Winds of Change.NET: Liberty. Discovery. Humanity. Victory.

Formal Affiliations
  • Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto
  • Euston Democratic Progressive Manifesto
  • Real Democracy for Iran!
  • Support Denamrk
  • Million Voices for Darfur
  • milblogs
Syndication
 Subscribe in a reader

Threshold

| 26 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

I am quite aware of Thomas Friedman's 'Flat Earth,' and agree that globalization has done far more to spread wealth than just about any other historical economic influence. I know that telecommunications and the Internet have compressed the world economically and politically. I understand the interdependent ties between global regions and the nations within them. Look at isolated countries like North Korea or Talibanian Afghanistan, and it is obvious that in our time, countries that 'go it alone' face massive economic privations, often accompanied with the horror of internal repression.

In spite of the view that the globalized world will deliver long-term freedom and prosperity, I have begun to wonder if openness will be an option as we cross history's harsh thresholds, hidden in the tall grass. History always reaps the unexpected; its scythe is strident.

I will admit that I was duped by Mark Buehner's recent satire, How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Mullahs and Embrace The Bomb. I see that it was satire in hindsight, and I feel sheepish in admitting I was so easily deceived. But the large wave that is barreling down upon us at the moment disarmed me from parodic sensitivity. Mr. Buehner's satire was laden with factual, convincing sources. It felt like yelling 'fire' in a theater to me because the nuclear scenarios he laid out are credible in so many minds. We live in a world on edge.

I believe we are already at a historical threshold. The first indication is utter confusion. The secular world's response to Shi'a Islam's nuclear ambition is confused, on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific. There really is no cogent consensus on what to do, because Iran's challenge is a square peg that will not fit in our round hole. Responsive, credible policy is paralyzed from transnational organizations down to national governments because no political strategy promises a clear solution.

It is clear that the crisis is upon us and all roads lead to a very different world. We may not realize it, but we are not really talking about a country that is seeking nuclear arms. We are talking about a fundamentalist, ancient Islamic cult seeking nuclear arms as its ultimate sacrament. While it is necessary for a 'country' called 'Iran' to exercise its sovereignty in order to achieve the making of nuclear weapons, once achieved those weapons will respect no borders. They are being constructed to defy and nullify sovereign borders as we know them. Shi'a's nukes will proliferate like smoke in the wind; their very being is meant to unravel our world, which we have slowly conceived over centuries, at the expense of the Mullahs' world.

The headlines in our papers betray our fundamental misunderstanding of the crisis, referring to the 'Iranian nuclear program,' presuming that this is an entirely Westphalian affair. Therein lies the guise -- the mask about to be lowered. We only see things through the prism of our own perspective, which moves the crisis into high gear. To help clarify what is happening, swap 'Iran' for 'Hezbollah' and ''President Ahmadinejad' for 'Sheik Hassan Nasrallah' in the headlines about the nuclear crisis. Here's a few examples culled from the presses, so altered:

Germany, IAEA to Discuss Hezbollah Nuclear Activities

Russia Opposes Issuing Hezbollah an "Ultimatum" on its Nuclear Program

Hezbollah to Go Nuclear This Year, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah Says

UN Inspectors to Check Up on Hezbollah Nuclear Program

Looks pretty bad, doesn't it? Cultists dedicated to our destruction, answerable to no one but their vengeful god, playing with nukes? To not consider Hezbollah and Persian Shi'a as morally and strategically interchangeable is to tragically misinterpret the hallmark of our time.

A religious suicide cult funded by billions of our petrodollars obtaining weapons of mass destruction has no historical precedent. None. The rules of engagement will be completely upended. Familiar metaphors of superpower warring will be unworkable and irrelevant. Watching sovereign entities flail and dither like paper dolls before their ultimate post-sovereign challenger indicates that the threshold is beneath our feet, if we care to look down.

This is no satire. These are the stakes in 2006.

If Shi'a's radical mullahs manage to proliferate their nukes like smoke through their post-sovereign proxies, certain as-yet-to-be-named cities will unexpectedly fall through trapdoors. No one will lay claim to the atrocities. It need only happen once. If London, or Paris, or New York, or Detroit, or even Fresno falls into oblivion, our well-oiled socioeconomic global merry-go-round stops. Indefinitely. Because of the threat of mass destruction, all borders will be shut. All ports closed. All shipping stopped. Air travel halted. Since the very infrastructure of modern commerce will be the delivery device for Shi'a's nukes, that infrastructure will be indefinitely frozen solid. It won't be an option. There won't be a debate.

