Tuesday, January 17, 2006
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Liberal absurdities on Iran
Perusing the liberal blogosphere over the past week, I see a lot of skepticism regarding U.S. policy towards Iran.
Josh Marshall -- with strong endorsements from Brad DeLong and Matthew Yglesias -- believes the Bush administration is too incompetent to handle Iran:
The prospect of a nuclearized Iran seems far more perilous to me than anything we faced or seemed likely to face with Iraq. But for those of us trying to think through how to deal with this situation, we have to start from the premise that there is no Iran Question, or whatever you want to call it. There's only how to deal with Iran with this administration in place.Now, I certainly have had my doubts about this administration's foreign policy competence in the past few years. Gven the administration's policy to date on Iran, however, this line of argument strikes me as pretty much bulls**t.
Consider what the U.S. has done vis-ŕ-vis Iran:
1) Deferring to the EU-3 on negotiations towards Iran;The approach the Bush administration has pursued towards Iran -- multilateralism, private and public diplomacy, occasionally deferring to allies -- is besotted with the very tropes that liberals like to see in their American foreign policy. I'm still not sure what the end game will be with regard to Iran, but to date I can't see how a Kerry administration would have played its cards any differently than the Bush team.
Just to annoy Atrios, let's close with something Peter Beinart observed in a TNR essay on the Democrats and national security:
Kos and MoveOn have conveniently convinced themselves that the war on terrorism is a mere subset of the struggle against the GOP. Whatever brings Democrats closer to power, ipso facto, makes the United States safer. That would be nice if it were true--but it's clearly not, because, sometimes, Bush is right, and because, to some degree, our safety depends on his success. National security will never be reducible to the interests of the Democratic Party.Kevin Drum thinks liberals need to think seriously about what the appropriate policy should be towards a noncompliant Iran. I think he's right.
[But don't the opportunity costs of Iraq show that the Bush administration can't handle Iran?--ed. For this to be true, you'd have to convince me that:
a) If we hadn't invaded Iraq, Iran would not have tried to develop a nuclear weapons program;I don't buy any of these suppositions.]
UPDATE: To avoid making blanket statements about liberals and Iran, I should point out that Brad Plumer provides an interesting and liberal analysis of Iran. Plumer recommends engagement:
Would security guarantees and real economic incentives from the United States convince the Iranian government to give up its nuclear program—or, at the very least, outsource its uranium enrichment to Russia? Maybe. Maybe not. What I don't understand is why this isn't worth trying. The United States would have to negotiate directly with Iran, which would contradict the Bush administration's longstanding preference not to "appease rogue regimes," true, but a little loss of face is about the worst that would come of trying. If it fails, then move on to step two. But the upsides to a serious attempt at engagement are very high.There is also this op-ed by Dariush Zahedi and Omid Memarian in last week's New York Times. Zahedi and Memarian think sanctions would hurt Iran more than I do:
[T]he plummeting Iranian economy will only worsen if the United States succeeds in referring Iran's nuclear file to the Security Council, whether or not meaningful sanctions follow. Such a referral would accelerate capital flight, deal a blow to the country's already collapsing stock market, devastate its hitherto booming real estate market, and wipe out the savings of a large part of the middle class. It would also most likely result in galloping inflation, hurting Iran's dispossessed, whom the Ahmadinejad administration claims to represent.The problem with this logic is that the group most affected by sanctions is also the strata of society with the least amount of influence over the Iranian government.
On the other hand, Zahedi and Memarian suggest an alternative pressure strategy:
Just as Iran can use the Shiite card to create mischief in the region, the United States could manipulate ethnic and sectarian tensions in Iran, which has significant, largely Sunni, minority populations along its borders.Developing....
LAST UPATE: Stratfor's George Friedman (subscription required) has an interesting view on both the rationality of Ahmadinejad and a surprising take on how Iran is doing in Iraq:
One of the ways to avoid thinking seriously about foreign policy is to dismiss as a nutcase anyone who does not behave as you yourself would. As such, he is unpredictable and, while scary, cannot be controlled. You are therefore relieved of the burden of doing anything about him. In foreign policy, it is sometimes useful to appear to be insane, as it is in poker: The less predictable you are, the more power you have -- and insanity is a great tool of unpredictability. Some leaders cultivate an aura of insanity.
posted by Dan on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM
The elephant in the room is that Bush's choices are limited with respect to Iran, because of his poor decisions on Iraq.
Multi-lateralism and diplomacy is his only option right now.
So his actions in Iran aren't evidence that Bush has done something correctly, but that his options were limited such that he was forced to make this decision.posted by: Rick Latshaw on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
This administration made this crisis. Iran is only acting logically. If my biggest enemy invaded a a neghboring nation and had a history of never invading nuclear nations...going nuclear is a rational action. Especially if doing so is very popular to the domestic audience and standing up to the US is popular with the broader islamic world that iran is trying to lead. Only a foolish regieme would sit back and get "pre-empted"!posted by: centrist on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
It's not that they necessarily think Bush's done wrong so far wrt Iran. I certainly don't, at least.
The problem is that now, even if we get smoking-gun intelligence that Iran is about to do a nuclear test, nobody's going to believe us, because of what the Bushies did with the sketchy and conflicting Iraq intelligence.
THAT'S where Bush screwed up the most. The rest of the world used to pretty much take our word on this kind of stuff. Now, even Poland probably won't.posted by: M1EK on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
To be fair, the GOP is at least as convinced as the Dems that whatever keeps them in power, ipso facto, makes the US safer. Political parties generally think their own policies are superior to those of the opposition by definition.
The problem with the 5 steps you outlined is that they don't seem to be working, and policy wrt Iraq has pretty much taken the threat of a big stick against Iran off the table for a variety of reasons.
As has been mentioned elsewhere, we appear to be past the point of preventing a nuclear Iran. I'm agnostic on the question of whether different choices over the last 5 years would have led to a different outcome, but it's hard to see that it can be avoided now. It would be more productive to look at how we're going to deal with that realityposted by: VAMark on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Certainly Bush has not made the right calls all the time but the MSM has certainly proven that if you state a canard over and over again, it becomes the truth. Bush didn't lie about WMDs in Iraq; at best it turned out false. Every other country's intelligence services backed up the US version, otherwise, the French and the Russians would have screamed it from the rafters at the UN which they did not.
Rather this convenient refrain of Bush lied conducted for political advantage will serve as an unfortunate chain to constrain US options to everyone's detriment, Democrats included. Talk about biting off your nose to spite your face.posted by: jaybo on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
I can't say it better than Firedoglake:
Yesterday's Gore speech made similar observations, and today I find further analysis along these lines by Josh Marshall at TPM, who takes this analysis to the next level: authoritarianism and incompetence go hand in hand, because there is no check to a President who acts like a King -- the King must check himself, and the odds of that happening under this Preznit are slim and none (emphasis on the none).posted by: Cranky Observer on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Jaybo, When it comes to MSM and canards, none beat the 911-iraqi link and the iraq nuclear link. Iraq and botulinum toxin (botox)...you are correct EVERYONE thought they had them.posted by: centrist on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
> none beat the 911-iraqi link
Are you being sarcastic, or are you seriously arguing that there was a link between 9/11 and Iraq? Even after _George W Bush_ admitted there wasn't one?
If the latter, to me that would be the perfect example of why the W Administration and its supporters are not serious about national security and absolutely cannot be trusted with making decisions such as Iran policy.
If the former I apologize.
Crankyposted by: Cranky Observer on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"But don't the opportunity costs of Iraq show that the Bush administration can't handle Iran?--ed. For this to be true, you'd have to convince me that:"
a) If we hadn't invaded Iraq, Iran would not have tried to develop a nuclear weapons program;"
Is this really relevant? Or a rational position to ask of a skeptic?
" b) If we hadn't invaded Iraq, the United States would have been ready, willing and able to invade Iran;"
This is the only option? No discussion of the apparent military strength of the US after the Afghan campaign allowed?
" c) The administration's foreikgn policy apparatus has learned nothing from the mistakes made in Iraq."
Is there evidence they've actually learned anything? The right things? That this wouldn't be a chance for Cheney et al. to prove they were really right the first time which we'd all acknowledge if things had just gone a little better?
Here, esp. with point a), you've essentially said "I've made up my mind and see a binary landscape and only impossible-to-produce evidence could sway me."posted by: rilkefan on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
I don't think that Atrios made a comment on Iran policy. He actually made a point on how the debate on Iran policy is going to be played to f**k the Democrats. His scenario makes sense, given present Republican problems. It's cynical, of course, but that didn't stop Swift Boat Vets. Dan's response also shows how effective it is, because Iran is a genuine headache. Ironically, Iran is bound to played out as an inversion of Iraq, since the US doesn't - I can't believe I'm typing this - have the military capacity to take on Iran. It didn't even had the capacity to take on Iraq. And that's not an unknown unknown anymore.posted by: Dan K on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
There's no need to take the military option off the table. If the threat of a nuclear Iran is so much more substantial than the threat of a nuclear Iraq, then Congress should be asked to institute a draft immediately. We can have a million men under arms before the first gram of weapons-grade material is produced.
But that won't happen, because the Bush administration knows that a nuclear Iran is far from an existential threat to the US. This realization won't tone down their rhetoric, however -- no, the whole prime-time clash of civilizations will be played at top volume. Every decibel of political advantage will be extracted.
I'm not implying that Iran isn't a big problem -- it is much more of a problem than Iraq was. But we've succeeded in tying our own hands by our own bumbling.posted by: modus potus on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
I'm just throwin' this idea out there, but I don't think that a military option is off the table. The reason is that the U.S. is currently angling to put together an arab force to hold down the fort while it engages in adventures in Iran. The nations it is recruiting have a reasonable interest in participating to securing iraq, particularly against a shiite dominated state or vis-a-vis iranian designs on the region.
just something to chew on.posted by: sunship on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
awarded a presidential "medal of freedom" and or named head of he World Bank. haha!posted by: centrist on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Watch out for the "911-Iraq" canard. While links between Al Qaeda and Hussein in respect to 911 do not appear to exist, there has been newly translated documents linking Saddam to extensive training of terrorists. Only 2-3% of that cache of documents has been translated, so more evidence of terrorist links may be established.posted by: jaybo on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Where are all the neo-cons while Iran goes nuclear? Choking on humple pie...served up with a heaping serving of stale "freedom fries"!posted by: Copowell on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
* Copowell - ...which is exactly the kind of celebratory "if it's bad for them it must be good for us" attitude which Beinert correctly criticizes in the excerpt Dan quotes.
* The EU - or at least France and Germany - was very much in favor of using a diplomacy-only approach in handling Iraq, instead of using force. They've gotten a free hand in trying such an approach with Iran. One cannot blame the pro-war side for feeling some schadenfreude at that approach's abject failure with Iran, although its no more productive in helping to solve the Iranian problem than the glee which Beinert condemns.
