August 29, 2007

Bush's Apocalyptic Rhetoric

In President Bush's recent speech to the American Legion he continues to ratchet up the war of words with Iran, notably speaking of the region potentially being under "the shadow of a nuclear holocaust" because of Iran's nuclear program. I find this rhetoric very incendiary, very uneven, very dangerous. Of course, we expect this from the disgraced ideologues surrounding Vice-President Cheney. But I hope people like Bob Gates and Steve Hadley and Josh Bolten have the courage to speak truth to power so that the United States government pursues a policy short of war vis-a-vis Iran. After all, their reputations are on the line if they let this President blunder into a catastrophic conflict with Iran. These are dangerous times, and there are very few individuals tasked with protecting the national interest at the highest levels of government. Here's hoping historical perspective and tempered reason will ultimately prevail among them. The stakes are very high, and we have rarely in our history had an Administration as reckless as this one charged with the public trust. It is time for some of our most senior public servants to finally summon the courage to face down the seeming propulsion to messianism passing as policy-making that has infected this Administration.

Posted by Gregory at August 29, 2007 07:35 PM

These are interesting, and discouraging, times. Watching the actions of the Bush Administration makes me wonder if I feel the same way people did in 1914-15, as Europe blundered its way into a World War. At some point, as with those earlier events, we'll pass the point of no return, where our actions (and the reactions to those actions) take on a momentum of their own, and we'll no longer have any control over the outcome. Despite the quagmire in Iraq, I'm hopeful that we haven't yet reached that point. I'm pretty sure that an Iran conflict would push us well past it.

Posted by: Tillman Fan at August 29, 2007 07:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The shadow of a nuclear holocaust." *YAWN* Let's just replay Condi's speech about Saddam's smoking gun being a mushroom cloud. The rhetoric they're using about Iran is exactly the same they used with Iraq. Is anyone listening this time?

Posted by: Marc at August 29, 2007 07:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No one has to listen, Marc. He's only speaking to the 29 percenters. Declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization could provide cover under the AUMF for Bush to order an attack on Iran without further Congressional approval. I think we're going to find out how irrational Bush really is, and this is really starting to scare the shit out of me.

Posted by: Gus at August 29, 2007 08:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I hope what you wish for comes true. But I must tell you....when I look at Gates, Bolton, Hadley et al....I see Rummy, Cheney, Rove Wofie...and so forth, as many in the MSM saw them in 2001. Like the 2001 versions they won't stand up to the guy. If they do they will be gone. And if the Bush family is good at two things, they are the following:

Punishing their enemies (domestic that is) and rewarding their friends. (foreign and domestic)

He's going to double down on our I keep writing, the 'in your face' aspect is irresistible to this child.

Posted by: jonst at August 29, 2007 08:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually, I think the region IS under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust because of Iran (and also because of Pakistan, about which it's a wee bit too late to do anything military). And this time around, it isn't just us saying it; the UN agrees. But of course, because the Bushites in their infinite wisdom decided to play the Boy Who Cried Wolf in Iraq -- and then decided to double down on the folk tales by throwing the Tar Baby in for good measure -- we are in lousy shape to actually do anything about it.

Particularly, I may add, with the incumbent clunkheads insisting that we should waste a huge share of the military strength we DO have left bombing other parts of Iran for a variety of other trivial (and counterproductive) reasons.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 29, 2007 08:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do you hear any Democrats besides Kucinich raising red flags? No, they're all shareholders in the enterprise. Either they're firm believers in Bush's agenda (whatever that is) or they don't want to get blindsided by a wave of hyper-patriotism before the next election. Either way, they are total scum and thoroughly deserve their 14% approval rating.

Posted by: JohnH at August 29, 2007 08:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The best way to convince Iran to abandon a nuclear weapon, would be to demonstrate that it had no need for a nuclear weapon. The US is doing all it can to persuade IRan's leadership that ONLY a nuclear weapon will insulate the country from US threats.

