Monday, July 16, 2007

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Dear Mr. President: please leave Iran in limbo

Dear George,

I trust you and yours are doing well. I'm writing because Ewen MacAskill and Julian Borger have this story in the Guardian that says you want to solve Iran by the time you leave office:

The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.

The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."

The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.

Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week.

Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr Cheney and Mr Bush.

"Cheney has limited capital left, but if he wanted to use all his capital on this one issue, he could still have an impact," said Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.

This story jibes with what I'm hearing about your mindset as well.

George, George, George.... haven't you learned to prioritize? Last I checked, Pakistan's tribal areas are falling apart, Al Qaeda seems resurgent, your homeland security chief has a bad gut feeling, and, oh yes, there's Iraq. Aren't there enough current threats to focus on without fretting about threats that could manifest themselves 5-10 years from now.

Speaking of Iraq, there's another reason I'd like you to kick the Iran can down the road. I was sent a screener of a new documentary, No End In Sight. Here's a preview in case it wasn't sent to you:

The documentary consists almost entirely of observations from former administration officials and servicemen. What they have to say suggests that even if you are the decider, you and yours suck eggs at being the implementer.

The truth is, no matter how many times I game it in my head, I can't see a scenario where, by focusing your energies on Iran and adopting Cheney's perspective on what to do, you make the situation there even a smidgen better. And in almost all of them, you dramatically worsen the problem.

Please, I beg you, just stop worrying about Iran. Worry about other things instead.


Dan Drezner

posted by Dan on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM



You believe what you read in the Guardian about what Bush is thinking and what he intends? Oh my!

Of course Bush worries about Iraq and Israel and Pakistan and a host of other things. He's giving a speech on Palestine even as I write. The surge is..., well, surging. Pakistan is renewing military activities in Waziristan. The Air Force is redeploying in Iraq. Unlike some of his critics, apparently Bush can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Bush need not be actually contemplating military action in Iran, but keeping alive the possibility that he is thinking about doing so is a useful thing and should not be precluded.

posted by: D.B. Light on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

I think a high-level delegaton of Republicans, channeling the spirit of Barry Goldwater, needs to communicate to the Decider that, should he commit the US to any offensive action in Iran without consulting and obtaining the acquiesence of Congress the Congress, said Republicans will sign on immediately with any impeach Bush Cheney movement that might then be brewing, and and act to revoke his deciding privileges.

I realy wish, if people really are imagining an invasion of Iran (and I figure you are using this Guardian article as evidence of what you are hearing from your informed sources), that somebody, rather than whispering to the press, would forthrightly resign and announce what's going on and prove it.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

Ha...the Guardian those dare they do it again. A mass circulation english language daily that dared to suggest before the invasion that Iraq would not have wmd or greet the "coalition" with flowers... and now they suggest that Cheney wants to attack Iran...where will it end.

posted by: @ on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

Gee, I guess Bush really does suck as an implementer when it comes to war. But then so did Washington, Madison, Polk, Lincoln, McKinley, Wilson, F. D. Roosevelt, Truman, L. B. Johnson, and G. H. W. Bush. Wars are rife with error and misjudgment, and it is hard to see that Bush has done any worse than his predecessors.

War is Hell and this one is no worse, and considerably better conducted than most past conflicts.

posted by: D.B. Light on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

The decider's admin has been a unmitigated foreign policy disaster; a disaster of momumental propotions. The decider calls for a mideast peace process after the shit blows all over Palestine, when you have barely time left for this admin to clean out their desks and go away.

Simply unbelievable to see that there are many apologists for this war still around (not including Fox News and that demented Lindsey Graham).

posted by: Academic Troller on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

Just let him try it! If he is stupid enough to do it, maybe the amazing suffering that Iran can inflict on the USA will once and for all stir the American people out of their slumber to finally hang all the neocons/zionists from the nearest tree and cause the rest of the world to join forces and destroy the USA as is increasingly necessary. As i have said before on this blog, I just hope that Bush is in Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, Israel, Saudi, or any of the number of places that Iran will fire countless rockets at to destroy American interests or bases. He would deserve to be blown to bits by the rockets that he invites. If Bush and cheney are so ignorant to attack Iran, good, let them suffer. The more time they waste in doing it, the more rockets Iran can build. The more targets they can map out. Saudi oil operations- Leveled! American bases in Iraq - Leveled! American bases in Afghanistan - Leveled! American bases in the region - Leveled! Something tells me that an umbrella is not going to stop this rain from falling in Tel Aviv.