* I think there's also something to be said for the position that if the U.S. had done the large build-up which happened before then invasion, then did not follow through, that also would have undermined the military option, i.e. "they said Saddam must disarm, but did not invade. Why should we believe they will do anything more than a few airstrikes after backing down to Saddam?" D*mned if you do, d*mned if you don't.posted by: tagryn on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"I think there's also something to be said for the position that if the U.S. had done the large build-up which happened before then invasion, then did not follow through, that also would have undermined the military option, i.e. "they said Saddam must disarm, but did not invade""
This is like the Menendez Brothers saying "Have mercy on us because we're orphans".
Despite what neocons might say, Saddam did back down. He did agree to allow inspectors unfettered access. That would have been enough to not undermine the military option for the US.
Finally, please don't give us this nonsense about mysterious documents still turning up. Saddam did support some Palestinian terrorists. But there is no evidence that he ever worked with AQ and no mysterious documents or newly discovered WMD caches are likely to change that.posted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
So true Dan - this is a much more methodical and multilateral approach than Iraq. What bothers me are the extremes - the lefty NYT that say all hope is lost - and the far right that wants carpet bombing right this second if not sooner.
Bottom line is that they have not yet figured out the cascades, and without that, they have nothing. It could be tomorrow that they figure it out, it could be never. We don't need to take that chance. But until they do figure it out we need to try EVERY avenue of diplomacy.
I read some really fresh ideas on Vital Perspective. They had a thing this weekend with some facts and new ideas like banning their soccer team, driving up insurance premiums through threats, not allowing diplomatic travel and cultural missions, etc etc. Good ideas are out there - it may well come down to bombing Natanz, but not just yet.posted by: Julius on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
I have yet to see an analysis of the economic impact of having it simply and matter a factly come down to "bombing Natanz".
"Ironically, Iran is bound to played out as an inversion of Iraq, since the US doesn't - I can't believe I'm typing this - have the military capacity to take on Iran."
This is patently absurd. We MAY not have the military capacity to invade, occupy, and slowly watch a transition to a real democracy over the next 2-10 years.
However, we DO have the capability to absolutely obliterate the Iranian military and its industry in a short period of time with conventional weapons, our vastly superior air force, and a naval blockade.
If the goal is only preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, keeping it in the stone age is a viable military option, even with 100,000+ troops in Iraq.posted by: Neema on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
caught a reference that recent US actions in the Middle EAst, particularly OIF, was the impetus to Iran's nuclear weapons program.
give some credit/blame to the Iranians long ago deciding to build a program. do not forget the MEK reports of a large number of undeclared nuclear facilities (some of which documented with commercial satellite imagery; all of which I am sure were for peaceful nuclear development.
and as to the current administration's policy on Iraq, I do see a repeat of the Iraq effort which folks forget started with an attempt to gain international cooperation. whether that foundered because of Western Europe's, china, and Russian recognizing that Iraq was not the security threat it was deemed by the US or because the legal and illegal economic ties held by these various countries in the Oil for Food scandal or whether just to stick a finger in the US eye, it must be recognized that the US made not one, but two attempts with the UN Security Council followed by another attempt to gain a coalition of the willing. Regardless the US was going to be the primary force.
the only solution place to prevent invasion was for Saddam to have totally capitulated. Now that was not going to happen for a variety of reasons, one of which was the perception would not invade without the sanction of its western allie. (Somehow Saddam got the impression from the French that the invasion force was just a giant bluff in the south). Saddam lost that hand.
Just like Iraq, I see iran being run through the multilateral approach emphasis on DIE of DIME. In fact, when interviewed by a German magazine, Rumsfeld continually deflected all question calling for the US to take the lead byt referring to the EU3 being the lead.
I do not see Iran changing its belligerent attitude toward Israel and the US and I do not see an Iranian decision to discontinue pursuit of a weapons program. (Why? they continue a diplomatic minuet with the EU while continuing to advance their program. At some point, a fait accompli)
In the end, like Hanson, I see a multlateral moment. A decision will have to be made of a number of bad options. But for me, the worst option is to allow Iran nuclear weapons. Even the Russians or the Chinese have been crazy enought to give them weapons. At the very least, a nuclear arms race will emerge in the middle east with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and possibly if it still exists Syria. At the very worst, escalation and nuclear conflict like Niall Fegurson wrote of in Saturday's Daily Telegraph.
At NWC, the Iranian gordian knot were, along with North Korea, seen as situations where doing nothing to a full regimen short of a regime change would lead to a disastrous strategic position for the US and the West.
For me, the question is how regime change can take place. unfortunately independent totalitarian regimes tend to relinquish power in only one way.
Amd that is what the I think the Bush Administration will be addressing this year regardless of whether Israel attacks Iranian nuclear facilities.
Professor Drezner, enjoy your blog and continue to recommend it. don't always agree but your rationales and decision processes can be understood even by worker bee types.
posted by: GRR on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
This is a pretty bad misreading of Atrios. As mentioned above, Atrios is discussing domestic politics, not foreign policy. (The policy prediction he makes is that there will not actually be a military showdown between Iran and the US -- not an outlandish prediction, although already we hear rumblings that this is the result of liberal cowardice rather than reality.) And we've seen it all before.
Even now Bush critics are irresponsibly giving aid and comfort to our terrorist enemies. And remember back in Vietnam, when liberals betrayed the army and lost the war? There is nothing new under the sun.posted by: Barbar on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Iran has no intention of using a nukes to attack Israel or anyone else in the near future. The Mullahs need nukes as a deterrent from Western interference as they crack down on their population before they revolt. Without nukes they cannot enforce 'Islamic Law'. Once they really control Iran, that's time to worry.posted by: bluepike on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Ahmadinejab is not a rational actor. There is no assurance of any kind that a man who views himself as part of the coming of the 12th imam and has vowed to wipe Israel off the world map will not use nukes as soon as he develops them. Bin Laden told us for years that he was at war with us. Are we not listening now because we can't bring ourselves to believe that there are people who would actually use nukes?
I read somewhere that there was what looked like an assassination attempt on Ahmadinejab's life a few weeks ago. Here's hoping the next one will be more successful. No, it's not "nice" but neither is he and the world would give a collective sigh of relief.
"caught a reference that recent US actions in the Middle EAst, particularly OIF, was the impetus to Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Wrong. Everybody knows that history began with the Bush Administration. Nothing happened prior to 2001. Don't you listen to what the Left has to say?posted by: andrew on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"Are we not listening now because we can't bring ourselves to believe that there are people who would actually use nukes?"
You mean, like Truman ?posted by: Jon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
""caught a reference that recent US actions in the Middle EAst, particularly OIF, was the impetus to Iran's nuclear weapons program.
"Wrong. Everybody knows that history began with the Bush Administration. Nothing happened prior to 2001. Don't you listen to what the Left has to say?"
Actually, you're wrong. Everyone knows that history in Iran begain with Khomeini came to in 1979 totally out of a vaccum. Nothing existed before then, and certainly there is no possibility of American assisted coups in that country.posted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"he only solution place to prevent invasion was for Saddam to have totally capitulated. Now that was not going to happen for a variety of reasons,"
But it DID happen. Saddam had totally agreed to inspections and they were going on, and would have been finished -- when the Bush administration pulled the trigger.
When I was growing up in India, we lived with the threat of a nuclear armed Pakistan -- a Pakistan with whom India had fought 4 wars, shared a border with, and moreover had the capacity to deliver to most Indian cities (Iran does not have the capability to deliver to American cities), and was fueling an active rebellion in Kashmir. India learned to live with it.
So will the US if Iran gets nukes. It would bring a new and dangerous dynamic to the ME, but it would not be the end of the world. I remain unconvinced that anything short of a full scale military invasion would seriously abort Iran's nuclear plans. To the extent that the Iraq war has made the possibility of an invasion almost impossible, it has certainly hurt this crisis.
posted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
The US security guarantees that might be offered to Iran in exchange for nuclear concessions need to be specified. Security is the root of the problem.posted by: David Billington on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
The military option looks too much as a suicide pact to me, at least at present.posted by: Dan K on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Concur that Drezner misreads Atrios.
However, recall the James Fallows article on wargaming Iran. His participants concluded that although the military option is a bad one, the threat has to be kept on the table. I.e., lots of saber-rattling and talks of airstrikes. (Skip to the conclusion if you haven't time to read the whole thing.)
Since Fallows's reporting on Iraq has been rightly praised by liberals, I think his article on Iran is worth serious consideration.posted by: Anderson on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
I think world markets have gotten a little whiff of operation Iranian freedom in the past couple of days.posted by: centrist on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
to date I can't see how a Kerry administration would have played its cards any differently than the Bush team.
TRUE DAT!posted by: Ivan Lenin on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Iran does not pose a direct threat to US territory. They can only destroy Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Europe. They can only threaten destruction to those who fail to comply with their wishes.
I am surprised to see such little loyalty to the fate of Europe and so little concern about the knock-on affects for the rest of the world.
It seems that the only recourse is to rattle a bit of Mutual Assured Destruction back at Iran. Under what scenarios would we use our nukes against Iran?posted by: Andy on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
...but to date I can't see how a Kerry administration would have played its cards any differently than the Bush team.
Which pretty much mocks the argument that Kerry would be weak on the defence front and that Bush would be a safer pair of hands.posted by: Kav on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Just because Iran builds a bomb, does not mean they can do anything with it. Let them build it, at great cost, and great effort. In the meantime, we start killing their friends, one by one. The time they spend building the bomb, we spend surounding them. There is a sense of panic, it seems, over not much. A little strategy goes a long way. A campaign of assasination of anyone who befriends the Iranian thugs will work better than any bombing ever would. In this battle, we need to target Napoleon, not France.posted by: xiaoding on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"caught a reference that recent US actions in the Middle EAst, particularly OIF, was the impetus to Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Any moderately wealthy nation that has a nuclear program for 10 years without producing a nuke, isn't trying.
Consider your claim refuted.posted by: J Thomas on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"I don't deny that the US have Armageddon capability. But the US can't win a decisive military victory, Germany-Japan style, against Iran. The US simply don't have that kind of military capability. Airstrikes worked in Kosovo, but only because there was a credible threat of invasion. Iraq has totally squandered that credibility."
If we're serious that stopping iranian nukes is worth doing whatever it takes, we could provide the airstrikes and support an occupation by russia or china.
An iran occupied by russia or china definitely won't have a nuclear program. They could take the troops out when iran got a government that they were sure wouldn't build nukes.
But somehow I suspect this solution would not be considered adequate. Maybe there's something involved that's more important than iranian nukes....
The Iranians have us surrounded. They are stiring things up in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
We are doomed.
