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Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Iran So Far Away, Part 4

A fisking! A fisking! (And after the fisking....)

This is a very long post. I didn't set out to make it that way, but it just sort of took on a life of its own. Please click on "Read more" to view it in its entirety. (Note: although this tag appears now on all posts, only this particular post has expanded text.) A few excerpts are extracted for your reading pleasure...



"Chefjef," he said, rolling up his sleeves, "you wanted commentary? You got it, brother!" Let's go:

Wendy Sheehan is a granola Lefty, but Bush is a truth-stretching scaredycat.

Right on both counts. Sheehan was an ichabodnik even before her erstwhile vigil made her "the Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement." So now she's just another leftist grief pimp. I hope her son forgives her.

Bush may be what you say, although I'm not certain why you think he's a "scaredycat." If he is these things, it makes him indistinguishable from every other American politician of the last hundred years. I seem to recall that this guy was pretty good at bending veritas past its modulus of elasticity, and he ran scared for most of his presidency (at least until he outran his impeachers, at which point he was a lame duck....)

And the ChimpyHitlerFuehrer crowd should be reminded that the Real Schicklegruber, a) told the truth about his intentions (in Mein Kampf, for instance), and b) was never particularly fearful (in fact, he was renown for his courage under fire in WW I). Dubya doesn't quite seem to fit the mold...

None of this is at all relevant to the topic at hand, but I thought it was interesting. Let's proceed:

...Let’s broaden the scope of the “Iraq issue.” I think Iraq is B.S., but there is definitely a larger issue of “Us. vs. Terrorists” that requires direct and prolonged action by the U.S...

Yes, and Iraq is an inextricable part of it. It's not "B.S.;" it's the 'central front,' if you will, at least for now. I'm getting a whiff here of the Establishment-Leftist idea that Iraq is somehow separable from the larger context of the war. It's not. It's one campaign of many.

The war is global. It involves all instruments of national power (diplomatic, informational, military, economic, cultural...) and all media (land, air, sea, space, and cyberspace). It potentially affects all nations and non-national actors (regardless of their seeming neutrality). It is not new (Tours, the Fall of Constantinople, Lepanto, the Reconquista, and the Siege of Vienna were all earlier battles in essentially the same conflict or series of wars) and it will outlive this Administration. It is not fought against a tactic ("terrorism"), a nation, a people, or even a religion--it is fought against an idea and an ideology; one that, by its own internal logic, mandates violent conflict with all who actively oppose its spread (the "Dar al-Harb" or "House of War").

I suspect you'll agree, but it doesn't hurt to put things in perspective.

...and I think we are behind the eight-ball in terms of when we got started.

Couldn't agree more. Let's be clear, though: Lying-Liar-Fraidycat-Fuehrer-Chimp-Who-Lied isn't the only one at fault for that--and is no more at fault than his predecessor, Perjury Boy. And the hypocritical ol' US is not the only country at fault, either. The West as a civilization failed to seriously address the challenge of resurgent islam for decades, despite overwhelming evidence (never mind the common-sense insight) that something like 9-11 (or worse) was inevitable --

You, of course, believe that the Iraq effort is a necessary element in the “Us v. Tangos” thing.

I believe that Iraq was and is a necessary element in the "us vs. the enemy" thing -- "tangos" aren't the enemy; they are just some of its foot soldiers. In any war, the real enemy is the leadership that wills the conflict. Enemy soldiers are just a means to their ends. There are many aspects to our current enemy beyond the "tangos." Let's keep this straight, because it's important in understanding the larger context that includes Iran.

Okay, well regardless of the position one takes on the relevance of Iraq to “U v. T,” the media focus on Iraq is as distracting to the broader issue as the Roman Gladiator games (in the later years) were to the state of the Empire – that is, they sort of purposefully kept folks’ minds off of things.

Your statement allows three interpretations:

- The media are focusing on Iraq for some purpose of their own (ratings: war and bloodshed are interesting, or whatever) and are distracting the people from things they should be aware of and pay attention to, but not with any underlying motive beyond their own immediate interests;


- The media are deliberately diverting attention from large issues for some underlying, unrevealed purpose of their own (an anti-war bias: dead Americans undermine support at home, or whatever) that attention given elsewhere would detract from;


- The media is deliberately diverting attention at the behest of some other agent, presumably to keep people's minds off a real, but underlying and unrevealed agenda. This also implies a degree of control by the agent, or deliberate collusion on the part of the media, or both. Presumably, the agent would be the government or some overarching "Establishment."

