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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

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Iran So Far Away, Part 7

During the wind-powered interregnum, several correspondents commented on the Iran So Far Away series. Here are their comments, the comments on their comments, and my comments on the comments to their comments:

In his original post, Chefjef called the US hypocritical for being the big meanie holding scads of nukes while letting frail lil' Iran get picked on ‘cause it doesn’t have any. Kanh responded by asking if it would be hypocritical for a policeman to carry a gun, but not want the criminals he deals with to have them. Izmud agrees with Chefjef:

Interesting, Kanh, that you equate Iranians with criminals. I must agree with Chefjef that it's hypocritical. By legal definition they rulers of Iran are not criminals, regardless of the manner in which they took power or rule their citizens, or how much we dislike them. From a pragmatic approach it's certainly easier to play Globocop when the "bad guys" don't have "guns", but I don't think you can say that they don't have a "right" to get them if they can.

Chefjef responded to Kahn here.

Strictly speaking, Izmud is right. No law, per se, proscribes countries like Iran from having nuclear weapons (especially since they are not signatories to the Nonproliferation Treaty) and our opinion of Iran and its government would not determine Iran’s “right” or lack of one if a law establishing such a “right” did exist. But that is not the entire story.

For my part, I think the policeman – criminal metaphor is apt. Or perhaps comparing us to a navy protecting commercial interests and lines of communication and Iran to a pirate force would be more appropriate, since Kahn’s analogy implies that the policeman is enforcing the rule of established law. The international order is not under the rule of any law except the social Darwinists’ “law” of survival of the fittest.

The rule of law only exists in a few havens where it is given sanctuary. Within the sanctuary, citizens consent to abide by the rules that they have some hand in creating. Even within, though, the law is still ultimately maintained by the implication of force: the policeman, the militiaman, the soldier, or the authority who can call on them. Outside the havens, the only “law” is a lie – rules created by dictators and kleptocrats to fool the masses and maintain power. The law even in the most stable havens is, as recent events in New Orleans have shown, a very thin veneer of civility over the coarse heartwood of bloody barbarism. (How’s that for a Calvinist interpretation of society?)

Among nations inside the sanctuaries of law, affairs are relatively well ordered and rule-bound. Outside the sanctuaries, only might makes right. Contrary to popular opinion, might can actually “make right.” It can be used for good or evil. If you don’t believe that it can be used for good and moral purposes, then don’t study the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, or the suppression of Thugee, or the defeat of the Dervishes (all accomplished by those horrible, awful Imperialist Brits that are always villains in the Establishment’s politically correct histories). You might find that the facts inconveniently disagree with the pre-packaged, homogenized, officially-endorsed opinions handed out in our schools. Good gets accomplished outside the law-bound world only through, a) Divine intervention, b) blind, happy accident, or c) imposing the will of some element of the law-bound world upon the lawless world, usually (though not always) by force of arms.

The world inside the havens of law has been relatively small throughout most of human history and has only existed inside walls protected by force of arms. Rome’s sanctuary was savage by comparison to our civilization, but lasted a very long time in historical terms. (Of course, recent events showed that it doesn’t take much to collapse our frangible framework of laws; what transpired in New Orleans was barbaric in comparison to the worst aspects of Roman rule.) Havens existed in the core of China for most of its imperial history (until the early 19th century at least), under islam for centuries during the “Dark Ages,” in Japan from its consolidation until the early 20th century, throughout the Anglosphere since the late 17th century, in France from the late 19th (when it wasn’t occupied), and in the rest of Western Europe, thanks to American hegemony, since the end of World War II. Many of these havens would seem primitive and barbarous to us, but represented a significant improvement over the anarchy or autarchy thatprevailed in their absence. Islam was one of the most notable examples, having produced a remarkable flowering of culture in very infertile soil. (Unfortunately, as with many hardy perennials, nothing else can grow where it does.)

In most cases, the rule of law has only lived for long when a relatively benevolent hegemonic power protected it. (I say relatively because to those who were not willing to become Romans or muslims, Rome and islam did not seem very benevolent.) Periods of competition among nearly equal nations produced fast economic growth and technological dynamism, but usually ended in big, ugly wars. And governments often used the threat from near-peer competitors as an excuse to curtail civil liberties.

To make this long story shorter, the US is a benevolent hegemon protecting the rule of law in places as far apart as Iceland and Singapore, and Iran is part of the world outside the rule of law. Its regime is internally predatory and kleptocratic at best (like 9/10ths of the rest of the “United Nations”) and harbors genocidally messianic ambitions of uniting all islam under the banner of a new Shia caliphate – and then destroying the Great Satan – at worst. A power in the US’ position simply cannot let a country like Iran possess nuclear weapons. So the issue is not just a matter of mutual dislike and petty dispute between gentlemen members of the Westphalian Club – a minor tiff over legalities and prerogatives – it is a matter of the world’s only important enforcer of the rule of law, the key protector of a much more advanced civilization, preventing a barbarous predator from having weapons that its civilization is not advanced enough to be trusted with. It is in everyone’s interests – perhaps especially the Iranian people’s – that we succeed.