And, by the by, since when does the US possess a vested right to possess, develop, and deploy nuclear weapons itself? If we are going to disregard our nuclear treaty obligations, don't we owe the world community the courtesy of at least informing them of this fact?

Posted by: Porcupine_Pal at August 29, 2007 08:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But I hope people like Bob Gates and Steve Hadley and Josh Bolten have the courage to speak truth to power so that the United States government pursues a policy short of war vis-a-vis Iran. After all, their reputations are on the line if they let this President blunder into a catastrophic conflict with Iran.

First, I'm mystified about why GD should think that concerns about one's "reputation" mean very much in the Beltway crowd. It wasn't devotion to the Boy Scout creed that got them where they are.

That said, here's yet another symptom of how totally neurotic and palsied the American leadership caste has become: Why is it that we hear not one word, from ANY quarter, about a rapproachemant with Tehran? There is no fundamental reason why Iran has to be our mortal enemy, and in lots of ways the interests of the two countries can align quite well. Yet the Beltway set won't even nod in that direction.

Nobody expects anything but lunacy out of the Cheney crime syndicate any more, but the passivity of the "opposition" party, in this increasingly dangerous hour is completely damning. JohnH, above, expresses it exactly.

Posted by: sglover at August 29, 2007 10:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To Porcupine Pal: the only nations that can be said to have any "right" to own nuclear weapons are democracies. They re infinitely more dangerous in the hands of dictatorships, for at least three reasons that should be obvious and will be left as an exercise for the reader. If and when Iran becomes a reasonably stable democracy, it can be trusted with nuclear weapons and should be allowed to have them. Until it does, it cannot and must not be trusted with them. The fact that Russia, China, Pakistan and North Korea have been allowed to acquire them is unfortunate enough; we don't need to add any more wobbly dominoes to the line.

(Indeed, if Truman had followed Bertrand Russell's urgent multi-year advice in the late 1940s, Russia would never have been allowed to acquire them, and the world would be a much safer place.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 29, 2007 11:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce: With all due respect, but what makes you think that America should be the arbiter who might or might not be "trusted" with atomic weapons? Who or what gives America the right to determine that?

To be honest - looking at what is currently happening in America, the fact that not only the congress, but also the media, and still a significant part of the American citizens is clearly unwilling to stop this current lunacy is a clear indicator to me that there is NO reason to put trust in America under the current junta. I see the makings of yet another war of aggression - excuse me - another unprovoked war of choice. I smell a big bombing campaign coming up, and I would NOT put it past Cheney and cronies to consider tactical nukes. Does any of this elicit a serious response from American citizens, if not lawmakers?

Anyone except for a fringe part of the blogsphere?

And you guys wonder why America under Bush is considered the biggest threat to world peace? Even before Iran, North Korea and whatnot?

Posted by: Mentar at August 29, 2007 11:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Here we go again. We are the arbiters of what is right, just and acceptable in the international arena. So we threaten Iran. If we go ahead with our pre-emptive strike we may dislocate Iran's capabilities. But watch for the attacks on the US Navy in the Gulf. While we turn our ships around we will be subject to Iranian pin prick attacks. IF you tihink the Iraqi Shiites don't care about dying watch out for the Iranians. They too use theor soldiers as cannon fodder.

How come we have such an unsophsiticated clown as President, and his ignorant courtiers who think bombing everything from six miles high is a sure fire way of guaranteeing success? Oh I see: it worked in Serbia.

Posted by: Alan at August 30, 2007 12:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To Porcupine Pal: the only nations that can be said to have any "right" to own nuclear weapons are democracies.

Like, say, Weimar Germany. Hilarious. Anyway, whatever happens, it doesn't look as though America's going to be able to say who gets to do what for very many more years....

Do you usually sign on to this site as 'section9' or 'neil', by any chance?

Posted by: sglover at August 30, 2007 01:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hardly. I spend most of my time bashing them, as a brief stroll through the immediately surrounding threads will show you.