The first is plausible, assuming you accept the premise that Iraq is an unnecessary distraction from some more important task. I do not, but assuming your premise, the idea is plausible.

Many on the right believe that the second is true. Again, I do not. I admit the leftist bias of most of the media and acknowledge its hostility to this administration, but I do not believe it is capable of acting conspiratorially as a corporate body, nor do I believe this is necessary to explain its coverage of Iraq.

The third premise is purest bayou swamp gas. I have served the government long enough to know that it cannot conspire effectively even among those agencies that are chartered to do so. A government that is capable of constructing such an elaborate, effective, and long-lasting ruse would not have given us NASA. Or $900 hammers. Or the B-1. Or Amtrak. Or Ted Kennedy. The idea that it is conspiring with a media establishment that feigns implacable hostility (all part of the deception!) in order to keep the hoi polloi in line belongs in the comments section of DailyKos, not out in the open air, where the pungent reek of Amorphophallus titanum might cause those of delicate sensibilities to gag.

I'm surprised at you: Your use of "purposefully" and the bread and circuses metaphor suggests that you believe this. If so – if a liberal of obvious intelligence and insight can seriously believe such a thing (without it just being a bit of rhetorical flourish) – then that shows the level to which reasoned discourse has sunk in this country. Dementia politicus has caught hold of the left the way it did the right during Billygoat's reign (when even mainstream Republicans became part of the "Hillary-killed-Vince-Foster-in-Mena-to cover-up-the-Whitewater-gunrunning-money" crowd).

Get a grip, people! Aliens didn't land at Roswell, Area 51 is just part of the Nellis test and training range, the moon landing wasn't shot in a television studio, the Ark of the Covenant isn't stored in a government warehouse in DC, and ChimpyHitlerLiar didn't personally order Circus-Freak Cindy's lil' baby boy shot. Okay? Are we straight on this?

(Incidentally, panem et circenses was not a "later" Roman innovation. Juvenal wrote of it around 100 and he was referring to what he saw around him (remember that he was an officer w/ Agricola in Britain over 20 years before). It certainly applied to the later Empire (and even to Byzantium following Rome), but was well established by the time Augustus croaked. Rome: Decadence without end, amen.

Again, not relevant……but interesting…..)

So what say we get some Monkster analysis and insight on Iran. I’ll give you a starting board. You can post some of it as a sounding board, and perhaps it’ll generate some discussion from other correspondents on the issue (an issue which, I think, us common folks need to prod the establishment in spending more time discussing with the public).

Deee-lighted to (as Teddy would say)…

Well, this weekend President Bush made a thinly veiled threat to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities or even invade the country as a last resort. The comment was sparked by Tehran's troubled negotiations with the West over its nuclear program.

It wasn't so thinly veiled, nor was it meant to be.

This Administration has been pi$$-poor at articulating and selling its strategy, but there is actually some good strategerizing going on. I guess this isn't surprising, since Dubya learned governating from his dad, who was real fond of keeping secrets, and Dubya hizownsef is about as articulate as a minnow. Still, he has bright, articulate people working for him (including his speechwriters, who are some of the best ever – if only they had a speech-deliverer who was better on the stump than Stephen Hawking's talking computer; Bush's malaprop fumbling was refreshing at first after Clinton's uberglib lies – now it's just old….). He should use these people to make the case better than he does.


Bush's statement was a very deliberate, in-your-face showing of the big stick and it was meant to be seen that way in Iran. I agree with the decision to make the statement and applaud the well-thought-through timing, manner, and place in which it was made. This is how the game is played.

It is telling that Bush made the comments on Israeli television, which makes them even more provocative. Israel is, of course, not only Iran's archenemy but is also probably the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the immediate region.

Yes, indeed it is and good on you for picking up on this. The message was aimed directly at Iran's new leadership: "We know the first target of a mullahnuke will be Israel, so we are making this threat from ground zero; Israel will certainly respond, but we will too." This is perfectly appropriate and was part of the context I mentioned above. This, as I said, is part of how the game of nations is played.

Bush seems to not only want to rattle his saber at Tehran's hard-liners, he also wants to ensure that he infuriates and publicly embarrasses even moderate Iranians.

Look, Iran's moderates (and all mullah-haters, moderate or not) are on our side, simply by virtue of, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." The Iranian government is and will always be a much greater, more immediate threat to Iranian dissidents than anything the US is or does.

