Thursday, January 12, 2012

Covert actions against Iran are overt

Someone is attempting to kill Iran’s nuclear weapon program by killing Iranian scientists. Say what you will about the tactic but the tactic is overt, not covert. True covert actions do not get press the day of the action. Overt is an absurd adjective, in this case.

Presently, we’re expending a great deal of your tax dollars keeping the Strait of Hormuz open to ensure China receives her daily dose of petroleum. The US is no more than contracted military security for another nation. Apparently, this isn’t an issue for us (US). I suppose it’s the necessary price of doing business for which we’ve become accustomed…and numbed.

The overt killings will lead to overt and perhaps even covert retaliation by Iran. Iran’s president is in Cuba today. We should be concerned and I suspect our Defense Department is briefing the President again today. What are our choices; our courses of action? More sanctions? Reign in Israel a bit? Collaborate with Israel? Do nothing? Initiate diplomacy with a higher sense of urgency? Channel diplomatic action through a friendly-to-Iran surrogate?

I sense that our President is leveraging all of the above and more in this case. I have confidence in our government to explore all possibilities and creatively mitigate.

Yet, we have become comfortable with military solutions to problems. Our military and intelligence services are far more sophisticated and agile than our State Department. That lack of diplomatic agility should be a concern. Our lack of patience, out-of-balance with our incredible ability to strike, makes us vulnerable in the long run.

We could do well by resurrecting George Kennan’s “Mr. X dispatch” today and remind ourselves how “containment” worked in the past.

If we choose covert courses of action, we should not read about them in the New York Times.

Photo of George Kennan (1904-2005) is from The Institute of Advanced Study

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