If the 'West' manages enough moxy to attempt a preemption of Shi'a Persia, the result will be different than their striking first, but only by degrees. The rubicon will have been crossed. The fact is, we don't know if the mullahs have nukes at this point. It is plausible to suppose that they do. It would be reckless to presume otherwise. We can nuke their nukes with all the gusto we have and not come out of it thinking that we have fully abated the threat of rogue nuclear strikes. Striking first wounds radical Shi'a, but doesn't kill it. And like a wounded bear, it will chase off into the woods for a while, only to come back with a bloody vengeance. Striking first also puts aside the idea of sovereignty, if only for self defense. The world will take that baton and run with it.

What struck me about Mr. Buehner's piece was how his idea of the absurd came off as plausible, depending on one's view of the threat's enormity. And even then, the most aggressive preemptive strike against Persian Shi'a still leaves us stranded between the world that we know -- with largely open borders that facilitate free trade and expansive prosperity -- and the next world, where borders are defined by padlocks, moats and walls, not openness -- just like the good old days of sovereignty, when borders meant 'stop, go no further.' In a world of nuclear trapdoors, there will be a lock-down of borders to secure their inviolability. Globalism, transnationalism and our jet-setting postmodern lifestyle presume that we can have our cake and eat it too: National borders exist to contain political, social and economic zones while cultures, religions and civilizations are free to transgress sovereignty ad infinitum. That wonderfully open-minded and trusting view of the world is on the chopping block, whether we attack first or Shi'a attacks first.

As far as whether or not to strike first or wait to be struck, I guess I am in the 'Strike First' camp. Spin the bottle -- better to take the initiative than sit around and wait for the enemy's blow. But I am not deluded in thinking that our marvelously open world will survive this crisis unchanged. What we have now is historically unprecedented, and incredibly fragile. We hang by a thread.

After the 3/11 Madrid bombings, Lewis �Atiyyatullah, claiming to represent al-Qaeda, said:

The international system built-up by the West since the Treaty of Westphalia will collapse; and a new international system will rise under the leadership of a mighty Islamic state.

Al Qaeda is Sunni, not Shi'a, but that may be a difference that will be temporarily patched-up to achieve a common, pan-Islamist goal. Mr. �Atiyyatullah is right. Our open system is not impervious. It is, in fact, quite pervious. How we engage being in a closed world will be most telling to our character as free people.

I will end this dour essay on an optimistic note. If the world becomes closed in the name of self-preservation, some countries will fare better than others in isolation. Though all modern countries are thoroughly ensnared in global economics, if ripped away, some countries have enough national will, freedom, natural resources and innovative citizens to positively reinvent themselves in a closed planet. I think the United States can weather isolation better than most countries, should isolation be foisted upon us.

I am not suggesting isolation as some kind of regressive policy option that we can choose; I am suggesting that it might be the only option left, whoever pulls the nuclear trigger. It will be incredibly painful to endure, but perhaps out of the transition we will reclaim our sense of self-worth. Our history of independence is still longer than our history of dependence. Out of all the uncertainty of this time, relying on our indomitable free spirit is the one possible future I can still imagine.

2 TrackBacks

Tracked: March 27, 2006 2:44 PM
Excerpt: Back when I was in college taking a year-long course in American diplomatic history, I had a year-long argument with the professor teaching the course, a man who was one of the world’s experts on the subject. Then, as now, I was no respecter of ...
Tracked: March 27, 2006 3:31 PM
A Nuclear iran from CommonSenseDesk
Excerpt: I really hope we are paying attention to this little challenge. I fear, however, that our options are severely limited. (Many thanks to Amba for the link).

26 Comments

Globalism, transnationalism and our jet-setting postmodern lifestyle presume that we can have our cake and eat it too: National borders exist to contain political, social and economic zones while cultures, religions and civilizations are free to transgress sovereignty ad infinitum. That wonderfully open-minded and trusting view of the world is on the chopping block...

And we're still in a kind of cultural freefall about this, with justifiable (perhaps hypertrophied, nonetheless justifiable) concerns for lost rights here in the US, and other mistrusts of authority that we've been bred to as our birthright. Factor in that that nobody really knows everything that's going on, and everybody wants to think they do. Then add in the cultivated fragility sponsored by the tack 24-hour news typically takes.

It's still not at all clear to most that the threat is existential, but by the time it is, a lot of people will be prepared to complain and act out in stupid, but very human, ways.