The Administration's strategists are smart enough to know that no regime with significant hard-core domestic opposition has ever been able to rattle its own sabers and unite the people behind it, even if the "enemy of their enemy" is a brutal autocracy too. Talk to a few old Ukrainians about the Soviets and the Nazis and which side they fought on in the Great Patriotic War. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians died along side the Germans, even as the latter's Einstatztruppen were killing Ukrainian families behind the front. Same-same the Croatians in Yougoslavia (as it was then spelled); they hated the Germans, but hated the Serbs more (& still do). Russian nationalism during WW I didn't stop the revolutionaries from signing a secret accord with Imperial Germany to take Russia out of the war (and they kept their promise).

Iranian "liberals" and "moderates" may hate us, but they hate and fear their own government more. They will be content to thumb their noses at us once they're in power. Further, no matter how ham-fistedly we goof up our public statements, pro-democracy groups around the world will still be attracted and beholden to our soft power – the force of our culture in the world will still sway them.

At the same time, Iran is a nation-state, run by a government with definable interests, that is coercible in ways we understand pretty well. We've gotten fairly good at this nation-state coercion thing; what we haven't gotten our minds around yet is how to manipulate the non-state actors and trans-national cultural movements. Unfortunately, that's whom we're fighting in this war. Since we understand better how to manipulate nation-states, when the enemy manifests himself in the form of a national government, as he did in Iraq and is doing in Iran (and Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and…..), we need to use the mechanisms we do understand to best advantage.

Intimidation is one of the most effective tools in the national toolbox. It has a pretty good track record, especially when, a) the threats used are credible and, b) it is coupled with friendly overtures from someone seeking the same end state we are. In this case, Europe has been dangling the carrot, while the US has kept its big stick in sight (and, all things considered, has spoken pretty softly too).

Intimidation can be a very effective tool for conveying, "this far and no farther" – setting the boundaries of acceptable behavior on the part of one actor or another. That is how it is being used in support of diplomatic initiatives with Iran today.


Bush has been content so far to let Europe play good cop – to have them say, "Mon Dieu! I don't know how long I can keep El Chimpo restrained. You know he's bloody well insane!" A thing that adds credibility is that many who are negotiating with Iran believe this. Good. America has used the perception that it's the crazy-dumb cowboy before – even to the extent of pulling off brinkmanship twice (Cuban Missile Crisis and October War in ’73); not an easy thing to do. Bush is the perfect vehicle for conveying this idea. I'm sure he wishes it were otherwise, but "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one," after all. (Sorry……/trekkie geekmoment.)

I think this Administration should be complemented for how well they've played the game so far. I'm not saying their approach to Iran will work, but it's a pretty standard set of moves in the national IOP playbook and it's certainly worth a try.

Or……perhaps Bush wants to undermine his whole policy WRT to Iran and the world just 'cause saber rattlin’ gives him a hard-on (he is, after all, insano-Cowboy BushyFuerherChimp). Besides, the damnjooz made him do it anyway with their Zionist mind-control beams. They all drink muslim blood and sacrifice black welfare babies to a statue of Alan Greenspan.

Y'know, Chefjef, sometimes Occam is right.

If diplomacy fails, "all options are on the table," Bush said. "You know, we've used force in the recent past to secure our country." But it was precisely Bush's use of preemptive force against Iraq that now makes it so difficult to pressure Iran to abandon its worrisome nuclear program.

Iran's hardliners would be implacably hostile to us regardless of what we did or did not do in Iraq, because we are the principle stumbling block on the track to the world they want to see. I'm not suggesting that they are bent, Dr Evil-like, on world conquest, but that they want a world run under their interpretation of sharia every bit as much as any radical Wahabbi does. (They get to kill each other over whether PBUH or PBUH&HF is right once we're out of the way, just as in the time of Hazrat Abbas). I seem to recall a little fracas back in '79-'80. "Amerika the Great Satan"…..Hostages…..all that….. Yep. They're itchin' to be our buds. They were just waiting for us to make the first move.

To continue the lecture on IR (let me get back up on my soapbox), Bush was making a point that may have been lost on you, but certainly wasn't on Iran's rulers (public and otherwise): our Iraq takedown and the pain we're enduring now adds credibility to our threats. We will do something more than just fling a few billion dollars in cruise missiles at empty camps. We will pay some prices and bear some burdens many thought we wouldn't to secure ourselves. Our enemies watch every Cindy Sheehan, look at every popularity poll, count every American body, listen for every whiff of dissent among our troops – and note that over 100,000 are still in Iraq. And that 30,000 coalition troops are still in Afghanistan. And that a third of the US Navy and Air Force sit within CENTCOM’s AOR and in Turkey. Believe me, these facts are not lost on the country that is bracketed by these forces.

