Can America beat Iran in a war? Maybe not.


As Trump gets tricked or blunders into a regional war with Iran, maybe it’s time to ask if America could actually beat Iran in a military conflict.

Conventional wisdom says America’s war machine is unstoppable, but is it?

While Trump can always resort to nuclear weapons to finalise things, let’s not pretend for one second any military action will be costless to America.

In 2002, America conducted a military training experiment modelling a conflict between Iran and America in the Strait of Hormuz and the results were very, very, very bad for America

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Iran’s two maritime forces—its conventional navy and the navy of the elite Revolutionary Guards—do, however, maintain a missile-equipped fleet of fast attack craft that it claims could take out even the most advanced U.S. warships although some have dismissed the capabilities of such assets. In a mixed computer and live-fire simulation in 2002, a “Red Team” armed with vessels and strategies not unlike those known to be employed by Iran once pummeled a “Blue Team” representing the U.S. to the point where the Pentagon needed to step in to ensure a friendly victory.

The U.S. was already on the path to war with Iraq in 2002, after it accused the country of possessing weapons of mass destructions and threatening regional stability through missile activity and support for militant groups. From July 24 through August 15, the since-dismantled Joint Forces Command conducted a $250 million dollar exercise known as Millennial Challenge that pitted the U.S.’ Blue Team led by Army General Lieutenant General Burwell B. Bell III against a Red Team representing an oil-rich Persian Gulf nation, most associated with either Iran or Iraq, but in actuality led by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper.

Despite being significantly outgunned by a much more technologically-advanced adversary, Van Riper launched a massive shock cruise missile salvo that overwhelmed the Blue Team’ Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System radars, sinking a significant portion of what was the equivalent to a strike carrier group. He then led a shock guerilla-like assault of fast attack craft that finished off much of what remained using missiles and suicide charges.

As Micah Zenko recounted in his 2015 book Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, Bell admitted that Van Riper’s forces had “sunk my damn navy,” and had inflicted “an extremely high rate of attrition, and a disaster, from which we all learned a great lesson.”

Rather than concede the losses, however, the Pentagon’s control team overseeing the exercise simply chose to bring the fallen back to life and then further artificially constrain the Red Team’s abilities in a way that it could not possibly succeed, a disgruntled Van Riper later recounted in a private e-mail leaked by the Army Times. “Instead of a free-play, two-sided game,” he argued, “it simply became a scripted exercise.”

…American over confidence could see Trump blunder into a conflict that could escalate and cause such an enormous amount of damage to the US navy that Trump has to escalate to reap vengeance.

Trump simply doesn’t have the self control or attention span to be an effective military commander, if he trips with Iran, the consequences could be horrific.  So let’s be crystal clear, if Trump blunders into a military conflict with Iran, WE ARE NOT JOINING HIM.


  1. Yeah. General Vo Nguyen Giap of the Vietnamese People’s Army actually tried this tactics of overwhelming US defences at the Tet offensive across Vietnam on January 31 1968 and almost won the war. Sun Zsu would have been proud to see his tactics employed with such deviousness to move all those resources around under the nose of the Americans and surprise them. War they say is the art of the possible.

  2. If this were a racehorse it would be by Suez, out of Vietnam. That is to say, that while in theory the Americans might win, there is no doubt that they would have to escalate the war to a Vietnam-like degree that is politically unacceptable nowadays (bombing cities flat, bringing back the draft) and didn’t even work then BTW.

    Short of that they would eventually be forced by circumstances, and international pressure driven by an oil crisis, to pull back like the nuclear-armed Brits and the soon-to-be-nuclear French when, with Israeli help, they tried to reoccopy the Suez Canal lately nationalised by Egypt in 1956 — a theoretically certain victory, depicted in the 2011 BBC drama The Hour — after the failure of which, as we now know, the British and French empires alike were doomed to fall apart within a decade.

    Here’s the British broadcast announcing the start of the ill-fated Suez intervention, by PM Anthony Eden:

    To reiterate, the British/French/Israelis could have won on paper but they were politically constrained in what they could do in real life, as the USA didn’t support the adventure and the last thing a world still recovering from WWII wanted was a Middle East oil crisis of the kind that would happen later on, twice, in the 1970s.

    For the USA at Suez, read China, Russia and the EU now. Plus the UN, for this time there would not be the fig leaf of a UN resolution as there was with Iraq.

    There are some who say that forcing the USA to retrace the steps of the politically-doomed British/French/Israeli expeditionary force in 1956 is something that hard-line factions in Iran would actually quite look forward to. And of course they probably have a better knowledge of history and the actual limits of imperial power than many Trump-era Americans.

  3. It would not be a question of whether US could win against Iran. It would be whether US can win against Russia. It would quickly escalate into a world wide conflict and involve nuclear weapons as Russian intervention to assist Iran, and probably China’s, would divert US into attacking Russia. And Russia won’t fight another war on Russian ground. This means using the superior missile systems they have developed to take it to the US homeland.
    Trump might be stupid but he isn’t that stupid. Pompio and Bolton; and Pence on the other hand have a religious belief in bringing on armageddon.
    Good Luck
    D J S .

  4. The greater threat I think will be attacks on US vessels in nearby ‘allied’ harbours, like USS Cole in the 1990s. The ‘shoot -don’t shoot’ will be high on the minds of captains knowing the political implications of friendly fire. The larger vessels and submarines will be able to stand off far from the gulf itself using their aircraft and cruise missles. Smaller warships escorting tankers are in the most danger. Any disablement of the Iran power structure will be a cue for other superpowers & regional powers to get troops and munitions involved by proxy.

  5. This article and many of the comments sound like wishful thinking. My understanding is that Trump has pulled back from even a retaliatory strike. Dream on.

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