The clear strategic conclusion remains what it should have been long before Coalition troops entered Saddam’s evil domain: No matter how strongly we wish it to be otherwise, we are engaged in a regional war, of which Iraq is but a single battlefield. The war cannot be won in Iraq alone, because the enemy is based throughout the region and his bases and headquarters are located beyond our current reach. His power is directly proportional to our unwillingness to see the true nature of the war, and our decision to limit the scope of our campaign.
[. . .]
No, we can only win in Iraq if we fully engage in the terror war, which means using our most lethal weapon — freedom — against the terror masters, all of them. The peoples of Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are restive, they look to us for political support. Why have we not endorsed the call for political referenda in Syria and Iran? Why are we so (rightly and honorably) supportive of free elections in the Ukraine, while remaining silent about — or, in the disgraceful case of outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell, openly hostile to — free elections in Iran and Syria? Why are we not advancing both our values and our interests in the war against the terror masters?
15 thoughts on “Quote Of The Day”
“…The peoples of Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are restive, they look to us for political support. …”
If they are restive, it is their problem. We are not even winning the war we are in, or at least is is too early to say, but it looks we will at best extract some kind of draw. Iran is a massively larger challenge than Iraq. We cannot attack, conquer and occupy it. That is way, way beyond our capabilities. And Saudi Arabia? Is he nuts? The alternative to the Saud regime is something far worse. It is one thing to say “stability” is overrated, it is quite another to say it is irrelevant. If the Saudi oil production is disrupted, we have a global depression, that simple. As long as we need oil we need the House of Saud in place.
Ledeen has a false premise. He thinks we should be in the business of spreading democracy. I disagree. If we have to conquer some place, we should try to leave it in decent order when we leave. But that should never be the main impetus for us going to war. We should not have gone to war for “Iraqi freedom”, we should have gone to war for American security. It is not clear that we are going to end up with either. I hope that the situation in Iraq will improve and that we will end up with something we can call a “victory”. That may happen. Keep your fingers crossed.
We do not have the military means or the political will to take on Iran now. The American public will not buy it. I cannot conceive of any case Bush could make to escalate the hostility with Iran beyond what it is now. Moreover, Iran is a country with a lot to lose and more sanely run than Saddam’s Iraq was. It should be deterrable and containable. They will give covert support to the Iraqi resistance, and we will covertly oppose it. If we escalate our opposition to them, they can make life much, much harder for us in Iraq. They know that and we know that. They hold better cards than we do.
We should not encourage people to take to the streets if we are not going to help them. The Hungarians were massacred in 1956 because we were not going to go to war with the Soviet Union for them, and it was wrong for us to suggest we would. We said very little when the Chinese students in Tianamen Square were killed, and we did not let it interfere with our trade with China, which was harsh but correct as far as American interests go. We encouraged the Shiites to rebel against Saddam, but we had no intention of re-invading and we let them die, which was immoral. We are not going to go to war with Iran to impose democracy on them. If the Iranian people can, on their own, depose the Mullahs, groovy. If not, we’ll deal with the mullahs. How Iran governs itself is not a problem we can “fix” and we shouldn’t try.
One optional war at a time, please.
Ledeen has a false premise. He thinks we should be in the business of spreading democracy. I disagree. If we have to conquer some place, we should try to leave it in decent order when we leave. But that should never be the main impetus for us going to war. We should not have gone to war for “Iraqi freedom”, we should have gone to war for American security.
Lex’s words sound very familiar to me. I don’t mind helping our enemies but let’s do it only after we have defeated them all, not at the start of the fight. We’re now bogged down and Syria and Iran know it well, but Ledeen’s friend Marc Gerecht suggests deepening the sitting duck strategy: more American checkpoints on Iraqi roads!
Lex, you should read the rest of Ledeen’s column. He argues not that we should attack Iran or Syria (much less SA), but that we should publicly support referenda and elections in those countries. I don’t see any reason not to do so. I think part of what’s going on is that Bush & Co. remember painfully how we screwed the Shiites in 1991, and don’t want to chance doing the same thing again. IMO, however, our mistake then lay not so much in encouraging the Shiites to revolt as in failing to support them when they did.
Nor does Ledeen premise his argument on a belief that we should spread democracy. His actual premise is that Zarqawi and our other enemies are part of a loose state-sponsored network including Iran and Syria. He argues that we handicap ourselves by pretending publicly that those states aren’t already involved in the fight, and that we might be able to weaken those states’ govts at small cost by putting them on the spot in the media and in international forums.
