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Bush Warns Iran:

That's the title of a forthcoming Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russian language station short news segment. The segment includes some commentary from me. You can read a transcript here, or listen to the MP3 here.

For those of you who don't speak Russian, here's a machine-based Russian to English translation of my quote. The quote obviously is not the exact words that I spoke in English, but perhaps the reverse translated version of the quote conveys a little bit of the Russian style:

Hardly the discussion deals with the direct conflict with Iran. In any case, not now. But the hardness the new deal [the surge] is obvious. The USA for long believed in the possibility to stop the aggressiveness of the totalitarian government of Iran by peaceful and diplomatic means. Unfortunately, the majority in the Congress is disposed now with respect to the Iranian regime, just as the parliaments of England and France were disposed in 1937 and 1938 with respect to Hitlerite Germany, naively thinking that if we give to them some of that which they demand, they will leave us at rest. But the White House finally understood that to win in Iraq is possible only by having intercepted the propagation of Iranian influence and having physically broken the pro-Iranian combat groups which act in Iraq.

Informant (mail):
This reminds me of the episode of "News Radio" where Jimmy James (the radio station owner), writes a book on how to be an effective manager which flops in the US, but it's such a big hit in a Japanese translation that the publisher decides to re-issue the book in the US by way of a Japanese-to-English translation. Hillarity ensues.
1.30.2007 1:28am
JB:
The whole Iran thing is a problem of our own making.

Actually, in 1939 Britain considered sending a large expeditionary force to Finland via Norway to help against Russia. That would be the equivalent of the Iraq War, I'd say.
1.30.2007 1:41am
BobNSF (mail):
I imagine that appeals to the Russian people using analogies to Hitler are particularly effective, no matter how absurd.
1.30.2007 1:45am
Splunge (mail):
My hovercraft is full of eels!
1.30.2007 2:36am
JB:
Actually, the Iranian government reminds me a lot of the Soviets in 1946-49. Stalin was determined to feel out NATO's defenses by sending little invasions everywhere he wasn't stopped. He funded insurrections in northern Iran, eastern Turkey, northern Greece, and other places until Truman put his foot down, gave out lots of surplus WWII equipment, and warned that full invasions would mean war.

That process culminated in Korea, where we gave the wrong signal, Stalin took him at his word and backed an invasion, we responded with force, Stalin backed off, and the Chinese stepped in.

Back then we were in a similar position to now--tired of war, army overstretched and right on the doorstep of the potential enemy, allies unable or unwilling to help...the difference was we weren't facing a German insurgency and we had sufficient force to pacify the places we were occupying. And taxes were a lot higher.
1.30.2007 2:39am
Tim Kevan (mail) (www):
Really like the site. I am a barrister over in England and have added a link on The Barrister Blog at http://timkevan.blogspot.com. There is quite a legal blogging community over here as you will see from my blog roll. Reciprocal link always appreciated, though no worries if not.

Keep in touch. Best wishes, Tim Kevan
1.30.2007 4:14am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
JB: in 1939 the USSR and Nazi Germany were allies, having jointly crushed Poland. The USSR then invaded Finland. Generally speaking, one's enemy's ally's enemy should be treated as an ally.
1.30.2007 4:17am
professays (mail):
It seems to me that Mr Bush will declare the resume of conscription soon.
1.30.2007 7:32am
albarello (mail) (www):
I like the idea of Bush warning Iran. Because if China invaded and occupied Mexico we'd think it was perfectly rational of them if they warned us not to "interfere" in their business, too.

(Just to pre-empt the perfect-analogy mongers: I'm just saying it's absurd not to expect Iran to take an aggressive interest in what's happening in the war-zone just over its border. And frankly it's also a bit ridiculous to hear the leader of a country which invaded another country half way around the world for no very good reason to be telling other countries that it's wrong to interfere. That's all.)
1.30.2007 7:59am
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
albarello,

It's certainly fair to expect Tehran to take some interest in its war-torn neighbors, but it's not the iterest in general that te US objects to - it is the form that interest has taken. The form, to be sure, has been - killing of US soldiers, killing of Iraqi civilians, fanning of sectarian strife, etc.

