April 12, 2006

So Steely Steyn!

Mark Steyn, doubtless writing in from some fortified New Hampshire cabin or such, concludes after a rather prodigious disquisition on Iran:

Once again, we face a choice between bad and worse options. There can be no “surgical” strike in any meaningful sense: Iran’s clients on the ground will retaliate in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Europe. Nor should we put much stock in the country’s allegedly “pro-American” youth. This shouldn’t be a touchy-feely nation-building exercise: rehabilitation may be a bonus, but the primary objective should be punishment—and incarceration. It’s up to the Iranian people how nutty a government they want to live with, but extraterritorial nuttiness has to be shown not to pay. That means swift, massive, devastating force that decapitates the regime—but no occupation.

The cost of de-nuking Iran will be high now but significantly higher with every year it’s postponed. The lesson of the Danish cartoons is the clearest reminder that what is at stake here is the credibility of our civilization. Whether or not we end the nuclearization of the Islamic Republic will be an act that defines our time.

This is scandalously absurd tommyrot to the nth degree. But in some bien pensant quarters, I gather, such musings pass for high-brow "Jacksonian"-style foreign policy deep-think, and quite apart from being met with protracted guffaws and sniggers, are instead greeted with furrowed brows and hearty, if appropriately resigned, nods of agreement. Let's be more plain: if this is the future direction that some in the Republican Party plan to cheer-lead regarding security policy matters like Iran--'blow up the whole bloody place, mate, and we'll see where the chips fall later'--please count the proprieter of this humble little site out of the fiery festivities. Truth be told, my tolerance for such devastatingly juvenile B.S. being beamed in from the still wintry outlands of New Hampshire, ostensibly for eager and ready consumption by legions of newbie foreign policy mavens spinnin'-it-steely-Steyn-style-in-the-'sphere, is growing pretty thin. But, hey, maybe that's just me. It's Munich again, see, and the times require gumption and spine and fortitude--not the cowardice of the Eastern Establishment say, or Kofi's kleptocracy granting Kojo the run of the mill, or some other bastion of weak-kneedness, one too far removed from the pure, virgin northern woods, where a man can live and breath free, and see the great challenges of the time in starker, more cogent relief.

Oh, as for, per Steyn, "extraterritorial nuttiness" having to be "shown not to pay" (mais oui, bien sur!), dare I refer Mark to Messrs. Will, Gingrich, Buckley, among others, who would be happy to share some views on said topic, though perhaps from an altogether different perspective than our recently minted Marechal Steyn had in mind, albeit a deliciously ironic one, under the circumstances, it must be said. Let's clue him in without too much delay though, lest planning for the Great Persian Campaign get too far underway New Hampshire way. Come downs from euphoric lofty heights can be somewhat cruel amid all the early excitements, so better to inject a cautionary portent or two by way of brotherly admonition every now and again. Frankly, I would have thought the Mesopotamian morass might have served as some rough bodement, a harbinger of sorts, for those moving so swiftly on to Battle No. 3 of the GWOT. Evidently, not, alas.

P.S. Sanity, for now, appears to be prevailing in the Administration:

Some officials, from a range of agencies including the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, said there was none of the feverish planning that took place in the prelude to the Iraq war, and no indication that the White House was seeking an explanation of its military options.

"The strike plans have been in place for some time," said one former senior Pentagon official who is in close touch with his former colleagues.

Tactically, eliminating Iran's nuclear sites, experts say, would require 600 to 1,000 air sorties to make sure that underground sites were destroyed.

Strategically, the task would be more enormous, because the United States would have to be prepared to stop Iran from interfering with oil shipments coming out of the Gulf, to cut off terrorist attacks, and to keep Iran from inciting uprisings in southern Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a foreign diplomat who visited her recently that to use military force to eliminate Iran's nuclear sites would be an extraordinarily difficult task; President Bush all but dismissed it as a near-term option to some lawmakers who, on condition of anonymity, relayed the essence of their discussion.

According to current and retired senior military officers and Pentagon officials, the military options against Iran range from a limited overnight strike by cruise missiles or stealth bombers aimed at nuclear-related activities, to a much larger series of attacks over several days against not only nuclear-related sites, but also other government targets, including the country's Revolutionary Guard and its intelligence headquarters.

Iran's large uranium-enrichment complex at Natanz, including an unfinished hall for 50,000 nuclear centrifuges that sits empty more than 50 feet underground, could be destroyed with earth-penetrating conventional bombs. Its conversion facility at Isfahan is above ground and easier to hit.

But senior officers warned that attacking targets in Iran would be much more difficult than the air campaign against Iraq in 2003. Iran's air defenses are more formidable. Many nuclear-related targets are dispersed across the country or buried deep underground. And United States intelligence analysts acknowledge that they do not know where all of Iran's secret nuclear-related activities are situated.

"Iran poses a very difficult target set," said one former top officer who was involved in target planning. "It's a bigger country, with more rugged terrain. It would be very difficult to take down."

Those officers and Pentagon officials, as well as independent military specialists, emphasized that there were no indications that airstrikes or commando attacks were imminent, and that any military action would most likely unleash a series of retaliatory strikes from Tehran.