Really tight borders + stratospheric oil prices = Victory gardens. Remember that image I gave of cattle drives to Manhattan? Welcome to my bad dream. Head 'em up! Move 'em out! H'YAHH!

Thanks for the impetus, Cicero. I reckon I'll be blogging about this after all.

Oh my lord, would everybody please take their thorazine here?

"... large wave that is barreling down upon us ... world on edge ... the crisis is upon us ... fundamentalist, ancient Islamic cult seeking nuclear arms as its ultimate sacrament ... nukes will proliferate like smoke in the wind; their very being is meant to unravel our world ... Cultists dedicated to our destruction, answerable to no one but their vengeful god, playing with nukes ... no historical precedent ... rules of engagement will be completely upended ..."

...blah blah blah, so on and so forth. This is pure pundit pap. I look at this post and see nothing but empty scare-mongering rhetoric with vanishingly little connection to reality. It's late and I'm cranky so I'm just going to quote myself:

Peoples thought process on Iran seems to run like this: theyre ruled by Islamist theocrats, and Islamist theocrats believe all sorts of kooky things, ergo these people are not rational. But this tendency to impute the psychology of suicide bombers to Irans leaders doesnt seem well-founded at all. If I were drawing up a psychological profile of the ruling set in Iran, heres what Im looking at: a bunch of religious guys who lived through both the fairly brutal secularist Shah and a very bloody war with Iraq, both of which provided ample opportunity for anyone of a disposition to be martyred. This is a pretty strong selection pressure for pragmatism. They were young men then, and now theyre old men who sit around reading religious texts and having theological and political discussions. Does this sound like a bunch of big risk-takers to anyone? Does this sound like men who are eager to die? Hardly. Yes, the mullahs have been intoning their supposed commitment to the destruction of Israel for the better part of 25 years, but as Hitchens reminds us, that didnt stop them from buying arms from Israel to fight off Saddam Hussein in the 80s. These people are cynical and corrupt, not fanatics. And as Tyler Cowen noted a while ago, political power in Iran is distributed in councils, which tend to be collectively more conservative in their behaviour than any of their individual members might be.

Everything Iran's ruling mullahcracy has done so far suggests a pretty darn good ability to calculate rationally. This is the peril of blending together everyone from the 9/11 hijackers to Khameni under the umbrella of "Islamist" or "Islamofascist" or whetever the bloody term of choice is this week. It obscures more than it illuminates by eliding over very crucial differences in the psychology, behaviour and situational logic of all the individuals tossed so cavalierly under that blanket. It damages one's ability to think clearly.

To extend my rant, this kind of thinking tends to cause people to filter out noises like this that regularly come out of Iran:

A senior Iranian official close to Ayatollah Khamenei, who insisted on anonymity, says Iran's ultimate goal in this complicated game of chess is to win security guarantees from the United States at a time when American troops are in several countries on Iran's borders. "How can the world expect us to sit back and not defend ourselves?" he asks. The mullahs see this fight as one to ensure the survival of their regimewith American assurances.
-- "Iran's Rogue Rage," Newsweek
"We've had two plane crashes in the past month caused by American economic sanctions against Iran. Those accidents are forcing Iran to take a more aggressive stance towards the sanctions. The regime wants to start real negotiations with the US, because it doesn't think the Europeans are authorised to negotiate properly. This move is aimed at breaking the circle and getting America's attention."
-- Saeed Leylaz, Iranian political analyst

Yep, they sure are insane! Not like a regular authoritarian government at all!

BTW, Khameni has endorsed talks with the United States over the future of Iraq. Diplomats and suchlike from Iran and the US have had occaisional meetings several times in the past few years, but never have they been official acknowledged at the top on either side. The fact that Khameni has come out and sanctioned this is a very big signal and you're ignoring it.

They probably want to have their cake and eat it, too. That's human. Multipolar brinksmanship is still brinksmanship.

And their senior guys must know, on either a gut level or intellectually, as competent backgammon players, that there is great game-theoretic utility in a prestated policy that sounds insane.

Likewise, given my study of the multi-sheafed nature of deterrence, I hold that some fraction of this populus has to inject some uncertainty into the minds of the mullahs. At miinimum, Cicero's post is some small part of that.

As long as they /we don't push it too far, we might keep something like deterrence -- modulo any weapons leak to random small groups with chips on their shoulders. That last is very hard to calculate but does seem to increase with an increasing number of potential sources, no?

So, taking your viewpoint as valid, Matt -- at what point will we have a parallel to the Cuban Missile Crisis? How will we know we're there? And what do we do then?