How could Bush be so stupid as to get us in this position?posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
" to date I can't see how a Kerry administration would have played its cards any differently than the Bush team.
You pretty much have to go back to a hypothetical 2nd-term Gore administration, since Gore would have invaded Afghanistan, but probably not Iraq. Only then could we have a discussion about what we would have had the power to do - by January 2005, Kerry would have been too late to change anything in this regard.posted by: M1EK on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
We will reach an impasse only if we accept a standard of diplomatic realism (ie. the expected consequences to the system of an irrational state) that may have to be revised once Iran acquires nuclear weapons. If so, then we ought to consider alternatives that are *not* realistic in the context of what that term means right now. We could certainly do worse than to consider the proposal I made last year:
If we are unwilling to consider diplomatic strategies except those that are increasingly bankrupt, then we are either stalling until a nuclear Iran is a fait accompli or gambling that effective action to prevent this outcome can be taken at an acceptable cost. If there is any doubt about the cost and if a nuclear Iran truly is intolerable, then the diplomatic options need to be enlarged.posted by: David Billington on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
One difference in this situation as opposed to India-Pakistan problem is Iran has threatened to obliterate Israel and seeks the means to carry out this threat. This existential threat, even if a bluff, can easily force Israel to take action as a precaution.
Sadly, too many Americans (and many earlier commenters)forgot the prelude to the Iraq invasion and are merely pleased to spin the results to their hearts content. As with the Iranian situation, we were in a difficult spot. The sanctions were becoming impossible to maintain due to internal Iraqi situation. France and Russians were pressing for the lifting of sanctions for their respective interests. All this resulted in the pressing need to ensure that WMDs were no longer available to Hussein before sanctions collapse.
Only the movement of American and British military to the Gulf made Hussein readmit inspectors where he gave them the runaround. Maintaining the troops in a wait and see position also became untenable, so the options were to invade or pull back which itself was fraught with strategic disadvantages.
Sometimes as Hanson mentioned, you try to play the least bad hand you've been dealt. Bash Bush all you want but critics rarely voice an alternative strategies preferring to just sling ad hominem attacks. And while WMDs weren't discovered, the inspectors did identify that Saddam maintained all the necessary ingredients to restart his WMD programs once sanctions were lifted.
Ultimately, with hindsight, it seems neither the European nor American approaches are effective. Europeans without a credible military threat are toothless negotiators and American sabre rattling without allies, can work at best only once (Iraq) before its effectiveness gets obliterated.
Only a united front of major world powers with a credible military threat behind them can force Iran from its current path. And that doesn't appear likely now.posted by: jaybo on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Rumor has it that the bulk of Iranian Armed Forces may not be loyal to the regime.
It is certainly true of the bulk of the population.
I'd say Iran was the Mother of All Battles V3.1posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Instapundit and Limbaugh have conveniently convinced themselves that the war on terrorism is a subset of the struggle against the Democrats. Whatever brings Republicans more power, ipso facto, makes the United States safer. That would be nice if it were true--but it's clearly not, because, sometimes, those pesky liberals are right, and because, to some degree, our liberty depends on their success. However, in their view, National security is always reducible to the interests of the Republican Party.posted by: mickslam on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
So if America restructures Iran by military action it won't work without allies? Why?
I note Iran is using the same bribery tactics Saddam used in the run up to the Mother of All Battles V2.0. Look at who they have bought so far.
It didn't work re: Saddam. Bush didn't listen. I hope he is not listening again.posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"Iran does not pose a direct threat to US territory. They can only destroy Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Europe. They can only threaten destruction to those who fail to comply with their wishes"
I don't think Iran has missiles capable of reaching much of Europe. And France and the UK both have nukes. There is also little doubt that many other European countries could build nukes if necessary -- the real constraint is political, not financial or technical.
And while Iran has the capacity to attack Saudi Arabia, so does Pakistan currently. Both are about equally likely.
Iran could pose a threat to Israel, but Israel poses one to Iran as well, with a much better developed nuke force. I've no doubt that Israel has had the capacity to destroy Iran completely for 25 years.
"I am surprised to see such little loyalty to the fate of Europe and so little concern about the knock-on affects for the rest of the world."
Why not let Europe decide what it thinks is a threat to it or not ? This was the real absurdity of the whole Iraq war -- we had the US, several thousand miles away talking about what a great threat Iraq was. And yet in its neighborhood, neither Turkey, nor Jordan nor Iran seemed to regard it as much of a threat. Because of American troops, it wasn't even a threat to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.posted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"Rumor has it that the bulk of Iranian Armed Forces may not be loyal to the regime."
Very reliable, certainly.
"It is certainly true of the bulk of the population."
You're talking about the same bulk of the people who came out and voted for Ahmadinejad ? If anything that election showed us that we really don't understand whats going on in Iran, especially outside of the urban educated class.posted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"Sometimes as Hanson mentioned, you try to play the least bad hand you've been dealt."
If one were to follow Hanson's "wisdom" we would be at war with or occupying half the middle east, with Hanson explaining how it was all related to ancient Greece. How come someone who so badly mis-predicted the threats to the US pre-911 is taken as some sort of Guru ?
"Bash Bush all you want but critics rarely voice an alternative strategies preferring to just sling ad hominem attacks."
The alternative strategy would have been to have let the inspections continue. Hans Blix asked for "weeks more", not months, not days. El Baradei said that he was more or less completed. 2000 + American lives, and half a trillion dollars at least would not have been spent.
Let me point out the obvious here -- any country with a chemical or biopharma industry has the capability and ingredients to restart chem and bio WMD programs.
Had Lieberman run in '04 he would have got my vote. Instead I held my nose and voted Bush.
Lieberman is being run out of the Dem party.
Oh, well.posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
It is not who casts the votes. It is who counts them.
Iran had a pro American vigil post 9/11. Have things changed that much in 4 years?
Believe it or not Persians still remember with fondness the time when they had a Jewish Queen. The guys in power? Not so much.posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
America was content to let Europe deal with a certain Austrian corporal. The Euros look like they are reverting to form.
Such form does not inspire confidence in Europe.
I note the corporal telegraphed his plans in 1924 and they were written off as the ravings of a mad man. Sound like any one you have heard recently?
From this side of the pond it looks like the same plan in 2006, just the players are different.
Think of America as taking on the Rhineland Question of '36. Updated 70 years. We saw the results of '36 and paid in rivers of blood for it.
This time we think a creek of blood is better than a river. Of course your view of history may differ.
"The problem is that ... nobody's going to believe us, because of what the Bushies did with the sketchy and conflicting Iraq intelligence."
Let me counter that while there were problems with the intel (always is, always will be), the greater blow to US credibility was the way in which certain politicians chose to represent these failures as "lies," a representation I believe was solely for domestic political gain.
"You're talking about the same bulk of the people who came out and voted for Ahmadinejad ?"
No, he's talking about the bulk of Iranians who wilfully and purposefully boycotted the elections or broke the boycott in an effort to prevent Ahmadinejad from winning. Consider that over 40% of the electorate stayed home in a country where not voting is punishable by the law. If we accept Wikkipedia's numbers, he won 60% of 60%, or 36% of the total electorate. That's 36% after the choices had been restricted to only approved candidates. Hardly the strong popular support you seem to believe.posted by: submandave on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
re: U.S. has limited options.
Don't think so. Neither the Navy nor Air Force are fully engaged in Iraq. It'll do their morale good to get back in the war. Say, an armed embargo, especially of anything container sized or larger? Oil, shipping, you name it. Rubble the nuke factories and related infrastructure, ask the U.S. citizens to sacrifice a little more (higher gas prices), and wait for the people to give us the geocoordinates on where their leadership is sleeping tonight.
Since Iran is largely self-sufficient in foodstuffs, the people won't suffer, but the oligarchy will starve (for money and the power and ability to buy influence internationally that it gives them).
Where's my popcorn?posted by: Ari Tai on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
On the HARD right, everything is either a metaphor of interwar germany or ancient greece. These examples are very tired. The enemy of the moment is always hitler and or sparta.posted by: centrist on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Iran this year, who knows what nutbar country will have nukes next year and want to use them for the glory of Allah or whoever. We're still the only country capable of launching a manned mission to other planets. Terraform Mars now! It's mankind's only hope!posted by: Mike G on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Well, or Persia which in this case the enemy is actually persia..hahaposted by: centrist on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
I'd like to respond to the three suppositions you labeled as requisite for demonstrating the Bush administration's incompetence vis-a-vis Iran. Not necessarily to prove the point that the Bush administration is actually incompetent (I don't think they are). But I think that your basis for showing that this is not the case is rather peculiar...
a) If we hadn't invaded Iraq, Iran would not have tried to develop a nuclear weapons program;
It's silly to altogether dismiss this statement without much justification. It's always hard, if not impossible, to speculate about 'what ifs' (especially regarding complicated foreign policy questions). But if we were to actually consider this question, it seems very likely that the statement could be true. Ahmadinejad based his campaign almost exclusively on opposition to the West (particularly the US) as well as jumpstarting the nuclear program. It seems very likely that much of his popularity was due to his upfront opposition to western interests that could be said to be much more important to Iranian voters given the increased US presence in the region. (e.g. The fact that the Americans are suddenly right next door.) I would imagine Iranians care deeply about this and it's possible fewer would have turned out for Ahmadinejad if the US presence in the region wasn't so proximate.
b) If we hadn't invaded Iraq, the United States would have been ready, willing and able to invade Iran;
This seems more silly. The US may never be completely ready, willing or able to invade Iran with or without an Iraq war going on. But the important question isn't whether the US could actually ready, willing or able to withstand the Iranians in a long hard slog (to use a rumsfeldian phrase), but rather whether the US has a credible threat to make it unattractive for the Iranians to do what they may wish they could do. A presence in Iraq erased any possibility of providing that credible threat. That is prima facie clear. An actual war (like an economic sanction) is a foreign policy failure, not a success. It demonstrates that there was some error in negotiations. The fact that we're forced to impose sanctions or go to war is only to legitimize the threat and rarely does it achieve what we set out to achieve with our negotiations.
Of course, we all hope that we learn some things from our mistakes. But I doubt that the fundamental concerns about the Iraq conflict that we should view as mistakes are viewed as mistakes by anyone in the Bush Administrations. There are some details such as troop levels or timing and such that may be viewed as mistakes. But the general way the Administration handled the Iraq question is not viewed as a mistake (though i think it should be). Instead, the Bush administration seems to view (at least publicly) that most of what occurred was a success and not a failure. So I don't quite see what you mean by them not learning from their mistakes. Because one of the unfortunate problems with this foreign policy team is their inability to determine that they have made a mistake in the first place. Not to mention finding a way to rectify it.
posted by: Jan on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
No problem with letting the negotiations go on a few more weeks.
