, when Pace denied the whole narrative and threw the Bush administration into first chaos and then full-on spin mode, I wondered if Pace would go all the way or would be brought back to heel. Dyer is, as far as I know, the first to suggest Pace knows the game he is playing and has the nerve to play it all the way.

And Gwynne Dyer is no no-nothing pundit. His bio in the field of military research and authorship is more impressive than many a neocon think-tankers. Could he be right? I certainly hope so. If so, then Pace would be joining another general, Wesley Clark, in opposing any new Bush mis-adventure in Iran.

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