To paraphrase Monty Python, "Blimey, this redistribution of nukes is trickier than I thought."

Cicero -- no the likely response to Iranian nuke attacks would be to simply wipe out Iran and any other nation that threatens Global Commerce. Beijing has no intention of telling it's citizens "That rising standard of living you wanted? Sorry, Global Commerce is closed for now because of Islamic terror. Go back to living in squalor." Nor do Japan, Europe, and most other first world countries want this situation.

If it's between Global Trade and 1 billion Muslims, well Global Trade will win. Nations and regimes are ruthless when it's a matter of political survival. If this is done (nuclear attacks) the response of self-interested nations and regimes will be on the level of Tokyo firebombing cubed.

Matt -- you seriously mischaracterize the nature of the regime in Iran and it's leaders. They came to power on the action of pure belief, belief in Allah and his living shadow on earth, the Ayatollah Khomeni. These are not people prone to moderation. Ahmadinejad was one of the torturers of the Embassy people, and his main experience of us has been weak and bound hostages, with a dithering response from a weak and dithering President (and the one after too).

Iran since 1979 has wanted control of the Gulf and the wider ME (Persian Empire 2.0). The only thing that stands in the Way is the US Navy. They tried jihad on sea and found it a disaster. Nukes are their trump card and they ignore everything else. Like our changed political environment, our strategic forces (which are not on display and thus discounted), and response after 9/11.

No Ahamdinejad is no jibbering fool, despite his Holocaust denial, threats to nuke Israel and the US, belief that he can and will "eliminate" both nations. He is deadly serious, if for no other reason than he faces an upcoming catastrophic birth-rate decline and loss of faith. Hence the need to build the new Empire NOW while he still has the men. Like Von Schlieffen in 1914 dusting off Von Moltke's plan, he ignores things he doesn't want to think about ("Parisian taxis? How could they affect our plans? Of course we will be victorious like our grandfathers before us!")

Ahmadinejad seems to think by his words he will strike a decapitation blow against the US ala Yamamoto and cause us to surrender or at worst sue for peace. The Koran counsels that the kaffir are all alike so Francafada, Cartoon Jihad, and other incidents re-inforce this view of Ahmadinejad (and the senior Mullahs who run Iran). Worst of all is that they are authentically religious. Are they not pure? Will not Allah smite the Infidel if they act? Is not God self-evidently on their side and providing assistance even now? Has not God himself promised them world-wide dominion and victory over the hated Kaffir?

Iran could have come to terms at ANY time during the Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2 Admins (when the WaPo reported Bush "reached out" to collaborate with Iran to remove common enemies the Taliban/Al Qaeda and Saddam). Instead Iran ACTIVELY sought conflict with the nation that removed it's two greatest enemies who are coincidentally Sunnis.

THAT should tell you Iran is looking for war, believing it can and will win like Yamamoto. You can't fix stupid.

Nort,

I understand that crazy can be good strategy and I'm all in favour of establishing a credible policy of disproportionate retaliation against Iran in the event of a nuke going off in Tel Aviv, New York, or wherever. I would have no compunctions about pushing the button in that case, and would be all too happy for Americans shout this loud and clear from the rooftops. (Much as I dislike Atrios, in a fleeting moment of stopped-clockery he actually had the right idea here.)

But committing to this position doesn't require the sort of frivolous rhetorical silliness on display in the main post. I'm thinking less Ann Coulter, more Don Corleone ("if he should be struck by a bolt of lightning..."). You can't craft sane policy if your conception of what you're up against is absurdly detached from reality. I've already thrown my hat into the ring in a three-part series here, here and here; I've thought long about this and examined the facts unemotionally, which is frankly more than I can say for 'Cicero' and most other such chicken littles.

Re: the Cuban missile crisis, I'm going to punt on that because I don't think the analogy even makes sense, and so I'm not really sure what you're asking. Can we not just treat this situation as it is without needing to make questionable historical analogies?

Rockford,

I'm going to be lazy and quote myself again:

Let us grant that for all appearances, Irans President is batshit crazy. But let us also recognize that Irans President is actually weaker than the United States executive he couldnt even get his first three picks for oil minister appointed, and the Expediency Council essentially has a veto over anything he does. If Iran got useable nuclear weapons tomorrow, Ahmadinejad would assuredly not be the man with his hand on the button. So his antics are completely beside the point.

