Who’s Afraid of Dick Cheney?

Vice President Dick Cheney’s arrival in the Middle East has prompted some to speculate that this is a sure sign that President Bush is preparing to launch a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Others have reached a similar conclusion from the firing of Admiral William Fallon has head of Central Command. Such speculation is not hard to understand given Cheney’s previous role as hand-holder to the region’s pro-U.S. Arab regimes whenever the Bush Administration is about to embark on one of its catastrophic schemes to remake the Middle East by force — he did the rounds before the Iraq war, and before and after Israel’s disastrous campaign (at the urging of the U.S.) to eliminate Hizballah in the summer of 2006. And Cheney is nothing if not the champion of the testosterone-addled-teenage mindset in Washington that sees military force as the answer to complex challenges, and has certainly been lobbying for a showdown with Iran.

But to put Cheney’s tough talk and saber-rattling in context, I’d suggest those worried that he means business watch the YouTube clip above, taken from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which the Black Knight refuses to let King Arthur pass, and continues to issue bloodcurdling threats even as the English king lops off his limbs. The Black Knight hopping about on one leg screaming “I am invincible!” is an apt analogy for Dick Cheney threatening Iran, right now.

Cheney might like to see Iran’s nuclear facilities destroyed by either an Israeli or a U.S. air strike, but that’s unlikely to happen. It is questionable whether Israel has the technical capability to do the job alone, and would need a U.S. green light to do. That, and the fact that the Iranians would hold the U.S. accountable for any Israeli strike, and would retaliate against U.S. targets within range (think 140,000 U.S. troops just across the border in Iraq), would make it worth the U.S. doing the job itself if it were going to get done.

The problem is that U.S. power in the Middle East has begun to go the way of the Black Knight’s limbs precisely as a result of the confrontational policies championed by Cheney, and that has left it both lacking the troop strength — and dangerously vulnerable in its Iraq deployment — to launch a war with a country three times the size of Iraq, simply on the basis of a potential threat, i.e. that Iran’s currently very limited uranium enrichment capability gives it the means to eventually create bomb-grade materiel. The air-strike scenario holds far greater perils than those it would currently eliminate, and no rational strategic establishment woud consider it. (That may be why there are such over signs of resistance from within the security bureaucracy to Cheney’s efforts, from last year’s National Intelligence Estimate to Fallon’s blunt comments about war-talk in Washington.)

A military strike has no way of guaranteeing that Iran’s nuclear capabilities will actually be destroyed, and Tehran would almost certainly move whatever it retained underground, and continue to work outside of the monitoring regime (currently in place) of the IAEA. It would compel Iran to respond to an act of war by confronting the U.S. and its allies throughout the Middle East. While neocons tout the fantasy that such a blow would bring down the Islamic Republic, it’s far more likely that the people of Iran, from liberals to fundamentalists, would rally behind the government, and strengthen the hand of the conservatives currently running things. Last weekend’s election, with a turnout close to two thirds of the electorate (far higher than the U.S. usually sees) was a sure sign that Iranians are willing to defend their regime from outside attack, even if they don’t like that regime.

Iran would deliver its response over a sustained period across a wide range of fronts, but its ability to make life hell for the U.S. forces stationed in Iran (both via the firing of short and medium range missiles, and by urging the Shi’ite militias whose loyalty it commands there to attack the Americans), and its ability to drive oil prices into the stratosphere by blocking deliveries through the Straits of Hormuz, make the cost of attacking Iran simply prohibitive to the U.S. right now, and perhaps for the foreseeable future.

Moreover, the Arab allies on whom Cheney is calling over the next ten days have long ago concluded that the Bush Administration’s prescriptions for dealing with the Middle East are dysfunctional to the point of self-destruction, and have longsince begun going their own way, even as they politely indulge emissaries from Washington. While the Bush Administration insists that Iran must be pressed and isolated, the Egyptians and Saudis are openly engaging in the warmest diplomatic ties with Tehran since 1979, aware that only a cooperative and mutually accomodating relationship can stabilize the consequences of the strategic rivalries of the region.

Whatever Dick Cheney has to say, the Arab regimes are well aware that they are having to conduct their own diplomacy to address the region’s problems because the current administration has little more to offer than ideological megaphone diplomacy. But, of course, the current administration only has nine months left, and already the region is simply running out the clock, assuming that things can only get better with a new Administration. At which point, if Cheney keeps to his stated plan of returning to the private sector — and if he returns to the corporation he left in order to take the job — the Vice President will simply revert to being just another Dubai-based CEO.

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20 Responses to Who’s Afraid of Dick Cheney?

  1. enrique says:

    Nice piece. Funny that clip!. I loved it. Certainly it seems utterly foolish to actually attack Iran and engage in another nightmare.
    Question is, do Cheney and Bush actually see that?