Atually, I should have specified that shaky democracies can't be trusted with the Bomb either, Pakistan (during its kinda sorta democratic periods) being Exhibit A. It may very well be too late at this point to stop Iran from getting the Bomb -- thanks largely to our governing jackasses -- but every time another such tyranny gets it, we come a little closer to that moment when nuclear terrorism becomes a reality, which will also be the moment at which human civilization in general collapses. I really don't see what's so hard to understand about this.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 30, 2007 02:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Atually, I should have specified that shaky democracies can't be trusted with the Bomb either, Pakistan (during its kinda sorta democratic periods) being Exhibit A.

OK, then. But to my mind, before Pakistan got its bomb, there might have been a collective security case for military interventions to prevent certain regimes (e.g., Pyonyang) from going nuclear. Afterwards, it's much harder to justify: Pakistan meets many or most of the criteria for a dangerous/"rogue" state, but plainly nobody, not even Bush or Cheney, would dream of attacking it. The nuclear cat is out of the bag.

Honestly, a nuclear Iran seems a lot less worrisome than a nuclear Pakistan. It sure would be nice if somebody in the alleged "opposition" party mentioned that.

Posted by: sglover at August 30, 2007 04:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'd say "a little" less worrisome. That isn't saying much. In any nuclear-armed dicatatorship, you have:

(1) The rulers' fear of an eventual violent revolution, in which a sizable number of them might get killed -- and a consequent willingness to use the Bomb with a rashness that would be utterly insane for any democracy, in order to try and exort the cash from their neighbors to stay in power. See Korea (North). One Japanese political scientist says that the NK officials he talks to are constantly bringing up the fate of the Ceaucescus.

(2) The simple fact that any chaotic downfall of such a regime runs an enormous danger of putting its nuclear arsenal in God knows whose hands.

Now add the fact that dictatorships are naturally more reckless than democracies when it comes to getting into wars, for the simple reason that their controlling classes are less likely to suffer the consequences of those wars. Add, in the case of Pakistan and Iran, the presence of a large body of residents with what can only be described as a religious death cult. Stir well, and stand way, way back.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 30, 2007 06:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And, as for "the nuclear cat being out of the bag": SOME nuclear cats are out of the bag. Others are still in it, and if possible should damn well be kept in it, since only a single cat escaping from the bag is quite capable of bringing down all human civilization.

Remember that old terrorist slogan: "Kill one, frighten a thousand"? Now tack five zeroes onto each figure. Detonate one Bomb in your target nation's (or nations' cities), and announce that you have others planted in other unnamed cities that will shortly be detonated. If necessary, confirm this with a second detonation. Stand back and watch the -- permanent -- stampede of tens or hundreds of millions of city-dwellers into a countryside unprepared to support them.

The threat of nuclear terrorism is, ironically, the one terrorist threat deadly enough to justify the sort of totalitarian tactics that some of the Bushites seem to be itching to use -- but if it ever does occur, such police-state tactics will actually be totally incapable of preventing the collapse of modern civilization into national (and world) anarchy. (Which, I may add, is exactly what some primitivistic religious nuts would like to see.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 30, 2007 06:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You know, what you describe reminds me so wonderfully of the crude logic the hawkish triumphalists were perpetuating as an extra justification for the war: America must make a show of power, to show to other enemies that we're serious, so that they fear us. Once the evil dictators realize that we follow through on our threats, they won't dare to disobey anymore, and - in this case - they won't dare to pursue nuclear weapons anymore.

Well. That was the theory. Libya was hailed as the big example of the success of this approach.

For some reason though, North Korea and Iran sped up their research, like never before. Straaange. Didn't they get the message?

Oh, they got the message alright. The real message. Unless you own nuclear weapons, you will be threatened. Once you own some, with the credible ability to deliver them against the US or Israel, you will be protected from US strikes much better. The Iraq intervention and gunboat diplomacy has ultimately backfired: Instead of preventing nuclear ambitions, it has fueled them significantly.