Moreover, theres already a mounting backlash against him: Ahmadinejads bloated budget and aggressive attitude is annoying the ruling clerics, the $10B decline in the value of Irans stock market since he took over is annoying the capitalist class, and a 13.5% (and rapidly climbing) inflation rate is annoying the public that elected him. Theres already been one assassination attempt on him. Ahmadinejads days are already numbered, and the only thing that can save him is if the West makes a hero of him.

I can put it no better than an Iranian newspaper editor quoted in the linked article: If you leave him alone, he will become a bankrupt politician within a year. With greater pressure, only the extremists will benefit.

Not to say that the mullahs are Hitler, but do recall that the sentiment of the French and other Allies pre-war was that surely Hitler wasn't so insane that he'd bring a world war into being -- surely he'd stay on at least one of the lines he'd drawn. Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland?

Turned out he didn't think starting another world war was insane.

Now, one popular view is that if the French had actually responded in force right away, he'd have backed off, at least for a spell.

Is there a parallel here? Hard to say. "History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes."

Not to say that the mullahs are Hitler, but do recall that the sentiment of the French and other Allies pre-war was that surely Hitler wasn't so insane that he'd bring a world war into being -- surely he'd stay on his side of at least one of the lines he'd drawn. Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland?

Turned out he didn't think starting another world war was insane.

Now, one popular view is that if the French had actually responded in force right away, he'd have backed off, at least for a spell.

Is there a parallel here? Hard to say. "History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes."

Re: the Cuban missile crisis, I'm going to punt on that because I don't think the analogy even makes sense, and so I'm not really sure what you're asking. Can we not just treat this situation as it is without needing to make questionable historical analogies?

Fair enough. Permit me to unpack and reformulate.

In your view, is there any point,
- pre-smoking-hole-nee-{Tel-Aviv | Western-City-of-Choice}, where
- a principled brinksmanship response
- that includes a credible possibility of a US first use of nuclear weapons
...is morally justified?

Please note:

I'm not trying to talk you into a corner here, just trying to extract what I meant from a specific historical case you found suspect.

And I don't have a pat answer for the case, myself.

Cicero: do me a favor and zap # 7, please. And this one, if you wish.

Pace Matt, I know that things seem sunnier to you than Cicero paints them above. I think part of why he is bugged by current events is that it seems that a lot of other people need their Thorazine prescriptions adjusted downwards.

OK. Let's assume Iran just wants to have fun. Roleplaying as a member of the Iranian gerontocracy:

Pakistan has nukes (weaponized or not) -- it's a prestige issue; we are far too crafty to actually use them, we old tired rabblerousers. We feel penned in and besieged just like Russia used to. It's our manifest destiny as Persians to at least have parity with those fricking Iraelis. Once we have them we'll just rattle them every once in a while. The G8 will have to take us seriously.

Is that your assessment of the situation?

Nort,

First response: In Hitler's case, the invasion of Poland should have ignited immediate military resistance from France and England. But neither of them had comitted credibly to a response, so he pressed on ahead. But Iran has not invaded anybody (unlike certain superpowers we could mention) and is vanishingly unlikely to, so again I don't see utility in the historical comparison. Trash talk does not constitute grounds for starting a war; it's grounds for quietly but firmly informing the trash-talker that there will be serious consequences if he does anything stupid.

Second reponse: To answer your question in a word, no. I can concieve of situations where the credible threat of conventional attacks would be warranted, but the nuclear taboo is far too important to be thrown around lightly. The rule has to be that nukes are for retaliation only, but comittment to that retaliation has to be unwavering.

Third response: something like that, yes.

My turn to write while I'm too tired ( :) ).

I have been taking notes for some time now, trying to address the nuclear taboo 60+ years on. My scholarship chops aren't up to it (yet), and events might overtake whatever I write. And of course whatever I write is likely to be construed as tacit or overt approval of their use, just as with Herman Kahn.

The old 1950's TV show "Paladin" had a soliloquy at the beginning where the protagonist mentioned that his custom pistol had a one-ounce trigger pull. To some degree, having the US seen in that way has value, both positive and negative.

To many, nuclear weapons seem unconscionable. They are both creepy and scary. To others, they seem magically delicious. The taboo has power that surprises me. I thought there'd be a first use sometime in the late 1970s. But that was because I thought some loose-cannon Arab country would have them by then, and would ship one somewhere in the scuppers of a shrimp boat. Didn't happen, as far as we know.

The Coalition has done an astonishing job of minimizing collateral damage in Iraq. No matter what the bloviators say.

Obviously, nuking Iran would more than negate that.

