Last week The Modern War Institute at the US Military Academy West Point (West Point/The Point) published an article about the need to plan for an occupation of Iran. That article got a lot of buzz, especially so because a lot of the buzz had to do with the title, not with the actual substance of the article. The author, Joe Karle, argued that even though occupying Iran would be a very, very bad idea, given the recent political rhetoric, the President’s withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA, and the possibilities of events occurring that simply override the ability to prevent what would be an unfortunate event – an escalation to military engagement with Iran – that the Department of Defense needs to plan for a post conflict occupation. Even though such an occupation would be a very, very, very bad idea. I initially thought about doing a response to the article here, but instead decided to reach out to the appropriate folks at The Modern War Institute. And look what happened!
"War with Iran would be a campaign of catastrophe because both are human geography traps" https://t.co/tOg1r5biqJ
— Modern War Institute (@WarInstitute) August 1, 2018
Right now the US military does not have personnel with deep specialization in conducting or overseeing the type of occupation that Karle argues is an unfortunate necessity of being prepared for all possibilities. It is also not clear who the United States would seek to empower as a legitimate alternative to the current Iranian government—both the popularly elected facade and the largely opaque theocracy that runs in the background. Or how the United States would go about doing so successfully. Karle is arguing that, no matter how inconceivable it might be, the Department of Defense must begin to plan now for how to not just achieve battlefield success, but also properly manage the post war termination transition in order to secure the peace. And while he is right to argue that having a plan and a strategy is always better than not having either, if the United States’ policy is to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons development program and remove the theocratic Iranian government, then United States policy is asking of strategy that which the strategy cannot provide: an achievable end state.
You can click across for the rest if you like. Including the nifty map I put together.