Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Right Men in the Right Place

In an earlier post, we cautioned against reading too much into current U.S. military moves in the Persian Gulf. Nothing we've seen (so far) suggests that President Bush has made a decision to attack Iran. However, the Commander-in-Chief is wisely keeping his options open, in the event that a strike becomes necessary.

The most likely impetus for that scenario remains the Iranian nuclear program, or more specifically, hard evidence that Tehran is about to acquire--or has actually acquired--atomic weapons. Readers will note that most "official" U.S. estimates put that timetable toward the end of this decade. Those assessments may be based (in part) on information provided by that recent Iranian defector, who reportedly spied for the west for more than four years.

However, there are other events that might prompt a U.S. military strike against Iran, including attacks against our naval vessels and oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, or a "mass casualty" event among American troops in Iraq that can be traced to Tehran.

While we don't see anything in the tea leaves that would suggest that military action is imminent (on either side), it is interesting to note some of the moves the Pentagon is making, just in case. In some instances, these preparations have been widely publicized, such as the decision to send more Patriot missile batteries to the Persian Gulf Region. Those weapons would be vital in defending airfields, ports, logistics centers and troop concentrations from Iranian air and missile attacks.

In other cases, moves are being made at the "micro" level, to ensure the right leaders are in place--if the balloon goes up. Consider the recent announcement that Air Force Brigadier Generals Larry Wells and Burton Field are being reassigned to head Air Expeditionary Wings in the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, respectively.

While such rotations occur on a regular basis--both positions are one-year "remote" tours, it's no accident that General Wells and General Field were selected for those assignments. Both are experienced wing commanders; Field's currently leads the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, VA, the Air Force's first F-22 unit. He also served a tour as commander of the 8th Fighter Wing (located at Kunsan AB, Korea), and has decades of experience as an F-16 pilot. Just the sort of guy you'd want as commander of the 332nd Wing at Balad, the base that serves as our primary fighter hub in Iraq--and could be a potential staging base for operations against Iran.

General Wells is also an experienced F-16 driver who most recently served as Assistant Director of Operations for the Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC). Before that, he was Commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB, California, home of the Air Force's U-2 fleet, and key elements of the intelligence architecture that support that aircraft and our UAVs. As it happens, General Wells new assignment will put him in charge of an organization (the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing) that "owns" much of our air refueling and reconnaissance capability in the Persian Gulf. The 380th is located at Al Dhafra, AB, a facility used by U.S. forces since the first Gulf War.

Obviously, the assignment of two Air Force brigadier generals to lead these units is not a harbinger of imminent hostilities against Iran. But as our stand-off with Tehran nears a critical phase, it's clear that USAF leadership wants its most experienced commanders to lead front-line units, just in case.

1 comment:

crosspatch said...

What bothers me is that Iran will be able to hold those hostages for a very, very long time. They will use Europe's "avoid war at any cost" mentality to extract a great cost as they ratchet the rhetoric up and down using the hostages to modulate the price of oil on world markets.

Iran's behavior is like that of an adolescent schoolyard bully who grabs another kid's lunch and taunts him with it and demands that the kid do humiliating things in order to get the lunch back.

Iran has mistaken a reluctance on the part of others to beat the daylights out of them as weakness or they have decided that the reluctance is, in effect, weakness because potential never used is potential lost.

What Iran risks in all of this is that we will tire of the game and when we decide to react, will not limit ourselves to just enough force to get our lunch back. Maybe we will tire of the entire game and react with enough force to prevent Iran from ever being able to do that to anyone ever again.

The older I get the more I tire of these games. We could simply incinerate the country. After 30 years of putting up with their games and their murderous ways, that option is sounding less and less horrible. Maybe it is time the kids banded together and beat the living crap out of the bully once and for all.