"The consequences of U.S. strikes are enormous," concludes a new report by Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The report, released Friday, warned that Iran could retaliate by firing missiles at United States troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, by using proxy groups in Iraq to attack American soldiers there, and by sending suicide bombers to the United States.

Here are some of Tehran's retaliatory options, as quoted directly from the Cordesman report:

• Retaliate against US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan overtly using Shahab-3 missiles armed with CBR warheads

• Use proxy groups including al-Zarqawi and Sadr in Iraq to intensify the insurgency and escalate the attacks
against US forces and Iraqi Security Forces

• Turn the Shi’ite majority in Iraq against the US presence and demand US forces to leave

• Attack the US homeland with suicide bombs by proxy groups or deliver CBR weapons to al-Qa’ida to use
against the US

• Use its asymmetric capabilities to attacks US interests in the region including soft targets: e.g. embassies,
commercial centers, and American citizens

• Attack US naval forces stationed in the Gulf with anti-ship missiles, asymmetric warfare, and mines

• Attack Israel with missile attacks possibly with CBR warheads

• Retaliate against energy targets in the Gulf and temporarily shut off the flow of oil from the Strait of Hormuz

* Stop all of its oil and gas shipments to increase the price of oil, inflict damage on the global and US economies.

Not to mention, just about the entire Iranian nation will be hell-bent on getting nuclear weapons as soon as the bombing ceases, not just the nutters, but most of the reformers too. Has Mark Steyn thought about any of these consequences with any seriousness? I doubt it.

P.P.S.: From Ignatius:

Allison argues that Bush's dilemma is similar to the one that confronted Kennedy in 1962. His advisers are telling him that he may face a stark choice -- either to acquiesce in the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a dangerous adversary, or risk war to stop that nuclear fait accompli . Hard-liners warned JFK that alternative courses of action would only delay the inevitable day of reckoning, and Bush is probably hearing similar advice now.

Kennedy's genius was to reject the Cuba options proposed by his advisers, hawk and dove alike, and choose his own peculiar outside-the-box strategy. He issued a deadline but privately delayed it; he answered a first, flexible message from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev but not a second unyielding one; he said he would never take U.S. missiles out of Turkey, as the Soviets were demanding, and then secretly did precisely that. Disaster was avoided because Khrushchev believed Kennedy was willing to risk war -- but wanted to avoid it.

The Bush administration needs to be engaged in a similar exercise in creative thinking. The military planners will keep looking for targets (as they must, in a confrontation this serious). But Bush's advisers -- and most of all, the president himself -- must keep searching for ways to escape the inexorable logic that is propelling America and Iran toward war. I take heart from the fact that the counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Philip Zelikow, is an expert on the Cuban missile crisis who co-authored the second edition of Allison's "Essence of Decision."

What worries me is that the relevant historical analogy may not be the 1962 war that didn't happen, but World War I, which did. The march toward war in 1914 resulted from the tight interlocking of alliances, obligations, perceived threats and strategic miscalculations. The British historian Niall Ferguson argued in his book "The Pity of War" that Britain's decision to enter World War I was a gross error of judgment that cost that nation its empire.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, makes a similar argument about Iran. "I think of war with Iran as the ending of America's present role in the world," he told me this week. "Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it's still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we'll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world."

Brzezinski urges President Bush to slow down and think carefully about his options -- rather than rushing to stop Iran's nuclear program, which by most estimates is five to 10 years away from building a bomb, even after yesterday's announcement. "Time is on our side," says Brzezinski. "The mullahs aren't the future of Iran, they're the past." As the United States carefully weighs its options, there is every likelihood that the strategic picture will improve.

The Bush administration has demonstrated, in too many ways, that it's better at starting fights than finishing them. It shouldn't make that same mistake again. Threats of war will be more convincing if they come slowly and reluctantly, when it has become clear that truly there is no other choice.

God damn right, re: this last bolded part. FYI, I'll have more on Iran in coming days, less of a Steyn-roast, and more on what I think our policy needs to be. I hope you'll find it worth reading, when it's up live. No, the military option can never be taken wholly off the table, but there's a lot we can and indeed must try to do before we get there, Steyn's hyperbole aside. As I said, more soon.


Posted by Gregory at April 12, 2006 04:44 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

You break it, you don't own it. This would give an interesting meaning to the "World Policeman". The old in-and-out. You go there, you kill the leadership (along with few thousand others) and you leave, so long and thank you for all the fish. Imperial decadence.

Posted by: llwyd at April 12, 2006 07:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I can't decide whether Steyn is propounding a national defense policy modeled after a 6-year old saying "Let's kick the anthill, just cuz we can," or modeled after the T-Shirt slogan "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out."

Is RW Blogland nodding wisely and agreeing with this? Is the GOP?

Rice's assurances are meaningless. In 2003, the Bush Admin kept insisting, to the American people and to America's allies, that the decision to invade Iraq had not been made, and would be a last resort. That was a staring lie. I don't believe anything a Bush Admin official says, because they've lied about almost everything, and what they didn't lie about they were totally wrong about.

The military officials' statements are somewhat more reassuring - but would be more reassuring if the Bush Admin didn't already have a track record of ignoring and overriding what its military advisors say.