I doubt Bush would have objected if Iran sent bread and medical supplies to Iraq, and a team of diplomats. That's not what they've done.
1.30.2007 8:28am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The Iranians are supplying the Iraqi people with arms to defend themselves against Sunni insurgents. I don't understand why Dave Kopel would object to that or praise the president for objecting to it. Shouldn't be praising the the Iranian government for helping the Iraqis secure one of their most basic civil rights and the only certain defense against a tyrannical government.
1.30.2007 9:15am
Vovan:
Now, if Радио Свобода had ANY, ANY relevance in Russia, that quote would be more consequential, otherwise the 5 internet users already listening from Tel Aviv and New York, already have their opinions formed one way or another.
1.30.2007 9:35am
Adeez (mail):
The cabal in charge has been planning to attack Iran since they took power---simultaneous with their plan to attack Iraq and further their New World Order. I can only pray that this attempt to instigate war with Iran is sufficiently transparent that the people won't allow it.
1.30.2007 10:02am
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Adeez, I'm not advocating war with Iran, but what do *you* think is to be done about their efforts to destablize Iraq (even further), and their nuclear ambition?
1.30.2007 10:08am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I'm not advocating war with Iran, but what do *you* think is to be done about their efforts to destablize Iraq (even further), and their nuclear ambition?

Gee, why don't we try direct diplomacy like the Iraq Study Group suggested? Any idiot could have predicted that by invading Iraq, deposing the Sunni minority government, that the result would be a Shiite dominated government that would be heavily influenced by Iran--if not quickly become their close ally. What we are seeing now is the result of the administration's willful blindness and gross incompetence.
1.30.2007 10:18am
Houston Lawyer:
Anyone who thinks that negotiating with Iran will help US interests is a fool. The Left strongly asserted this point during the Iran-Contra scandal. Now that the Bush administration is contemplating playing a little rougher with Iran the Left sees Iran as full of moderates willing to negotiate. They'll negotiate until you proclaim Mohammed as the prophet at the point of a gun.
1.30.2007 10:37am
Steve:
Wow, comparing our enemy du jour to Hitler's Germany. That's a novel and insightful analogy. Obviously we intend to enter into the next conflict with a degree of deliberation equal to that which we exhibited in the last one.
1.30.2007 10:47am
Adeez (mail):
"Now that the Bush administration is contemplating playing a little rougher with Iran the Left sees Iran as full of moderates willing to negotiate. They'll negotiate until you proclaim Mohammed as the prophet at the point of a gun."

Man, this kinda stuff scares me.
First, the Iranians are one of the most modern, pro-western populations in the M.E. Indeed, the only reason they initially backed Ahmad. is b/c they feel threatened by us. As albarello said, I think we'd feel a bit threatened if Russia or China decided to invade Mexico or Canada.
Second, of course they can be negotiated with. It's only the warmongers who want us to believe otherwise. And paradoxically, they offered us much help when we initially invaded their neighbor.
Third, I disagree "that the Bush administration is contemplating playing a little rougher." A little rougher? We're supposedly the lone superpower hellbent on dominating the region, while perversely making threats to Iran b/c they may dominate the region. We have a nuclear arsenal while simultaneously picking &choosing which other nations could also have one.
I know I'm not breaking new ground here, so I'll shutup now. I just hope and pray that those among us so eager for more war realize the error of their ways. We have lost the moral high ground, and all of us in this country will soon suffer for its sins.
1.30.2007 10:55am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> We have a nuclear arsenal while simultaneously picking &choosing which other nations could also have one.

Will the world be better off if Iran gets nukes?

Note - this is a yes or no question.

If not, what should the US do about Iran's nuke ambitions?
1.30.2007 11:08am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Now that the Bush administration is contemplating playing a little rougher with Iran the Left sees Iran as full of moderates willing to negotiate.

The problem (or at least one of the many problems with Bush's current course of action) is that Bush has no means to back up his tough talk on Iran. Any conceivable military action he could take against Iran would only make matters infinitely worse. He certainly doesn't have ground forces available to launch a serious land campaign against Iran. A bombing campaign, especially one using nuclear weapons, would be a huge gamble and a bet we could afford to lose.

