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April 13, 2006

Comments

Jim

He knows what he knows. He is an Air Force general, and he thinks like one. He is correct in saying that the strike he envisions would accomplish the objective he envisions. That would be great if we had the discipline in this country to carry that out. It would cow the Iranians and maybe slap some sense into them, and it would certainly set their nuclear program so far back that it would effectively be disabled. So far so good.

But we don't have that kind of discipline in this country. We are likely to get all sorts of big dreams and calls for regime change, or calls for humanitarian remediation (= US ground forces on Iranian soil) after dealing such a horrible blow, blah blah..... And that cannot have any forseeable desirable end-state.

So maybe we will get some discipline, and more likely, we will get genral officers in land forces speaking out on policy matters in a timely manner, not after the fact when they are retired. This is likely; the real impediment to that is not fear of dismissal, at their advanced stage in a career, but ethical qualms at getting involved in the political process, and recently we are staring to see genrals speak out. Maybe patriotism will trump cultural habit and they will convince the civilians-temporarily-in-charge to go with an air campaign and to quit while we are ahead.

The key will be handling the resulting howl. The howl will be that we are acting insanely. The only right answer is yes indeed we are acting crazy, and we can get a whole lot crazier. As you say " the game theoretical soundness of convincingly giving the impression that one is willing to go to any lengths to deal with one's opponent - Ahmadinejad and his supporters cannot be allowed to believe that they're the only ones willing to act out the "madman theory."


Andrew Reeves

There's no doubt that the U.S. Air Force could blow up most of Iran's nuclear weapon factories. The problem, though, is that the Iraqi army, police, and police commandoes are heavily made up of groups that are just a wee bit friendly with the Islamic Republic. More importantly, though, there are a lot of small groups of U.S. service personnel embedded in Iraqi army units. Those guys would be a prime target for retaliation.

Jim

Andrew, you are right about the vulnerablity of the US troops in Iraq. What is not so clear is what the power balance in the Iraqi forces is. There are indeed lots of people in Iraq who are loyal to the Iranian government, but for obvious reasons they have to stay very, very closeted, and I am not talking about US attitudes. "Three things God should not have made....."

There is a doctrinal fight within the Shi'a community as t the rightness of clerics being in governmet, and the traditional view is that it is wrong - Sistani keeps making statements in this vein. Khomeini was a doctrinal innovator, and not everyone is happy with the innovation, least of all lots of young Iranians. That doesn't matter in this question but what does matter is what Iraqis think. There is a better than good chance that the lesson of the past 25 years of Iranian experience is not lost on Iraqi Shi'ites. So it could go not only either ways, but both ways, because there is no reason for all those various people to be monolithic in their views and loyalties, and it only takes a few to do a lot of damage. And then again, you don't have to be strong if you are perceieved as crazy enbough to be really dangerous. What Abiola is arguing for would surely be perceived as perilously crazy in many quarters. Back in 1979 the Harvard Lampoon suggested bombing Hanoi when the Iranian students first took the embassy, on the theory it would mystify the Iranians, scare the shit out of the Russians, and slap the Vietnamese just for good measure.

Oliver

If you want to be credible the next time, you'll need to carry out your threats if your demands are not met. Thus the decision to actually go to war is implicit in such threats.

If you are not ready for that, which I am not sure the US, as opposed to the president, is, you are hurting yourself.

Steve Edwards

Given that I am not sure if I have been banned from a previous thread, I would like to take this opportunity to recant my previous comments regarding President Ahmadinejad. I had asked Abiola to produce a definitive quote showing that Iran intended to commit nuclear genocide against Israel, and scoffed at the links he produced.

However, there is now substantial evidence that Abiola's claims were correct and mine false. Here is the latest statement of Ahmadinejad:

'President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a "permanent threat" to the Middle East that will "soon" be liberated. He also appeared to again question whether the Holocaust really happened.

"Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation," Ahmadinejad said at the opening of a conference in support of the Palestinians. "The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

...