And I see the very same happening should the US indeed decide to launch strikes against Iranian facilities. Just imagine what this would really mean: A bombing campaign will create thousands of dead Iranians AND fallout-polluted spots, whether or not tactical nuclear weapons are used doesn't matter. The theocratic regime will be strengthened tremendously (the neocon-distributed theories that in response, the Iranians might topple the government in response are so outlandishly silly that I can't understand why anyone can repeat them in the public without being laughed into the ground by the media). Nevermind the world economy when the Strait of Hormuz is threatened or shut down. Nevermind the Iranian efforts to retaliate. Nevermind the POLITICAL fallout (if you think that many US allies are still miffed, you haven't seen yet how they would react to such a strike)... and and and.

In the end, we can only say this: If the strikes succeed, this one Iranian effort MIGHT be set back temporarily for a few years, when the same threat would reemerge. But we know one thing for sure: This would create immense hatred and determination for revenge, GUARANTEED. It will fire up efforts to indeed get WMD capabilities, and it will guarantee increased efforts to have them delivered to the US or Israel. And if such a retaliation happens, it would even have a certain degree of justification. Think about that for a minute.

In other words: You try to quench fire with gasoline. The whole idea is bogus and has been proven to fail in the past. So why pursue it?

Posted by: Mentar at August 30, 2007 07:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fine. In that case, then, there is no solution to the problem. Which is perfectly possible, and which simply further proves that within a few decades the human race will destroy itself. (Which, really, will probably happen before 2050 in any case, as we develop sufficient genetic technology for small groups of people to develop and release doomsday plagues for a cost of just a few million dollars -- as pointed out by Nobel winner Joshua Lederberg).

In addition to considering Mentar's list of horrendous side effects from such a strike, however, we had better keep in mind the very possible effects of NOT engaging in it. Which was all I was suggesting. The "effects of a shutdown of the Strait of Hormuz" would be, of course, microscopic compared to the effects of the advent of even a single incident of successful nuclear terrorism. And Mentar seems to follow the Bushites' custom of lumping together all "WMDs", although chemical weapons are barely more effective than conventional chemical explosives, and even bioweapons will be far less effective than nukes for the next couple of decades.

And as for the supposedly enraged reactions of our allies: it was Pres. Chirac who publicly suggested 2 years ago that FRANCE should seriously consider carrying out such a first strike against Iran's nuclear program. (Not that the Bushites improved the situation any by crying "Wolf!" where Iraq's supposed nuclear program was concerned -- but then, the strongest argument of all against the Iraq War has always been the extent to which it interfered with genuine attempts to prevent dangerous nuclear proliferation.)

Oh, and as for North Korea: they already had a few copies of the Bomb at the time of the Libyan agreement. Clinton is the President who missed the one window of opportunity to prevent THAT. (He also missed the opportunity to prevent Pakistan from menacing the world by developing its Bomb, but it's easier to excuse him for that -- nobody but Sen. Moynihan seems to have properly appreciated that menace at the time.)

Finally, regarding the blowback from the Iranian people themselves: one move which might reduce that a little would be for us to make it absolutely clear that, when Iran becomes a responsible democracy, we WILL allow it to acquire the Bomb. That might, if we're really lucky, even accelerate a little the speed with which the Iranian military establishment gets fed up with the country's current clique of religious tyrants. (But then, the Bushites' past parade of lies has also seriously interfered with any chances we might have of making such a statement and having the Iranians give it any credence whatsoever.)

But while I enthusiastically agree with Greg on a lot of things, he had better keep in mind that where nuclear proliferation is concerned, "apocalyptic rhetoric" is REALISTIC rhetoric. The trouble with the Bushites is, instead, that we can pretty confidently count on them to respond to the problem in the most incompetent way imaginable.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 30, 2007 08:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce wrote: "........when Iran becomes a responsible democracy, we WILL allow it to acquire the Bomb."