My friend,that, even in the absence of a dozen other good reasons for doing so (yes -- including WMD), was reason enough for invading Iraq. If it helps denuclearize an Iran or a Syria in the long run, it will have been worth the lives of 2,000-odd Americans and 10,000+ Iraqis, because the alternative is a "huge $hi* sandwich and we'll all have to take a bite:" hundreds of thousands dead in Tel Aviv, the Holy Land poisoned, millions of roasted Iranians, more campaigns with more ground deaths, more Cindy Sheehans and clothes-rending grief-pimping on CNN……and perhaps then a moral repugnance that leads to our withdrawal from the world……at least until the death-flash and blast overpressure in LA or Houston or Norfolk claims a million American lives and we swarm forth again to do what we could have – should have – done in the first place, only this time with more anger, violence, and destruction.

Never mind that our security is best ensured by fostering governments that look more like those of the developed, democratic world. We have had disputes with France and Japan in the last 30 years that would have led to war in a different age (if you don't believe that, read Mahan's Influence of Sea Power Upon History), but which were resolved peacefully, even amicably. This is not possible with any current muslim nation-state, nor will it ever be as long as islam remains what it is today.

The existing nation-state veneer over islam may be useful to us in the short run as a coercible instrument, but islam will have to change fundamentally (no pun intended) in the long run if we are to have peace. Jihad will have to become an internal, personal struggle and more modern-looking nation-states (or some peaceful transnational successor) will have to spring up in the muslim world….eventually, if islam is to move beyond its current destructive self-indulgent blame-everyone-else hatefest.

Why not start now? The model we create today may not succeed, but it may plant seeds. Iraq was a great candidate for one of the first plantings because it had the muslim world's largest, most secularized bourgeoisie. Afghanistan was fertile ground because nothing else was there – it was the other end of the islamic spectrum. The government that, with Saudi aid, morphed into the Taliban was put in place by the Pakistanis. They hoped to bring some order to the factious rabble of warlords who threatened the Silk Road, which covered the same ground and traded many of the same goods that caravans crossed there for 2,000 years ago. If we can create the context of the rule of law in such diverse settings, we can give every muslim who wants a better life something to look toward; undermine the appeal of jihadism as an ideology, and make every surviving muslim nation-state quake in its boots (and thus be willing to play ball with the Great Satan as long as it still exists).

In any case, we don't have a lot of choice. I'm no messianic Wilsonian. I have no illusions about such a task being anything but pain and travail, but I also see no effective alternatives. We focused on the negative far too long. We worried so much about restraining things like nuclear proliferation and radical islam that we forgot completely (or were philosophically opposed to) positive ends that obviated the need for restraining force. And this made things worse. Negative ends can motivate tepidly, but they cannot inspire. This is something Dubya’s dad never got – the “vision thing.” Dubya, rightly or wrongly – only time will tell – gets it.

We may get so discouraged by Iraq or whatever that we go back to policies of malignant neglect, but if we do, islam will remain what it is, the islamist ideology will continue to spread – quite literally like a cancer – and their "T" footsoldiers will be back on our shores, this time with bigger weapons, better plans, more effective maskirovka….

Some on the Left believe that the US is too evil to live and deserves what it gets. I have nothing to say to such people. They are part of the problem, not part of its solution. They are in the enemy camp and may eventually have to be dealt with as such. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Still our greatest vulnerability stems from the government's accountability to the people. I'm very glad we have this vulnerability – it's really one of our greatest strengths culturally – but we must also realize that enjoying it entails a cost.

Wars where public will is an actor (which, for America, is any war longer that six weeks, or any war involving more than 30 casualties) are won as much in the domain of public perception as they are on in-theater ground truth. In Vietnam, we won every battle we chose to fight (even though we didn't choose to fight the ones we should have), but finally lost to Giap, who used Hanoi Jane, Gunboat Kerry, and their ilk as his weapons. All the NVA's military offensives (at least from '68 on) merely supported the real battle going on in Washington, carried on in infospace and the minds of US leaders. The occupation of Saigon was just a confirming gesture. Vietnam was and will remain one of the finest examples of information warfare (IW) ever fought.

We studied and learned from it, but our enemies did too. It taught us how to win big and fast on the battlefield because we couldn't sustain long wars unless they were fought for national survival. It taught our enemies that a technologically challenged, resource-poor actor could defeat a superpower by adroit application of other instruments of power than pure military force. Unfortunately, the second lesson was the most important. Those seeking to challenge us already knew that they couldn't defeat us in open combat. Even Saddam's goofy decision calculus in 1990 was based on the belief that he could inflict enough casualties on us to make us want to go home; he just went about it the wrong way. He never thought he could defeat us outright – he just wanted to outlast us. He almost did.