He did not say how this would be achieved, but insisted to the audience of at least 900 people: "Believe that Palestine will be freed soon." '

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060414/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iran_israel

Steve Edwards

Let us go through this once again:

"The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

Eliminated by "one storm"?

Lee A. Arnold

The soundest game theoretical policy would be to let the U.N. blabber on with Ahmadinejad until he gets nukes, then enact a comprehensive Cold-War-type containment and deterrence of Iran, including an anti-missile shield around the country, practicing our laser targeting, with the U.S. then promising unilaterally to completely annihilate them if they try to lob a rocket at anyone, while working to improve Western relations with Iran's Sunni competitors.

This allows the West avoid to bombing Iran pre-emptively in case brinkmanship fails, killing tens or hundreds of thousands of innocents, creating an humanitarian disaster that will rival several of the worse ones, and adding more impetus for the rise of a universal jihad where none, thank goodness, has yet formed.

Dealing with Iran has little to do with demanding they be "rational enough to be deterred even by a credible threat of being nuked by a confirmed 'warmonger' like Bush." From their point of view, that translates as, "be cowardly enough to submit to fear." You may not care: I can't argue with that. But you cannot presume that they will stand up as citizens of the world, afterwards. Nor will it relieve our management of the situation. Their most rational response would then be to lie, and try to get the nukes anyway.

Dealing with Iran has more to do with their foolishness of pride. So, according to the best conservative principles of human psychology, maybe first we should treat them as adults, hold them to the highest standard of conduct, and then hammer them decisively if they try to hurt anybody, -- not simply Israel, but even another Arab country.

Indeed, if the Iranians gain pride by being a nuclear power, they may start to turn-around their psychology on more important matters, such as how to get to a world where everyone can live in peace. We have seen this with other publics as well, when confronted with a decision on the use of nuclear weapons. Then they might initiate that reformation of political Islam which we all have hoped to see.

Abiola

"enact a comprehensive Cold-War-type containment and deterrence of Iran, including an anti-missile shield around the country, practicing our laser targeting"

You make it all sound so simple, as if missile defense were a solved problem or something, all of Iran's neighbors would acquiesce to having American troops permanently stationed on their soil, and a US which can't plug the Iran-Iraq border now (or even its own border with Mexico) could magically produce enough men to seal Iran airtight. Who's indulging in fantasy here?

"with the U.S. then promising unilaterally to completely annihilate them if they try to lob a rocket at anyone"

And just how credible would a US threat be to a nuclear armed Iran which decides to sponsor a terrorist spectacular to put September 11 to shame? Do you really think anyone would buy the notion that an American president would nuke Teheran because Iranian-trained terrorists had just murdered 20,000 Westerners? What do you suppose the European response would be if the Iranians threatened to nuke Paris, Berlin and Rome should America try to bring them down?

"Indeed, if the Iranians gain pride by being a nuclear power, they may start to turn-around their psychology on more important matters, such as how to get to a world where everyone can live in peace."

Sure, and if we give Herr Hitler the Sudetenland, German pride will finally be satisfied enough that they can start to turn-around their psychology on more important matters, such as how to get to a world where everyone can live in peace ... If Iran's theocrats were the sort to go along with such daydreams, we wouldn't be having this conversation to begin with.

Chuckles

[...Indeed, if the Iranians gain pride by being a nuclear power...]

An oft mistaken assumption: That all people need to change their behavior is "self esteem" and "pride". How well has this worked for say Blacks, Native Americans and others? Not much. Feeding pride into an already poisonous and destructive memetic pool is like pouring gasoline on fire. "Pride" and "Dignity" hardly reform. Pride always wants more - and a nuclear Iran will only proceed to demanding the Imperial ambit in the Middle East that it has always seen to be its just fare and inheritance.
The right policy is to leave the nuclear option on the table and *begin* mobilization now. A schizophrenic foreign policy is what Iran requires.

Lee A. Arnold

Abiola: I do not believe anything is simple about this. For example, bombing them pre-emptively now won't make their borders suddenly airtight, either.