I'm sure had the Euros been willing to pay the bill for keeping our Army in the field for the requsite time America would have at least entertained the idea.posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"Let me counter that while there were problems with the intel (always is, always will be), the greater blow to US credibility was the way in which certain politicians chose to represent these failures as "lies," a representation I believe was solely for domestic political gain."
And if no-one in the US had ever made such a claim, you think that the Europeans, China etc. would have accepted the US utterly and it would have caused no harm to US credibility ? Not bloody likely, mate. A massive blow to US credibility has occurred because of huge exaggerations and occasional outright lies. That is the cause of loss of US credibility. You're blaming the messenger to the nth degree.
"Consider that over 40% of the electorate stayed home in a country where not voting is punishable by the law. If we accept Wikkipedia's numbers, he won 60% of 60%, or 36% of the total electorate. That's 36% after the choices had been restricted to only approved candidates. Hardly the strong popular support you seem to believe."
2) A 60% turnout is pretty good -- generally much higher than the US in a country with large poor areas.
3) A 60% victory over a very seasoned politican like Rafsanjani is a landslide.
And for the record, turnout in the first election was 63%, it was 60 % only in the runoff. What was the turnout times voting % for George Bush again ?
My claim is not that Ahmadinejad has massive popular support -- I was simply disputing a claim by someone who said that the regime had lost popular support. Certainly the elections in Iran should be a clear indicator that we don't really understand the dynamics of rural Iran very well and such bold assertions need to be taken with a huge plate of salt. FWIW, I think that there is probably not much support among common Iranians for a confrontation with Israel, but there is a lot of support for Iran maintaining its nuclear program as a matter of national pride.
Saddam made the same mistake when he attacked Iran 25 years ago, believing the regime lacked popular support. Whatever their feelings may have been, Iranians flocked to the front in millions to fight against Iraq.
"It is not who casts the votes. It is who counts them."
So you're suggesting election fraud ? Be aware that no party that I'm aware of has claimed that. Even the US restricted its criticism to the fact that many candidates were rejected by the Supreme Jurisprudence.
"Iran had a pro American vigil post 9/11. Have things changed that much in 4 years?"
So did many Europeans. Things changed in 2 years. In any case, among the urban educated class, I'm sure there is support for America (although I think even that may vanish quickly if the US bombs iranian nuclear facilities). But the rural poor in Iran are the ones who voted for Ahmedianjiad, and their current feelings are unclear. The fact that election results caught so many people by surprise is an indication that we don't really understand the Iranian populace all that well.
"I'm sure had the Euros been willing to pay the bill for keeping our Army in the field for the requsite time America would have at least entertained the idea."
Well, any accountant could tell you that it might be cheaper to keep an army out for a few weeks more than 10 years more, and a few billion in additional expense is a lot less than the trillion this war will end up costing.
Penny wise, pound foolish.posted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Bush got re-elected based on his performance in Iraq.
A lot of folks on the right dissatisfied with Bush think he is not agressive enough. I don't think that kind of dissatisfaction translates into votes for the left.
Well we just love hearing Euros scream in America. Given history it just convinces us we are on the right track.
Think '80s and "the Evil Empire" and cruise missles in Europe.
Did I mention a certain Austrian corporal?
We think the Euros have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
Thanks for the proof.posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Trying to make blanket statements about "liberals" is stupid. If you want to criticize someone's statements, such as Kos, that is fine. However you sound like a moron when you say things like "Kevin Drum thinks liberals need to think seriously about..."
Talking about "liberals" versus "conservatives" is about as constructive as "crips" vs. "bloods". The terms are meaningless.posted by: Mark on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"America was content to let Europe deal with a certain Austrian corporal. The Euros look like they are reverting to form.Such form does not inspire confidence in Europe."
Germany was an industrial powerhouse, and a military powerhouse with very strong tradition of militiarism and conquest.
Iran has some oil wealth, but its industrial strength is limited. Its army would be decimated by a modern European army, let alone an Israeli army/air force. Both Israel and the US have the capability of turning Iran into a nuclear slagheap.
I don't believe Iran has ever actually invaded another country post 1979 and I don't recollect that happening under the Shah either. However, it has been invaded by another country (Iraq) with one million dead and has had a coup on its soil planned by another country (the US in 1953).
As for Europe, it has dealt with problems internally for millenia. Europe dealt with Napoleon, and maybe we would have been better off letting them deal with the Kaiser as well. Europe (certainly England and France could destroy Iran with nukes).posted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Bush got re-elected DESPITE his performance in Iraq. Most polls showed that Iraq was a drag on his numbers overall.
Yep, the problem in Iran is that the liberals are idiots.
Why, if the damnable liberals hadn't tied down our entire army in Iraq by making up stories about its nuclear capacity, we'd have:
Now, I'm not saying that Iran would have been a cakewalk if it hadn't been for those damn liberals. But we'd have had a hell of a lot more good options than the ones we have now.posted by: theorajones on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
America pays for its armies and tells them where to go and when.
He who pays the piper calls the tune.
I note that, except for the Brits, that Europe has neither pipers nor coin. Lots of complaints. I'm told the French have plenty of cheese and unused oil for palaces contracts. So you have cheese and something to put it on to go with the whine. Bon appitite.
If you are dissatisfied with the American Army get your own. We are up for a little rumble if you are. In fact a large Euro Army protecting Iran might be just the ticket. Let us know if you can handle the logistics.
I didn't think so.
I remember all the Euro anti nuke marches in the '80s. Consider the current situation just another episode in the Euro desire to surrender.
We hear you.
It is just that the American Jacksonians love a fight. We got one worth fighting. Consider it just another episode in Madison's war on the jihadis.
Unlike '36 we are not going to wait until things get really difficult.
We all see the train coming. Euros hope screaming at it will stop it. Americans think the train needs derailing. Sherman's Neck Ties and all that.posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
No doubt the Euros could have a nuclear exchange with Iran.
Would that be good for Europe or Iran?posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
In the interests of clearing the BlogAir and avoiding the recriminations that followed the launch of Iraq War II -- bloggers should checkpoint* their positions on their own blogs so we'll know where they stood if an Iranian War should flare up. To help, here's a list of questions: To simplify blogging on Iran.
*BTW, checkpoint is an old computer term for taking a snapshot of the program so you could go back to it.posted by: sbw on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"You pretty much have to go back to a hypothetical 2nd-term Gore administration"
I think DD was pointing out that Bush's admin. response has consisted of "multilateral" pretending the problem doesn't exist, and I agreed. I think regime change is the only option.posted by: Ivan Lenin on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Typical Euro stereotype. I live in Rockford, Illinois. I speak a smattering of French, Spanish and Hebrew (spoken it is similar to Arabic). My #2 son has a full scholarship to the University of Chicago in the study of Russian. (I'm a UC alum as well). Also a graduate of the US Navy - Nuclear Reactor operator. Surpisingly I have software flying on the A320 and the F16. I'd probably speak more languages with more profficiency, but except for Spanish I don't get many opportunities to practice.
Not a good picture you have of America.
Still it does no good to act morally superior.
The guy you complain about just helped elect a President. How you going to change his mind. Suggest more jaw-jaw? We remember where our dead are buried due to jaw-jaw not working out.
"I note the corporal telegraphed his plans in 1924 and they were written off as the ravings of a mad man. Sound like any one you have heard recently?"
Yes indeed. Right after we took Baghdad Cheney announced to iran that they were next.
The older term is core dump.posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"America pays for its armies and tells them where to go and when.He who pays the piper calls the tune."
My comment was in response to your comment that the US would have kept its troops during inspection time if the Europeans had paid for them. I simply pointed out that spending a few billion during that time would have been a far better investment than spending what looks like a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. You, of course, may subscribe to some system of mathematics that comes up with a different result.
"If you are dissatisfied with the American Army get your own. We are up for a little rumble if you are. In fact a large Euro Army protecting Iran might be just the ticket. Let us know if you can handle the logistics.
Whom are you talking to ? I happen to be an American citizen.
"We all see the train coming. Euros hope screaming at it will stop it. Americans think the train needs derailing."
I think you will probably find that the overwhelming majority of Americans have little to no desire to invade Iran. That may change, in the future, but the experience of Iraq has put a huge ceiling over American interventionism. Then again, given your tendency to call Americans who disagree with you "Euros" ...
Some of us think the alternative to a conventional war with Iran is a better option than a nuclear war with them later.
Of course that nuke war may never come about. 1936 thinking in action.
BTW the Iranian President says he plans to start the war by nuking the Jews. You down with that? Or should we treat such ravings the way we acknowledged the ravings of the Austrian corporal?
Americans are ashamed we didn't do more for the Jews in WW2. We'd rather not be in that moral position again. How about you?posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Your position is the Euro position. Your understanding of the American right is the Euro understanding. Sorry for the confusion.posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Nice bit on Sherman's Necties.posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
So tell me erg. Are the Euros going to deploy an Army to protect Iran?
Are they even capable?posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
> However, people who climb to the leadership of
Sounds like someone else we know.
Wposted by: George W. Bush on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"So tell me erg. Are the Euros going to deploy an Army to protect Iran?"
Since your definition of the term Euro seems to be your own and shared with no one else, surely you can tell exactly what these "Euros" are going to do, rather than relying on someone else ?
The George Friedman [STRATFOR] analysis in Stratfor iss one of his best in some time, and it is unfortunate that it cannot be reproduced in its entirety to stimulate further discussion on the subject.posted by: opinionated pawn on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"To avoid making blanket statements about liberals and Iran, I should point out that Brad Plumer provides an interesting and liberal analysis of Iran. Plumer recommends engagement: . . . 'a little loss of face is about the worst that would come of trying.' "
Umm, time?posted by: AT on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"a) If we hadn't invaded Iraq, Iran would not have tried to develop a nuclear weapons program;
It's silly to altogether dismiss this statement without much justification. It's always hard, if not impossible, to speculate about 'what ifs' (especially regarding complicated foreign policy questions). But if we were to actually consider this question, it seems very likely that the statement could be true."
Nope. Rafsanjani was talking about starting up the nuclear program again in 2001.posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
How long before Iraq's Sunni insurgents become US allies? Shi'ite-run Iraq is not YET an Iranian buffer or client state. But is steadily moving in that direction, despite the protests of Sadr on one side of the UIA coalition and Sistani on the other. Hakim calls the political shots for the UIA and he's been doing everything possible to tie the fate of Iraq, and especially its Shi'ite population, to Iran. Clearly a "federal" Iraq gives Iran a lot more leverage in the Iraqi South. The new Iraqi government has already secured numerous economic development deals with Iran. And somehow I doubt the Iranian-trained Badr Corps, now in control of the Interior Ministry, is going to turn on its Iranian benefactors. And even Kurdish President Jalal Talabani has close ties to Iran - largely dating to the Iran-Iraq war era.