Today's enemies learned from that, too, and they learned from their defeat of the world's Other Superpower in Afghanistan. Superpowers can be defeated asymmetrically if forced to pay a high-enough price. Countries where the government is accountable to the people are especially vulnerable to high costs, particularly in terms of lives.

Neither the security of the Iranians nor of the world is enhanced by any nuclear program that includes weapons capabilities.

You're kidding, right? The world's security was most certainly enhanced by the US nuclear program and the weapons that resulted from it, and it is to this day. The US nuclear umbrella was one of the biggest components of the hegemonic (and demi-hegemonic) stability that the world enjoyed for fifty years following World War II. If not for that umbrella, the Soviet Union would probably still exist and Western Europe and Japan would probably be under its (and Red China's) thumb. Hundreds of millions would probably live in poverty under crushing tyranny as the SU staved off collapse from its internal contradictions by absorbing rich capitalist nations. The US would be isolated and greatly diminished, if it hadn't already succumbed to a Red Dawn-like fate.

Nuclear weapons can be force for good, as can any form of military power, if they are used properly. Nukes are most useful as a deterrent, which is the stated US policy and doctrine. Iran would use them as a deterrent too, but would do so to give them leverage in pursuing their foreign policy goals, which are inimical to ours. Nukes would also greatly enhance Iran's relative regional power, which is also not in the interests of the world that is at war with islamist jihadism.

More dangerously, Iran would almost certainly sell or make nuclear technology and materials available to non-national actors, who cannot be deterred by traditional means and who would certainly use nuclear weapons if they had them. This would be in Iran's interests, so long as Iran the nation still had "plausible deniability." Once that genie's out of the bottle, it will be very hard to put it back in. And nothing would please islamic jihadists the world over than a mushroom cloud over Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, or Baltimore.

Iran insists that it only wants peaceful nuclear power, but we cannot assume it is telling the truth. If Tehran refuses to be transparent and open to inspections, the U.N. Security Council can take up the issue of imposing sanctions and start that whole weapons monitoring rigmarole.

Right. In fact, we have an obligation as the lynchpin of hegemonic stability to assume that they aren't and to act on that assumption, if necessary.

"Hegemonic stability" is clearly part of the world model that the Bush Administration is working with in developing its overarching strategy, as well it should be. (I just wish the Administration would explain this to the public in simple terms!) The theory emerged from the work of Charles Kindleberger in the 1970s, who used it to partially explain the Great Depression in terms of the dissolution of the British Empire's monetary and trade hegemony after World War I.

Hegemonic stability comes about in conditions of economic asymmetry when one uniquely innovative and dynamic nation or actor becomes the dominant power and gains a substantial degree of control over the international system. Preconditions usually include monetary and trade dominance (even to the extent of providing the main means of exhange: the Pound Sterling, the dollar, Roman coin). It also often involves keeping international order militarily (Rome's legions, Byzantium's fleets, the Royal Navy, our whole military today).

If the hegemon is dominant enough (no near-peer competitors), it comes to see that a liberalized international system is in its interest (one that is based on freer trade, fewer internal barriers, etc). It is really only under conditions of hegemonic stability that liberal international systems have flourished (Rome, China internally from the Three Kingdoms era to the mid-19th century, the dar al-islam under the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, the Dutch trade and naval system in the early 16th century, the British Empire from 1815 to 1914, the US-based system after 1945...)

The hegemon usually bears most of the costs of creating the infrastructure for this system, but all benefit from it. The diffusion of liberal order sometimes allows the rise of peer competitors or successors (the Dutch, then the Brits). Sometimes the hegemony is broken by external threats (Rome, Byzantium). In any case, these conditions are rare islets of peace, prosperity, and relative stability in the world's sea of war and dark, bloody barbarism.

Any UN regime of sanctions and weapons monitoring is only as good as the force (which is always to say, the US forces) that back it up. This was the case in the 90s. When Clinton lost interest in the Iraqi weapons program in '98 and all the progress that had been made up to '96 (when Saddam apparently decided to start hiding his stuff in other countries) was lost. Fortunately for (and unbeknownst to) us, Saddam made the wrong decision (again) and got rid of his "stuff."

