The Editorials of E. Desiderius

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

On Iran, and History's Painful Cycles

Iran is a serious problem. It is very genuinely and very publicly seeking to develop tactical and long-range nuclear weapons. It’s in control of vast oil and natural gas resources with the ability to destabilize the world supply. Its control over oil makes diplomatic sanctions difficult, and makes significant international players like Russia reluctant, if not outright unwilling to take a hard-line. Its president is an erratic martyr-hopeful, and its powerful political elites have attempted to drill the idea of self-sacrifice in the name of Allah and Shi-ism deep into Iranian culture. The erratic, often-fanatical behavior of these elites leads some to believe than Iran’s nuclear ambitions cannot be contained by mutually-assured destruction alone. After all, can a country that sent over 100,000 untrained young boys and older men to their deaths as human mine-sweepers really be trusted to act rationally with nuclear devices [1]? Iran’s nuclear facilities are dispersed throughout the country, unlike Iraq’s fledgling program, which was shut down by Israeli air strikes, and was concentrated around just one reactor. All of Iran’s nuclear sites are not even known, air strikes could cripple the program, but may not destroy all the reactors that are producing weapons-grade nuclear material. Iran is a larger and more mountainous nation than Iraq, making a military invasion infinitely more difficult than in desert Iraq. And there is the stubborn fact that over one hundred thousand American troops are tied up in a disastrous blunder-of-a war in Iran’s neighbor Iraq, making a ground assault nearly impossible.

What are our options? Our President has declared that nothing is off the table. The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh has declared than the Pentagon is drawing up plans for a strike on Iran. Major regional and international players are pushing in all different directions. While the US is blustering for a confrontation, China, Russia and Turkey are pushing diplomacy. Blair has publicly ruled out an invasion [2].

New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman introspectively writes “If [Iraq II or a Nuclear Armed Iran] are our only choices, which would you rather have: a nuclear-armed Iran or an attack on Iran's nuclear sites that is carried out and sold to the world by the Bush national security team, with Don Rumsfeld at the Pentagon's helm? I’d rather live with a nuclear Iran,” he writes, musing on the disastrous mismanagement of the last war, and denouncing the very notion of the next. The best solution? A note, Friedman explains. It is to read: "Gentlemen, should you ever use a nuclear device, or dispense one to terrorists, we will destroy every one of your nuclear sites with tactical nuclear weapons. If there is any part of this sentence you don't understand, please contact us. Thank you." [3]

Today, one of the Times’ op-ed contributors, Paul Kane, writes that our best solution towards a disarmed Iran is to arm ourselves to the teeth: A draft-lottery pool with every military-age male and female, no exemptions or deferments. He invokes the idea of a draft for peace, and then curiously in the second line of his article, compares it to FDR arming the United States with a 1940 peacetime draft, which, of course, led not to peace, but to US entry into the largest and one of the most brutal war the world had yet seen. “President Bush should therefore consult with Congress about reinstituting selective national service by lottery for all young males and females,” he writes. “After 9/11, President Bush missed an opportunity to ask America's citizenry to make sacrifices in the form of military service, homeland defense and conservation that many would have accepted. Instead, he asked people to continue shopping to prop up the flagging economy.We should not fumble the opportunity now to begin selective service again, while the Iranians and others are watching. It may be our last best chance to avoid war with Iran.” [4]

Yet, this is the truth: Iran is a diplomatic mess, and a strategic nightmare. All of our options are bad. Kobiashi Maru? Are we in checkmate? Our political culture has grown to nurse punditry, and cheap rhetoric. We are presented with false choices, false Manichean dualisms, and empty phrases that play our emotions. We are either with the President and his actions and thus against Osama bin Laden, or we are with Osama bin Laden and against the President. We are either in favor of the terrorist surveillance program, or we are aiding and abetting the enemy. We can either vote for the PATRIOT Act, or risk brandishment. We are either for Israel, or anti-semites.

A solution to the problem of Iran is going to require the cunning wiles of a strategic genius, the craftiness of politican, and the tact of a diplomat. It is going to require speaking softly and carrying a big stick. It is going to require a statesman, not just a leader. These are qualities that Mr. Bush, Ms. Rice and Mr. Rumsfeld simply do not possess. Sadly, all they can offer the world is military bluster, and a show of force. We’ve been down that road. And two-thousand of America’s young men and women are dead. Another military adventure must be firmly rejected so long as Mr. Bush is in the Oval Office and Mr. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. History repeats itself, ableit usually not in such short cycles. Yet who is listening?

-E. Desiderius

Relevant Links:
[1] The New Republic - Admadinejad’s Demons
[2]The Indian Express – Blair Rules Out Invasion of Iran
[3]NY Times – Iraq II Or A Nuclear Ian?
[4] NY Times – A Peaceful Call To Arms
Newsweek – Iran Again Holds Hostages – Bush and the GOP
Washington Post – Bush Urges China To Help Resolve Iran, North Korea Disputes
The Nation – Pre-Emptive Peace Actions

Posted by George Gordon | Thursday, April 20, 2006 | E-mail this post

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