Considering the location of America’s embassy in Israel is symbolism, and symbolism detached from substance is childishness, it was to be expected the children pretending to be foreign policy analysts obsessed over the embassy.
To Hamiltonians the embassy registers as the brief footnote that it is. But substance draws us to the Israeli-Saudi proxy war with Iran.
That proxy war is not only the substance, but also an excellent opportunity to employ game theory and illustrate via real-world practice a key Hamiltonian foreign policy principle of Regionalism.
Hamiltonian Regionalism is defined as:
A Realist strategy where a great Capitalistic power uses regional alliances with other Capitalistic states to check any threat from a hostile power to either the physical security or commercial interests of the allied Capitalists. Minor powers have the option of being part of this alliance, neutral outside of it, or hostile. Regardless whether minor powers join or not, the great power is able to exercise this strategy so long as other advanced powers agreed to the system.
And the Regionalist principle we will explore is concentration of force –
Offshore balancing unites the expansive military assets of great empires while reducing the expenses associated with governing empire. Imperial overreach is mitigated because the great power may often practice concentration of its own forces while lowering any resentment by regional allies.
Next year, American forces will be overwhelmingly concentrated against North Korea.
Although that conflict will take up most of our attention we will still be able to check, via our Israeli and Saudi proxies, Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East because Regionalism takes advantage of keeping threatened allies well armed:
Preferably, threatened allies should be given as much indirect American support as possible so their native militaries can deal with any potential conflict while we keep our own military concentrated for other threats. Indirect support may consist of any combination of diplomatic, economic or indirect military support such as training, intelligence sharing, weapons supplying, dispatching military advisors, special operations support, and so forth.
The motto for this principle of making allies as self-sufficient as possible is –
Every threatened ally armed
The Saudis and Israelis are more than armed enough to take on Iran’s proxies. For Hamiltonians it is just a matter of formulating an optimal strategy under game theory from which to use their militaries against Iran.
The first thing to do in game theory is outlining the various objectives of the players.
Statisticians normally write out the objectives of each player using a table grid with rank-order values of the risk-reward considerations associated with each possible action in the table cells. But for the purposes of this article listing out the objectives point-by-point will be sufficient.
First, the Iranian objective –
- Iran’s broad objective is to expand their power among Shiite or Shiite-aligned actors across the Levant, Iraq, and the Gulf.
Iran’s strategy to achieve this objective involves propping up their various terrorist and nation state proxies and develop nuclear weapons that will deter their enemies from retaliating against Iranian aggression.
The objectives of Iran are in direct conflict with the interests of the United States in numerous ways. To the extent Iran achieves its objectives Iran becomes more of a threat by –
- Threatening the stability and security of America’s Gulf Arab allies and the flow of oil through the strategically critical Straight of Hormuz. By extension, threatening American Gulf allies and the oil trade each pose a threat to American economic stability and the petro-dollar.
- Threatening the security of Israel with Syrian and Lebanese proxies.
- Threatening the security of Saudi Arabia with Yemeni proxies.
- Threatening American control of Iraq which is currently governed by a weak Shiite government.
From the Hamiltonian perspective, all of these threats to the interests of America, Big Oil, international Capitalism, and American allies are sufficient grounds to justify severe punishment against Iran for its ambitions. The Hamiltonian weapons of choice to inflict this punishment are our Israeli and Saudi allies.
The most recent American interest in keeping Iran in check is bolstering the new King of Saudi Arabia. Although I do not believe he can reform or moderate the religion of Islam itself, the King has shown a new willingness to crack down on funding of Islamic terrorists overseas. By itself, that warrants America backing the King in this proxy war. If the American-Israeli-Saudi side wins the proxy war, the King will see his power and influence among other Islamic nations enhanced greatly; and the greater his influence across the Muslim world the better the chances are for reducing terrorism. If he fails, however, it could lead to the downfall of the King and the emergence of a more terrorist-friendly government in Saudi Arabia.
But what constitutes a win for the American side?
To flesh this out, we again use game theory to specify our objectives and then derive a strategy.
Constraints will be applied to the mission with the following two assumptions –
- It is impractical to invade Iran and overthrow the government.
- There will always be some Shiite Muslim influence stretching from Iran to Lebanon.