Imagine the worst case scenario of the reaction to a bombing campaign against Iran. The hardliners are emboldened and the Shiites in Iraq turn against us and openly request Iranian aid to expel the U.S. invaders. The south of Iraq rises up against the U.S. forces and cuts off our supply lines from Kuwait (and the Shiites in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia rebel against the Sunni majorities there, damaging or destroying oil production facilities and attacking our poorly defended supply bases and ports). What on earth would we do then?
1.30.2007 11:34am
Jack S. (mail) (www):
So what exactly has Iran done vis-à-vis Iraq? For those making blanket assumption that something is going on where's the evidence? Did you see it or are you just assuming it exists? For the moment there's sketchy intelligence and US accusations. Does someone have something more? photos, intercepted radio transmissions? something that's coming from an unbiased source?
1.30.2007 12:00pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Obviously, expertise on the Second Amendment allows one to make particularly insightful remarks on widely separated matters.
1.30.2007 12:05pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Anyone who thinks that negotiating with Iran will help US interests is a fool. The Left strongly asserted this point during the Iran-Contra scandal.

Well no, the point the left made during the Iran-Contra scandal was that illegally selling arms to Iran to fund an illegal war in Nicaragua and subvert the will of Congress was a really bad idea.
1.30.2007 12:05pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Anderson, if that's not just dirty, seriously pathetic trolling, I don't know what is.
1.30.2007 12:18pm
WHOI Jacket:
Remember, if we hadn't gone into Iraq. Saddam couldn't possibly have rearmed the minute that the "sanctions" were finally lifted...

I thought that by removign Saddam's regime and fostering an Iraq moderated by democratic procesess would help take the pressure off of Iran to always put out a millitant stance. It appears that I was in error.

That region is going to be unstable as long as it's ruled by maniacs.
1.30.2007 12:22pm
Houston Lawyer:
J.F.

Your memory is short. We sold missles to Iran in order to free hostages that they held. The fact that we made a profit on the sales that could be used to fund the Contras was a bonus. The people selling the missles to Iran claimed that they were dealing with "moderates" there, which was scoffed at by the Left.

The current regime in Iran is the mortal enemy of the United States. If we don't deal with them very soon, the cost of dealing with them will escalate.
1.30.2007 12:23pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Anderson, if that's not just dirty, seriously pathetic trolling, I don't know what is.

Hm. Not compared to my first, second, or third reactions to the post.

Unfortunately, the majority in the Congress is disposed now with respect to the Iranian regime, just as the parliaments of England and France were disposed in 1937 and 1938 with respect to Hitlerite Germany, naively thinking that if we give to them some of that which they demand, they will leave us at rest.

Actual knowledge of the relevant history would make it very difficult to write that sentence. Appeasement was not driven by "Parliament" at large, but by the British cabinet -- part of Parliament under their system of course, but that does not excuse the misleading analogy that Kopel is trying to make between the appeasers and the Democratic Congress.

Iran simply does not have anything like the track record that Germany had in 1937 or 1938. An Iranian nuke is a serious concern, but as people who actually study these problems for a living can tell you (&Kopel), there is little reason to suppose a military response would be effective, and much more reason to suppose it would be a very bad idea.

"Appeasement" is not the same as "negotiation" or "diplomacy," the latter two of which are appropriate to the Iran situation. Appeasement is giving X what X wants, without securing anything in return but merely hoping for good will. Diplomacy exchanges some of what X wants for some of what Y wants.
1.30.2007 12:25pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
The fact that we made a profit on the sales that could be used to fund the Contras was a bonus.

Short memory? That "bonus" was the *point*, to Casey et al. if not to the rather befuddled Reagan.

Giving arms for hostages was *never* going to work, because they could always take more hostages. Which they did, as any idiot could have seen at the time.

Assuming that Casey wasn't an idiot -- and he wasn't -- we are then led to wonder why this seemed like a good idea. Which leads us to the contras.
1.30.2007 12:27pm
Mark Field (mail):
IMO, everyone is approaching the Iran issue from much too narrow a focus. US policy in the ME should not be based on any permanent alliance with Shia or Sunni. We should, instead, be playing a role like Britain did with Europe during the 19th C: acting as the fulcrum, supporting one side or the other depending on relative strength. What we've been doing for 25 years -- backing the Sunnis against the Shia -- is foolishly taking sides in an internal Islamic struggle.