It is really a challenge, for me, anyway, to comment on that. It speaks for itself and it speaks volumes. I will note this. I have a sneaking hunch that Bruce really meant to write it this way: '........when Iran becomes a responsible democracy, WE will allow it to acquire the Bomb.'

Big "we"....very, very, big "we". But oh so beneficent. But he better be careful about setting up that standard.....we, yes, WE, might be required, someday, to give up our nukes.

Posted by: jonst at August 30, 2007 11:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce: Since I regard you a generally well-informed person - would you agree that there are significant political movements within Iran, working for a liberalization of the country? Would you agree that this movement has a realistic chance to change the face of Iran over the course of the next 1-2 decades? That it is locked in a struggle with the Guardian Council, and that the Iranian people in itself generally much less zealous than those in power right now?

I don't share your pessimism about the inevitability of terror and inherent self-destruction of humans. You seem to believe that unless military action is taken in an attempt to suppress the Iranian nuclear program, the world is going to end once Iran DOES possess nuclear weapons. But why? Who says so? Why would they toss it (most likely against Israel), when doing so would assure their own destruction?

I see these options: By trying to bomb Iran's program into stone age, hatred and enmity are GUARANTEED. Especially since the only real option would be to renew such a bombardment every few years to head off the restarted programs, too. We already see how much the Iraq debacle boosted islamistic groups everywhere in the middle east, and if this lunacy would happen in Iran, the world would CRY OUT against it. I'd hope that at least half of America would cry out against it aswell. But I can assure you that if it comes to pass, America would become an international pariah. AND you would make enemies which would die to have their revenge on America and Israel. In my opinion, Bin Laden and Ahmadinejad would throw a party if that happened - it would be their best case scenario.

The second option is unpleasant, but at least not hopeless: Let Iran have their nukes. Pursue economic sanctions, and hope that the political movements in Iran open this can of worms from the inside, especially with the standard of living continues to decline. And, to quote a pop singer, "let's hope that they love their children too". What we need to do is to find a way to end this current confrontation - THAT is the real task.

I'll add a very provocative thought, which however might help underline my point: If I were to choose right now which world I'd prefer: Either one where Iran has no nukes so far, and where America were about to commence a major bombardment, or a world in which Iran already HAD nukes, I'd _immediately_ choose the latter option. In my opinion, America is about to turn opponents into mortal enemies, to squander the little rest of reputation remaining in the middle east, and to severely damage relation with their allies with the possible sole exception of Israel. I don't know what such a strike would do in America. But I know for a fact that if you believe you've seen a surging "Anti-Americanism" in Europe, you wouldn't have seen nothing yet...

Posted by: Mentar at August 30, 2007 05:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do you hear any Democrats besides Kucinich raising red flags? No, they're all shareholders in the enterprise. Either they're firm believers in Bush's agenda (whatever that is) or they don't want to get blindsided by a wave of hyper-patriotism before the next election.

I shouldn't respond to the Naderite (maybe) troll, but...

It's two parts 'Nobody likes Iran, anyways' and one part 'Any reapproachment we do will likely get flushed by the next Neddy Jingo in the White House, so why even bother'.

Posted by: Doug H. at August 30, 2007 05:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As a matter of fact, Jonst: in the extremely unlikely event that the UN ever gets its act together and sets up a world organization capable of enforcing an anti-nuke policy, I would enthusiastically favor it forcing the US -- along with everyone else -- to give up their nukes. Since that isn't, you know, quite the case yet, what do you propose we do as a second-best measure? Allow more and more dictatorships to acquire the Bomb, on the grounds that it's not Fair to deprive them of it? Bertrand Russell, in the late 1940s, took a very dim view of that philosophy. I can't imagine why.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at August 30, 2007 07:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It not a question of fairness Bruce. It is a question of international law. It is a question of practical common sense. It is a question of human rights. Its a question of US law. We do not have the legal or moral right to attack a nation that is not at war with the US. And spare me the litany of 'Iran has done this..and Iran has supported that'. If you think we should be at a state of war fine, go to the Congress and seek it. Iran is a sovereign nation. They have a right to a nuclear capacity. As much as I think that might be a mistake for them. I lived with nuclear armed Soviet Union. I crawled under desks in school drills. I lived with the Cuban missile crisis. I lived with the so call 'Red Chinese' hysteria when they got the bomb. I can live, maybe, with Iran getting the bomb. Life is a gamble.