Given these assumptions, if destruction of the Iranian government is infeasible and Iran will always exert some sway over its fellow Shiite Muslims, then the American-Israeli-Saudi objective is as follows –
Objective: Cripple Iran as a Middle Eastern power while leaving the Iranian government in power. Thereafter, contain a greatly weakened Iran with an American backed proxy-coalition of Israel and Sunni Gulf Arab states.
The strategy to achieve this objective will be made up of various Israeli and Saudi actions in different proxy theaters with the backing of America.
The different theaters from West to East and the strategies best suited for each theater –
Lebanon – From a game theory perspective Lebanon is the most likely theater in the near future for a confrontation to emerge between American and Iranian proxy forces. The Lebanese government is technically Saudi aligned, but it exists in an unstable coalition government with the anti-Saudi Hezbollah.
A difficult decision awaits Iran in Lebanon. On one hand, Iran is probably eager to see the coalition government fall and Hezbollah take its place. The risk for Iran is that Israel would almost certainly attack Hezbollah without Hezbollah being able to count on outside reinforcements. Hezbollah’s normal military partner, Bashar Assad, is too weak to intervene in Lebanon. Meanwhile Iran is too far away to send its own forces. If Hezbollah goes to war against Israel, Hezbollah will go alone. On the other side, Israel will be able to count on support from the most pro-Israel President ever and Saudi Arabia.
The risk military isolation poses to Hezbollah makes a war with Israel very, very dangerous for this Iranian proxy. Yet how much longer can a pro-Saudi government last with Hezbollah as a partner in government?
The American coalition’s strategy should be to wait to see if Hezbollah brings down the government. If it does, America and the Saudis should fully support an Israeli invasion to severely weaken Hezbollah.
Syria – The Israeli-Saudi strategy has been to support the removal of Assad. In my opinion this is the wrong strategy. The fall of Assad would have left a power vacuum that Iran could have filled with other terrorist proxies. Leaving a gravely weakened Assad in power is better because Assad’s weakness will be easier to leverage into concessions favorable to the Israelis and Saudis.
One of the concessions Israel, with American backing, should demand is removal of Iranian forces from Syria. In exchange, Israel would agree to recognize Assad’s government. Assad is already desperate to calm tensions with Israel and he has recently proposed to create a 40 mile buffer zone between Israel and Iranian forces. The Israelis should demand further concessions while making narrow strategic attacks against Iranian forces stationed in Syria.
To diplomatically bolster the Israeli negotiating position further the United States should also insist on the removal of Iranian forces.
Iraq – This is the most worrisome theater from America’s perspective. Iraq’s Shiite led government is too friendly with Iran. The United States should leverage its power over Iraq to remove any Iranian influence and traffic from going to Iraq to prevent the Iranians from causing trouble in this theater.
Yemen – In its effort to install a Sunni Saudi-puppet dictator in Yemen, the Saudi government is currently fighting rebel Shiite militias backed by Iran with a coalition of Sunni Gulf Arab states. Saudi Arabia is also starving millions of Shiite civilians to death by blockading Yemeni ports. America’s position should be to encourage the Saudi led coalition to attack Shiite rebels still more aggressively, and continue with the blockade in order to break the Shiite rebellion. Humanitarian concerns should not factor into this proxy war effort in any way whatsoever.
Iran – Finally, Iran itself deserves to be subjected to two actions. The first is for America to reimpose the heavy economic sanctions that were lifted by the Islamic terrorist supporting government of Barack Obama. Proxy warfare is inherently more suitable for strong states with great resources to distribute to its proxies. Iran is a weak state with few resources playing a great power’s game. It should be punished for its overestimation of its own power with the destruction of the Iranian economy, a destruction which by extension will mean Iranian proxies will have fewer Iranian resources to rely on.
Second, preparations should be made by both Israel and America for an Israeli airstrike to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. Because American airpower will have its hands full waging war against North Korea, Israel should coordinate its own air offensive to knock out Iran’s program. America should open Iraqi airspace and reserve logistical support (in-flight refueling, intelligence sharing, electronic warfare, etc) for use by the Israeli Airforce for an attack on Iran.
An Iran left with a broken economy, deprived of a nuclear deterrent, and its proxies left contained or in tatters, will be neutralized as a threat even if the Ayatollahs remain in power. And this fierce punishment against the Iranians can be delivered by armed American allies while America concentrates its own guns further East.