The only force preventing Iran's creeping influence in Iraq are the Sunni insurgents. That's why the other Arab regimes have so far refused to get involved. And if a revitalized Sunni-dominated Ba'athist Iraq is the only thing standing in the way of a nuclearized Iran - or at least a nuclearized Iran with a green light to expand its influence in the region - then I wouldn't doubt a massive change in US Iraq policy in the near future. Something along the lines of allowing Kurdistan to form an independent republic and putting some of less disagreeable ex-Baathists back in power (Allawi would have been perfect for this scenario). Obviously democracy will not deliver this outcome. Look for a healthy dose of realpolitik to reemerge.posted by: Elrod on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
It must be added that the Iranian nuclear program actually was revealed by the IAEA to have been decades in the running. Greatly assisted by support from the Khan network no doubt, Khan being the father of Pakistan's indigenous nuclear program and who in turn, acquired much of the technology from Western and Chinese input. I believe the failure of nuclear non-proliferation to be the real sin here and reflects events shaped long before the current administration. Although Israeli possession of nuclear arms may not have been the catalyst for the Iranian determination to obtain their own, it's extremely improbable that this was not of critical consideration for Iran (and other so-called rogue states) in its decision to reject world opinion.posted by: Poignant on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Poignant, it isn't possible to run a serious nuclear weapon program for decades without producing a nuclear weapon. If iran had a decades-long nuclear weapon program, they would have a nuke by now.
Somebody is disinforming you, and it isn't me.
"Although Israeli possession of nuclear arms may not have been the catalyst for the Iranian determination to obtain their own, it's extremely improbable that this was not of critical consideration for Iran (and other so-called rogue states) in its decision to reject world opinion."
Removing the adjectives and double negatives, you say it's likely that Israel's possession of nuclear weapons encouraged Iran to make its own. That's possible. But why would that possibly encourage other "so-called rogue states" like North Korea, Pakistan, India, and, not too long ago, South Africa and Brazil to get their own nukes?posted by: AT on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Iran could have brought in nuclear weopons years ago on a dirty truck, they're not arming themselves against Israel. They're conducting research legit and it's becomming a threat now to America..
doesn't Iran supply 10% of the worlds oil reserves? ok, but doesn't that affect China more than us? In that case, the Bush administration should pressure China into becomming more responsible and handling their own biz'nassposted by: dew the drew on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
The best thing you can say about Bush is that to the extent that he does with Iran the exact opposite of what he did with Iraq, he's doing better. Great comfort.
Maybe that whole axis of evil thing wasn't such a great idea either.posted by: clb72 on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"Some of us think the alternative to a conventional war with Iran is a better option than a nuclear war with them later."
M Simon, we went through that with the USSR. Some people thought we needed to destroy them before they got nukes. As it turned out, by the time we had enough nukes to do it, they had nukes too. They haven't nuked anybody yet.
And we went through that with china. Mao talked about how china could survive a nuclear war while russia and the USA couldn't. A lot of americans were sure that if china ever got nukes they'd nuke us. Particularly when they said they would. We asked the russians to go in with us on taking out china before they got nukes, and the russians said no. Then a few years later when the chinese were about to get their nukes the russians asked us what we'd do if they did a surgical strike to get rid of chinese nukes, and we said no. China got nukes and hasn't nuked anybody yet.
And there was pakistan. Pakistan was supposed to nuke israel, the way the story went. I never heard anything about getting rid of pakistan's nukes, I don't know why. But they haven't nuked anybody yet.
When israel got nukes it scared a lot of people, though not americans. Israel threatened to nuke egypt and syria, and maybe secretly threatened others. But luckily they haven't nuked anybody yet.
The one bright spot in all this is india. India got nukes, and the world didn't panic. Somehow I didn't hear any discussion about how india was going to nuke us or anybody else. No stories about how we had to stop them. Maybe because of Gandhi? I dunno. But then after pakistan had enough nukes to matter, india and pakistan did get into a diplomatic snarl where they were threatening to nuke each other, and everybody took them seriously and coached them through it. I'm sure they both felt like they got more respect after that.
Nobody gives nukes to terrorists. It's such a stupid idea that nobody does it. Terrorists are amateurs, and nobody really trusts them. Just like you wouldn't give command of an aircraft carrier to a terrorist, you wouldn't give him a nuke. No nation with nukes has ever done it, and no nation with nukes will ever do it. It's just too stupid. Bush might prove me wrong, he might find some pro-US terrorists to give nukes to, but he's a special case. I don't believe even Bush would do it.
Iran was heading for democracy in the early 1950's and we stopped them. Then the Shah double-crossed us and soon after that he got overthrown, and we've been the official Great Satan to them ever since. So maybe one way we could avoid a nuclear war would be to apologise and try to be a good neighbor for a few decades. One of the better ways to avoid getting nuked is to avoid actually *being* a Great Satan. It isn't foolproof, but it probably works better than fighting wars with everybody we think might want to nuke us. I say probably because there's no way to do statistics on it, japan is the only nation that's ever been nuked so far.
You want us to do an attack that will probably cost us $30 billion, assuming that after it's over the iranians will just forget it. Short of occupation etc, our attack might delay their nuclear bombs by a maximum of 5 years. And your entire justification is FUD -- Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.
Last time around, with iraq, it turned out there was no nuke program. There are still fools who say the nuke program might be buried in the desert or trucked to syria or something. But we've had the top iraqi officials in Gitmo for 2 years plus and under torture they've made up stories about nuke programs but no two of the stories match. If there was a nuke program the iraqi government didn't know about it. And now Bush is the Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Would you trust this administration to handle the diplomacy to start another war, conduct the war, and handle the aftermath? I say, no. It's too bad we have something on Bush's watch that might turn into a crisis, but the USA and the world are better off if Bush does nothing about it. The USA is safer when Bush does nothing.posted by: J Thomas on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
So Tom Barnett has had a pretty radical suggestion about Iran on the table about Iran for almost a year now... Here's the crux of it:
Our offer should be both simple and bold. I would send James Baker, our last good secretary of state, to Tehran as your special envoy with the following message: "We know you're getting the bomb, and we know there isn't much we can do about it right now unless we're willing to go up-tempo right up the gut. But frankly, there's other fish we want to fry, so here's the deal: You can have the bomb, and we'll take you off the Axis of Evil list, plus we'll re-establish diplomatic ties and open up trade. But in exchange, not only will you bail us out on Iraq first and foremost by ending your support of the insurgency, you'll also cut off your sponsorship of Hezbollah and other anti-Israeli terrorist groups, help us bully Syria out of Lebanon, finally recognize Israel, and join us in guaranteeing the deal on a permanent Palestinian state. You want to be recognized as the regional player of note. We're prepared to do that. But that's the price tag. Pay it now or get ready to rumble."
This is from an Esquire article from 2005, but also suggested in his books. I've seen no real discussion of this. Why not try something like this before we get all geared up for war - or sanctions for that matter.posted by: Eric Allison on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"This is from an Esquire article from 2005, but also suggested in his books. I've seen no real discussion of this. Why not try something like this before we get all geared up for war - or sanctions for that matter."
If that was a joke, I'm not laughing. If it wasn't, I'm thanking God not everyone in this country is a complete idiot.posted by: AT on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
By the way, am I the only one who realizes that the invasion of Iraq greatly increased our options here, or has nobody else here ever played poker or looked at a map?posted by: AT on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"By the way, am I the only one who realizes that the invasion of Iraq greatly increased our options here, or has nobody else here ever played poker or looked at a map?"
You're not the only one, but probably pretty close. After all, its pretty easy for anyone to realize that the US always had the capacity to do aerial strikes.
Now a land invasion in theory may be easier because of our presence in Iraq, but just about anyone with an ounce of common sense realizes that a) The US lacks the capacity to invade and occupy Iran.
Actually, it might be very useful to view Ahmadinejab as irrational. The rational actor assumption is circular, if you ask me: state actors behave rationally because they're rational. And if they're not? Ahmadinejab may very well view it as his and his nation's duty to take the big one for the team. If you believed the warped things he (and likely those above him he has to share power with) does regarding Israel, Jews, and Islam, wouldn't you be highly tempted to wipe them off the map? How do we know he wants to do this? Because he has said so, over and over. How do we know he's not blowing smoke? We don't.
I think an Iranian attack on Israel is not at all unthinkable. What does that mean we should do? Beats the hell out of me.posted by: virginiaipe on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
When you have two enemies, essentially cousins, both bad actors, both living in the same neighborhood, one having a proven weapons delivery system, and the other being a proven WMD developer thought to be in possession of actual stockpiles of munitions, what is the only truly intelligent course of action?
The intelligent response is to go after both of them, because you aren't guaranteed to get either of them before they have their Reese's peanut butter and chocolate moment and then get you.
I don't know how many times Bush has to say it, or Cheney has to say it---hell, Bremer said it again last night on the freaking Daily Show---before the left will finally get a grip on themselves and quit accusing the administration of telling "lies" they can't even point to about an alleged pre-war Saddam/Queda connection, as well as accusing the President of lying further that Iraq had weapons stockpiles, as if Bush somehow invented the preponderance of circumstantial evidence that supported such a belief by "every nation with an intelligence service" according to Colin Powell, when said evidence actually came from the UN weapons inspections agencies themselves, years before Bush was ever elected. The primary reason we went to Iraq was to prevent the confluence of Al Queda's operational capability with Iraqi weapons technology. Get. Over. It. We've got real problems coming over the horizon, and America needs as much input as we can get, including Democratic input, but it has to be rational to be of any value.
In Iraq we had it diplomatically easy; Saddam was essentially in receivership to the UN for twelve years before we finally took him out in 2003, yet Bush still conducted over a year of intense diplomacy before we went in.
Iran is a different story altogether. Even though their government is a theocratic junta aping a real government, everyone still pretends they are somehow "sovereign" and therefore deserving of full international rights and the benefit of the doubt. The mullahs are of course taking full advantage of this, which means it will be politically impossible to pre-empt them.
The problem with Iran is actually Israel, because the Israelis won't waste a millisecond with a first strike the instant they decide it is necessary to prevent the extermination of their nation. The decision before the US and the rest of the world is how to pre-empt this train wreck.
A disappointing discussion that more than anything else points out how parochial and myopic our understanding becomes whenever Bush and domestic politics clouds the picture.
Not a single person has mentioned the most important aspect of all in this crisis, which is the calculations and expected behavior of the three rising Asian powers that, individually or (scary thought) together have the power to thwart any policy that any American president might devise. There are a dozen ways we can f*** up here. There is only one way we can succeed in pulling Iran back from the brink, and that is a diplomatic solution that leverages a united front with China, Russia and India.