  2. morris says:

    Any attack on Iran, brings a certain attack on Israel, and so we see why the Israelis would premptively intervene to stop such a scenario.
    With conventional weapons (vacuum bombs) available with an equal force of nuclear ones, I wonder what all the whooplala is.
    Can any weapons destroy hundreds of miles of Iranian tunnels?
    The conservatives now need to be afraid. The dollar is knocking on the door of free fall. And Americans are armed and capable of rioting.
    The far right know the Law of Return would overide any calls for their extradiction, and that Israel has superb medical facilities.
    The Neo cons only hope is quiet retreat. Ya they’d like to wage more war, but the Israelis won’t allow it. It all points to internal strife, and perhaps for the first time, Israel is pitted against its gungho supporters. While the lib jews whistle in the wind, ‘not in my name’.
    Makes you wanna believe there could be a messiah. But any messiah type would be butchered by the neo con zealots, he (or she) would be framed, bugged, drugged and harrassed and maligned out of his (or her) mind.

  3. David Seaton says:

    Lord, Lord, Tony, I hope you are right. I am of the same belief that if the USA could attack Iran, it already would have, and with gold at $1000, oil well over $100 and the financial system headed south, war is unthinkable…But Lord, Lord Tony… All of this hangs on logic and intelligence… The Spanish philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset once said that if forced to choose between bad people and stupid people he would choose the bad people, because, he said, “bad people sometimes take a rest.”

    Everything we are saying here is based on the idea that George W. Bush is a normal, rational, human being.. and really, as we survey the ruin this man has caused everywhere he has been able to, on what do we base our optimism?

    So, just in proper homage to the perversity of the gods of fate, I wish you would at least knock on wood and spit over your shoulder when you speak with such optimism.

  4. FredJ says:

    “…speculate that this is a sure sign…”

    This expression is an abuse of the English language.

    The evidence of an impending attack on Iran is thin. It doesn’t seem more likely this month than last. I think it would set things back in Iraq.

    It could just be that Fallon got into too many squabbles with Petraeus and Fallon lost out. Petraeus is seen is vital, Fallon not.

    If the US didn’t try to do anything silly like “Install democracy”, it could destroy the military and nuclear capabilities of Iran. But too many people would want evidence that Bush and Cheney had got it right this time.

    In order for an invasion or take-down to work they probably would have to first acquire the Iranian oil and uranium, then lay siege to the rest of the country. Bloody, to say the least.

    I’m not terribly worried about Iranian retaliation, outside of the oil weapon. If Iran could hurt the US, it would have done so already. I don’t think they’ve been holding back.

  5. Abe Bird says:

    Attacking the nuke facilities of Iran is necessary for the safety of the world. Iran is a crazy state leaden by an extreme bunch of fanatic Mullahs.

    I’m sure the US under any new president will approve the mission if Bush won’t do it until January 2009. We are not talking about a ground invasion but air attacks by missiles and planes. I’m eager to see its coming into mission. The flames of the explosions in Iran will bring calm and ease to it all neighbors.

  6. E L says:

    Your reasoning fails to take into account Bush’s need to preserve his legacy through McCain. As the economy becomes more and more the top issue, (75% now think we’re in a recession and 40% think the economy is issue #1), a topic on which McCain is basically clueless, Bush will have to push the election back to McCain’s favor by causing the public to focus on national security aka “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran” (lyrics courtesy of John McCain).

  7. Dave Bowman says:

    Abe, you must be insane–I’ll bet a sum of money larger than the Bear Stearns buyout you were making the same crazy talk before the US invasion of Iraq, and that didn’t turn out so well either.

    Sorry, but Israel has seen the high-water mark of US support, and it’s only going downhil from here…like you and your settler friends should be.

  8. The US should immediately attack Iran with 23,000 sorties in 72 hours, taking out ALL, underground nuclear weapons facilities, SAM sights, 1 million man army, all Russian Missile Launchers, All Long Range ICBMs. It will balance power in the region and give Iraq a good chance to achieve its future. Immediately is a very good time.

  9. Earl Divoky says:

    I was reading a news report from 2002 where Crazy Benny Netanyahu sensibly advocated broadcasting “subversive” TV programs like “Melrose Place” and “Beverly Hills 90210” into Iran to bring down the regime by corrupting their youth. He was also touting the advantages of invading and occupying Iraq–but that would just be crazy talk!

  10. MFB says:

    Well, I’m afraid that I am afraid of Dick Cheney. This is just like the arguments explaining why the US wasn’t going into Iraq. The US would not have ratcheted up the possibility of war if it believed that Iran was a serious contender. Iran is probably a lot weaker than it looks from the outside, and the US can do it a lot of damage through bombardment.

    Iran is also a country which once embarrassed the United States. Like Hizbollah in Lebanon, the clans in Mogadishu, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Aristide in Haiti. Is it just me, or is there a pattern here?

