November 19, 2004

Pavlovian Reaction


I'd forgotten Ken Pollack has a big new book out warning us about Iran. I'm sure we can look forward to his numerous appearances on chat shows saying diplomacy is the best solution, but absent that war is probably a better choice than doing nothing. Rumsfeld will deny that there are any "war plans on his desk," giggling as our press fails to note that he neither bothers to make any plans nor does he actually use a desk. Andy Card will comment that one waits until after Labor Day to roll out any new product. Judith Miller, the current Queen of All Iraq, will develop exciting new sources within the new Iranian National Congress. With any luck, the balsa wood drones of death will reappear, as will scary plans for weapons of mass destruction which look like they'd been scribbled by a 5 year old. And, it'll all hit the fan right before the midterms as the Dems once again run and hide. Wake me up, please.

Atrios didn't deign to read the book , of course, as this blogger points out. Hell, he didn't even read the book review, it seems.

Michiko Kakatuni:

Mr. Pollack's recommendations for dealing with Iran turn out to be a lot less hawkish than the sort he proposed for Iraq in ''The Threatening Storm.'' In these pages, he argues against invading Iran (''unless Iran commits some truly egregious act of aggression against the United States on the order of a 9/11-type attack''), calls for a flexible approach that would take into account fluctuations in Iranian foreign policy (caused by internal tensions in the country between hard-liners and pragmatists) and discusses the uses of containment and carrot-and-stick incentives.

Tsk tsk. How glib, partisan, and hacky (in an amusing way, of course).

How, er, Atrios...

(Might this be a new sub-variant of Laphamization? "I knew what the book said, before I even read it!")

NB: No I haven't read Pollack's book yet either. But I'm not shouting, erroneously, the book's supposed Iran policy prescriptions from the rooftops.

Reality based community, indeed.

For my take on what our Iran policy should be, go here.

And, relatedly, read this too. The author argues that the Mullahs are mulling over variants of the so-called China model, ie "limited economic liberalization in exchange for political acquiescence." He argues in the article (only a preview avail at link above) that there are two China models, in effect, under consideration: 1) one, insincere and unserious in the extreme, characterized by little genuine interest in real economic reform, basically "a form of crony capitalism that spends state resources on political patronage of key constituents, including security services (see Saudi, Syria, Egypt and so on) and 2) a more bona fide effort at real, if limited, economic liberalization involving more foreign and private sector investment (Option 1 basically uses oil revenues to "dole out subsidies to the population and interest-free loans and cash to their supporters"). High oil prices are making that strategy particularly easy for the hard-liners right now. But note the international community could be better positioned to employ economic carrots/sticks should crude go south of $40 in midterm.

Finally, note the author espies large-scale political apathy in Iran, at the moment (cynicism, fatigue, people cowed by crackdowns etc etc). I don't think that's the consensus view, necessarily, but it's interesting to note.

Calling Michael Leeden....does he agree there is widespread apathy in Iran now? Doubtless, he doesn't. But is he right that counter-revolutionary fervor is in the air more than fatigue, apathy and cynicism? Hard to tell, really. And, of course, latent nationalism will rear its ugly head should foreign adventures there be nigh...

Posted by Gregory at November 19, 2004 03:01 AM

I've not bothered reading the latest Pollack book (I don't see the need) but the salient point, to me, is that given the utter bollocks that The Threatening Storm turned out to be, why on earth would anyone be interested in Pollack's opinions on Iran?

Posted by: anthony baxter at November 19, 2004 05:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You are right on the money; Iran is not ready for another revolution. There is no viable central opposition party. The irony is that even the Student Movement does not have a central leadership. About 5-6 years ago there was a wave of assassination in Iran that basically wiped out many potential opposition leaders.
You mentioned last july that , “The U.S. should identify the discrete set of issues where critical U.S. and Iranian interests converge”, Well I think it’s happening now. Did you read the latest Khatami’s interview lately. Well, here is a portion of it reported by IRNA on Nov. 17th:

President Mohammad Khatami said on Wednesday that Iran supports Iraqi national sovereignty which would be achieved by holding democratic election.
He told reporters that Iran does not consider negotiations with Washington on Iraqi crisis, because, before any negotiations, Washington should change its methods of dealing with Iran.
"The US policy has caused losses to Iraqi people and the other nations in the region and Iraq. According to the American experts, the US is engaged in quagmire of Iraq. We are ready to help the US get out of the current trouble, because, we want to help salvage the Iraqi nation," President Khatami said.
Asked about his views about re-election of President George W. Bush, he said, "I hope, Mr. Bush will take lesson from his experience and deal with the problems in a way not to inflict losses on other nations opting for the best methods to secure long-term interests of the American people.
"We think that Iran has longstanding and deep relations with Iraq and it is impossible to resolve the Iraqi crisis without taking into account the views of the Iranian government. It has nothing to do with the so-called Iranian interference," he said.
"We favor peace and security in Iraq and we will do our best to help restore peace and establish a democratically elected government in Iraq," President Khatami said

Posted by: frieda at November 19, 2004 06:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I doubt that Iran is considering the "China option", much more likely it is considering the "Korea option:" legitimacy and survival through threat of overwhelming retaliatory force. As for Iran's participation in Iraq, my perception is that they are already participating to excess, al Sadr being one example. Too often overlooked is the role of ideology in these matters. We tend to define national interest in economic terms, a mistake in my view. National interest can and not uncommonly does hinge on matters incomprehensible and even inconceivable to outsiders. Trying to negotiate common solutions in the absence of common understanding is at best an exercise in futility, more often a recepie for disaster. Iran is a radical theocracy, and it is governed by radical theocrats. Should we discount the Mullahs' declaration of intent and purpose because we cannot conceive that they might well mean what theysay? I note that what they are saying is not a messge of comfort and joy to the US and the West, and that not because they don't like the level of foreign aid they get from us. Further, does the world really need another Oil for Food scandal? I agree that the possibility of another revolution is slim; Iran is, to all appearances, an extremely effective totalitarian regime. Under these circumstances dialogue is fine, but watch what they do and base decisions on that.

Posted by: Tamquam L. Rugiens at November 19, 2004 10:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kind of you to ask. I think there is fear, since so many have been killed/tortured/incarcerated. I think there is scepticism about American seriousness, since every time Bush said "we stand with the Iranians," Powell or Armitage hastily said "but we're not going to do anything for them." But I also think that hatred of the regime remains, probably more intense than before, and hence that if the Iranians saw a real chance--which in their eyes means external support, mostly from the U.S.--they would go for it.

Anyhow, I'm writing a review of Pollack's book for the NY Sun, which will be longer...I just didn't want to be rude by declining your generous invite.

Posted by: michael ledeen at November 19, 2004 10:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Playing texas holdem at right now is a great idea, i thing!

Posted by: texas holdem at November 24, 2004 05:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Posted by: Bloggerman at December 2, 2004 06:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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