I want to know how, if we do bomb Iran, you are going to protect American troops in Iraq? I want to know how you are going to explain this to the rest of the world? How are you going to explain it to the American people? Here is what I believe, among other things, we have in mind for an attack on Iran:

They try this...and they will be making biggest mistake in US history. If the attack is in concert with Israel you will truly have what the neocons want.....war from one end of Asia to eastern tip of Africa. You will have sky rocketing prices for oil. You will (or better have) the draft. And you will have the US viewed as an out of control aggressor nation and many players in the world will actively turn against us. And they should. And many others will remain, at a minimum, passively aggressive towards us when they get the chance. To me....this is even crazy to consider.

Posted by: jonst at August 30, 2007 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jonst is confusing two wholly different arguments: the "moral" argument that the currnt government of Iran has "right" to the Bomb (which is bullshit; no dictatorship has a "right" to anything), and the practical argument that it's not worthwhile to try and keep them from acquiring it. The latter may be true, but -- in his long list of likely negative consequences of any US military strike against Iran's nuclear capabilities -- he is still as quiet as a mouse on the very possible consequences of their acquiring the Bomb. I repeat: the possibility of nuclear terrorism IS genuinely "apocalyptic", and every time we let another tyranny or shaky state acquire the Bomb we bring that moment closer. We were staggeringly lucky that the USSR closed down peacefully. We won't be that lucky many more times, and the idea that we can "maybe survive" anyway is not exactly a winning argument.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with the likely possibility that this particular Administration will be cretinous enough to try to use an ax rather than a scalpel on Iran. Ax murders seem to be this administration's guiding model in international behavior.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 1, 2007 09:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I do notice that the Plesch-Butcher paper doesn't once mention the biggest risk in any large US attack on Iran: the possibility that it might destabilize Pakistan, even given that the latter is Sunni and the former Shiite.

But as for "how we're going to protect American troops in Iraq" in the event of an attack on Iran: that, of course, has always been one of the best arguments for getting our troops out of Iraq, except maybe for Kurdistan. The plain and simple fact is that we are headed for SOME kind of apocalypse in the Mideast in any case, since we are now seeing the collapse of an entire civilization founded on a disastrously authoritarian religion -- and that civilization not only controls most of the human race's energy supply, but already has its hands on nuclear weapons and may soon have its hands on more. It's one thing to strive to minimze the size of that mess; it's quite another to harbor absurd hopes -- as Jonst and (maybe) Greg himself do -- that we can somehow avoid disaster completely.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 1, 2007 11:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce, what the fish are you talking about?

First of all, while Iran certainly is no model democracy due to the Guardian Council's vetoing of candidates, it most certainly is no "dictatorship". One of the defining traits of a dictatorship is that it has a dictator - a person of dictatorial power without constraints. Ahmedinejad has no such powers, in fact, he's currently under serious internal political pressure. Another trait is that this dictator is not going to leave office without a coup d'etat, assassination or other form of military action leading to his demise. This also doesn't fit with the current Iran: At the going rate, he is going to be sent into the desert in the next elections - unless Bush does the next catastrophic blunder and starts a bombing campaign: Then he'll almost certainly survive them.

