Hard at the task of rehabilitating the Iraq war on the grounds that such a war was “inevitable”, historian Arthur Herman claims “by the time George Bush entered the White House in January 2001, the United States was already at war with Iraq, and in fact had been at war for a decade, ever since the first Gulf war in the early 1990’s.”
There is obviously a huge difference between an economic sanctions regime backed by occasional airstrikes, and a hundred thousand-strong invasion force piling into Iraq. The latter is generally understood as war, the former as… an economic sanctions regime backed by occasional airstrikes. One can argue that the situation as it existed in the 1990s vis a vis Iraq was unsustainable — I agree that it was — but Herman’s retroactively redefining that situation as “war” is a pretty transparent attempt to downplay the radical nature of President Bush’s doctrine of preventive war, to ignore the massive and unprecedented propaganda campaign that was used to sell this doctrine to the American people, and to shift blame for the massive costs incurred by what is now correctly understood as an unnecessary war of choice.
But not only does Herman want to convince us that the U.S. was already at war with Iraq then, he also would have us to believe that the U.S. is “already at war with Iran” now. Making this argument back in October, Herman wrote that “a realistic war scenario with Iran would involve an extensive air and naval campaign without a single American soldier having to set foot on Iranian soil” :
From start to finish, such an operation would probably require no more than one more carrier group than is already in the area, as well as one Airborne Brigade Combat Team and one Marine Expeditionary Brigade, combined with Special Ops units-fewer troops than reinforced General Petraeus’s current surge in Iraq. In a matter of days or weeks, the key components of the Iranian oil industry would be in American hands even as Iran itself ground to a halt.
As if the spectacle of warmongers promising cakewalks in neoconservative magazines weren’t enough to set off alarm bells, note that Herman’s October item received admiring comment from none other than Michael Ledeen, who theorized (just to pick one of countless examples of Ledeenian silliness) back in 2003 that France and Germany had “struck a deal with radical Islam and with radical Arabs: You go after the United States, and we’ll do everything we can to protect you, and we will do everything we can to weaken the Americans.”