  11. spyguy says:

    I have a few simple questions for Lance Winslow:

    – Why do you think the US actually has the capability to do what you suggest? For example, all credible information I have seen says the US does NOT have the capability of damaging, let alone destroying Iran’s underground facilities. As for destroying the rest of the stuff, all indications I have seen are that the Iranians have learned very well from history and much of their capability would remain intact after an 72 hour bombardment. That is, they would be very capable of making life miserable for the US for a long time. The only major result of such an attack would be the death of lots of civilians whose friends and relatives would feel it was their duty to kill as many Americans and Israelis as possible. As for Iraq, most of the people of Iraq would side with the Iranians, AGAINST the US and would happily kill as many Americans as they could to help the Iranians.

    – So Lance, exactly how does your food get to you? I guarantee that nearly 100% of it is transported on trucks and trains that require diesel to be able to move. When Iran halts all oil shipping in the Persian gulf, how are you going to eat?

    Basically what Lance calls for is suicidal for the US. It would just get lots of people in the US killed for a long time (initially lack of food then revenge killings by Iranians).

    That being said, there is nothing preventing Bush from following Lances insane suggestions. Remember Bush is a “true believer” and will not let little things like drastic consequences deflect him from his divinely inspired path of history.

    This is why I suspect I just may win the substantial bet I have that US/Israel will attack Iran before Bush is thrown out of office. I would love to lose the bet, but fear I won’t.

  12. morris says:

    Tony’s article is a political orbituary, but the legacy is going to be soup kitchens. Which ironically would hasten the allure of Islam.
    The US and some of the west is going to resemble post soviet Russia, where only the fierce have any buying power.
    As for the hawks who have posted here, they don’t consider the 1,000 plus Russian scientists working in Iran’s nuclear facilities, I guess they want to bomb them too.
    My bet is, the Iranians have the capability to destroy any thing within a couple thousand miles. There would also be the likelyhood of Pakistan joining them, Turkey’s alignment is not a certainty, the mehdi army is surely full of surprises. And surface ships are absolute history, Lebanon proved that. And don’t you think Syria has 23,000 projectiles?
    With no killings or kidnappings of Palestians in the last 2 days let’s hope a tektonic shift is taking place.

  13. dana says:


    Why not let the belligerent white and black knights battle it out between themselves, while leaving populations alone?

    Iran represent no threat to anyone; has even gone out of its way to take on supplementary, non-obligatory inspections so as to calm fears regarding its nuclear enrichment program.

    That said, Iran may well pose an economic challenge to Israel’s regional hegemony, but that’s Israel’s problem, and Israel’s alone.

    It’s high time that Israel learn to be a decent neighbor, by force of allied disengagement and sanctions, if necessary.

    There comes a time when enough is enough.

  14. FredJ says:

    Israel has been a poor neighbor to Iran?

  15. Vox_in_Deserto says:

    “The US should immediately attack Iran with 23,000 sorties in 72 hours, taking out ALL … Immediately is a very good time.”

    There are indeed strong reasons for doing it right this Friday.

    First, Fridays are Muslim holidays and so the number of civilian casualties would be mininal. (After all, Iranian nuclear facilities are manned by civilians, and the Decider would not want to be accused of war crimes).

    Secondly, world markets will be closed because of Good Friday, giving the US exactly 72 hours to wipe out all Iranian response capabilities, so that on Monday market disruption would be minimal. (After all, Jesus forgives, Wall St. doesn’t.)

    And as the op would be the ultimate blasphemy (for Christians), its code name might as well be OFN: Operation Fifth Nail.

  16. Matthew says:

    Mr. Winslow: The US should immediately attack Iran with 23,000 sorties in 72 hours, taking out ALL, underground nuclear weapons facilities, SAM sights, 1 million man army, all Russian Missile Launchers, All Long Range ICBMs. It will balance power in the region and give Iraq a good chance to achieve its future. Immediately is a very good time.”

    Nice rant. Apparently, you missed “Judgment at Nuremberg.”

  17. KB says:

    Hey Lance
    If you are such a military genius, how come you did not sugest that when we invaded Iraq?
    That would have ended the misery there.
    You sit on your couch at home and dream of these stupid chicken crap scenarios thinking that we still bombing Dresden.
    Wake you ignorant ass and look this is a new type of war. One that we are not good at it yet. This is a guerilla war. No one will face us head to head. They want to bleed us to death.
    Maybe we should send Rambo there. Hell, after all he defeated all of North Vietnam, and the Russians in Afghanistan.

  18. KB says:

    Hey fascist Fred
    r u back 2 your fascist blind support of Israel?
    I know u think that Israel has the right to kill anyone at anytime and not held responsible for its act.
    The whole world should kneel to Israel and go along with its wishes.
    Not me or any just and intelligent humane being out there.
    Remember every dog has its day.
    One day we Americnans are going to get fed up of Israel’s crap and we will leave it to its own device.
    I hope that will come soon.
    Only then will Israel learn to live peacefully with its neigbors.

  19. Pingback: Opposing views on America’s Likudnik war with Iran « Les dessous de l’information mondiale-Downside World News

  20. Mike Macathy says:

    Nice video from Youtube right ? Tony karon.

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