If it's possible to keep an eye on the assets which would be needed for airstrikes, particularly the bomber jets, that might be a truer indication of intent than official statements. Once we start scrambling, all bets are likely to be off: even if the scramble is a sabre-rattle bluff, there's a risk Iran will call the bluff, and launch some pre-emptive action of its own.

Posted by: CaseyL at April 12, 2006 08:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

PLEASE write in a less nausea-inducing style. I tend to agree with you, but I can't even get halfway through your posts before I start to feel ill and can't read anymore.

"Let's clue him in without too much delay though, lest planning for the Great Persian Campaign get too far underway New Hampshire way. Come downs from euphoric lofty heights can be somewhat cruel amid all the early excitements, so better to inject a cautionary portent or two by way of brotherly admonition every now and again."

Greg, you're a smart guy, but you're no poet. Please, limit that crap. Thanks

Posted by: Please at April 12, 2006 11:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg-y,

Are you channeling Andrew Sullivan?

Posted by: Nha Bao at April 12, 2006 12:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The critical question is: 'Can the enemy be defeated?' The answer is Red Blogistan is unquestionably 'yes,' because the true enemy is US liberalism.

Greg, so much of the Iraq policy, for good and ill, is directly ascribable to the needs of domestic politics, and so little to the actual demand of events on the ground (or other US external interests) that one really has to get out of the habit of thinking rationally about the external situation. The question is, what preserves Republican control, and the answer is, showing that the Liberals are Soft on Defense.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at April 12, 2006 01:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can anyone tell me how Steyn came to be seen as having any credibility in these matters? Isn't his background originally in musical theatre and producing TV shows, or there more to the guy than this? He writes well, but as was said of Tennyson, I have never found that the content rises to the heights of his style.

Posted by: Macca at April 12, 2006 02:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem is, when the message machine of the Democratic Party appears to be dominated by it's "Chimpy McBushhitler Lied, They Died" crowd, we Republicans have no incentive to trust any Democratic regime to carry forward any war against Islamic Fascism with the necessary vigor to win it. Face it, Howard Dean was popular for a time because he reflected the pacifist sentiments of your party's base voters. Russ Feingold is enormously popular among liberals, not because he wants to beat up on bin Laden or Ahmadhi-Nejad, Persian Fascist and exponent of the new version of the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, rather it is because he wants to censure Bushhitler as a sedgeway into impeachment proceedings.

Of course you're soft on defense. You can't fool vast swathes of the electorate just by sending out the Angry Pantsuit to fool the American people that if they just give "tough, smart" Democrats the chance, things will be all right this time.

I mean, we can read too, you know. We read that pablum the Democrats put out a couple of weeks ago courtesy of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. It wasn't a serious document. Redeploying troops away from the theater of combat fools nobody, especially the people in AQ.

Greg's right to be somewhat peeved at Steyn, and it's a good thing that Condi's running the show at State. However, Greg is not confronting the either/or question that Steyn is raising. Yah, there's a touch of the jingo to Steyn's column, so some of what Greg's writing about is on point. However....

What do we do if Ahmadhi-Nejad means what he says? I quite don't believe the simple hothouse denials coming out of the WH and State. There's a reason they're testing 700 tons of explosive in Nevada next month. That's just under a kiloton. Underground.

I'm not one to ignore what Persian fascists say to their people. Nor am I one who believes that Bushhitler is a greater threat to regional stability than Ahmadhi-Nejad and his nuclear ambitions. There is an enormous flight from responsibility going on among Democrats and among disgusted pro-war moderates like Sullivan who can't quite bring themselves to look at what's going on in Iran. Were a John Kerry in power, the Democrats on this board in particular and in the country in general would be screaming about the Persians and their threat to wipe out the Jews of Israel. However, we have Bushhitler, who the Democrats hate more.

Is a theocratic regime in Persia with declared ambitions to exterminate the population of an American ally (...because of course, they're Jews. Why this kind of thing keeps happening to the Jews is enough for a thread of its own...) acceptable to the Democrats on this board? Doesn't make me all warm and fuzzy, I'll tell you that.

Or, is Bush still Hitler? Democrats have to decide who's worse, the guy they think is Hitler or the guy who actually wants to wipe out Israel. Part of convincing Americans that you can put Michael Moore out to pasture is that you are capable of recognizing overseas threats and acting on them. So far, no sale, Donkeys. Going on about the screwups in the Iraq war is one thing; Bush has a lion's share of responsibility for that. Ignoring what's transpiring in Iran because of your disagreement with Bushhitler over Iraq or because of your conviction that Bush lied to you is simply irresponsible.

Republicans are coming around fast to the nature of the beast, so to speak.
Ahmadhi-Nejad does wonders for convincing the world of his intentions. Stalin he ain't. The guy needs a publicist. For now, it's diplomacy, and I agree with Greg, let's let Condi do her thing. Wiser heads may prevail among the collegium of Ayatollahs.

But I doubt it.

Posted by: section9 at April 12, 2006 02:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"PLEASE write in a less nausea-inducing style."

Hey, I rather liked it. What have you got against hip-hop punditry?

Posted by: Anderson at April 12, 2006 03:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Section 9,

Let us start with the unremarkable but oft ignored observation that we are choosing from a number of bad options regarding Iran; there are no "good" options. The many liberal, moderate, and conservatives who are questioning the use of force against Iran surely don't want Iran to get nukes. But we are convinced that such eventuality, as bad as it is, would be a less bad option than the use of force, given the particulars of the situation in Iran, amply set forth by, inter alia, Greg and other hawks.

