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Are wars accidents waiting to happen?

Pat Lang, former military officer and intelligence official, has been following the tos and fros of "war with Iran." On Saturday he posted an essay by a former student, Christopher Bolan, analyzing the way nations may go to war quite apart from rational calculations about costs and benefits. Bolan notes the recent report by former national security officials that I mention in my column. Definitely worth a read, but clearly on the rational calculus side.Bolan, now a professor at the National War College, offers five easy reasons why there could be war between the United States and Iran. Very much worth a read. He concludes: "Of course, none of this means that military conflict with Iran is a certainty. It does, however, suggest that policymakers in Washington, Tehran, and Tel Aviv will need to take steps that consciously avoid the path of least resistance which in this case could all too easily lead to war."Is anyone taking those steps?

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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I think that just as there is a fog that develops in war---a lethal confusion emerging from the events-- there is a kind of fog that leads up to it---confusion about means and ends, as well as some who stand to benefit from any war, who will be fanning the flames. So I don't think that wars are accidents as much as they are outcomes of confusion and hidden self-interest. A question to ask in light of this is who stands to benefit financially and otherwise from war with Iran.

That last question is crucial. As far as I can tell, the state of play on the anti-Iran side is this: Bibi wants a "red line" which he can immediately describe as "crossed." Bishop Mitt, in Israel, implied that if it were up to him the rockets would be flying already. President Obama has treated war like everything else this year -- as something can be put off until after the election. His policy is drift; drift is likely lead into war under quotes 3 and 5 in Bolan's analysis.Ahmadinejad notwithstanding, one of Iran's top ayatollahs has said it would be unKoranic for Iran to have nuclear-tipped missiles. Four of Bolan's five easy reasons for war are inherently flaws of democratic systems. (#1 - national honor - can mislead both democratic and totalitarian states). If he is right, we may have to lean more on an ayatollah's interpretation of the Koran to anything our Western democratic leaders can think of to prevent the war.

TB: Wouldn't that be an irony? Counting on the Ayatollah and the Koran to prevent war. Hadn't thought of that.

Christians should remind themselves that there is no justification for this war as there was none for the Iraqi war.

If we still had a military draft there would be more sand on the slippery slope.

Would suggest that this is just a current version of what Barbara Tuchman graphically chronicled in her award winning book, The Guns of August. Yes, some of the actual implemented actions are different but the categories are the same.My cousin attended a war strategy class with her son at the Air Force Academy last month. She said that the professor was excellent and hammered that the whole notion of war has radically changed versus the classes/trainings of even 15 years ago e.g. SunTzu, MAD, etc. The focus seems now to prevent war (given the resultant damage to the world community) rather than how to win a battle.

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