Now and forever, the Shias are likely to be the minority group in Islam. That means we should not worry if they gain a little influence at the expense of the Sunni. The solution is simple: get out of Iraq now. The Shias will, as they probably should, gain influence in Iraq. That's consistent with our "fulcrum" role and nothing to worry about.
1.30.2007 12:39pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
We sold missles to Iran in order to free hostages that they held.

Iran didn't hold any hostages. Terrorist groups in Lebanon that Iran had some influence over held hostages, but they weren't held directly by Iran. And stating that the current regime in Iran is the "mortal enemy" of the U.S. is over-the-top hyperbole.
1.30.2007 12:43pm
r78:

They'll negotiate until you proclaim Mohammed as the prophet at the point of a gun.

I understand there are some openings in the State Department.
1.30.2007 12:56pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
adeez, it is not possible to lose the moral high ground to Iran.
1.30.2007 1:18pm
Henry679 (mail):
The Boogeyman Express rolls on, undettered by sad experience.

It is amazing how people so utterly--and catastrophically--wrong so recently can boldly make new pronouncements with so little sense of self-awareness. The hubris is amazing.
1.30.2007 1:23pm
Spartacus (www):
"all of us in this country will soon suffer for its sins"

Is that a promise or a threat?
1.30.2007 1:29pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Iran didn't hold any hostages. Terrorist groups in Lebanon that Iran had some influence over held hostages, but they weren't held directly by Iran.

JFT, that's a little further than I'm willing to go. I take your point, but I think that the hostage-takers were happy to oblige Iran at the time, and their ties were pretty close. I would be interested to see sources to the contrary.

The Boogeyman Express rolls on

Good one, that.
1.30.2007 1:30pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Is that a promise or a threat?

I took it as more a self-evident statement. What goes around, comes around.
1.30.2007 1:31pm
JB:
Rich Rostrom: Nevertheless, in the face of a powerful enemy it's unwise to send your entire army out to the periphery to perform a marginal task in support of people who won't be able to help you in the main struggle.
1.30.2007 1:37pm
Adeez (mail):
'All of us in this country will soon suffer for its sins':
"Is that a promise or a threat?"

Are you joking? I normally resist responding to silly posts, but I'm too weak to resist this one. It's neither, and if you read everything else I wrote (a.k.a. the context) you wouldn't be asking. I'll give you an analogous hypothetical in case you still don't get it: you spend all weekend staying up partying; drinking and eating way too much. You have a blast, but something deep inside tells you "shit, this partying is gonna catch up to me."
It's called Karma baby, and Alicia Keys can sing you all about it. I, sir, strive for peace. And if it were up to me all of us would be pacifists.
1.30.2007 1:42pm
JerryM (mail):
So what exactly has Iran done vis-à-vis Iraq? For those making blanket assumption that something is going on where's the evidence? Did you see it or are you just assuming it exists? For the moment there's sketchy intelligence and US accusations. Does someone have something more? photos, intercepted radio transmissions? something that's coming from an unbiased source?

Capturing Iran arms and actual Iranian soldiers is just sketchy intelligence????
1.30.2007 1:44pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):

Capturing Iran arms and actual Iranian soldiers is just sketchy intelligence????

Just in case he is *that* lazy
1.30.2007 1:55pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Was that supposed to be a link, Mike?
1.30.2007 1:57pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
OT, I see from How Appealing that the 9th Circuit has revised the opinion which Orin Kerr found so troubling on privacy expectations re: one's workplace computer.
1.30.2007 2:00pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Trying again.

And another.
1.30.2007 2:01pm
Justin (mail):
Mike, both your links show that IRANIANS are assisting Iraqi shias against the Sunni insurgence. Neither of your links show that IRAN is assisting Iraqi shias against the Sunni insurgence.
1.30.2007 2:10pm
OK Lawyer:
Trusting this administration might be the height of naivety. Even if we assume that Bush did not lie about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, i.e. a reasonable interpretation of the available evidence supported his claims, then someone along the way made a pretty big error in interpretation/strategy, and was able to sell that error up the food chain.