In that context, your use of the work "acceptable" is misleading to say the least. There are times when we "accept" bad options because the other options are worse. We "accepted" the fact that Soviet Russia had a nuclear capacity to destoy our civilization because we have no choice. Similarly, if negotiations fail and if Iran is closer to getting nukes than many people think, we will have no real choice but to "accept" that an extremely disagreeable (to say the least) regime will possess nuclear weapons.

Which isn't to say that we necessarily find such prospect less alarming than you do (well, I suspect that I weigh the chances of such capacity being used less likely than you do, but no doubt there would be a risk of very bad things happening to us or our allies), but we find even more alarming the alternative.

Looking at it this way, it is the "Jacksonians," for want of a better term, that lack seriousness at this point. Conspicuously absent from your post (and, indeed, from most of the bluster from the loony right these days) is any serious attempt to refute the arguments made by Greg and others as to the catastrophic effects of an attack on Iran.

Now I would feel this way even if we had an administration that I trusted and respected. As for the current administration ... look, whatever else you can say about the anti-Bush left - and nothing that I can say is likely to change your mind about that - the fact that so many people in the center and right are equally convinced of the administration's ineptness, at least should dispose of the canard that claims of ineptness on the part of the administration (and dishonesty, for that matter) are merely the result of unreflective partisan Bush hatred. I'm not expecting you or your fellow travelers to admit that those concerns are valid, but let's at least acknowledge that belief in their validity has spead pretty far beyond the Michael Moore left.

Posted by: Larry M. at April 12, 2006 03:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Section 9,

Let us start with the unremarkable but oft ignored observation that we are choosing from a number of bad options regarding Iran; there are no "good" options. The many liberal, moderate, and conservatives who are questioning the use of force against Iran surely don't want Iran to get nukes. But we are convinced that such eventuality, as bad as it is, would be a less bad option than the use of force, given the particulars of the situation in Iran, amply set forth by, inter alia, Greg and other hawks.

In that context, your use of the work "acceptable" is misleading to say the least. There are times when we "accept" bad options because the other options are worse. We "accepted" the fact that Soviet Russia had a nuclear capacity to destoy our civilization because we have no choice. Similarly, if negotiations fail and if Iran is closer to getting nukes than many people think, we will have no real choice but to "accept" that an extremely disagreeable (to say the least) regime will possess nuclear weapons.

Which isn't to say that we necessarily find such prospect less alarming than you do (well, I suspect that I weigh the chances of such capacity being used less likely than you do, but no doubt there would be a risk of very bad things happening to us or our allies), but we find even more alarming the alternative.

Looking at it this way, it is the "Jacksonians," for want of a better term, that lack seriousness at this point. Conspicuously absent from your post (and, indeed, from most of the bluster from the loony right these days) is any serious attempt to refute the arguments made by Greg and others as to the catastrophic effects of an attack on Iran.

Now I would feel this way even if we had an administration that I trusted and respected. As for the current administration ... look, whatever else you can say about the anti-Bush left - and nothing that I can say is likely to change your mind about that - the fact that so many people in the center and right are equally convinced of the administration's ineptness, at least should dispose of the canard that claims of ineptness on the part of the administration (and dishonesty, for that matter) are merely the result of unreflective partisan Bush hatred. I'm not expecting you or your fellow travelers to admit that those concerns are valid, but let's at least acknowledge that belief in their validity has spead pretty far beyond the Michael Moore left.

Posted by: Larry at April 12, 2006 03:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I like Mr. D, but this was a nauseating and over-written sneer. And why the need for the ad hominems? (New Hampshire, etc.) How very Steyn-ish of you.

I'm quite sure I'll agree with your forthcoming analysis, and I'm hardly a member of the Nuke Iran Now! caucus. Still, I'm quite worried that there are many at State (and certainly in Europe) who believe that a nuclear Iran (if not a nuclear Iran with intercontinental strike capacity) is a fait accompli, and that our approach ought to be the management of this inevitability.

Tim

Posted by: Tim Schultz at April 12, 2006 04:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Looks like someone is channeling the hybrid monster of Juan Cole and Andrew Sullivan.

Posted by: Gabriel Chapman at April 12, 2006 04:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A few points:

1. As a native New Hampshirite let me be clear that Steyn is an immigrant, possibly illegal, and is certainly not representative of the fairly libertarian conservative positions most NH Republicans hold.

2. WWI is not a bad analogy to the current situation. Germany precipitated World War I because the General Staff believed Russia was becoming a threat, and if they didn't attack Russia within the next few years Russia would be become too powerful for any European country too defeat. And Germany actually succeeding in defeating and decapitating the Russian Empire in WWI, but the end result of this policy was disastrous for Germany, and for Russia.

