Saturday, December 10, 2011

Covert War With Iran

Fox News is speculating that the United States has been conducting a covert war of intelligence, sabotage, and assassination against Iran.  They point out Stuxnet, the recent loss of a surveillance drone over Iran, explosions at Iranian military and nuclear facilities, and the killings of Iranian scientific and military personnel connected with missile and nuclear weapons research.

Now, I think it's pretty clear how I feel about Iran.  If we're in a covert war against them, I see it as an escalation of the war they've been fighting against us since 1979.  Iran and the United States have been fighting each other through proxies for 30 years, and now it appears that things might be getting more sticky.

One question though:  Is this campaign, if indeed we are flying surveillance aircraft into Iranian airspace, attacking their infrastructure, and killing their citizens, no matter how justified it is, legal?

Let's work from the position that we are indeed attacking Iran through non-traditional means.  I'm assuming that President Obama, if not President Bush, gave  permission for such missions to occur.  Does the President have the power to order the military to commit acts of war without an authorization from Congress?  Remember, the power to declare war rests with the legislative branch, not the executive.  If the President is indeed prosecuting a shadow war against Iran, then what piece of legislation can he point to in order to cover his butt?  Not going to argue that Iran has been committing acts of war against us for decades, because they have.  But we hold ourselves to a higher standard than that to which we hold our adversaries.  We are a nation of laws, and the law states that before the President can start a war, he must go to Congress for authorization.

We also have to ask, will blowing up a couple of installations and killing some key personnel be enough to slow down Iran's weapons programs enough for other means to dissuade them from going down that path?  I guess the question could be posed this way:  Could damaging Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, along with killing Oppenheimer and some of his top scientists and engineers have been enough to prevent the United States from developing the atomic bomb in time for it to be useful against Japan in 1945?

If not, then are we willing to take the next step in order to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them?  Are we willing to move away from low-level sabotage and assassination and send in large formations of troops, ships, and aircraft to either occupy Iran or to damage their capability to do this research to the point where they have to start over from square one?  Is that even possible?

All of this is conjecture, of course.  It's quite possible that the explosions and deaths in Iran in the past few months have really been accidents that can occur when you do research on high explosives and solid fuel rockets.  You just have to look at our own early attempts to put a rocket into orbit to see how catastrophically things can fail.  Or it could be another country such as Israel that is conducting covert attacks in Iran, and we're just providing intelligence and other support.

But if the United States truly is conducting a low-level war against Iran, either independently or in concert with other nations, then the President needs to make sure that the representatives of the people are in on the plan and give their legislative approval for it.  He also needs to do a gut check to make sure that if the current strategy, whatever that may be, doesn't meet the goals set out before committing to violating the sovereignty of another country, then he is willing to either admit defeat and deal with the consequences, or take the attacks to the next level and deal with those consequences.


Borepatch said...

We're only obligated to honor the Geneva Conventions with countries that similarly honor them.

DaddyBear said...

No argument here on that Borepatch. But we are obligated to follow our own laws. Law says that the executive branch cannot conduct a war without approval from the legislative branch.

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