But the really disturbing part is your nonsense about "not having the right to nuclear weapons". Look, there's this concept of sovereign nations, ever heard of it? Within their borders, a nation can pretty much do as they please unless there are very extreme circumstances. If Iran decides that it wants to have nuclear weapons, all they have to do is cancel the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and go ahead. They do NOT have anyone else to ask for permission, and most definitely they don't have to ask America for that. In fact, the displayed arrogance of Americans that they think that they have a natural say in this is staggering, and particularly in the middle east, America's meddling is seen as downright insulting. Do you even realize that even in those nations which share the American position that Iran should be kept from going nuclear, this "ruler of the world" attitude is regarded as exceptionally annoying and counterproductive?

America should quickly get a grip on their language and attitude, and then reconsider this lunacy of a bombing campaign plan - or the "loss of reputation and standing" after the Iraq war will turn into something much uglier than ANYTHING we were dealing with up to now.

Posted by: Mentar at September 2, 2007 05:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"we are now seeing the collapse of an entire civilization founded on a disastrously authoritarian religion..."

Really, that's what you're seeing?
Please be so kind and describe exactly what you see that leads you to this remarkable conclusion. And while you're at it, look outside and if you can see it, tell me what is the color of the sky in your world?

Posted by: FGF at September 2, 2007 07:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In reply to Mentar, I can only say what I said before: tyrannies don't have an automatic moral "right" to anything, especially apocalyptic weaponry. The only question that arises in their case (although God knows it's a big one) is whether it's practical to do anything about it. As for Iran as non-dictatorship: I hope to God you're not calling it a democracy. Khatami and the 2/3 of Iranians who voted for him found out how true that is. The question is not what happens when their current figurehead "elected" leader Ahmadinejad gets the boot; it's what will happen when the real power, the Supreme Leader, has HIS totally unelected power threatened by popular rebellion.

As for FGF: the color of my sky is blue. What's the color of yours? Islam is still an unreformed religion, and therefore one which is still brutally intolerant of variations of religious opinion (as that poor bastard who tried to convert to Christianity in Afghanistan found out recently), which is an absolute necessity to tolerate the variations in opinion in democracies. It's starting to move in the right direction in some nations, but it has a hell of a long way to go, and the immense difficulties it has in operating successfully even in Moslem countries with elected governments are an indication of that. Not exactly surprising, when you think that God has commanded even the finest details of your individual behavior. European Christianity started purging itself of the same philosophy in a major way only through the staggeringly bloody Thirty Years' War, and they didn't have nuclear weapons.

Still, it's kind of refreshing to get attacked from the Left instead of the Right. The latter has gotten downright dreary over the last few decades.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 2, 2007 07:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You're certainly a good sport, Bruce, but that didn't shed any light on why you think you’re witnessing the collapse of an entire civilization. Unreformed religion blah, blah, blah, brutally intolerant blah, blah, blah, starting to move in the right direction, blah, blah, blah... the only point you make is that Muslim society lacks the characteristics necessary for Democratic governments. Now, that I may agree with (aside for your obvious religious bigotry), but that is a far cry from your earlier and rather apocalyptic statement. And your reference to the mutation of christianity is poignant as it shows that christianity will probably leave this Earth well before Islam.

Posted by: FGF at September 2, 2007 10:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can we stop playing silly little games? It's clear that, in order to be liberalized into any form that allows political democracy to work, Islam is going to undergo its own series of very bloody, messy and protracted civil wars, precisely as Christianity did. Which, of course, is what I meant by "the collapse of a civilization based on an authoritarian and anti-democratic form of religion".