3. I still believe the Soviet analogy makes more sense with Iran than the Hitler/Nazi analogy. I'm sorry, I really don't believe Iran is serious about destroying Israel. They've been talking this way for 30 years, what has really changed? Even a nuclear Iran can't use its weapons without being turned into radioactive waste 5 minutes later. Do people really believe the mullahs are that irrational? Most of them aren't even true believers anymore - like Communists under Brezhnev the Government is in the hands of ambitious schemers trying to feather their own nests. Ahmedinejad is not popular - why is US policy determined to make him popular? A policy of containment makes perfect sense in this situation. Even more than most Middle Eastern countries, Iran is susceptible to the same economic aspirations that eventually destroyed the USSR. Most people in Iran dream of a better material life and of living in a nation that is a world leader not a backwater. Iranians are humiliated by the fact that the despised Turks now live like Western Europeans. Iran needs to be isolated and told it cannot join the civilized world until it acts civilized. The mullahs have nothing to offer their people except a willingness to stand up to the US. If we stop our posturing and just let them stagnate while the rest of the world continues to move ahead it is only a matter of time until the Mullahs go the way of Ceaucescu, Honecker and Gorbachev.

Posted by: Vanya at April 12, 2006 04:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

section9, we aren't trying to persuade 'you Republicans'; we're trying to persuade patriotic Americans who might vote either way. People who've grown disgusted with this administration, not those who love the administration more for crimes, corruptin and incompetancy.

Posted by: Barry at April 12, 2006 04:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Better to not exist, than be an Islam-o-fascist!

BOMB THEM ALL TO HELL!

Freedom is on the march!

Remember 9-11!

Bin Laden who?

Posted by: rs at April 12, 2006 04:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How much you want to make a bet that the Saudi aristocracy is happy that we have forgotten all about Al-Queda, Ben Laden and 9-11?

Posted by: rs at April 12, 2006 04:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ha, well said: "This is scandalously absurd tommyrot to the nth degree."

Taking out their leadership means hitting mullahs. That will not go over well. Actually, it would probably mean we'd be fighting Iranians everywhere that they can engage.

Ignatius is right. This stinks of 1914. But so did the build up to Iraq. This administration does not realize (or does not wish to realize) that once the wheels roll on a plan, once you start throwing money and moving equipment and talking tough, you're on your way.

I remember driving on I-95 in the winter of 2002. I saw a great deal of military trucks heading south. I knew then that the war was coming.

Posted by: Chris at April 12, 2006 04:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

greg

1. Im not a Jacksonian. I lean more to muscular Wilsonianism, even muscular Clintonianism, and I dont think a "lets break Iran and leave" strategy is an appealing option. BUT, it certainly is true that fortitude is required.

2. The Ignatius piece was interesting and on point. Its absolutely true that any war on Iran will be a very difficult thing militarily, and will have tremendous costs. Its also true, though, that for Iran to believe that we cant do it, weakens our diplomacy. and that for the other major powers to think we cant do it, weakens their incentive to get on board, esp with economic sanctions.

3. On one thing Mark Steyn seems to agree with you. He also lacks confidence in the Iranian people to overthrow the regime.

4. One reason the military guys give against an attack, is that we dont know where all the nuke facilities are. OTOH the confident prediciton that Iran is at least 5 years away from a bomb, seems to be based on the assumption that we DO know about all their significant facilities. How do you reconcile these two ideas? DO we know where all their stuff is? If we dont, then how do we know for sure that we have at least 5 years?

5. Im a little skeptical of the Ferguson quote. IIUC Ferguson did NOT say that Germany in 1914 was a victim of allied overreaction. What he DID say was that the worse the UK had to fear was a unified continent under German domination. And that, via the EU, is what the UK got anyway, so they might as well have taken a course that would at least have given them a better chance against the "wogs". IE Ferguson was making a dry tory, euroskeptic attack on internationalism (leavened with empire nostalgia) NOT making a case for using diplomacy to avoid war.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 12, 2006 05:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Consider Mark Steyn's incredible predictions of the past, as well as the dwindling number of publications willing to print his chest thumping.

The man is a walking mobile biolab of BS. I seriously don't think anyone else would even take the time to laugh at his dribble.

Posted by: Davebo at April 12, 2006 05:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Vanya,

Yes, the iranians have been threatening to destroy Israel for decades, the point is that they soon might actually have the capability to act on this threat - Israel, is after all a 'one bomb state'

You may be happy to wait for the regime to implode under the weight of its internal contradictions, but i don't think any responsible israeli leader will be prepared to do likewise. Steyn's piece is hyperbolic, but it does crystalise why Iran is a uniquely dangerous rogue stat, and why we might be wise to start thinking the unthinkablee

Posted by: Matt at April 12, 2006 05:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Afghanistan is a uniquely dangerous rogue state.

Iraq is a uniquely dangerous rogue state.

Iran is a uniquely dangerous rogue state.

Syria is a uniquely dangerous rogue state.

Venezuala is a uniquely dangerous rogue state.

It isn't so much that it will get boring hearing these litany of claims, before these assaults designed to get more more votes for Bush friends, but that the amazing amount of indebtedness the HUGE government Bushies are happily inflicting go up with every assault. How many trillions of debt would be too much? Would any amount be too much?

Posted by: jcorbin at April 12, 2006 06:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Matt,
I agree with Vanya, lets stop the Hitler/Nazi BS. What do you mean that Israel is a "one bomb state"? Israel is the dominant military state in the ME. I don't recall them losing any ME wars. Israel can defeat Iran in a conventional or tactical nuclear war as they have defeated Egypt, Sryria and Jordan. Bush should stop the bluster and let Israel deal with an actual attack.