The West (yes, even Israel) can absorb the effects of one theater-yield nuke without collapsing (though Israel would probably have to do something drastic at its borders, such as laying down a nuclear cordon sanitaire). Is there a magic number past that? How about 25 nuke containers in place and reported to all the major media? Do we wait for one or all of them to go off before responding?

Probably, we do. 'Cause we're the good guys.

Nobody has perfect information. You say Iran isn't going to invade anybody. I am guessing you mean armored columns or human waves. You're probably right about that. For now.

I think we can agree that if a loose enough cannon gets ahold of a nuke, it'll go boom. You seem to hold that Iraq's having them doesn't constitute a clear and present threat.

I sincerely hope you're right. It's hard to be sure.

Arrgh--obviously, in my penultimate para, I meant Iran, not Iraq.

Re: #2,

A certain Austrian corporal lived through the brutal trench warfare of 1914-'18. He survived post war famine, hunger, and economic depression. He wrote a lot of silly plans and desires in a book.

Of course he wasn't serious.

BTW every one at the time thought the Austrian corporal was a rational calculator. He was pretty shrewd in undestanding his opponents. Until Sept of '39 led to a cascade of events that led to his and his adopted country's destruction.

The tendency of folks with his psychology is to keep raising the stakes of the game as long as he seems to be winning. It is never - quit while you are ahead.

#11 Matt,

Iran sure has ambitions outside its territory.

Sadr in Iraq.

Hezzbolla in Stupidstine, and Lebanon.

Wars for territory are not always fought by massed armies.

The Austrian corporal was very shrewd in that respect. He liquified morale. The Army bit was then just a walk on. Until the morale of those opposed stiffened.

The Iranian leadership are great students of the Austrian corporal. I do believe that they are prone to the same mistakes.

BTW great bridge picture.

Is it from Chicago? Wacker Drive possibly?

The central point here is a very simple one.

The mullahs and Islamofascists don't understand us, and never will.

They see the current decline of the West into a cesspit of moral depravity and sloth, and forget that the dominant Western culture, that started by the British and continued by the Americans, has a long historical background of violence and resolution (from the Angles and Saxons, to the Normans and Vikings, to the Crusaders...)

So if they get the bomb they will use it. And a billion Moslems will die, and their holy places will turn into radioactive slag, and their ashes will fertilise the soil of their enemies.

In this post from a few weeks ago I argued that the Iranians are rational but not deterrable. It seems relevant to the discussion.

Matt,

Thanks for your thoughts. I will be the first to confess that I am an emotional bore.

Little of what you have written addresses what I said in the essay. You speak of Iran; I speak of radical Shi'a. If you want to believe that this is a simple case of country-versus-country, I'm with you on that one -- I emotionally would prefer to see this conflict that way too. I wish it was a nice old fashioned Clauswitzian conflict. We'd win it, hands down.

You assert essentially that this is a case about a country obtaining nukes to secure itself in the world order it finds itself in; I assert that this is a case about a radical cult getting nukes to change the world order. If we don't agree on that, we'll agree on little else.

It's amazing how much sane calculation can be built upon a foundation of pure fantasy. Perhaps 'fantasy' that's another word for 'faith', but a Shi'a 'faith' (or Sunni for that matter) that idealizes a pan-global Islamic Caliphate is fantasy in my book, though I am sure it seems perfectly rational to the mullas. Built upon that fantasy, I agree with you that their actions have been calculated and sane, to say the least.

It may appear that Iran is not on the threshold of invading anyone, but proxies like Hezbollah are an invasive force in my book. If Iran were funding radical Mexican Islamists in California like they fund Hezbollah in Lebanon, I would most certainly consider myself invaded here where I live. If it was possible at any time that those Mexican Islamists could unleash weapons of mass destruction in my state, or even the threat of blackmail of their use, I would consider myself invaded.

If we want to wait for uniformed Iranian armies with tanks to cross over borders, then we are in the twentieth century, waiting for a war that will never happen. Are radical Shi'a in and around Persia intent on expanding their empire? Does their expansion require Saddam-style Kuwaiti invasions? Has that been their way of making war for the past 27 years?

It's nice that Khameni has endorsed talks with the Great Satan. I didn't mention that in the essay, but I am aware of it. I am also aware that Khameni issued a fatwa forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. Given the evidence collected on their nuclear program, it's safe to assume that signals coming from his regime are mixed. It's safe to assume that Khameni's "president" does his bidding, no matter the little stories we hear about how there is a split between Ahmadinejad and some of the mullas. That's all pap, in my opinion. Those guys are all singing off the same hymn book.