Now, we hear we have evidence about Iran being worse than we thought, and that we must bomb them... soon. True or not, I think the American people have earned the right to be skeptical.
1.30.2007 2:12pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Justin, I'm willing to concede that Ahmadipshit is not stupid enough to send uniformed Iranian troops to kill US soldiers. That doesn't mean that Iranians going across the (tightly controlled) border are not acting under orders.
1.30.2007 2:18pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Thought-experiment time!

You rule Iran, and the U.S. has occupied your neighbor, Iraq. The U.S.'s goals are less than clear, but its evident interest in democratizing the regime suggests that a majority-Shiite government is likely, one which surely would be more favorable to you than a Sunni or Baathist regime.

However, the U.S. is an uncomfortable neighbor, given its saber-rattling about your nuke program, and there are also Sunni insurgents opposed to Shiites in general and a Shiite-dominated government in particular.

Under what theory do you *not* provide clandestine support to selected Shiite militias, whether their targets be Sunnis or Americans?

See also Josh Marshall on Iran's # 1 benefactor: George W. Bush.
1.30.2007 2:19pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Anderson, so whenever a country acts in its own best interest, we should sit by, because self-interest provides moral justification? Sure, what they are doing *might* be the best thing for them. Do we then let them kill Americans and Iraqis?
1.30.2007 2:21pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Anderson, so whenever a country acts in its own best interest, we should sit by, because self-interest provides moral justification?

Of course not, which is why I dissented from the criticism of Bush's pushback.

My point is to recognize that the Iranians are indeed acting out of self-interest, not out of Nazi-like malevolence, and that the situation is one which we could expect to be aided by diplomacy.

As the Josh Marshall link suggests, to the Iranian gov't, the United States must appear stupid or crazy. If we actually *have* a policy in mind, some diplomacy would be a good idea.

I suspect, however, that our refusal to negotiate with Iran (or Syria) is rooted in our not-so-secret lack of any actual "policy," as opposed to a wish list ("Iraq becomes a liberal democracy; Iran abandons its nuclear program and agrees to trust the U.S. and Israel; ponies for everyone!").
1.30.2007 2:29pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
I agree that Iran's actions *solely* vis-a-vis Iraq are capable of being explained by mere self interest. Nevertheless, Iran is pretty crazy in lots of other respects. And I don't think the Hitler comparisons are inapt, as Ahmadinejad has indeed adopted the "We must destroys the Jews tack." I mean, the guy has said as much, on several occasions.
1.30.2007 2:35pm
Federal Dog:
"It seems to me that Mr Bush will declare the resume of conscription soon."


Oh yeah, baby! The end times are truly upon us.
1.30.2007 2:39pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
And I don't think the Hitler comparisons are inapt, as Ahmadinejad has indeed adopted the "We must destroys the Jews tack."

Except that Hitler was the dictator of Germany, and Mr. A. does not direct the foreign policy of Iran, but is rather a domestic politician who relies on outrageous statements &stunts (like the "Iranian Holocaust Conference," an Onion headline if ever there was one) to boost his already-flagging popularity with the voters.

Iran may be crazy, but it has become very difficult to argue they're crazier than *we* are.
1.30.2007 2:41pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
JB:

“That process culminated in Korea, where we gave the wrong signal, Stalin took him at his word and backed an invasion, we responded with force, Stalin backed off, and the Chinese stepped in.”

You have the history of the Korean War garbled. Declassified Soviet documents and other sources have clarified what actually happened.