Posted by: Rudi at April 12, 2006 07:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I presume what matt means, is that israel is so small and its population so concentrated, that one nuclear bomb could destroy it as a functioning society.

Now im not a tech expert on nukes, and IIUC that would be true only if Iran had an H bomb, while what theyre currently working towards is an A bomb of Hiroshima proportions. I suppose even if such a bomb exploded in downtown Tel Aviv, and killed "only" 100,000 to 200,000 Israelis, Israel would survive as a state. Maybe. I think the larger point, to keep in mind Israels considerable vulnerability, is a valid one.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 12, 2006 07:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

" But we are convinced that such eventuality, as bad as it is, would be a less bad option than the use of force, given the particulars of the situation in Iran, amply set forth by, inter alia, Greg and other hawks."

Actually I dont see that laid out. I dont see it at all. What I see is the repeated citing of the most extreme statements from the right, and the knocking apart of said strawmen. (in fairness this rhetorical mode is common all across the blogosphere)


And the citing of having a long time frame to do something about it (which may well be true, and i thank Greg for trying to get a discussion going on it, though the commenters didnt really pick up on it - maybe an interblog discussion would work better?)

And a disdain for the current admin, and fear of having THIS particular admin carry out an attack. Which is not unreasonable, but whose relevance is clearly intertwined with the question of timing of an Iranian bomb mentioned above.

And, oddly, if Greg truely believes an attack is the worst option, is a serious discussion of the options relating to sanctions, and subversion.

Posted by: liberalhawk at April 12, 2006 07:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

" I think the larger point, to keep in mind Israels considerable vulnerability, is a valid one."

One should also keep in mind that Israel has had nukes itself for nearly 40 years, came close to using them in 1973 and is generations ahead of Iran in terms of nuclear capability. Not to mention having an excellent air force, missiles, and anti-missile missiles.

Israel is not some babe in the woods that is unable to fend for itself.

Posted by: erg at April 12, 2006 08:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I must disagree with Please and others, I greatly enjoyed Greg's Steyn rant.

Posted by: Jake at April 12, 2006 10:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Seymour Hersh sites other threats in The Samson Option. Referring to the U.S. failure to support Israel's invasion of Egypt in 1956, including in the face of nuclear threats from the Soviet Union, one unnamed former Israeli official told Hersh in the late 1980s: "You Americans screwed us...We got the message. We can still remember the smell of Auschwitz and Treblinka. Next time we'll take all of you with us."

From:
http://www.carolmoore.net/nuclearwar/israelithreats.html

Posted by: rs at April 12, 2006 11:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

People who believe that Iran is an "exceptionally dangerous" or a "truly dangerous" regime are naive, ignorant, intentionally narrow-minded, or all of the above. What they are not are serious scholars.

Iran is an illiberal state, but it is not a toalitarian state. (it's at about 2005-era Russia and considerably ahead of, say, Saddamn's Iraq). They fund Hezbollah and other pro-shiite groups that use terrorism - hey, I'm not arguing that they're good people. So does Syria. So does every state that's had it out for Israel in the Middle East since '48 - which means almost all of them. In 2005, is Iran the leader of asymettrical warfare against Israel? Yes, along with Syria. Hey, I never said they weren't Israel's enemy. They are. Personally, and I'm not anti-Israeli: I don't care. Israel's enemy does not equal uniquely dangerous world threat.

Iran is a marginal state in the world order. Israel dominates it miltarily and economically. Furthermore, any serious examiner of Iran behavior over two decades shows nothing like irrationality. Now, the North Koreans are out towards irrational. The Iranians respond to carrots and sticks. They may not always do what the carrot or stick-holder wants, but they sure pay attention to them. Furthermore, the Iranians are not grand risk-takers. They haven't invaded anyone since the Shah fell. They haven't launched missiles at anyone. They haven't committed any mass murder campaigns. Medium political repression and terrorism against Israel, that's about it. No worse than Pakistan. Arguably better than Saudi Arabia. Arguably better than Uzberkistan. This is, on an objective level. But the US debate is nothing like objective.

Nuclear weapons do not give Iran the ability to survive an attack on Israel, or anyone else for that matter. Nuclear weapons do give Iran the ability to survive an attack on Iran, by ensuring it will never happen. Iran's nuclear weapons make them only marginally more influential in the world, and a decent notch more influential in the ME, but do not fundamentally change their military or strategic power except in the above mentioned ability to forestall an attack.

So, we have the reality of a minor notch up in Iranian influence in acquiring nuclear weapons vs. a the catastrophic possible consequences of an assualt. Also plus the virtual certainty of non-catastophic but seriously degradative consequences, like, oh, the Iraq War.

all you can ask is, what are they smoking?

Posted by: glasnost at April 13, 2006 01:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I have never understood why such a bright and well-informed person as yourself feels it necessary to stoop to such vicious ad hominem attacks. Mark Steyn's article is articulate, informed by history, and contains valuable analysis, notwithstanding the grevious error in his policy recommendation. To spend two whole paragraphs of response in which you do nothing but engage in ad hominem verbal gynmnastics is itself rather juvenile, if I may say so.

