Sunday, March 4, 2012

One of These is Very Much NOT Like the Others

Whoops - he did it again.  Obama, speaking before AIPAC this morning, used a closed-end, zero sum policy formulation that puts the US squarely in a corner, with events in control of US actions rather than the US in control of those events:

“I do not have a policy of containment. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I’ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

Although to be fair, this still leaves the US policy toward the Iranian nuclear program short of the Israeli position.  The US has stated that it will not tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapon, while the Israelis regularly state that they will not allow Iran to develop the capability to build a nuclear weapon.  But even so, it is foolhardy for the leader of a nation to put that nation in a position where, when confronted with a specific event, he has no options but to take a particular action or lose all credibility.  Indeed, when the US President says "all options are on the table", as he repeatedly does, he is being dishonest.  The option of living alongside a nuclear-armed Iran has been clearly taken off the table.

But here's the question.  Why Iran?  Some might say it is because they are our enemies, and they would threaten us.  But there was no real thought of going to war to stop North Korea from building nuclear weapons.  Some might say it is because we cannot allow the risk of an "Islamic Bomb", as religious sympathies might place it in the hands of terrorists.  But we stood by passively as Pakistan not only developed an advanced nuclear capability, but provided expertise to other programs all around the world. And there are, of course, those who would say it is about oil.  Iran has lots of oil.  But Iran is not withholding her oil from the West - indeed, there are sanctions in place predicated on the strategy of preventing Iran from selling her oil in order to cause economic collapse.  Iran would be more than happy to provide crude oil to any buyer.  Does anyone actually believe for a minute that the US would go to war against Saudi Arabia if the Kingdom was to initiate a nuclear weapons program?  Of course not.  It is simply not a viable policy for a nation, no matter how powerful militarily, to take another nation's resources by force of arms.

There are also, it must be said, those who say that Iran is different in another way.  They say the Iranian leadership is mad, that they would happily embrace the destruction of their entire, ancient nation to simply bring nuclear fire to Israel.  To this stupid, bigoted, self-serving argument there is no response.  I cannot provide empirical evidence that the Iranian leadership wants to continue to lead, and wants to continue to have a nation and a population they can lead.  I can only insist that anyone who disagrees with me on this issue bring rational, well-founded arguments to bear.  And to refuse to engage with delusional war-mongers.

It is quite interesting, if you think about it, that the nation that represents the most real and profound threat to the United States, both militarily and economically, is Israel.  No matter what constitutes stated US Policy, Israel can turn it all on its head with a unilateral air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.  Israel is far too weak militarily to accomplish much more than to start a regional conflagration - the US would have to step in almost immediately to suppress the Iranian military response, keep the Strait of Hormuz open to Gulf shipping and attempt to complete the destruction of the Iranian nuclear facilities.  So in a matter of weeks Israel will have caused the US to become an active participant in a major war, and as the price of crude oil soars, she will also be directly responsible for crushing the nascent global economic recovery and driving the US and European economies into deep recession.

And it's worth mentioning when people point out that this will be primarily an air war, that it will very likely be necessary for the US, probably the Marines, to occupy over a thousand square miles of Iran centered on Bandar-e-Abbas to try to suppress the missile and small boat attacks on Gulf shipping that would be used to close the Strait.

And, finally, at the end of it all, after all the death and destruction, ruined lives and stunted futures, will we at least have destroyed Iran's ability to build a nuclear weapon?  Of course not.  We will have destroyed stuff.  Stuff the Iranians built.  Stuff they will be uniquely energized and motivated to build again.  We might have bought time - very, very expensive time - or just as likely, we might have provided the impetus for the Iranian leadership to do something they might otherwise never have chosen to do.

And this - at least implicitly - provides an answer to the question "Why Iran?"  That answer is "Israel".  Because the radical right-wing extremists currently constituting the political leadership in Israel find it not just politically expedient, but politically necessary to have a major external enemy that constitutes an existential threat to tiny, vulnerable Israel.  Because the political survival of the Likudniks is impossible without the Iranian threat.  Because Netanyahu can't control the religious extremists driving the settlements, and he can't provide economic answers to his population when they demand them, and he can't prevent the rising tide of global opprobrium for the brutal apartheid state he is building in the occupied territories.  Simply put, Likud NEEDS the Iranian threat.  But at some point the Iranian response and the increasing pressure of their own rhetoric might very well force the Israelis into an ultimately self-destructive act of war.

And once again today, the American President readily and voluntarily signed us up to go along on that one way trip.


  1. it's like nobody remembers the march into Iraq in 2003.

    When are the neocons going to just fuck off already? They are like monsters in Doctor Who, their bloodlust can't be slaked. At the very least, perhaps some politicians (other than Russ Feingold) or media could just say "last time we listened to you, we went into a stupid pointless war for a fucking decade. So just sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up already"

  2. Yeah, but that's the problem. This time it isn't even our choice. I have NO doubt that we would not go to war against Iran under Obama. Not that he's all that much against industrial killing, he's certainly not. But he's smart enough to understand that this war is NOT like the last one, and the entire global economy is balanced on the edge. Remember what it took to get out of the last great depression.

    But we just ceded all control of our foreign policy to Netanyahu and the Likudniks in Tel Aviv. That's not just the tail WAGGING the dog, that's the tail kicking the dog's ASS...

  3. it's like nobody remembers the march into Iraq in 2003.

    When are the neocons going to just fuck off already?

    You answered your own question, zrm.

    It worked out perfectly for the neocons the first time. And rather than being thrown into prison for war crimes or fired from their media jobs for lying incompetence, they've been well rewarded.

    Second verse, same as the first!

  4. "You answered your own question, zrm. "

    Yeah, that's why I drink.

    Also, I really like Safari running in Lion, but have come to rely so much on Substance's automation of html that I think i will go back to Firefox for bloggery browsing.

  5. Download Quicksilver and make sure you get the shelf module. Pretty handy.

  6. Also:

    When are the neocons going to just fuck off already?

    You're counting the president in there I assume...