A military-heavy White House may overestimate the efficacy of hard power and provoke war with Iran

The Washington Post reports: The concentration of military officers is highest in the section of the NSC focused on the Middle East and Iran. For many of those officers, the defining experience of their career was service in Iraq, when President George W. Bush ordered a surge of more than 30,000 troops to stave off near-certain defeat.

It was the war’s most dramatic period, when a force of more than 160,000 U.S. troops was locked in a deadly battle with both Sunni insurgents and Iranian proxies for control of the country.

“The thing that worries me most is that a lot of these officers really forged their view of the world and the Middle East at a particular moment in our occupation of Iraq,” said Colin Kahl, a former Pentagon and White House official who focused on the Middle East.

Today the United States faces a vastly different situation in the region. U.S. troop levels are a small fraction of their Iraq War peak, and chaos and civil war have spread throughout the region.

Kahl said the military-heavy White House could overestimate its ability to influence events in the region or needlessly provoke Iran, leading to more conflict and bloodshed.

It’s also possible that military officers, chastened by the losses in Iraq, will take a more cautious view.

“The conventional wisdom on this is probably wrong,” said Peter Feaver, a senior official in George W. Bush’s White House and professor at Duke University. “Empirically, the military is more reluctant to use force . . . but if force is used, then they want it to be used without restraint.” [Continue reading…]

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