Kim went to Stalin and asked for permission to invade the south and was refused. Kim then appealed to his patron Mao for help. Mao asked Stalin for permission and support for an invasion of SK with ultimate use of Chinese troops. Stalin agreed, but told Mao he owned the war if something went wrong. Kim, Stalin and Mao all had an interest in attacking the south with the full knowledge that it would be bring the Americans. For Stalin and Mao bringing in the Americans was the whole point of starting the war in first place. Kim wanted to extend his control to the south and had been running an insurgency there as far back as 1945. But the SK and US were successful resisting Kim, so seeing he was losing a cold war, Kim decided to turn it hot. Mao wanted a war with America so he could pressure Stalin for military aid, and most importantly, the construction of factories to produce arms. Mao wanted to militarize China with Stalin’s help. Stalin was planning aggressive moves against Europe and wanted the Americans bogged down in Asia. It was also a test of American resolve. Mao also wanted to kill off the Nationalist forces he captured who were now part of the Chinese Red Army. What better way than to have the Americans do it for him and exhaust themselves.

For sources, look at Mansourov, Alexandre, “Stalin, Mao, Kim and China’s decision to enter the Korean War, Sept. 15 - Oct. 15, 1950: New Archival Evidence from the Russian Archives,” Cold War International Project History Bulletin nos. 6-7 (1995-1996). Or look an Mansourov’s PhD thesis “Communist War Coalition Formation and the Origins of the Korean War,” Columbia University 1997. There are many Russian Archival documents that detail the communications between Stalin and Mao and clearly reveal Mao’s thinking. For a history of the pre 1950 insurgency in the south see The War for Korea 1945-1950 by Allan R. Millett.
1.30.2007 3:01pm
Oren (mail):

Will the world be better off if Iran gets nukes?


Clearly not, if we assume ceteris paribus then the world will certainly not be better off.

That does not imply, however, that any path that leads to Iran not having nukes leads to a better state of the world. For (a goofy) instance, if the earth were to be destroyed by a meteor tomorrow, Iran would not have nukes and we would be worse off.

Will I certainly would not *prefer* to have a nuclear Iran (if i had the choice), I think we must bow to the realistic proposition that any attempt to prevent Iran from getting nukes will likely lead to an *overall* worse situation.

As technology progresses, the ability to create WMDs will come within the reach of smaller and smaller players. If the international community cannot figure out a way to work it out (we did with Stalin, shouldn't be that hard).
1.30.2007 3:43pm
JB:
Ahh, that's interesting. I didn't know that.
1.30.2007 3:44pm
SG:
Oren:

I agree that there are no good answers with regards to Iran, but the worst-case scenario with Iran in possession of nuclear weapons seems a whole lot worse than the worst case scenario of denying them access to nuclear weapons. 3-4 orders of magnitude more dead and greater economic impact.

Anderson:

What Iran is doing in Lebanon strikes me as being roughly analogous to the Nazi intervention in the Spanish Civil War. And their animosity toward the Jews goes beyond mere rhetoric, and beyond Israel and the Middle East. They were willing to go to Argentina to kill Jews.

Certainly analogies can mislead just as easily (if not more so) than they can inform and Nazi analogies tend to be particularly unenlightening, but it's a mistake to dismiss the threat Iran poses.
1.30.2007 4:35pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> That does not imply, however, that any path that leads to Iran not having nukes leads to a better state of the world.

Strawman.

I'll repeat the question.

>>If not, what should the US do about Iran's nuke ambitions?

Oren's answer is essentially "nothing", that all other responses lead to even worse consequences.

No matter what one might think of its correctness, that is a substantive and considered answer.

Any other takers?
1.30.2007 5:06pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
What Iran is doing in Lebanon strikes me as being roughly analogous to the Nazi intervention in the Spanish Civil War.

"Roughly," if we ignore that Spain was not on Germany's border, nor teeming with Lutherans, nor ...

They were willing to go to Argentina to kill Jews.

(1) They had to go that far? (2) The U.S. went to Iraq to kill Arabs, IIRC.

Possibly the clever Iranians thought the place was a Mossad front. Who knows. I would certainly like to see justice done in that case, but the U.S. has killed innocent people on equally weird pretexts, so I am not prepared to declare Iran to be run by demonic mullahs on that basis.
1.30.2007 5:33pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Oren's answer is essentially "nothing", that all other responses lead to even worse consequences.

Um, no. "Diplomacy" is an option that's been proposed, &that is not excluded by Oren's comment.

But we daren't talk to the Iranians ... they might turn out to be smarter than Condi Rice.
1.30.2007 5:34pm
SG:
Anderson:


"Roughly," if we ignore that Spain was not on Germany's border, nor teeming with Lutherans, nor ...