As for the US govt’s use of the term “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” I’ll take that on face value as soon as we invade Cuba, Haiti and Venzuela. We invaded Iraq to protect ourselves, regardless of how the Bush administration characterized our actions for political purposes. (Bush may have miscalculated in so characterizing them, but his underlying policies remain sound. We are winning, despite setbacks.)
And WRT Iran, I don’t buy the argument that the only alternatives are invading or doing nothing. From our POV the biggest problem with Iran, exceeding its support of terrorists in Iraq, is its imminent possession of nuclear bombs. The fact that a significant part of the US foreign-policy establishment now seems resigned to Iranian nukes indicates that Iran’s strategy is working and that we are being deterred. This should be an unacceptable outcome for us. The main question is therefore how to disrupt and delay Iran’s nuclear program. The obvious answer, given the failure of everything else that has been tried, is that we should bomb it. This is an imperfect solution but it appears to be the only serious option left.
[Ledeen] argues not that we should attack Iran…
IMO, however, our mistake then lay not so much in encouraging the Shiites to revolt as in failing to support them when they did.
So what are you arguing Jon? Not that we should attack Iran, we should encourage rebellion first, then attack? Ditto Syria, SA, Cuba, etc. That’s a plan? How much of the population needs to be in revolt before we attack: 1% or 10% or 30% or what?
BTW, does Congress get to vote on this plan or is this an Executive action?
The obvious answer, given the failure of everything else that has been tried, is that we should bomb it. This is an imperfect solution but it appears to be the only serious option left.
There’s still deterence and its stepchild, massive retaliation. There’s also missile defense. As for the suitcase nuke, there are scientific recourses. Every batch of nuclear material bears the signature of the reactor in which it was created. In short, it can be traced. That’s hardly optimal but neither was MAD. So there are other serious options, however hard to swallow they are.
In addition, no event can be viewed in isolation. We’ve got an entire world within which we need to work. Do you really want to create an entire world that is actively hostile to the interests of the United States? Don’t think it can’t happen. It most assuredly can. Look at the backlash we experienced over an issue as minor as Kyoto. Then look what we experienced over Iraq. Maginify that by a factor of a thousand or so. At least. The last thing we need right now is more ‘us against the world’ warfare.
That’s not even touching on the military difficulties and financial costs. Remember the Pottery Barn rule.
Did people turn against us because we thought another election was a good idea in the Ukraine? Bush carried a big club and he used it in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, he may be able to speak softly, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t speak clearly and honestly. Why can’t we “endorse” actions that are clearly in accord with our values and quite likely ones many of the citizens of those countries find attractive?
Maybe I missed something in Ledeen’s account or maybe it is an insufficient amount of testoserone, but I thought this was a discussion about doing such things as putting up the brightly lit “75” in Cuba and making it known that people read the bloggers Iran wants to close down. During the cold war, most of us knew (and most of the people behind the iron curtain knew) what we valued. Bush may talk softly but that talk will pack more of a wallop because he used that big stick in Afghanistan and Iraq. That does not mean that the soft talk is a threat nor even a hint that a rebellion would be encouraged by our troops.
But it also means just because a voice is quiet doesn’t mean it isn’t clarifying and backed by our core values. (And Kyoto – well, perhaps Reason is overenthusiastic, but do we really need to take seriously such exercises when others don’t take them seriously.)
I think that we should bomb as many of Iran’s nuclear facilities as we can.
Deterrence doesn’t seem to be working, except against us. Iran proceeds with its bomb program while we fret that any attack by us would antagonize 3rd parties.
Massive retaliation isn’t credible. We’re not going to blow up anyone’s cities, and they’re not going to use their nukes in a way that would make it easy for us to decide to retaliate directly.
Some things simply aren’t tolerable. You wouldn’t, if you could do anything about it, allow a known violent criminal to have a loaded gun, even if you could punish him later if he misused it. The mullahs have stated their desire to nuke Israel and their hatred for the US. I take them at their word. They want nukes, and have been trying to get nukes for years, because they know how useful nukes will be for them. We should not allow them to get what they want.
We’ve tried diplomacy and it hasn’t worked. It’s not going to work for us. It works for Iran, as a tactic, because it buys time. We should stop playing that game. The Iranian regime wants nuclear weapons, and the only way they’re not going to get them is if we stop them. No one else is going to do it if we don’t.
I don’t care what the world thinks. We should do whatever it takes to defend ourselves.