Given their geopolitical and economic status, these nations today are natural allies of Iran. None of them is threatened by Iran; none particularly cares about potential Iranian threats to Israel or to "the West" (if that term still has any meaning). India and China desperately want Iranian oil. Russia's political/security service class desperately wants to roll back the humiliating, and truly astounding, US gains post-1992 deep into Russia's sphere of influence, and then begin to restore a Moscow-led bloc of satellites to the west and south and in Central Asia. China, like Russia, would love nothing more than to see the US humiliated in Iran. Despite its democratic credentials, India is indifferent to the West's fate; its objective interests are far more aligned with those of Russia and China than with ours, and it will seek to exploit any strife for its own gain.
All of which means:
1) the Iraq war is pretty much irrelevant to this issue. Russia's humiliation and desire to restore their little co-prosperity sphere dates from 1999 at the latest, and more like 1991, when that "greatest tragedy of the 20th century" (Putin's words) occurred, ie the fall of the USSR. China and India's policies vis-a-vis Iran are mainly about oil and would have been so had we never invaded Iraq.
2) the other major difference btn the Bush doctrine and the Democrats' approach, the question of "multilateralism" ie seeking French and German support, is also irrelevant because those nations, like Britain, are irrelevant to the outcome here. The path to resolution of this crisis runs through Moscow, Delhi and Beijing. As the farcical collapse of the EU3's 2-year experiment with carrots and more carrots has shown, there is nothing that they can do to influence Iran's behavior. The allies have nothing to offer here, and nothing to threaten Iran with. (Though the threatened travel ban was a nicely comic final touch that underscores their bystander status.)
3) given that all of the cards in this game-- in addition to those held by the sole superpower-- belong to Iran and its three natural allies, this crisis will, like Suez, mark the end of one era and the beginning of another. The Asian Century's upon us. Condi needs to quit wasting time with the irrelevant EU dwarves and get herself on a jet to Moscow and Beijing instead.
Why are all you folks still pissing back and forth about BushGoreKerry? Either Dan's audience has gone downmarket, or else our nation's better-educated really are blind about the dramatic shift in power that is taking place before our eyes. If the latter, then what will it take for us to wake up and at long last shift our attention and resources eastward?posted by: thibaud on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Re: The Esquire article. A number of people, including Bill Odum, have been arguing for some time that the US ought to de-emphasize counter-proliferation goals in favor of strategic realignment towards Iran. Ahmadinejad's election seems to make that policy option more difficult - if not impossible in the short-term - but you never know.
Certainly, the US has decided, in at least two other cases, that counter-proliferation policy should be deemphasized - or would ultimately be better served - by taking a softer line on new members of the nuclear club: Pakistan and India.posted by: Dan Nexon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"Not a single person has mentioned...the three rising Asian powers...."
The essay to which I linked does reach out to them but perhaps not in a way that policy makers would regard as practical.
"There is only one way we can succeed in pulling Iran back from the brink, and that is a diplomatic solution that leverages a united front with China, Russia and India."
What do you see as the solution?
Thibaud, while you are factually correct, still your facts are useless.
We aren't as rich as we used to be, so we have no useful carrots to persuade russia or china to help us or to stand aside. (I don't expect india to intervene, but I could be wrong.) And russia and china have sticks that are almost as big as ours. We can't reasonably bribe them or threaten them, so what's left? We have to ignore them and hope they ignore us.
If we can attack iran without interfering with oil shipments, and if we don't wind up with the oil or the chance to set the prices, why shouldn't they let us waste our strength? Say we do the bombing program on the cheap and it only costs us, say, $30 billion. Still that's $30 billion we won't recover at all. We delay the iranian weapons program by one to five years. Jena Bush can wear a t-shirt with the logo "My father attacked iran and all I got was this lousy t-shirt".
Lots of ways for us to come out damaged some, very few ways to come out ahead. Say we do a sneak Pearl-Harbor-style attack. We look bad. Say we kill a lot of civilians. We look bad. Say we attack when the UN says not to. We look bad. Say iran tests a nuke a year later. We look like idiots. On the other hand if it looks like we're backing down, we look bad from that too.
We come out ahead if an iranian general stages a coup and does what we want. He'd be shaky enough he'd need our support to hold things down, so we'd own him. That's the best outcome I can see. Nothing like democracy, of course.
We don't look quite as bad if we can fake an iranian attack on us before we hit them. Maybe an iranian-supported terrorist attack in the USA? Homeland Security would have the excuse they couldn't get all the iranian sleeper cells in the USA, not when they're mixed among nearly 2 million iranians here. That would really arouse voter passions, and it would be an act of war by iran so we could skip all the torturous justifications and just hit them back.
We must look extra-dangerous as we run out of choices. Doesn't it make sense for them to watch carefully while we dig our grave deeper? As long as they're sure we can't win, why not let us flail away?
On the other hand, iran is heading toward being a small regional power with oil. Whoever helps them when they need help might develop a relationship that could be useful later. For china or india that could pay off in oil. And as you point out, pushing us back in iran would help russians salve their humiliation.
I dunno. You have some very good points there. But none of them give us a hint how to win, they just point out how we're heading for trouble. But we already knew that, except the guys who're trying not to pay attention.
Iran would have pursued nuclear weapons
Our presence in Iraq stretches our
Iran can stir up more trouble with the
The situation in Iran has a number of
And yes, the Bush administration has
Let's see, acting insanely gives you power? Hitler - committed suicide. Mussolini - hanged. Saddam - taken out by Bush. Castro - one of the poorest economies in the history of the world. Any other examples of crazy powerful people?
Seems to me, acting crazy marginalizes the leader. Maybe acting crazy is actually crazy.posted by: Roberto on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"When you have two enemies, essentially cousins, both bad actors, both living in the same neighborhood, one having a proven weapons delivery system, and the other being a proven WMD developer thought to be in possession of actual stockpiles of munitions, what is the only truly intelligent course of action? The intelligent response is to go after both of them, because you aren't guaranteed to get either of them before they have their Reese's peanut butter and chocolate moment and then get you."
Lets see -- you have a country with a non-existent economy, a Potemkin army, a country that has essentially lost control of 1/3rd of its country, surrounded by powerful enemies such as Iran and Turkey. How could I not have seen that the rational step is to attack this country before it attacks a country with an army and an economy that is orders of magnitude more powerful ?
You're joking, right ? They are web sites full of the huge exaggerations and occasional lies by the administration.
"The primary reason we went to Iraq was to prevent the confluence of Al Queda's operational capability with Iraqi weapons technolo"
So we went to war over a non-existent link to a non-existent technology.
"Get. Over. It. "
Sure. Soon as you guys bring back the lost American credibility, 2000+ American dead, and 1 trillion dollars we lost.
"We've got real problems coming over the horizon"
As opposed to the chmerical problem of Iraq in 2002 ?
"In Iraq we had it diplomatically easy; Saddam was essentially in receivership to the UN for twelve years before we finally took him out in 2003, "
Thanks for admitting that this nation that you claim was such a great threat to us was essentially in receivership to the UN.
"Iran is a different story altogether. Even though their government is a theocratic junta aping a real government, everyone still pretends they are somehow "sovereign" and therefore deserving of full international rights and the benefit of the doubt."
Well, Iran did have an election, albeit imperfect. Strange as it may seem, some other countries don't believe that the US has the sole authority to decide what government is sovreign or not.
As someone pointed out upthread my comment was on the politics, not the policy. I actually very much doubt there will be anything resembling "war" with Iran, I just think the sabre rattling is largely about domestic politics.posted by: Atrios on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Thibaud -- a lot of commentary on the crisis has pointed out how important the role of Russia is going to be since Russia and China can veto any Sec Council actions. China rarely vetoes alone (except on the issue of Taiwan), so the possibiility of a Russian/Chinese veto does exist. Since India cannot veto, its opinion in this case is less important. India will go along with any security council sanctions.
Russia, China and India probably aren't that happy with a nuclearized iran since each has its own problems with Islamic radicalism. Yet, I doubt that this is the crisis for them that it is for the US. India has increasingly friendly relations with Israel, but probably judges that Israel can take care of itself (which it can) -- after all, India itself has lived with a nuclear adversary for 15 plus years.
Russia and China are undoubtedly crucial players in this game --- India less so. But I don't think they can exert enough diplomatic pressure to stop Iran's program.posted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"Let's see, acting insanely gives you power? Hitler - committed suicide. Mussolini - hanged. Saddam - taken out by Bush. Castro - one of the poorest economies in the history of the world. Any other examples of crazy powerful people?"
Hitler -- clearly his views on exterminating Jews, Slavs etc. were insane. To the extent that they impacted his decisions -- for example the decision to invade Russia for "living space" rather than for purely strategic reasons, I think one could call him insane.
As for Castro, you know what they say 'crazy like a fox". Castro faced the Bay of Pigs invasion and CIA assasination attempts within a year of coming to power and yet has managed to last 40 plus years (which other national leader came to power in the 1960s and is still in power today -- maybe Singapore ?), despite facing a far more powerful country, the collapse of the Cold War and so on. Castro has been a shining success, not for his country, but for himself.
I could argue that Stalin was insane (his purges nearly destroyed the Red Army pre-WW II), Mao was insane (Great Leap Forward) - yet both retained power till their deaths.
Atrios's point is taken, though I wonder if in his and the Dems' world there are any national security/strategic foreign policy issues that can be addressed without their seeking to drag the conversation back to domestic advantage-seeking and the old shibboleths about the UN. The hard facts of interstate power politics, on display now everywhere outside of the EU, is just so much unpleasantness that only distracts us from more important concerns like rebuilding New Orleans, more funds for firehouses and school gymnasiums etc.
erg just can't help himself. Everything leads back inexorably to the Iraq War, Bush's perfidy etc. As to Russia and China, in erg's mind their importance is merely a reflection of the vast power of the UN Security Council.
erg, you're simply not paying attention. The UNSC, like the EU3, is irrelevant here. Even if by some miracle actually tough sanctions could be passed by the UNSC, they would rapidly fall apart just as the Iraqi sanctions did. China and India are desperate for oil. The EU's (esp Germany's) battered export sector is desperate for Asian customers and contracts. As the OFF debacle showed, it's easy to disguise, fiddle, skim, launder and evade funds flows when it comes to trade in fungible commodities. And not merely by the middlemen. TotalFinaElf, Gazprom, the Chinese miliatry-controlled firms: these are some of the most corrupt companies on the planet.
By mindlessly repeating long-discredited mantras about the UNSC and sanctions, you're showing the bankruptcy of left-lib thinking on this issue. The point is that this is first and foremost a regional (Asian) crisis that demands a regional solution. The European "allies" and the UN are powerless and all but irrelevant here. Multilateralism, sure-- so long as its multilateralism with the powers that matter.
