With John Bolton joining the White House as President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, risk of the U.S. going to war with Iran has increased to levels not seen since Dick Cheney was vice president.
Bolton and Cheney were both architects of the Iraq war, a war that Bolton publicly stands behind to this day. And Bolton has consistently advocated bombing Iran ― and even pressed United Nations Ambassador Nicki Haley to trigger a confrontation in order to kill the Iran nuclear deal. Bolton’s nomination has Americans rightly alarmed that we could soon be dragged into yet another quagmire in the Middle East.
But war with Iran will be nothing like the disastrous invasion of Iraq. It will be much, much worse ― with far more American lives lost.
Saddam Hussein’s army ― although one of the strongest in the Middle East in terms of size ― was no match for the U.S. military. Within three weeks, the Iraqi army had been completely defeated. In fact, the overwhelming majority (roughly 90 percent) of American deaths in Iraq did not come as a result of the initial invasion ― they came during the ensuing occupation.
Saddam’s military was so easily crushed partly because the Iraqi dictator had put all of his eggs in one basket: A conventional military. In a direct force-on-force confrontation with the U.S., no conventional military in the Middle East stands a chance.
That’s precisely why the Iranians have prepared a completely different strategy.
The Iranians know very well that the American public has little tolerance for war casualties. Thus, their defense strategy has been primarily aimed at deterring an attack by preparing attrition warfare that raises America’s risks and costs.