The US may not want its role as hegemon, but it has it by virtue of its cultural and economic preeminence. Many on the left and the right do not want this responsibility. Too bad. We have it, wanted or not. Letting it go will lead to the fragmenting of the international order and probable war between smaller peer competitors, to the rise of another hegemon (or perhaps regional hegemons) who isn't as nice as we are, or will plunge the world into a new dark age. None of these alternatives are very appealing.

Should we be willing to see our current liberal order undone by a barbarian culture that's the nastiest since the Huns? If you want that world, buy a ticket to Islamabad or Algiers. I'm staying here and fighting for civilization.

Yet as the head of the only nation to have used nuclear weapons on human beings and the one currently devising the next generation of "battlefield" nukes, it would seem that Bush should be a little more careful about trying to seize the moral high ground. This is especially the case because we have accommodated the nuclear programs of three allies (Pakistan, India and Israel).

I address the actual use of atomic weapons further down.

We have no need to worry about the moral high ground, because we (the developed, democratic world, that is, not just the US) already occupy it. Islam offers only a return to sharia medievalism. The rest of the undeveloped world offers life that is equally poor, crowded, nasty, brutish, and short. Whose moral credibility are we talking about, anyway? Of Galois-smoking French intellectuals? Of Cindy Sheehan? Michael Moore? They only live as free people because they enjoy the benefits of the world order they excoriate. Sorry, this makes them moral ciphers. They have no credibility themselves. Of Iranian mullahs and Wahabbi prayer leaders? Give me a break.

Of the nations you mention, Pakistan is part of islam, is an ally in name only (but is usefully coercible), and did not receive help for its nuclear program from us (that came primarily from China). India is emerging both as an ally (against islam and especially Pakistan) and as a democracy, but we did not assist it in obtaining nukes, either (Russia did, but they did most of it on their own). Only Israel is really an ally. It is part of the developed, liberalized world that participates in the benefits and responsibilities of hegemonic stability. It has had nukes for decades, but has not used them. Can we expect the same of Iran or Syria?

Incidentally, the new family of "battlefield nukes" are extremely low yield and are designed precisely to help deal with buried, super-hardened facilities like and Iran or North Korea might put their nuke programs into, without killing everything around it and contaminating large areas.

The timing of Bush's bombast is particularly fortunate. Last week the world the mayor of Nagasaki, at the 60th anniversary of the A-bomb bombing, pointed out our hypocrisy in his comments, saying "[T]o the citizens of the United States of America: we understand your anger and anxiety over the memories of the horror of the 9/11 terrorist attacks…." "Yet, is your security enhanced by your government's policies of maintaining 10,000 nuclear weapons?" While I do think that the answer to that question is “hell yeah,” it doesn’t change the hypocrisy inherent in our position nor the fact that Bush's Iran policy is rife with contradictions and idiocies.

Short answer to the Mayor of Nagasaki: "Yes." Our security is significantly enhanced, and so is yours. In fact, that US nuclear security enhancement is one of the main reasons you're the democratically elected mayor of a large prosperous city in a free nation, rather than the slave of some Russian or Chinese commissar.

That's assuming, of course, that you or your parents wouldn't have been among the two million or so Japanese dead that we estimated would result from Operations OLYMPIC and CORONET – the Allied invasion of Japan. Or weren't killed in the continued B-29 fire bombing (that inflicted far more casualties than both atomic bombs put together). Or didn't starve to death due to the total blockade on Japan.

The use of atomic weapons was a humane choice then and the US' continued nuclear superiority is a necessary precondition for international stability now. In what way is this "hypocrisy?" We have had nuclear predominance for decades and have used it only to protect the liberal international order we helped foster outside the communist and islamic worlds (that is now taking tenuous hold in some corners of both those other areas).

Does this sound like hypocrisy to the mullah who is dreaming of turning Tel Aviv to glass? Probably. But see this period: . ? My give-a-damn is contained entirely within that dot. When the leaders of these countries have run a hegemonically stable world order that ushered in prosperity and progress unparalleled in human history for half a century, then they can lecture us on "hypocrisy." In the meantime, tell them to shut up and color. Questions?

What, for example, is the point of publicly threatening Iran when doing so immeasurably strengthens the hand of hard-line nationalists and religious fundamentalists in Tehran? These are the people who, for more than a century, have secured much of their appeal by posturing as the “protectors of the Muslim populace against Western imperialism.” And it seems to me that the reality is that we are in a much, much weaker position vis-a-vis Iran than we should be because of our invasion and disastrous occupation of neighboring Iraq.

If you mean "immeasurably" as in, "too small to measure," you're right. If you mean it as in, "way big," you're way off base.