“And that” (to use an even more obscure Star Trek reference, Chefjef) “gives him the authority.” (Free year’s subscription to Vita ab Alto to the first person who can name the episode from the original series that the line came from….)

In other news, Teresa responded to the sixth post in the series (correspondence from Kahn followed by my commentary) this way:

Monk, I think you have put it out there in a understandable way, but I don’t think that the "Bush Haters" will ever really understand. Bush is the reason for all evil, regardless. I would also like to add to your explanation of why we are in Iraq, that we are fighting for our children's future. It's about more than just right now. If we don’t face the terrorism now, can you imagine what it will be like 20-30 years from now? No, we will not back do so would be foolish.

Also, I would like to comment on Bush and his speeches that everyone likes to make fun of...I like that he makes grammatical mistakes, and doesn’t always make sense, it shows me that they are his words, not some speech written by whoever.......

To which Chefjef responded:

Huh? His speeches are written by other people. (That's not a dig against him, it's been a long time since a President has written his own stand-up.) The fact that he grew up privileged with a privileged education and has his speeches written by others is what makes his seemingly aloof mistakes (I say aloof because he is not, as many people think, a stupid man) so annoying to someone like myself.

If I had the privileges he had, as opposed to fighting and scratching for everything, I wouldn't repay my family with the advantages they worked hard to provide me by speaking like an idiot in front of the world. I don't believe for a minute that the President can't orate without sounding like a public university dropout. I think - just as his grades reflect - he doesn't take it seriously enough to work at (sorry for ending in a preposition). I don't find that charming or down to earth.

I'll respond to some of the Iran postings later, but let me posit this question i had form iran The Novel, since Kahn also develops it in her latest post. Monk stated that "[T]his Administration has been pi$$-poor at articulating and selling its strategy... 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." If this is true, then is it not reasonable, predictable, even prudent in the face of the a confluence of inarticulation and an unclear reason set, wrapped in a shroud of partial secrecy, for so many Americans (particularly those with now military background or education in foreign policy) to be dubious about the situation in Iraq and to be suspicious, as well as more liable to accepting Leftist or extremist rhetoric about the war?

In short, can't a good portion of the feelings of Americans right now be attributed to the Administration, particularly since (unlike the military) part of the political branch's duty is communication and the management of perception? Doesn't the executive branch, in addition to setting policy and following through with it, have somewhat of a responsibility to be "pom-pom mom?"


Gee, Chefjef, I’m sure glad you weren’t around in 500 BC to judge another son of privilege who was such a poor stump speaker that God had to appoint his brother to speak for him. I don't think Dubya is the equal of The Big M, but I do think it's unfair to criticize the president for being "slow of speech and tongue." Some people just don't have the gift and, as you say, no president has written his own material for generations. I find Dubya's inarticulateness both annoying and a sign of genuineness. I agree with Teresa that he makes a connection by showing us this vulnerability, but I do find it frustrating that his Administration can't get its message across better. If he just can't communicate any better, he needs to find his own Aaron.

I agree with you, Chefjef, that the public is owed a better explanation than it's been given and that the political and diplomatic run-up to the Iraqi campaign was badly mishandled, but I also think the reasons we are doing what we're doing are legitimate and important. The stakes are too high to risk failure because of a bad public affairs campaign. The anti-war hate-America crowd is beginning to sense that it can win. If it wins, our civilization loses. And if it loses, we and our allies had better get used to catastrophes like New Orleans, because they'll be a lot more common.

I think we need to pray for and support our leaders, as we Christians are enjoined to do, even if we don't like them because they're not "our guy." Being skeptical is natural and healthy for those of us who have been given the blessing of living under the rule of law, but becoming "pom pom moms" for the enemies of civilization makes us essentially no better than the looters in New Orleans or the bombers on London's busses.

I look forward to continuing this debate.


: LOL, or "heh," as ye Blogospheare's Olde Heades would say. MonkCorp's Vice President and CFO writes:

OK -- the screaming at the TV when Clinton was Pres...was that praying for a leader that wasn't your guy? I also remember several repairs that had to be made in a certain house after Clinton won his second election. Don't prescribe a drug you're unwilling to take yourself.

Touche! Very ouch, baby!

But where would the advice business be if advice-givers actually had to live by the good words they doled out? Anyway, I find it particularly easy to give such advice these days, as opposed to the Dark Abyss that was the Nineties -- don't know why; I just do. It may be something to do with the alignment of the planets. Perhaps something in the water? I honestly don't know. Of course, I'm quite willing to give Ol' DressStain his due these days. I imagine even the fire-eyed, fever-mucked Chefjef will be able to stop hating Dubya given enough time....

Well, maybe not....but what can I say? The 90s was a different time, man! You just don't understand! It wasn't like you were too young, Veep, to comprehend what a stygian New-Orleans-water kind of toxic stew politics was back then! It's SO much better now! Really! And this opinion has NOTHING. AT. ALL. to do with the fact that "their guy" was in power then and "my guy" is in power now.

You believe that, right? I do! (I also believe that the Redskins will win the superbowl this year.)


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