Please read more closely. I said Lebanon, not Iraq. Last time I checked a map,
Lebanon was nowhere near Iran's border. There's two fairly large countries (Iraq and Syria) in between. And the Shia in Lebanon, while probably a plurality, are not a majority.

Also note that I never said or implied that the Iranians were demonic, insane or anything of the sort. I think the Iranian leadership is particularly astute and is playing the game quite well. I think it takes a certain willfull blindness to refuse to see the threat they encompass.

But please, sketch out the kind of diplomacy that will alleviate the threat. Note that insulting the current US administration isn't really relevant as the (presumably) capable EU-3 (France, Germany and Great Britain) have been leading the to date fruitless diplomatic effort for the last 3+ years.
1.30.2007 6:08pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Please read more closely. I said Lebanon, not Iraq.

You're quite right, I do need to read more closely.

The situation in Lebanon has as much to do with Syria and Israel, of course, as with Iran, and without a settlement of the Palestinian problem, I don't see anything good happening there. I *would* think that a settlement with Iran would make it easier to isolate Syria.

Iran is definitely a threat, but not a threat that we're going to fix by refusing to negotiate with 'em.
1.30.2007 8:37pm
Michael B (mail):
"Actually, the Iranian government reminds me a lot of the Soviets in 1946-49. Stalin was determined to feel out NATO's defenses by sending little invasions everywhere he wasn't stopped. He funded insurrections in northern Iran, eastern Turkey, northern Greece, and other places until Truman put his foot down, gave out lots of surplus WWII equipment, and warned that full invasions would mean war." JB

Bingo.

Yossi Klein Halevi &Michael Oren
1.30.2007 8:52pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I just do not understand anyone who could confuse the threat posed by the Soviet Union in the late 1940s (itself overblown) with that posed by Iran today. Surely no one could be that out of touch with reality.

I have to conclude that people prefer war for its own sake, and will say anything to justify that.
1.30.2007 9:05pm
SG:
Anderson:

I agree that the Lebanese situation is complicated and there are more actors than just Iran.

(Then again, the Nazis were hardly the only external actor in the Spanish Civil War either. You know, if one wanted to abuse the Iran/Nazi Germany analogy some more, one could point to the Syria/Iran alliance as being reminiscent of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Iraq taking the par of Poland, and the Iran/Venezuela alliance as being reminiscent of the Germany/Japan axis as a way to enagage the US in its own hemisphere. History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes. But I digress.)

But I still want to hear more your proffered diplomatic solution. For diplomacy to work, there either has to be some sort of mutually agreeable middle ground, or the failure to find that middle ground has to entail unacceptable consequences. Since you and others are clearly ruling out the unacceptable consequences, we're stuck with the first choice.

The game tree you're proposing is really quite simple. There's no middle ground between nuclear armed and not nuclear armed so, if you're agreeing that a nuclear armed Iran is bad, diplomacy means finding the appropriate carrots (because sticks have been ruled out a priori) to entice Iran to verifiably halt its nuclear program.

What are those carrots? What in Iran's history and rhetoric leads you to believe that there exists any possible diplomatic solution to this issue? It's not enough to simply utter the word "Diplomacy" like some magical incantation, it's about identifying both sides areas of self-interest and the common ground that provides mutually acceptable outcomes.

(Unless you're willing to settle for the appearance of diplomatic solutions, like say the Munich Agreement. But there I go again, into that foolish analogy.)

I am unable to identify the things necessary to make diplomacy work, but since it's the first (and apparently only) club in your bag, I'd appreciate it if you could explain to me what I'm missing.
1.30.2007 9:27pm
Justin (mail):
"That doesn't mean that Iranians going across the (tightly controlled) border are not acting under orders."

Sure. It just means you have absolutely no evidence to support your claim.
1.30.2007 10:42pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
What are those carrots? What in Iran's history and rhetoric leads you to believe that there exists any possible diplomatic solution to this issue?

So tough guy, apparently you believe diplomacy is pointless. Please explain how the war option will play out. Also, tell us what will happen if it doesn't work out exactly as you envision it and how we will respond to that. The second part is what this administration, and all you tough guys, has forgotten to do, and is why we are in the intractable mess we are in in Iraq right now.