The point of publicly threatening Iran is to make it clear that they have been publicly threatened. And that the threat is credible and is part of a larger campaign of engagement (that includes many incentives as well as threats). I think I made this clear already.

Again, no amount of cajolery on our part will make them hate us more or less; as members of a government with concrete interests, they may be persuaded to go along with us or retrain certain behaviors if we hold certain things they value at risk. But threats are a necessary part of holding things at risk. Their hostility is implacable; they must be engaged based on their objective interests.

Again, they've thought they were protectors of the Shia's unique holy sites since Imam Hussein's standard bearing was cut down, just as Saudi princelings and Wahabbi radicals have thought they protected Mecca and Medina. Today, they all couch this in anti-imperialist rhetoric, but any true jihadi believes this and will search around until he finds a threat to defend these shrines against, even if that winds up being other muslims. Nothing we can do about it.


And again, I maintain that we are in a stronger position vis Iran and other similar nations because the threat we pose to them is now more credible and we have very significant military presence within immediate reach of them.

I imagine you get the idea that Iraq is "disastrous" from the mainstream media. You really shouldn't believe everything you read or see, especially if it flatters opinions you've already decided upon. Talk to some folks who have actually been on the ground in Iraq. Go places like this or this to get perspective that doesn't flatter the MSM's preconceived worldview.

If Iraq is your idea of a disaster, I'm sure glad you weren't around to give us advice in World War II after, say, Dieppe, or Kasserine, or the fall of the Philippines. Our troops and the Iraqis themselves haven't given up. Why should you? And…oh by the way….things may get messy there at times, but the job's not finished yet and won't be for quite awhile.

Iran now holds some high cards: It is closely allied with the most powerful force in post-Hussein Iraq (Shiite religious leaders). Any invasion of Iran might break our already strained military machine. If Iran were to send its fanatical revolutionary guards into Iraq as saboteurs, they could make the current carnage more reminiscent of Vietnam-era losses.

News flash: the Revolutionary Guards (who are not as fearsome as you seem to think they are; they're not professional soldiers; today they're more like commissars) are already in Iraq in some numbers, both in the Shia south and the Kurdish north. The Badr Brigade is heavily infiltrated, for example, although it is mostly killing Sunni insurgents these days and has pledged to disarm, which helps show how ambiguous the political situation is, even among the Shiite clergy. Our nuclear negotiations with the Iranian government aren't going to change that. Only changing the ground truth in Iraq will change that. The Iranians own the fealty of some Iraqi Shia groups, but my no means all of them. Iraqi Shia are Arabs, with close affinity to Arab Shia in southern Iran. The government, Rev. Gds., mullahs, etc. are Persians and they haven't treated their Arab Shiite minority much better than Saddam did. Iraqi Shiites are well aware of this and are no more trustful of the Iranians than they were of Saddam (or than they are of us).

In short, I'm not sure how these are high cards. They're already making life harder in some ways (and easier in others) in Iraq. If all goes to hell and the Pasdaran come pouring across the border in human wave attacks (like they did in the Iran-Iraq War), a three-ship of B-52s with some spotters on the ground can deal with them. Not a problem.

Finally, Iran is one of the world's biggest oil exporters. At a time when oil prices are soaring, much of the rest of the world would be hesitant to back the United States in any adventure that could cut off the flow. (Well, not that there is much of the world left that would support us even if they believed it were the right thing to do; it is fashionable to be an American-contrarion. Hey! I think I invented a new word. How about this: instead of “Euro’s” we can now call them “HAC’s” – Hypocritical American Contrarions.....hmmmm, I’ll have to work on that, especially since “contrarion” isn’t a word.)

Well, maybe we're not in this for oil, despite what Michael Moore thinks, and maybe we can only really rely on a few trusted agents in the maintenance of the developed world's order anyway. By strange coincidence, these TA's seem to be the other English-speaking nations, especially the Brits and Aussies – the "Anglosphere."

But then, we're the ones who created, paid for, and maintained the infrastructure of stability for fifty years. NATO's forces are much weaker today, but ours are much more capable. The Brits, Aussies, and Israelis are the only other nations with truly modern militaries; the first two because they've fought along side us for decades; the third because they've had to have one to survive. Why should we expect, or even want, that to change? If anything, we should expect less cooperation today, when we are relatively stronger and those who enjoy our diffused, liberal hegemonic stability are weaker than ever before in our relationships?