BTW, in case it wasn’t clear, I think that we should both publicly support Iranian democratization AND that we should bomb their nuclear facilities. These two courses of action need not be mutually exclusive.
“World opinion” is worth feces. World opinion is assembled in Brussels, Paris, NYC, etc. by people who lack the qualifications to get a real job. Any US president who based his policies on “world opinion” should be shot without delay.
Did people turn against us because we thought another election was a good idea in the Ukraine?
Did we invade Ukraine? Did we threaten to? Did I miss something?
Bush carried a big club and he used it in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Afghanistan was a base from which we were repeatedly attacked. We invaded after 9/11. So take that off the table, it’s not comparable.
The Iraq situation speaks for itself. Eloquently. We had everything going for us, had all the best intentions, yet we’re dealing with an insurgency. We’re increasing the troop strength. It’s not desperate, and we’re doing lots of things right, but we’re barely succeeding, if that. Expanding the war to other countries will almost certainly convince the doubters and fence sitters to get actively into the fight against the US. Our propblems won’t just increase in a linear way, they will expand exponentially.
“World opinion” is worth feces.
This isn’t about world opinion. That’s not what I’m talking about. This is about nations and peoples lineing up actively against us. I’m talking about political, strategic reality. Our competitors, the Europeans, the Russians and Chinese, for example, will take full advantage of the situation. The Middle Eastern nations will line up like a wall against us. They’ll all begin actively working to get us out of the ME. We could even see an oil embargo. No one will endorse this.
That includes Blair. The majority of Brits are already opposed to the war in Iraq. Their troops are there only because of Blair, at great political expense to him. The repercussions in Britian would be enormous, possibly resulting in a pullout from Iraq and Blair’s removal. This is about way more than ‘opinion’. It’s about likely results of our actions.
Jon, I’ve read what some mullah has said he’d like to do with their bomb. I also remember the Russians threatening to “bury” us and “destroy” us, as well a Le May threatening to leave Moscow “a smoking, radiating ruin”. People say these things. Nothing new. A statement does not a nations policy make. An attack by Iran on Israel would mean the end of Persian civilization in less than 24 hours. They know that. Personally, I’m not counting on the Iranians to commit national suicide, whatever one or two mullahs say.
Iran is an interesting case, and people forget that Iranians are Persians and not Arabs at their peril. That’s the biggest divide between Iran and the Arab middle east, not Shiite/Sunni.
Remember, the Persians freakin’ invented the Rule of Law. Search for ‘medes and persians’ in the Old Testament of the Bible for examples. The King/Emperor (more an autarch than anything else)was bound as strictly by the Law as everyone else. Of course his utterance made the Law, but it was only amendable, not changable.
And the Duality of Zoaster, also a Persian, was directly transplanted onto Hebrew/Christian theology.
The Persians have pretty much always viewed the Arabs as the barbarians that most of them still seem to remain. Persian secular society has a multi-thousand year history, and after this little flirtation with Post-Modern Terrorist Theocracy, is not liable to stray into sharia once it’s shackles are thrown off.
IMHO, of course :-)
What if you are wrong? And what if they get nukes and are overthrown by people who are willing to use them? I don’t think these are acceptable risks for us to take.
Once they get The Bomb and can deter us, what reason in the world would they have for not staging as many conventional attacks against us, in Iraq or even in the Great Satan itself, as they can?
If we’re hesitant to invade now, there’s not a chance in Hell we’ll do so after they get nukes, unless they stage a nuclear strike themselves or something equivalent. So they just do something smaller…. again and again and again. And then again.
What do we do then?
And of course, once they can deter an invasion, Iraq is screwed. It’ll be flooded with “insurgents” the next day, and all our work there will go straight down the toilet.
Okay, I really missed something. Thanks Jonathan for making it clear and for the lovely, counter-tempo, picture. (and for fixing my post)
But, well, words can count. Besides repeatedly and firmly stating our belief in free elections, education for woment, etc. we can make damn sure that those who stigmatize Israel are marginalized. Words won’t stop Iran from getting nukes but it would be good if our words looked like (were) a sign we were united behind certain values. Or is that hopeless?
Ginny, you’re welcome.
No, I don’t think it’s hopeless. Words can be highly effective if they are spoken clearly and resolutely and backed by a willingness (shown by past behavior) to take action when necessary.
Suicide bombers–with nuclear weapons. The inevitable outcome of appeasement, or disengagement.
There is no guarantee that modernity can be brought to that primitive region of the world, but the alternative is a worldwide depression lasting for decades, if not centuries.
Comments are closed.