That said, there is little in Steyn's article--with the noted exception of the penultimate paragraph--with which I find myself disagreeing vehemently, and I can't imagine that your position is too far off. Steyn is undoubtedly too trigger-happy here--indeed, he does not even offer an argument as to why acting now is preferable to acting later, which is especially odd given that the potential benefits of waiting seem obvious. But he does make a convincing case that of the bad options, a nuclear-armed Iran is surely the worst of them. If in four or five years' time we are faced with only two choices: airstrikes or a nuclear-armed Iran, knowing the consequences of each, I think I would pull the trigger, and I think you would too. The goal, of course, between now and then is to find other options that don't end in nuclear-armed mullahs or an Iranian war. The administration seems to be doing its best in pursuing exactly this policy. My greatest fear, however, is that there may be no Cuban missle crisis-style solution to this problem--Lord knows, I don't have one. That is an eventuality for which we need to be prepared.

Posted by: Dan Larsen at April 13, 2006 02:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

i'm sorry dan. you're probably right. it's just that I'm desperate for moderate intelligent Republican discourse on such issues (see Richard Haass on Iran in today's FT) and I'm just so sick and tired of this fevered jingo-speak. steyn and others have turned it into something of a cottage industry, and evidently a lot of people take their musings seriously, which I sincerely find rather astounding. But I got carried away, and I'm only human.

Posted by: greg at April 13, 2006 02:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I agree with Dan Larsen that you were a bit too energetic in your response to the Steyn article. After all, what Steyn did was to muster some facts, present an analysis, offer a prognosis and propose a course of action. Yes, it is a course of action that makes any thinking person very uncomfortable for the reasons discussed above among others. However, there is a very important dialogue going on here and Steyn by reference is a part of it. Only time will tell if he is right, or whether there is a better way. However, if we all agree that there is a great deal at stake, it is fair, just and reasonable that all points of view be considered.

That being said, I thought Glasnost's analysis most interesting. If a nuclear armed Iran is simply another management problem - that is, not a real threat, than we can relax. However, until the picture developes further, Glasnost and Steyn are the bookends around the problem.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at April 13, 2006 04:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iran has been engaged in a war against the US since 1979. It has been conducting extraterritorial war in pursuit of genocidal ambitions since the revolution. Hezbollah's war in Lebanon and attacks on US marines (one of Reagan's worst mistakes and crimes), Argentina's Jewish Community, translators of the Satanic Verses, and the new Iraq.

Looking at the history of the Cuban debacle, Kruschev would have caved and the US would have been much more successful with an aggressive strategy. Actually, pretty much every foreign policy crisis since before WWII would have come out better by taking a more aggressive tack.

Posted by: Hey at April 13, 2006 04:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Iran has been engaged in a war against the US since 1979. It has been conducting extraterritorial war in pursuit of genocidal ambitions since the revolution. Hezbollah's war in Lebanon and attacks on US marines (one of Reagan's worst mistakes and crimes), Argentina's Jewish Community, translators of the Satanic Verses, and the new Iraq.

Back in the real world, the mullah's Iran has never invaded another country. The only time Iran used WMDs was when attacked by an enemy that used WMDs on Iranians. Iran is certainly no regime of angels, and has supported Hezbollah. It is however unclear how much Iran was involved in the attack on the US Marines (and one should ask why the US was involving itself in a bloody civil war to begin with).

As for Iraq, Iran built links with groups like SCIRI and Dawa decades ago during the Iran-Iraq war. Its hypocritical to claim that the US has the full right to intervene and attack a country 1000s of miles way over non-existent WMDs, but that Iran has no right to intervene in a neighbor that has actually killed a million of its people.


Actually, pretty much every foreign policy crisis since before WWII would have come out better by taking a more aggressive tack.

Yes. the world would have been so much better off if we had nuked China, Vietnam, Iran, attacked India (in 1971) and so on ...

Posted by: Matt at April 13, 2006 06:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Iran has been engaged in a war against the US since 1979. It has been conducting extraterritorial war in pursuit of genocidal ambitions since the revolution. Hezbollah's war in Lebanon and attacks on US marines (one of Reagan's worst mistakes and crimes), Argentina's Jewish Community, translators of the Satanic Verses, and the new Iraq.

Back in the real world, the mullah's Iran has never invaded another country. The only time Iran used WMDs was when attacked by an enemy that used WMDs on Iranians. Iran is certainly no regime of angels, and has supported Hezbollah. It is however unclear how much Iran was involved in the attack on the US Marines (and one should ask why the US was involving itself in a bloody civil war to begin with).

As for Iraq, Iran built links with groups like SCIRI and Dawa decades ago during the Iran-Iraq war. Its hypocritical to claim that the US has the full right to intervene and attack a country 1000s of miles way over non-existent WMDs, but that Iran has no right to intervene in a neighbor that has actually killed a million of its people.


Actually, pretty much every foreign policy crisis since before WWII would have come out better by taking a more aggressive tack.

Yes. the world would have been so much better off if we had nuked China, Vietnam, Iran, attacked India (in 1971) and so on ...

Posted by: Matt at April 13, 2006 06:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I agree with Dan Larsen that you were a bit too energetic in your response to the Steyn article.