Missile defense is not perfected, but it may be worked upon. Toward the threat-containment, U.S. troops will not be leaving their permanent U.S. bases in Iraq in our lifetime, and the Navy's in the Gulf. Some threatened Sunni states may later acquiesce or grant airspace.

If anybody murders 20,000 Westerners, I can assure you that the U.S. public 9-to-1 will call for unilaterally nuking Tehran next, and just for starters: that's simply not in question, at least among Americans. (I don't care if it's President Hillary. Most of the war presidents were Democrats anyway.)

An expansionist Iran would have to fight Sunni Arab states to go much beyond their "Sudetenland" (if that is what we will call southern Iraq,) causing an Islamic-internecine conflict that may redound to Western advantage.

Before any of this happens, however, Iran's status as world pariah may encourage its citizens to show their leaders the door, faster than bombing them now will. There can be no concurrent exterior agitation, if you are to show your leaders the door.

As the West learned, Cold Wars are MANAGEABLE. Although not simple.

I will grant you the uncertainties of this situation, but I still do not see the weight of evidence for action at this time. That could change: let the thing bobble through the creaky old UN, see if they can take a stand on this nuclear proliferation, then get all the major allies on board and in full participation in the military activity; then, and only then, start bombing.

Chuckles: I believe that is psychologically incorrect, although the policy you espouse does not require it. You will have to explain how Blacks and Native Americans were given "self esteem" and "pride," and failed thereafter. (You may start anywhere in American history!) Or how anybody gets them. Or how the Blacks and Native Americans who are now doing well, don't have them.

Of course there are two definitions of "pride," one being something like "the feeling of being respected by others," the other being the sin of vanity. (Upon which Islam speaks volumes, no doubt.) I didn't mean the latter.

Lee A. Arnold

I should also point out that I did not claim, nor do I believe, that "all" that people need to change their behavior is pride.

Oliver

As the West learned, Cold Wars are MANAGEABLE. Although not simple.

You cannot derive a fundamental lesson from a single example. Some arms races have blown up catastrophically, eg. 1914.

Chuckles

[...You will have to explain how Blacks and Native Americans were given "self esteem" and "pride," and failed thereafter...]

Err - what have the Black Power movements and the consequent excesses of Afrocentric scholarship (all designed to improve black self esteem) done to black communities? It has insulated them, insularized them and led to such bombastic sentiments best encapsulated by the strongly Nilophilic branch of the Afrocentrists.

[...Or how the Blacks and Native Americans who are now doing well, don't have them...]

The point is that you claim that should Iran get the bomb, then the behavioral constraints issued by a feeling of pride should make them well behaved, right? And I say this aint so - especially not for Iran which has Imperial ambitions. Just how much more pride does a would be Imperialist need?

[...Of course there are two definitions of "pride," one being something like "the feeling of being respected by others," the other being the sin of vanity...]

The line between these two is extremely thin: Especially when all unbelievers need to be under Dhimmi and Jews vanquished before crazy Islamists feel that they are being duly respected.

[...Some arms races have blown up catastrophically, eg. 1914...]

This is not an arms race. Iran only wishes this was an arms race.

Lee A. Arnold

"The point is that you claim that should Iran get the bomb, then the behavioral constraints issued by a feeling of pride should make them well behaved, right?" Wrong. You need a strong deterrence and containment AFTER that, while making overtures of peace.

And then if the Mullahs do not modify their exertions, I think all those Iranians dissatisfied with their government, seeing that they have become pariahs in the eyes of outsiders who would prefer peace, will have a much stronger impetus to change that government. Certainly they will have a much greater opportunity to do so, than if the West follows through on its threat to bomb them beforehand, kills lots of people and makes the place unliveable.

Also, I take strong exception to the characterization of the fruits of the Black Power movement (U.S. early 70's.) Many people took responsibility for their neighborhoods, started businesses, raised families. Some of it was insular, and that passed. It doesn't happen overnight, and it's a process that continues.

Oliver

"This is not an arms race. Iran only wishes this was an arms race."

One side wishing it were so, makes it so. The US started it in 1945.

