There have been several stories in the media lately claiming that the Pentagon is updating plans for an attack on Iran.
For those of you whose knowledge of the military is based on Hollywood movies, let me fill you in. Every unit in the Army, from the Battalion level on up, has a section devoted to planning. The other services have similar systems. Those planners naturally focus on responses to the most likely future events. At the lower levels, that’s all they have time for. At higher levels of command, though, the planners think about all sorts of possible operations, and write up plans to carry them out if and when it becomes necessary.
Naturally, if a potential trouble spot starts to look more troublesome, the planners haul out the old paperwork, blow the dust off of it, and update it to better fit the current situation. And also naturally, when the military writes up a plan to respond to a trouble spot, they write it up as a military solution. That doesn’t mean they particularly want to carry it out. It doesn’t mean they think a military solution is the best or the only option. It simply means that if things go bad in the political and diplomatic arenas, and the civilian leadership gives the order to take action, a good soldier does not intend to be caught saying, “Um, well, we’re not sure if we can do that, let me get back to you in a week or two…”
I’ve never seen the files of plans in the Pentagon, but I suspect that if the press got a look at them, our diplomats would be working overtime for years to smooth the ruffled feathers. There are probably plans in the files to carry out all sorts of horrible operations, too dreadful for anyone to contemplate – but the planners have to contemplate them, that’s their job. There may be plans to bomb Iran, and to invade it. Odds are pretty good that we have plans to attack China. To bomb either India or Pakistan, or both, in case their bickering goes nuclear. There’s probably plans to invade France or Germany, too – those protests they have from time to time might blow up, after all. There might even be plans on the books to destroy or conquer Canada, just in case they get tired of us stealing all their acting and comedic talent and declare war on Hollywood – which, unfortunately, we are still obligated to defend.
In the United States, the military functions under civilian control. We maintain plans to do all sorts of horrible things, because we never know what sort of stupidity our civilian leaders may get us into. All we know for sure is that when it starts to get ugly, it’s our job to fix it. And when that happens, we don’t have time to start from scratch.