I agree. It's enough to say that the Steyn argument is insane, and that only crazy people would take it seriously. It is getting far more attention than it deserves.

On the other hand, it's important to notice how much craziness there is in the blogosphere just now.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 13, 2006 04:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not to mention, just about the entire Iranian nation will be hell-bent on getting nuclear weapons as soon as the bombing ceases, not just the nutters, but most of the reformers too.

This is something I've heard a lot. People say it all the time. But I don't quite understand it. Now, I can understand why being flattened by an extended bombing campaign would harden the resolve of the "nutters," as you put it, but I don't understand the mechanism by which it would put reformers (who, I assume, are not all that gung-ho about acquiring nuclear capabilities) in the mood to pursue nuclear weaponry with single-minded purpose. If you didn't particularly want nuclear weapons before someone destroyed your country to punish your government from pursuing nuclear weapons, why would you want them after your country has been destroyed for pursuing them?

What is it? Revenge? Forbidden fruit? The thought that next time, once we restore civil order, put in new infrastructure, and acquire some semblance of industrial development, then they'll think twice about attacking us!

None of these seems particularly strong, as a reason. The last, I suspect, is what most people think is going on, but an extended bombing campaign against 1000's of hardened sites across the country, one intended to disrupt Iran's capability to develop nuclear weapons, seems to me like it would likely have the side effect of destroying an awful lot of Iran's industrial base, and an awful lot of Iran's military infrastructure to boot. Unless it's unsuccessful in accomplishing that destruction (a nontrivial possibility to be sure), I don't see how they could get any decent nuclear program in place without a few decades of reconstruction. Fantasies of Bin Laden in his secret high-tech mountain lair notwithstanding, weaponising uranium is time-consuming, expensive, and requires a significant technical base -- and loads of resources too: when we did it the first time, it consumed a significant proportion of our country's electric power output and GDP.

That lapse of time will bring a new generation to power -- one that may, indeed, be more radicalised than past generations, and want nukes for themselves. But also one that may, like the Japanese or the Germans of the 60's (or the British appeasers before WWII) largely reject the ambitions and attitudes of their fathers, and not seek nuclear weapons after all. We don't know.

And I don't know how people can be so glib in their assurance that there's a straight line of inexorable causation between "massive bombing attack!"=>"everyone wants nukes!"

Posted by: Taeyoung at April 14, 2006 03:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

an extended bombing campaign against 1000's of hardened sites across the country, one intended to disrupt Iran's capability to develop nuclear weapons, seems to me like it would likely have the side effect of destroying an awful lot of Iran's industrial base, and an awful lot of Iran's military infrastructure to boot.

This is something that most americans don't consider at all.

We tend to think of it as a sort of surgical strike, we knock out the nuclear facilities with precision strikes (and of course we have to take out their air defenses, and if we're going to put special forces on the ground we'll go after some of their ground forces, and the missile sites and naval bases they'd use to attack shippng in the Gulf, etc). Very little collateral damage, except we might try to kill a bunch of Mullahs.

We don't think of it as bombing iran back into the stone age.

We could destroy their industrial base! People in cities with no water and no power and no fire department. No way to ship food in. Liike 300 Katrinas.

It might take the survivors 20 years to rebuild to the point they can do any more against us than join al Qaeda. And by that time maybe they'll have seen we did the right thing and they'll have stopped hating us.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 14, 2006 03:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

CaseyL writes: "Rice's assurances are meaningless."

Not exactly. It looked to me like she was laying the groundwork for the use of tactical nukes.

She notes "to use military force to eliminate Iran's nuclear sites would be an extraordinarily difficult task". Others are cited as saying it would take 600 to 1,000 sorties to destroy the nuclear facilities - but you can bet they followed that with "or a few tactical nuke sorties", at least in their minds.

Basically, they're laying the rhetorical groundwork for using nukes.

Posted by: Jon H at April 14, 2006 06:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Our host uses a tried and true blog post formula, one most common on liberal-leaning sites:

1. Take an opposing opinion and cut/paste a small part of it.

2. Have an emotional knee-jerk reaction to it using a lot of big words that really just say, "He's mean".

3. Leave up to someone else (in this case, Condi Rice) the details about a better way.

4. Never really address the philosophy in #1.

Greg - war is hard. WWII was hard, and we lost, what, 400,000 people? So was every other war, ESPECIALLY compared to this one. The question you have to ask yourself is, how long do you want this war to go on? Because if something drastic ISN'T done, we'll be fighting off small wars and terrorist attacks until the extinction of mankind. Until, of course, a large, middle-eastern country (such as IRAN) gets their hands on a real nuke, and detonates it in Tel-Aviv, or Kabul, or Baghdad, or NYC. Then, the war will either be accelerated, or over with completely.

The only thing Islamofasicsts understand is brute force. That's the only thing that will work. If it makes you feel better to feel above it all, good for you. But that elitist view won't be saving any American lives.

TV (Harry)

Posted by: Inspector Callahan at April 19, 2006 05:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


More About the Author
Email the Author
Recent Entries
Search



The News
The Blogs
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Law & Finance
Think Tanks
Security
Books
The City
Epicurean Corner
Archives
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS

Belgravia Dispatch Maintained by:
www.vikeny.com

Powered by