Chuckles

Lee,

I find your position unconvincing. You intend to strengthen the Iranian State regime while keeping in place hopes for its overthrow? Not only that; why exactly would the Mullahs want to modify their exertions after they have the bomb? And why expect deterrence and containment to stop them after they get the bomb, if it didnt work before they got the bomb? There are so many holes here...All those rational minded Iranians who are averse to being seen as Pariahs...where are they now?

[...I take strong exception...]

And what is wrong with my characterization of the Black Power movement? I do not deny all that you claim it procured: What I am saying is that the movement and its supply of pride and esteem did nothing to stem the implosion of the American black community. In many ways, it facilitated it through a separatist emphasis. There is little evidence to believe that loping lumps of Pride at a crazy, destructive Iranian regime will cause the Iranians to sit up. The black power movement and ultimately, its failures, were presciently analyzed by Wole Soyinka, who, in his retort to the Negritude of Senghor declaimed: "A Tiger doesnt need to go around proclaiming its Tigritude". To which Senghor answered with some balderdash about Tigers not having story tellers. Such masturbatory policies have done no one any good and it is unlikely that they will work on the Iranians.

Oliver,

[...One side wishing it were so, makes it so. The US started it in 1945...]

Where is the evidence for this? Jeez...you would think the Communists and the Nazis didnt have their eyes set on World conquest long before 1945...

Oliver

This is not a question about morals. The US made a public demonstration of nuclear weapons' power in 1945. Do you really need evidence for that?

That has divided the world into those that have nuclear weapons and those that have not. The US programm provided the motivation for the Soviet and British project and so on.

Chuckles

But the Germans had been angling for Nukes long before then! Doesnt this count as part of the "race" that the US supposedly started?
Not to mention the British (TUBE ALLOYS) and the French, whose programs, contrary to what you think, also started before 1945. The race to develop and use Nuclear weapons started long before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Saying "One side wishing it were so makes it so" and "The US started it" is highly misguided.

Darren

Besides, the kind of pride the Iranian leadership wants stems from a level of respect they could never be given.

It's a huge stumbling block. Every time the US and Iran sit together to work something out, the Iranians make a demand for respect their main requirement. "Ahah!" some would say, "that's easy enough, just show them a little respect and they'll moderate and start behaving."

Except it's not that simple. The Iranians are like an immature schoolyard bully, magnifying any slight, however minor, into a grievous personal injury. In past meetings, they have listed such things as Western journalists writing less than flattering pieces about Iran's economy, and the freedom of Iranian dissidents in the rest of the world as examples of disrespect that must be stopped.

Clearly, to give the Iranian regime the respect they want is impossible, and to even attempt it would be a waste of time. One would think this was obvious, just as you don't exactly stop bullies by feeding them with respect for their brutal ways, you don't stop rogue governments by throwing them all the respect they demand.

No, you stop them by defining boundaries of acceptable behaviour, and both promising and carrying out, harsh punishment when those boundaries are overstepped.

Oliver

You keep seeing this in moral terms.
Only doing counts. The US used the first nuke. I'd say the decision to do so was correct. But it has repercussions.

Darren

Oliver, what you are saying makes no sense. The argument Chuckles is making (which I back wholeheartedly) is that other countries were conducting research into nuclear weapons years before the US had even considered using its nukes on Japan.

Indeed, it is absolutely certain that even if the US had not dropped the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, other countries such as the UK and France (and later the USSR) would have developed them regardless. They all knew the theoretical power of the weapon, they didn't need a demonstration to convince them that it was worth getting.

Chuckles

Good on you Darren - I was beginning to wonder if I was the crazy one here. I dont know what Oliver means by "I keep seeing this in a moral sense". All I am saying is that the USA did not, by dropping bombs, start, in any casual sense, a nuke race; since the nuke race had been going on before then.

Oliver

"Indeed, it is absolutely certain that even if the US had not dropped the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, other countries such as the UK and France (and later the USSR) would have developed them regardless."

By 1955 or so, or even later.

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