Establish a Naval Hotline In the Gulf

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ignatius small.jpgDavid Ignatius has made one of the only constructive suggestions I have seen regarding iran’s seizure of 15 British sailors — the establishment of a naval hotline modeled on the US-Soviet sea conflict resolution framework.
We used to spend a lot of money and effort trying to minimize miscommunication, accidents, escalation in great power conflicts.
Today, it often appears that violent or hawkish political minorities seem to exploit vulnerable decisionmaking systems as well as manipulate ambiguity to provoke attacks on various targets — teasing the impulses of rage and emotion that tend towards over-amplification of threats, disproportionate military responses, nationalistic chest-thumping and saber-rattling,
It’s almost as if decision-makers today resent infrastructure that would decrease error because of their desire to trip and fumble into war. Right Mr. Feith?
— Steve Clemons

Comments

10 comments on “Establish a Naval Hotline In the Gulf

  1. Carroll says:

    A “hotline” in the ME seems premature to me …what is the point of a hotline when you don’t have any “policy” except conquest? A hotline would be just another tool for minipulation by this adm.
    I am hoping like hell Leon Hadar is right in his wondering about whether Washington is being sidelined in the ME.
    >a snip from his article>
    “From that perspective, when U.S. officials and pundits warn of the “chaos” that would follow a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, they are actually expressing their anxiety over their real nightmare scenario – a Middle East in which the United States is marginalized to a position of little power, with the other players in the region making deals with each other with little consideration of U.S. concerns. In other words, the formation of a regional security structure in the Persian Gulf that involves Saudi Arabia and Iran but not Washington, an organization that could facilitate cooperation between Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria to stabilize Iraq, and foster moves toward a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.”
    >>>>>>>>
    N-o-t-h-i-n-g will ever,ever,ever be settled in the ME or Isr-Pal until the US is pushed out. It would be a dream come true for Saudi and Iran to come to some power sharing agreement. In additon to bringing the curtain down on the Isr-Pal conflict it would also help bring an end to the civil war in Iraq.
    In fact what we should do is offer any Saudi-Iran allience joint ownership of the mega city military base we built around Saddam’s old palaces in Iraq and they can turn it into a United Nations like center for the Arab nations.

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  2. Steve Clemons says:

    headline junky — that surprises me too actually. we clearly haven’t been in the business of establishing certainty, and cautious controls in warfare lately… i had no idea that we were not hotline connected to China.
    Thanks for highlighting this,
    steve

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  3. Headline Junky says:

    Steve, one thing that surprised me about Chairman Pace’s recent visit to China was the suggestion that the US and China establish a direct hotline to prevent similar misunderstandings from escalating. Surprising because I would have imagined one already existed from the Nixon/Kissinger days.

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  4. Mike says:

    The idea is not war, it’s “creative chaos,” the idea being you apply pressure on countries you dislike and force them to step down by means of everything less than war. It’s seen as a win-win policy: if it works, you gain the upper hand, if it doesn’t, the leader has the popular authority and conceptual framework necessary to launch war.
    But the unforeseen consequences is that the enemy will choose not to give in to this game, and will instead actually abide by important international norms for the most part (Iran, specifically in terms of the NPT and their ostensible support for Iraqi self-determination- not to say they don’t disregard other less fundamental norms), while at the same time preparing the military for any possible confrontation, thus countering Bush’s move of ramping up for war.
    It all boils down to a chess game, geopolitics, and the Iranian side realizing just how much the whole thing is a game, constructed, and Bush and the U.S. taking the game for reality, thinking that all their grandstanding talk about “axes of evil” and “War on terror” has any relevance to reality as it is.

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  5. Michael says:

    Mike wrote:
    “Actually, I think the idea of having a naval hotline is an incredibly good idea, regardless of who may be answering the phone on either side. If this established a very basic, pragmatic connection between Iranian Revolutionary Guard command and US commanders on the ground, who are generally kind of cautious, this would make it a lot more unlikely that we would have unnecessary incidents between Iran and the U.S.”
    All snark aside, yes, obviously, anything that might reduce tensions in the area is worth considering, but during the Cold War, the goal of both beligerant parties was to avoid accidently incenerating each other.
    I honestly don’t know what the goal of the Bush administration might be, here. Maybe they would like to avoid a war with Iran, maybe not.

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  6. Daniel CAZ Greenberg says:

    As a heads-up, the “constructive suggestions” link appears to be miswritten. I had to add an H to the front of the URL to get it to work (it’s http, not ttp).
    An INCSEA for the Gulf region is a terrific idea. Anything that’s bringing them in to talks of proper conduct, and that’s helping prevent a situation like this from happening again, seems like a good thing. We have way too little talk and far too much walk right now – I think greatly illustrated in the negative press on the successful British negotiation for the 15 sailors.
    I agree with David.

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  7. Mike says:

    “The problem with having a hotline is, who answers the phone? If it’s Darth Cheney, or someone like him, or anyone who answers to him, we’re right back where we started. And unless we have a ready supply of magic fairy dust, the kind you just sprinkle on the phone and it tells you whether the caller is lying or not, there is no way of knowing whether the Brits really were in Iraqi waters, or Tony just added that bit for theatrical effect.”
    Actually, I think the idea of having a naval hotline is an incredibly good idea, regardless of who may be answering the phone on either side. If this established a very basic, pragmatic connection between Iranian Revolutionary Guard command and US commanders on the ground, who are generally kind of cautious, this would make it a lot more unlikely that we would have unnecessary incidents between Iran and the U.S.
    But what is urgently needed above and beyond what Steve rightly asks for is an honest commitment to diplomacy on the side of the U.S. and a disavowal of the ugly black-ops campaign against Iran, which I have detailed elsewhere.

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  8. Michael says:

    I have an even better idea: let’s have a rule that prevents any one individual – like the president, for instance – from starting a war on their say-so alone. That way we can be reasonably sure that, even when there are ambiguities and bad actors in the process, commencing hostilities will depend on something more than a “he said, she said” dialog coming out of a black box somewhere in the Pentagon or White House.
    Oops. Seems someone else thought of it first – the Constitution of the US, Article I, Section 8:
    “[The Congress shall have Power To] declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water…”
    The problem with having a hotline is, who answers the phone? If it’s Darth Cheney, or someone like him, or anyone who answers to him, we’re right back where we started. And unless we have a ready supply of magic fairy dust, the kind you just sprinkle on the phone and it tells you whether the caller is lying or not, there is no way of knowing whether the Brits really were in Iraqi waters, or Tony just added that bit for theatrical effect.
    What we need more than anything is a Congress willing to get off its collective bicameral and bipartisan butt and actually perform its constitutional duties of due dilligence and oversight. I honestly don’t know what’s more egregious: that someone in the House felt it necessary to state, explicitly, in a military appropriations bill that Bush had to seek approval from Congress before attacking Iran, or that Pelosi got cold feet and took it out.

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  9. bAkho says:

    It is interesting that reports are linking the release of an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Iraq by the Americans to the capture of the sailor. Were the Iranians looking for hostages that they could exchange? That would make the capture of sailors go far beyond ‘unintentional”.

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  10. asdf says:

    Well there is Feith based “intelligence”, but history offers an example much closer to a Iran/west maritime incident. Have a look at what recently declassified materials tell us about the collection and treatment of intelligence about the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB132/press20051201.htm
    Its these things that make phrases like: “We found *no evidence* that intelligence annalist were pressured into supporting Iraq WMD claims” worthless.
    If I recall the WMD rapport correctly that bit was followed with something along the lines of: “but there is no denying that criticism was considered bad for ones career”… Somehow that bit didn`t get much attention.

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