It's not exactly a secret that there are hundreds of thousands of American troops on Iran's boarders. If i can find them on google maps, I am pretty sure the Iranian government can do the same. So let bush try it. And finally the American people will understand the costs of war. It is about time!

posted by: Joe M. on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

Note to Joe M.

You might consider breaking those little pills in half in the future.


- AJ

posted by: Alaska Jack on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

You can write me off if you want, but I am telling the truth. Bush is an arrogant piece of garbage. Did you see his speech today? He still thinks he can go around and dictate to other people what is going to happen between Israel/Palestine. He lives in a dream world. And in that dream world, it is obvious that he thinks he can just attack anyone he wants. He clearly thinks Iran is enemy #1 and I have no doubt that he plans to attack them at some point (or Israel will, which is the same thing).

So, well, Iran is the only country in the region that can actually fight back. And if he decided to attack them, I hope they make the USA suffer, and suffer greatly. For all the millions of Iraqis they have killed, and for destruction they have done to the region: Helping Israel occupy Palestine and strangle the people, for keeping every dictatorship in the region in power with aid (military and diplomatic), for their belief that they have the right to rule the world... and more. Let them attack Iran, and I hope Iran bombs the shit out of their troops and assets in the region. If Bush is so stupid to think he can just take over any country he wants and do anything he wants, let him find out what will happen to him with Iran.

posted by: Joe M. on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]


The fact that war is a brutal, chaotic affair does not preclude us from making analytical statements about the conduct, progress or likely outcome thereof. We can say, for example, that Abrams was a better general than Westmoreland, that our strategy of attrition in Vietnam was unsuited to the nature of the conflict, and so forth.

You will note that, in addition to a number of bald-faced lies about the magnitude and urgency of the threat, the Iraq war--a war of choice, I might add, unlike many of the wars you mention in your post--is likely to leave the US in a worse security environment than we had when we went in.

Yes, you can blame the people who want to get out before the mission is finished. On the other hand, the mission and the strategy to accomplish it have changed so many times that I, for one, find it hard to blame them.

To sum up, what President Bush has done worse than his predecessors is gin up a cause for a war of choice that didn't hold up to casual scrutiny, fail to plan for an occupation that was clearly coming down the pipe contrary to Wolfowitz's ignorant "it seems unlikely to me that more people would be required to hold then country than take it" blather, fail to establish a straw man with wide political support shortly after the fall of Baghdad, fail to exploit Iraqi resource wealth to pay for the war and fail to get the right man for the job (Gen. Petr.) until far too late.

As a result, we have a situation in which our security situation is deteriorating, "emboldened" regional powers like China, Russia and Iran, and sharply limited progress in detaining and destroying the network that attacked us on 9/11.

posted by: Troll on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

"Solve" Iran?

This formulation in and of itself encapsulates virtually everything that has proved wrong/misguided/counterproductive/delusionary/self-defeating/whatever-negative-trait-you-can-think-of about this Administration and its wrong/misguided...etc foreign policy. Thinking that a military attack on Iran* will "solve" anything is just typical of the halllucinatory neocon mindset - whose policy prescriptions have worked out SO well in Iraq - and whose sick influence is still, sadly unabated in Washington.

*This is presuming that some sort of "Osirak" scenario is planned, rather than a full-blast invasion. Either way it stinks.

posted by: Jay C on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

Jay c.
I am afraid you are correct with you "influence unbated in washington" statement regarding the neo-cons.

With headlines leaking out like "Iran knows it is arming the Taliban" and "Iran and Syria aiding the insurgents in Iraq" getting repeated over and over one gets curious. Despite those headlines, the substance of the matter is that that elements of the Pakistani government are and have been the Talibans patrons for 30years. In Iraq a small percentage of the overall violence is "foriegn fighter" related...and of those a majority come from Saudi Arabia.
It leads me to believe the elements of the neo con movement are still out there still trying to "create their own reality". The rest of the term will be interesting.
I hope Cheney/Kristol listen to Dan with regards to "solving" Iran!

posted by: CENTRIST on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

Gee, Troll, where to begin? Yes, of course, we can make analytic judgments about wars. My judgment is that this war has been better fought than many in the past. Yes there have been mistakes made, but they have not been nearly as bad nor as costly as those made under most previous wartime administrations.