Frankly, I hope you're right in your assertions that "Iran's ultimate goal in this complicated game of chess is to win security guarantees from the United States", as the facelessly anonymous Iranian official intones. I would love nothing more than that. But I think there are other forces at play here that make this situation volatile and highly unique.

Marcus Cicero, Shi'ism and Khomeinism are not the same thing at this point. Could they become so? Not as long as we have a major troop commitment in Iraq.

The most important - and true - aspect of Cicero's essay are the parts that say this goes beyond Iran. It does. All indicators are that the non-proliferation regime is pretty much broken, and here on Winds we've talked about the time-window re: technology diffusion and biological attacks.

If you believe the WMD lethality curve is becoming accessible at lower and lower resource levels over time, then Cicero's essay speaks strongly to the underlying structure of our future world.

"If you believe the WMD lethality curve is becoming accessible at lower and lower resource levels over time, then Cicero's essay speaks strongly to the underlying structure of our future world."

This is true, and we really do need to look at this in the larger sense. I dont think we can afford to look at the situation in a serial, case by case basis anymore. We go into Iraq which ends up being a limited WMD threat- meanwhile Iran is developing faster, but on the other hand Libya is frightened into turning over a program even more advanced than we thought. We have to accept that our intelligence is really failing here and relying on it is a dangerous chance. Politically and pragmatically this isnt a game we are likely to win going about it this way.

Obviously this game of wackimole the WMDs is in itself a stop-gap solution. We probably need to revise our expectations here. I dont know that I have the answers, but it seems fairly clear that we are sailing back into the realpolitical waters that metastisized a lot of the current problems in the first place. We are on the horns of a dilemna, rogue enemy states are the most dangerous because they can produce weapons, but failed states are the second most dangerous because they will use weapons, and both of them rely on flat out enemy states that I think Russia and Saudi Arabia are revealing themselves to be.

In my opinion we are going back to a Cold War philosophy- and i think that is going to look a lot different from what either the late to the party neo-Realists of the left think, or the uber-hawks of the right hope.

I think we are back to triangulation, propping up friendly despots, and herding recalitrant allies in a big way. Yes we continue to do those things now, but imo we will be doing it again for survival instead of inertia as we have been for the last decade. And i have my doubts on its effectiveness. I think we really need to learn from our Cold War mistakes and concentrate on democratizing our friends and containing our enemies as best we can- and if that involves one last statement in Iran via airpower to set the clock back a couple years, so be it. But the bottom line is we need to look over the horizon on this one and figure out what our 10th move might look like instead of just our next move.

Marcus -

You're talking about the specifics of what I discussed earlier as
But it is a model to consider as we talk about the notion that a sea-change in the Western Street could take place which involves a fundamental belief that we cant deal with the Arab world, and that what we need to do is to disengage fast and hard.

In essence, itd be a position that said were washing our hands of you, bulked up border and internal security, and made it a point never to drive through those neighborhoods without locking the doors, and never, under any circumstances, to stop there. It solves that whole messy war thing, and makes sure that no one says bad things about us in our hearing. We'd be clean-handed liberals, and feel secure.

I'm aware that you don't see this as a happy decision, but as more of an inevitible one.

I'll leave you with my next comment:
And it would be a disaster.
Yes, I do still believe it would be.

A.L.

Others have made this connection:
Loose nukes => one terrorist attack with them => automatic closing of borders to trade.

It isn't convincing. We are dependent on foreign imports of oil, textiles, electronics, and manufactured goods of every type. The most likely response to a terrorist nuclear attack, after the panic subsides, will be to institute a costly regime of inspections of each entering cargo container with additional post-inspection safeguards. This will severely inhibit contemporary methods of trade, but the trade imperatives are so great on both sides of the water that a costly inspection system will be preferred by both suppliers and consumers to a semi-permanent halt. The international trading system is the lifeblood of too many powerful interests to allow its destruction.

Matt -- Spengler in the Asia Times reports that the basis for the Ahamdinejad victory which he considered relatively clean was: the rural population mostly dirt poor; the urban poor who migrated in from the countryside; the Mullahs. His opposition was mostly the liberal traders and young city dwellers wanting "stuff."

Since the Clerics who back him have control of the military organs and are rentiers not entrepreneurs or businessmen they don't care about inflation, stock market declines, or anything else. They seem to think they are in the drivers seat with ever-climbing oil prices and being fixed on the export regime (they get their cuts from oil just like Saddam and his cronies). The Clerics and their base (massively social conservative Islamists) have an urgent duty to destroy the modern world before it inevitably corrodes their traditions and values.