David Billington: "There is only one way we can succeed in pulling Iran back from the brink, and that is a diplomatic solution that leverages a united front with China, Russia and India."
What do you see as the solution?
No diplomat here, but I think it's pretty obvious that any more time spent on shambolic EU3 proposals is worse than wasted; it costs us precious time needed to build a united front with the three crucial Asian powers. So recommendation #1 is for Condid to second one of her team, maybe Nicholas Burns (? the one who's fluent in French, former EU ambassador) to babysit Jack Straw and his continental counterparts. Condi's face time on this should be reserved for the Chinese, Russians and Indians.
As to specific policy steps, again, I'm not an expert but it seems obvious that the key here is the flow of the oil -- keep it going to China and India especially -- and the nuclear flows -- keep all technology and equipment that Iran has bottled up inside Iran. So in effect there has to be some kind of jointly-administered quarantine of Iran that gives the Asian powers what they want and need, ie oil and (for the Russians) lucrative contracts, while ensuring that the Iranians remain tightly boxed by US naval power in the Straits of Hormuz and US-Russian-Chinese-Indian air power everywhere else.
Military power is of course crucial but it must be multilateral-- again, with the nations that matter, ie those that have the power to derail the effort-- and non-invasive. Nothing would more quickly hasten a Russian-Chinese-Indian bund than a US attack on Iran that was not blessed by the Asian powers.
This approach mutes fears of yet another US incursion deep into the Russian-Chinese sphere; even better, it elevates the role of these nations and recognizes their superior importance in this century. Remember that national pride, or what Thucydides called "honor", is hugely important to any self-confident rising power. It's long past time that we recognized China and India as major players that are more important to us and to the world than France and Germany. So any details of the diplomatic concordat have to be focused on increasing the role, prestige and responsibilities of these nations. It's their backyard. And this is an Asian Century.
Hope that helps,
If I understand you correctly, you are recommending (1) that we acquiesce in Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems and (2) that we ask Russia, India, and China to join us in the deployment of forces to contain a nuclear-armed Iran.
There are two problems I see:
First, a nuclear Iran might make first use of nuclear weapons against Israel. Since only two warheads in the high two-digit kiloton range would destroy that state, a regional ABM system may not be a reliable defense. Containment of a threat like this is not possible unless you make the assumption that Iran can be deterred from attacking in the first place. It is precisely this assumption, however, that is in dispute. Your solution would seem to require a degree of rationality in Tehran that the present leaders there have recently called into question.
Apart from Israel, I also wonder if Iran would try to expand in ways that aircraft carriers (whether US or Indian) would be useful in containing. It is more likely that Iran will give sanctuary and support to pro-Tehran militias and insurgents in neighboring countries than export nuclear weapons or engage in more conventional forms of military expansion. A nuclear deterrent is all Iran would need to step up this kind of low-level support.
Second, it would seem by your own argument more sensible for Russia, China, and India to form an alliance with Iran than an alliance to contain it. China and India, as you point out, need Iran's oil and gas, and (with the possible exception of India) none of the three big Asian powers have an interest in propping up American influence in southwest Asia. Iran could be a better policeman of the Persian Gulf on behalf of these powers than the United States. The Islamic insurgents that threaten Russia, China, and India are all Sunnis, and a dominant Iran would also be a useful obstacle and counterweight to them.
It would seem to me that if we want a non-nuclear Iran we must first offer a more compelling case for all of the great powers to band together on the basis of fundamental interests in common. The interests to which we appeal therefore cannot be economic, since the Asian powers have economic interests that dictate a more lenient approach to Iran than the one to which we would like them to agree.
The basis of a unified front is security and here the question of whether joint action by the great powers toward Iran is possible depends on whether there is a point at which the action needed would go beyond what perceptions of national interest can tolerate. At the very least, we would have to be willing to give up something in return for asking everyone else to do more than they have already agreed to do. This would put us on the spot, as well as the other great powers, and I concede that the likelihood of matters reaching that point is very low. However, if every narrower option short of war has failed, I think we ought to consider a wider range of ideas before either acquiescing in a nuclear Iran or going ballistic against it.
David B - good points. You're right: I do believe that a nuclear Iran is inevitable; I'm trying to make the best of a shitty situation, which is all that can be done here.
IMHO the only way forward in such a situation is to be ruthlessly honest-- in assessing the threat, our options, the relative strengths and weaknesses of the parties involved. This entails, at a minimum, trying to see this crisis the way the other, crucial powers see it. I think it's telling that the Atlantic magazine's wargame scenario did not ask any of the participants to act the roles of foreign ministers of any other power; they treated this as a bilateral US-Iran matter. Typical.
As to ruthless honesty, let's start by assessing the threat. Iran is an existential threat to Israel, not us. Israel can take care of itself, and will. When Iran gets nukes, we will find a way to deal with them, no less than we've done with nuclear Pakistan, whose pro-Al Qaeda security services pose more of a threat to us than Iran does. J Thomas is spot on in arguing for efforts to find and place in power an Iranian Musharraf.
As to your point: The interests to which we appeal therefore cannot be economic, since the Asian powers have economic interests that dictate a more lenient approach to Iran than the one to which we would like them to agree.
I thought I made clear that I'm appealing to national pride/honor/desire for prestige, which IMHO is a vastly underrated factor in interstate relations. If I were Russian or Chinese I'd be eager to do everything I could to thwart the US in Iran. They are great nations with huge interests in Iran and deserve a prominent role in resolving this.
The basis of a unified front is security and here the question of whether joint action by the great powers toward Iran is possible depends on whether there is a point at which the action needed would go beyond what perceptions of national interest can tolerate. At the very least, we would have to be willing to give up something in return for asking everyone else to do more than they have already agreed to do. This would put us on the spot, as well as the other great powers
I'm proposing we give up our exclusive role as military guarantor of stability in the region (though we must preserve this re the Straits of Hormuz). I'm not a military expert but I think it's pretty obvious that the post-9/11 pendulum in the region has swung so far in our favor-- US bases in former Soviet republics!-- that there must inevitably be a correction back toward Russia, perhaps also China. Why not get out in front of the inevitable and shape it to serve our purposes?
Yes, we'll be put on the spot, as you put it, and so will the other powers. All the more reason to get together with them ASAP and start exploring options. Another reason that I find it so infuriating that my party insists on working in concert with the EU bumblers. We've lost a lot of time waiting for their moronic proposals to be pissed on by the Iranians.posted by: thibaud on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"erg just can't help himself. Everything leads back inexorably to the Iraq War, Bush's perfidy etc. As to Russia and China, in erg's mind their importance is merely a reflection of the vast power of the UN Security Council.. By mindlessly repeating long-discredited mantras about the UNSC and sanctions, you're showing the bankruptcy of left-lib thinking on this issue."
Thibaud -- you're the one not paying attention at all and displaying your mental bankrutcy. In my response to your comment, I made no reference to Iraq, none to Bush's supposed perfidy at all. only made those comments in response to other people. Your inability to respond directly to my comments is a clear indication of your mindlesssness, not mine.
Of course the UN security council is important, because it is the only body that can order international sanctions, which would hurt Iran's economy badly, no matter what their leaders might say. At no point did I say that China and Russia's power was only because of their seat on the Security Council, but it was definitely a source of their power and even more importantly it shows you how likely the prospect of a grand solution involving Russia and China. If Russia and China are not going to go along with regular sanctions for Iran, what on Earth makes you think they would participate in anything more ? And if they do along, India will most definitely go along with sanctions.
Your idea of some sort of Russia/China/India axis confronting the US is also naive. While relations between these countries are somewhat improved recently, they barely trust each other. Iran could easily play one of them against the other anyway, as Mynamar has done with India and China to frustrate sanctions.
If all you're saying is that these countries (especially Russia and China) need to be taken into account and brought around to our point of view, thats fine. However your inability to offer specifics, other than talking vaguely of some sort of grand compact) weakens your comments considerably. While India has naval ambitions to dominate the Indian Ocean and eventually the Persian Gulf, I doubt very much any interest in acting on American's behalf. India has had good relations with practically every Iranian government, including the Ayatollah and the Shah and has currently a large natural gas deal with Iran. The US could offer carrots (recent promises of assistance to India's military was behind India's taking a more favorable position vis-a-vis Iran), but the possibility of a naval blockade is very limited.
Remember that neither India nor China perceive Iran as a threat, their main concern is instability.posted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
A few corrections to erg's post: I wrote that a US strike on Iran would potentially drive these countries into each others' arms. I dais nothing about an existing "axis", in fact I used the word "bund" to indicate that this would be a nascent, first-time affair if it were to come about-- again, as a result of a US strike on a country they view as a potential ally.
I also mentioned a specific military role for China and Russia, as part of a larger collective security agreement for the region. I'll leave the operational details of that role to the military guys, but I'm confident it could be managed, given that we cooperate with dozens of militaries of varying degrees of quality and readiness all over the globe.
As to your bloviations about the UNSC, you still don't get it. Nothing will come from the UNSC because it can only stage the sort of pointless, semi-punitive sanctions that serve no one's interest except maybe ours. Sanctions are a dead letter. In today's economy they cannot and will not work against an oil-rich nation.
As to the amount of power derived by China and Russia from the UNSC, that's minimal. Neither nation could prevent the Kosovo bombardment by NATO, or the US Iraq War, or for that matter the allies' response in Korea half a century ago. The UN offers a bit of prestige to them, period. These nations' power comes from their military and economic assets. If anything they view the UN more or less the same way that US conservatives do, and would likely look with favor on US proposals to replace it in regions of influence for them with local collective security arrangements.
Which suggests that this crisis may well be the last nail in the coffin of the UNSC, to be replaced, particularly in Asia, by regional security groupings which recognize power realities. SW Asia would be a good place to start building such a group, which will include India, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China and the US.posted by: thibaud on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"Which suggests that this crisis may well be the last nail in the coffin of the UNSC, to be replaced, particularly in Asia, by regional security groupings which recognize power realities. SW Asia would be a good place to start building such a group, which will include India, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China and the US."
Great idea -- except for the little matter of getting those countries to agree with each other or to help US interestsposted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
I know someone else already referenced it, but if you have not already read it, you should read the December 2004 James Fallows piece in the Atlantic Online where a bunch of policy experts wargamed (something much less than a full out wargame) the Iran situation. The clear majority opinion was that ALL military options were actually pretty terrible, even though we should make Iran think we were quite willing to go that route. So I suppose that means that the US government should "signal" that it is not a rational actor to make the threat credible (insert joke here if you must).