Regarding the "war of choice" argument that sort of argument could be made against nearly every military action the U.S. has undertaken in its history. The Second Continental Congress "chose" independence over accommodation; the Madison administration "chose" to hardline the Brits; Polk "chose" to make Texas into a fighting issue; Lincoln "chose" to militarily resist secession; McKinley was reluctantly forced into war [I'll give you that one]; Wilson "chose" to send U.S. troops into the European war; Roosevelt "chose" to take a hard line toward Japan that invited military retaliation; Kennedy "chose" to make a stand in South Vietnam, 41 "chose" to make an issue over the invasion of Kuwait. I'm not saying that these choices were unjustified or even wrong, but the fact remains that a rational argument can be made for calling each of these a "war of choice."

On the "Bush lied" charge -- the President was quite careful at the time to label Saddam an "emerging" rather than an "imminent" threat and his decisions were a rational and responsible reaction to the information he had available to him. That some of that information was wrong doesn't change that fact. It's simply a matter of perspective -- you see baldfaced lies, I see responsible if honestly mistaken actions. Regarding the "casual scrutiny" remark, I will point out that the Clinton administration, European intelligence services, and Congressional Democrats all agreed with the Bush administration's assessment of the situation.

America's security was compromised on 9/11. The Iraq war has not changed that, but I would point out that the current administration has foiled a number of attempts to strike at the homeland. The idea that carrying the fight to the enemy increases homeland security is not to be dismissed out of hand.

So you admit that the administration and military command have "changed the course" a number of times. That, of course, is not what his Congressional critics are charging. All wars involve changes in tactical and strategic considerations. They are fluid and developing situations and adjustment is always necessary. Quite often war aims change with contingencies.

There were always plenty of plans for after the initial military operations -- the problem was that the situation changed rapidly during and after the invasion. As old plans failed, new ones were devised and implemented. The big point you fail to see is that this was never an attempt to take and hold Iraq as some imperial province. It was always seen by Bush as a war of liberation.

It took a long time to find Grant, Ridgway, Abrams, etc. That is often the way with war. Peacetime armies tend to reward bureaucrats, not warriors and we always enter combat with false assumptions that have to be corrected.

All in all, I find little reason to conclude, as you do, that the Bush administration has been any less competent or responsible in prosecuting this war than his predecessors -- but then I don't hold him to an impossible standard.

posted by: D.B. Light on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

D. B. Light -- you are correct of course about the nature of war and how other leaders have made mistakes. But you overlook the essential point that the other leaders learned from their mistakes, changed policies and went on to victory. But Bush never seems to learn from his mistakes and never changes policies. He just keeps making the same mistake over and over again. That is why AQ has rebuilt and we are no better off vs terrorism than we were the day before 9/11. That is the difference that you are ignoring.

posted by: spencer on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

"light" your trolling is not even worthy of a rebuttle. This is not a blog populated by liberals and I dare say vast majority of people that regularls that frequent this site think you are deluded...willfully or otherwise.

posted by: centrist on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]


The phrase "war of choice" does not mean that somebody made a choice to go to war. What it means is that the war was fought for reasons other than a grave threat to the essential security interests of the United States of America. Vietnam was a war of choice. WWII was not.

Secondly, strategies can change. Overarching war aims generally don't. You can have many different strategies to prevent the hegemonic rise of Nazi Germany. However, in Iraq we've had disruption of terrorist networks, disarmament, nonproliferation and democratization as our aims at different times. Each requires a different dedicated strategy. Which is it now? How does our current strategy serve our target?

Finally, you're judging conduct. I'm not going to argue that point (although it is extremely arguable). So far, I have seen little evidence that the means we have embraced serve the ends we seek, or even that the ends we seek serve our broad security interests. I'd be much happier if we'd killed Osama bin Laden and destroyed al Qaida and Saddam still ruled Iraq.

posted by: Troll on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

The Guardian is great as long as you generally steer clear of the back pages -

they actually broke the Iraq II story, headlining that the US were definitely going to invade before any other British (and perhaps international) paper.

Just dont mention Operation Clark County....

posted by: George on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

Gear up for grub with a tripleheader of pigskin, including a meeting of brothers in Dallas. Everybody knows it's been a rough year for her, but find out who else had issues

posted by: James on 07.16.07 at 11:02 AM [permalink]

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