This would be bad enough -- but tolerable for the rest of the world -- if it wasn't for the existence of nuclear bombs, which, you may recall, didn't play much of a role in Europe's religious wars, but which may very well allow the next (and, hopefully, last) series of humanity's religious wars to drag down all human civilization with them. Which is why I'm not remotely so sanguine about the spread of nuclear weapons as Greg and a lot of his supporters seem to be. Their potential is horrible enough in the hands of SECULAR dictatorships.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 3, 2007 06:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce, where is this "right" coming from you're talking about? Say so clearly: Who determines who has the "right" to do something? You seem to imply that "we" (whoever that may be, Bush? The US? The world community? The UNSC?) are in a position to _grant Iran permission_ to develop nuclear weapons or not. I say that this is nonsense and also not consistent with international law. Sovereign nations have the right to self-determination, and this includes the right to develop nuclear weapons aswell. The one thing preventing Iran from doing so is the non-proliferation treaty Iran signed (unless Teheran decides to mimick Bush to disregard their international treaties).

If you argue that "we" are in the position to forbid nuclear weapons to Iran, I'd like to know on which basis? By what right do WE meddle in this issue? There are different ways to rationalize our meddling (some good, some bad), but I'd really like to know from YOU what the basis is. The power of the world hegemon? Some divine inspiration?

What is it, Bruce?

Second, Iran is neither a Tyranny or a Dictatorship. It is an unhealthy melange between Theocracy and Democracy, where the theocratic aspects supersede what we generally appreciate from Democratic structures, the liberalism and freedom aspect. Nevertheless, treating it like a simple Bananistan under a mad badguy dictator is a gross oversimplification of the realities, and we're currently suffering because Bush and cronies did exactly that: Conflate all of the extremely different islamistic groups into one huge terroristic menace we have to fight. It clouds the clear view and robs us of the ability to make smart decisions based on the DIFFERENCES between the groups and their motivations.

I'm convinced that the best (and in fact, almost only) way we can deal with Iran properly and defuse this time bomb is to deal with it VERY smartly to allow the existing political forces inside of Iran to gain the upper hand. Chatami WAS elected with such a huge majority BECAUSE the majority of people wanted change. They eventually didn't get much because Chatami eventually turned out too weak, but the wish was there. I'm sure that will eventually find a way to have it realized - unless we start a silly bombing campaign which will DEFINITELY foster nationalistic sentiment.

Sorry, I'm sure we're headed in the wrong direction, as we've pretty much always been in the past years.

Posted by: Mentar at September 4, 2007 02:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Of course democracy will win there in the long run. The obvious problem is (as Keynes pointed out in a different context) that in the long run we may all be dead. There would obviously be no possible justification for a major military attack on Iran EXCEPT for its nuclear weapons program -- but if that country gets the Bomb before its current regime collapses, the world has very, very serious new trouble.

As for the question of whether we have a "moral" right to meddle: I can't even believe we're having this conversation. Would it have been "unfair" to utilize the Bomb on Imperial Japan -- or on Nazi Germany -- before they had been given the chance to "rightfully" acquire their own nuclear weapons? Dictatorships have no moral rights, whether they happen to be the current governments of "sovereign nations" or not. The people currently living within the nations they rule do, of course, have moral rights; but obviously you have to weigh this against the moral rights of the other people who are likely to be threatened by the existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of that tyranny. That is: it's a complicated strategic question, NOT a simple (or simple-minded) matter of every nation having an equal right to ownership of nuclear weapons.

The fact that an attack on Iran might lead other cheeseball tyrannies around the world to conclude that they should try and acquire the Bomb FAST to prevent a similar attack on them is just another one of the strategic factors (though obviously an important one) that should be considered when we decide whether to try and strike at Iran's nuclear capability or not. As for "international law", which after all has value only insofar as it's a tool to increase the well-being of the people of the world: believe me, after the first incident of nuclear terrorism, the nations of the world are going to agree very quickly on a new concept of "international law" where the supposed right of every nation to acquire the Bomb is concerned. But by then it will be much too late.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 5, 2007 05:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> It's clear that, in order to be liberalized into any form that allows political democracy to work, Islam is going to undergo its own series of very bloody, messy and protracted civil wars, precisely as Christianity did.

This type of canard, depending on an almost complete ignorance of history of the Crescent, is beneath you.

Posted by: Joe Frazier at September 6, 2007 11:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian 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.

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