Most worryingly, they see the US as weak (because they've never experienced US strength) and pencil in Jimmy Carter and supine weakness as cardinal US attributes. Leave them alone and they will strike like Imperial Japan, supremely confident of victory. Don't forget Japan had many trading interests that also opposed action against the US, but were over-ruled by the cabal of hard men who represented reactionary forces upset about modernization corrupting the "Bushido Spirit" of the nation and suchlike trash.

Re your response to Nort: Iran has ALREADY threatened Qatar with war if it "helps the Americans" and fought low-level conflicts with several Arab gulf nations in the 1980's over islands in the Gulf. Khomeni boasted Iran would "liberate" the Shia in the Gulf. That's pretty aggressive. The conflict with the Taliban and Al Qaeda was based on Persian ambitions in Central Asia bumping up against theirs.

Cicero -- to bolster your Civilizational case, consider Iran's bombing of the Buenos Aires synagoge in 1994. At considerable risk it sought to kill Argentinian Jews for ... what advantage exactly? It was not Clausewitzian as you point out elsewhere, but communal. No advantage other than Shia doing their godly duty to kill as many Jews as possible wherever they could be found.

Iran is going to be the power broker in the M.E. That's their game. Nukes are the path.

Now there's a choice. Either live with it or go to war.

JimRockford said :"Iran since 1979 has wanted control of the Gulf and the wider ME (Persian Empire 2.0)."..."Ahmadinejad seems to think by his words he will strike a decapitation blow against the US ala Yamamoto and cause us to surrender or at worst sue for peace. "

--How can Iran run the M.E. AND detonate a nuke on the west? Isn't it one or the other? The utility of nukes is the threat to move your position forward without crossing the unacceptable line of the othe rnuclear power. There will be no war unless the U.S. decides it can't live with Iran running things over there. Hardly worth another war.

"Iran could have come to terms at ANY time during the Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2 Admins (when the WaPo reported Bush "reached out" to collaborate with Iran to remove common enemies the Taliban/Al Qaeda and Saddam). Instead Iran ACTIVELY sought conflict with the nation that removed it's two greatest enemies who are coincidentally Sunnis."

-- Except W branded them the axis of evil in '02, WHILE they were helping the U.S. in Afghanistan. Your recollection of events is disturbing.

Leave a comment

Here are some quick tips for adding simple Textile formatting to your comments, though you can also use proper HTML tags:

*This* puts text in bold.

_This_ puts text in italics.

bq. This "bq." at the beginning of a paragraph, flush with the left hand side and with a space after it, is the code to indent one paragraph of text as a block quote.

To add a live URL, "Text to display":http://windsofchange.net/ (no spaces between) will show up as Text to display. Always use this for links - otherwise you will screw up the columns on our main blog page.




Recent Comments
  • TM Lutas: Jobs' formula was simple enough. Passionately care about your users, read more
  • sabinesgreenp.myopenid.com: Just seeing the green community in action makes me confident read more
  • Glen Wishard: Jobs was on the losing end of competition many times, read more
  • Chris M: Thanks for the great post, Joe ... linked it on read more
  • Joe Katzman: Collect them all! Though the French would be upset about read more
  • Glen Wishard: Now all the Saudis need is a division's worth of read more
  • mark buehner: Its one thing to accept the Iranians as an ally read more
  • J Aguilar: Saudis were around here (Spain) a year ago trying the read more
  • Fred: Good point, brutality didn't work terribly well for the Russians read more
  • mark buehner: Certainly plausible but there are plenty of examples of that read more
  • Fred: They have no need to project power but have the read more
  • mark buehner: Good stuff here. The only caveat is that a nuclear read more
  • Ian C.: OK... Here's the problem. Perceived relevance. When it was 'Weapons read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: Chris, If there were some way to do all these read more
  • Chris M: Marcus Vitruvius, I'm surprised by your comments. You're quite right, read more
The Winds Crew
Town Founder: Left-Hand Man: Other Winds Marshals
  • 'AMac', aka. Marshal Festus (AMac@...)
  • Robin "Straight Shooter" Burk
  • 'Cicero', aka. The Quiet Man (cicero@...)
  • David Blue (david.blue@...)
  • 'Lewy14', aka. Marshal Leroy (lewy14@...)
  • 'Nortius Maximus', aka. Big Tuna (nortius.maximus@...)
Other Regulars Semi-Active: Posting Affiliates Emeritus:
Winds Blogroll
Author Archives
Categories
Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en