On the other hand, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, in a "future history" piece in the London Telegraph seems to think that not intervening militarily will lead to disaster, making that 1930s reference that other posters have made here.
erg -- I don't know about the the Iranian military's loyalties, but every piece I have read on the subject supports M Simon's claim that the majority of the Iranian population does not support the mullahs. And saying that Ahmadinejab won the election (which allegedly indicates the population's support for him) is a pretty weak counterargument given that reformers were basically kept from running at all.posted by: gremlin on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
", but every piece I have read on the subject supports M Simon's claim that the majority of the Iranian population does not support the mullahs. And saying that Ahmadinejab won the election (which allegedly indicates the population's support for him) is a pretty weak counterargument given that reformers were basically kept from running at all."
And my point is that I think we really don't understand the dynamics of Iran all that well. There is definitely a large group of educated Westernized Iranians who oppose the theocracy. On the other hand, I wouldn't blow off the election so easily. Rajfanjani did run, and he is a reformist of sorts. The election got turnouts of 60-63%, which is much higher than the US and Ahmedianjiad won by a huge margin.
All of this indicates that we don't understand how the rural poor in Iran are likely to vote or react. I doubt there is much public support for confrontation with the US. On the other hand, I think there is probably huge support for Iran's nuclear program. I also think any attack by the US on Iran would increase support for the regime hugely. Basically I think we should be very wary of any analysis that assumes the people of Iran will rise up against the regime if we invade.
Less difficult, and far more availing, than yet another UN sanctions charade. Try again.
btw, I agree with erg's speculation about the Iranian people's likely response to a US attack. The Iranian people desire nukes and will have them in due course, be it under the mullahs, a sane and reasonably liberal administration, or a Musharraf type. Our best bet lies with finding and helping propel into power the latter.posted by: thibaud on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
"Less difficult, and far more availing, than yet another UN sanctions charade. "
The reason there are problems with the UN are that each country has its own ambitions and goals. A regional power caucus of the type you suggest will not remove the conflicting ambitions and goals of those in the region. It *may* mean that countries like Germany have less say in say the Middle East (although I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the world's 3rd or 4th largest economy), but will it lead to better (more favorable to the US)results ?
Lets consider the Iraq situation. If we had Turkey, India, Pakistan, Russia and China in this sort of regional security caucus to deal with the Iraq situation, what would have happened ? Russia was strongly opposed to the invasion. The populace in Turkey and Pakistan were opposed, although the governments co-operated to a limited degree. China -- well who knows what the inscrutable Chinese would have done. India would most definitely not have participated in such an invasion. Turkey and Russia were major sanctions busters as well. The most they might have agreed to was inspections, which is what they did agree too. In short, we would have the same situation as we did with the UN.
If the goal of your regional security groups is to offload some of the weight of being the worlds policeman from the US and lead countries like China and India to take more interest in policing the Middle East, for instance, then that would seem like a desireable goal. I, for one, though, am not sure that these regional groupings would necessarily favor US policy.
I am even less convinced that this would mean greater peace or stability in powder keg areas like the ME. China and India have their own separate ambitions and I could well see a replay of the great game over the Middle East with factions supporting each country.posted by: erg on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
erg - you misconstrue my post, once more. I have never referred to "the middle east" and do not wish any role for the Asian powers in disputes centered on Iraq or Lebanon or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Europeans, esp France and the UK, matter there; the Chinese and Russians and Indians do not and should not. Also, again, the Iranian problem for us is not about Israel. It's about oil flows and proliferation. These are crucial concerns that involve those crucial, growing oil consumers China dn India and that crucial storehouse of WMD that spans 11 time zones and Europe and Asia, Russia.
It *may* mean that countries like Germany have less say in say the Middle East (although I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the world's 3rd or 4th largest economy), but will it lead to better (more favorable to the US)results?
It will mean that France and Germany have less say in SW Asia, the region in question (not at all the same as "the Middle East"). As to results, the performance re Iran of these nations over the past several years is so ridiculously bad that my alternative can only be an improvement. We have wasted two years pursuing a series of naive gambits, each one resulting in the complete humiliation of the EU3 by the Iranians, finally arriving at a dead end which not even the most determined appeaser will try to deny.
Iraq was a different matter-- none of China or India's business, and Russia's influence there, like France's, was almost totally inimical to our interests, not to mention to human rights and any concern for the Iraqi peoples. (Note that France's Total and Russia's LUKoil both signed massive sweetheart oil deals with Saddam at the 11th hour in Nov 2002-- blood for oil, indeed.) And of course Turkey and Syria both had strong reasons to suppress the rise of any kind of democratic, federalist Iraq which would give the Kurds some autonomy. All in all, the interests of the regional powers involved tended to favor negative, reactionary, completely opportunistic behavior.
Iran's vastly different. Look at Russia's behavior, for starters: they've put forth the best diplomatic proposal seen so far. If paired with a US bad cop routine, their influence is actually likely to be constructive. As to Turkey and France, they're both (fortunately) out of the picture. Ditto for Germany. I frankly don't know much about Pakistan's relations with Iran, or India's for that matter, though I suspect that India's navy, which has been very helpful in policing sea lanes in Asia, could well play a constructive role in assisting us.
If the goal of your regional security groups is to offload some of the weight of being the worlds policeman from the US and lead countries like China and India to take more interest in policing the Middle East, for instance, then that would seem like a desireable goal
Again, not the "middle east"; only the eastern portion of it, ie SW Asia. Another benefit is that habits of cooperation and institutions created here can eventually be leveraged to help solve the other nuclear mess facing us and the Asian powers: North Korea. Lastly, as I underscored before, power is shifting ineluctably toward these nations, esp China, and we need to begin to redesign our collective security institutions to accomodate this fact. It is utterly absurd that the UNSC has 3 European nations and only one purely Asian nation. As Condi's recent shakeup at State suggests, someone is FINALLY recognizing what's been apparent to most of us for years: we need to shed the foolish and blinkered euro-centric policies and institutions inherited from the last century and move aggressively toward an Asia-centric foreign policy. This crisis is a perfect opportunity to start.posted by: thibaud on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Thibaud, I want to clarify a minor point.
I don't "argue for" an iranian Musharraf.
I suggested that looking at the dangers versus possible payofs of the various forms of intervention, this was the only one that looked to me like it had a fair chance to avoid disaster. If it fails it tends to fail safe. Likely we can't find an iranian military figure who's willing to do a coup. No harm done. Or we find one who tries and fails. He gets executed -- unfortunate for him -- and we get a little more bad publicity. Not a tarbaby. Not a disaster.
My own thought is we should back off. Nonproliferation is dead. It worked for awhile and now it's stopped working. The central reason we have a big problem with the iranian government is we deserved and got such a bad reputation. Installing the Shah. Supporting iraq during the war with iran. Helping iraq do chemical warfare on iran. The botched iran/contra deal, where we sold iran defective missile parts from israel. And now Bush threatening to invade, and continuing to threaten war even after it's clear we don't have the troops.to win.
If we succeeded in setting up another Shah, it would hurt us in the long run. We have this bad habit of mistreating weak nations, with an attitude of "hey, what are they going to do about it?". And then, when one of them starts to get a little power we're like all "hey, these guys have an irrational hatred for us. It's because they teach kids to hate us in their public schools. We need to bomb them and take over their government and make them do education reform and then everything will be OK.".
I doubt we really want democracy in places where people hate us. But the more we do to suppress them, the worse it gets. We're in a hole, and we need to find ways to get out of the hole, and the first step is to stop digging.
Still, if iran does have a coup and some general announces that iran will not have a nuclear weapons program, and he welcomes inspectors to help him find any programs that might exist so he can shut them down, that would be the best short-term result I can imagine for us. We've painted ourselves into a corner and that would be the easiest way out.
It would be helpful if one could assume that the Iranian nuclear program was the product of the election of George W. Bush in 2000, or the inclusion in the "Axis of Evil" in 2002. However, in the land of reality, the Iranian nuclear program predates George W. Bush as an elected official.
The Iranians have been on a nuclear track since at least the early 90s. Iran, as they were obviously aware, read the papers about Indian, Pakistani, and Iraqi nuclear programs. Furthermore, sometime around 1950 it was known that if you could build a nuclear program, you should. With the assistance of time, technology, and trade oriented technocratic states, acquiring nuclear energy was becoming a bargain.
gremlin mentions the Fallows' piece in the Atlantic Monthly. A better piece is the Nov 2005 piece, "The Wrath of Khan", from William Langeweische and his follow up piece in the Jan 2006 Atlantic Montly, "The Point of No Return", if nuclear proliferation is your habit.
I'm awfully cold on cozying up to the Baluchis. We've done this once already when we needed Sunni infiltration into southern Iran to help funnel information to Saddam in his war with Iran. The Baluchis, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, weren't exactly friendlies after the end of that war.posted by: Gabriel Sutherland on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
The best short term policy is for Israel to offer Iran a proposal to develop atomic energy for them. Israel will enrich the uranium and control its import/export. The Iranians will get the energy that is made possible with enriched uranium. Together they will share the profits, something along the lines of 70/30, Iran/Israel respectively.
Iran is Israel's biggest problem. As Iran/Contra showed us, the Israelis can and will do business with Iran for nothing other than building a channel of information to learn what Iran is up to. An energy cooperation deal would serve multiple purposes and satisfy the Iranian demand for atomic energy.
Long term, it is in the world's interest for Iran to acquire atomic energy. The more energy they derive from uranium, the more petroleum is allocated for transportation.posted by: Gabriel Sutherland on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
I think if you do a little looking you will find the Iranian nuke program was going on during the Clinton Admin.
I blame Bush 1. Or Carter. Or Ronny.
Actually the French had a part in it too.
I think that the proximate cause is actually religious ambition - setting the stage for the return of the mahdi. If you can believe their President. I'd give him as much credence as I would the ravings of a certain Austrian corporal.
Something about cleansing humanity of impurity. Remarkably similar mindset. Similar targets too. I hear he is having a big conference on the "art works" of said Austrian corporal. Should be interesting.posted by: M. Simon on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
BTW the breasts were not worth a look;
"It would be helpful if one could assume that the Iranian nuclear program was the product of the election of George W. Bush in 2000, or the inclusion in the "Axis of Evil" in 2002. [....] The Iranians have been on a nuclear track since at least the early 90s"
Iran has toyed with developing nukes before. They didn't do it.
The rule of thumb is that anybody who *can* develop nukes can do it in 5 years. And when the USA is gunning for you about developing nukes, you need to do it as quick as you can.
If they started in December 2000, they've had 6 years and they're an unforgiveable year behind schedule. The delay might cost them everything. I don't believe it.
If they started in February 2002 they've had almost 4 years. They might be a year away, or they might be moving a bit faster than the rule of thumb.
FREEDOM FOR IRAN NOWposted by: Winston on 01.17.06 at 11:41 AM [permalink]
Iran has proved that it is impervious to world opinion
Fuck the Jews. If Hitler had killed off the Jews, we wouldn't have to worry about any of this today!
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