Finally, invasion is not really on the table. For one thing, there's no need for it. Iran is an emerging industrial state with developing infrastructure. A nuclear program requires a significant amount of industrial support. It's a big engineering project, especially for an emerging industrial power. We have gotten pretty good at analyzing how to take apart such systems. In fact there's a whole joint agency, with truly amazing computing power behind it, devoted just to that (and no, I don't mean the CIA). Airpower would be the principle form of power used against the Iranian nuclear program and we have some weapons today that can even shut down such a project without major loss of life. Of course, in the grand game of nations, we might want to make such a strike hurt, to make a point about the seriousness of the "crime," but that's a different issue.

Adding troops on the ground would just horribly complicate things. First and foremost, Iran is a much bigger and less open country than Iraq. Movement isn't easy and cover and bottlenecks abound. Secondly, we don't have nearly enough troops to pull off an occupation, even if we might be able to shut the Iranian military down and drive to Tehran and a few other places. Third, immense amounts of airpower would have to be diverted to support any ground effort, which would seriously degrade our ability to take down Iran's government, industrial infrastructure, and strategic systems.

No: Iran can be rendered fairly harmless from the air. The Iranians know this and know there's not much they can do to prevent it. Fortunately, Iran is not like North Korea, which knows that we can take down its nuke program any time we want, but which has Seoul held hostage with 5,000 gun tubes. We flatten Yong Byon and they turn Seoul into an abattoir. Iran has no similar leverage. Remember: They're already playing all their cards in Iraq save open invasion, which they know we could easily stop.

Constructive engagement (as the Clinton NSC would have called it) is the way to go – and the way we are going – with Iran. If the fact that such engagement entails an occasional reminder of what lies behind our words makes you uncomfortable, so be it. It makes the Iranian government and mullahs uncomfortable too, and that, finally, is the point.

PS: "HACs" works for me – and "contrarian" is a word (despite what my Word spellchecker says). ("You shall be called 'the Contrarians'…….with an 'A' ".)

What say you Monkster?


I think I've said more than enough for now. Let me just end on a personal note, Chefjef. You claim that you are not troubled by the logical and philosophical inconsistencies in positions you take, because human nature is fallible and inconstant. This sounds like an excuse. It has the ring of "I don't have to get a job because God will provide" about it. If you acknowledge the logical inconsistency of certain beliefs (presumably, that you don't want Iran to have nukes, but somehow think that this entails unacceptable "hypocrisy" on our part), then why do you hold them? Pure emotion? Haven't thought far enough through your premises? Just like to be a "contrarian?"

God doesn't expect us to apprehend him with reason alone, or even primarily, but he did give us reason as a tool. I'm sure He knows well that we are but mad north-by-north-west. He still expects us to know a hawk from a handsaw when the wind is southerly.


Update, 25 Aug
: I knew I'd seen this somewhere. I said in the original post that Cindy "You Klingon Bastard You Killed my Son!" Sheehan had been an ichabodnik for some time and I meant to show that she opposed the war even before we went into Iraq, but couldn't find the relevant quote. Powerline obligingly provided it this morning:

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy, what were your feelings when your son Casey went to Iraq? Are they the same as now? And what were Casey's feelings about the invasion and occupation?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Right. Our family was against it from the beginning. Casey was against it, but he felt it was his duty to go because he was in the Army. And he felt that he had to go to protect his buddies, to be there for his buddies, to be support, and they are brainwashed into thinking that even if they don't agree with the mission, they're brainwashed into just blindly following it. I begged Casey not to go. I told him I would take him to Canada. I told him I would run over him with a car, anything to get him not to go to that immoral war. And he said, “Mom, I wish I didn't have to, but I have to go.”

Sounds like she would have taken up an AKM and killed her son herself in order to make her Grande Pointe if she'd had to. So much for moral credibilty.

America's favorite grief pimp also keeps interesting company. The linked interview contains remarks with Karen Kwiatkowski, an uberlibertarian moonbat who barks about how the DamJieu Neocon Zionists control everything even more than Paddy Buchanan does. Nice.

PS: Layman reading the Wikipedia entry on Kwiatkowski may think her credentials sound pretty impressive. I can speak a little more authoritatively than most on this subject: She was a loggie for most of her career (which is how she had the time to obtain her impressive-sounding array of degrees; most in this career field are far removed from the operational job of the Air Force. She worked as a PA hack and protocol droid for the director of the NSA. She had no more access to the supersecretsquirrel material she claims than the janitors at the NSA do. Her fantasy about Bill Luti, the NESA, and the OSP "gaining control of military intrelligence" is pure Lyndon LaRouche stuff.

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