E.g., what happens if the Iranians and the Shiites in Iraq get really pissed off at our bombing campaign in Iran, rebel against us and cut off our supply lines going from Kuwait through southern Iraq (and shut down the straits of Hormuz to boot), what do we do then?
1.30.2007 10:45pm
Michael B (mail):
Anderson,

Your insult/moral superiority formulation is transparent and not terribly interesting. To the extent you take it seriously: utter incomprehension.
1.30.2007 10:46pm
Michael B (mail):
1.30.2007 11:12pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
the reason we should talk to Iran is that we might be able to make a deal with someone there, if not now, than in the near future. In 2003, the Iranians apparently offered a deal to the US: an end to nuclear weapons program, help in stabilizing Iraq, and an end to support for Hezbolla and Hamas. Cheney had the State Department veto the idea of any talks with the Iranians, and the extremists (Ahmedinejad) won the presidency. War is frankly not an option, as our military is hard pressed to come up with the additional 22,500 troops for the "surge." A bombing campaign, according to most military experts, won't work to stop any nuclear program and will likely turn the public in Iran (which is uniformly and uniquely pro US) against us. So, I say we try carrot and stick diplomacy, no
t just the "stick" diplomacy of the Bush Administration.

The comparisons to Munich and Sudentenland and Hitler are inapt. A better comparison would be to Ho Chi Minh, and North Vietnam, after the French gave up. We could have averted a decade and a half long war, and the terrible consequences it imposed on us and on the people we were trying to liberate, if we had talked to the Viet Minh (and steered them away from the historic enemies, the Chinese) in 1956 rather than taking up the French's failed policies. But, looking through the prism of the Cold war, we adopted a military policy of confrontation, which turned out to be futile. I think we are making similar mistakes with the Iranians (as we did when the CIA toppled its democratically elected prime minister in the 1950s).
1.31.2007 12:21am
SG:
J.F. Thomas:

I didn't say a diplomacy is pointless. I said that diplomacy where we a priori rule out the use of force makes a diplomatic resolution impossible because there doesn't exist an outcome that both parties find acceptable.

I think if the country were publically united behind a policy of being willing to use force against Iran if Iran didn't verifiably halt its nuclear program, then it's conceivable that Iran's nuclear program could be halted without needing to use force. But that's not the world we live in.

But it's quite possible (likely even) that there's any number of scenarios that I haven't contemplated. (There are more things in heaven and earth than dreamed of in my philosophy). I really would like a believer that the military option is off the table and diplomacy can resolve the issue: What is the diplomatic resolution? Please explain it to me.

And let's be clear, you can cast stones at what's happened in Iraq, but your plan B for Iran is quite literally MAD. Are you saying that's not "an intractable mess"? And note MAD is the best case scenario if diplomacy fails.

It's not a issue of being a tough guy. It's a question of weighing the various alternatives and picking the least bad one. A war now with Iran would be ugly. Iran is huge (geographically and population), its terrain unfriendly. Logistics would be a nightmare. Iraq would have to be abandoned to fight Iran (Whether that's a good or a bad thing is a legitimate debate. Certainly all the people calling for withdrawl from Iraq shouldn't be troubled by this outcome).

But weigh that against Iranian nuclear umbrella over the Middle East oil fields and the Persian Gulf. Iran has been formenting violence across the region and the globe, both directly and through proxies, since 1979. How aggresive do they become when they possess a nuclear deterrent capability? Does the US possess any strategic interests worth defending? How long before Iran crosses a line and war breaks out? What does that war look like? Does war with Iran get easier in the future?

Or what what happens when the Iranian nuclear capability inevitably results in a nuclear arms race across the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and Egypt have already stated as much. Expect others to follow). The Sunnis will need a counterweight to the Persian Empire (and then a counterweight to each other) The Middle East has not exactly been a portrait of stability and reason; does anyone care to give odds on a nuclear exchange? My prediction is that within 20 years of an Iranian bomb, there will be a nuclear war (not necessarily triggered by Iran mind you, but when a half-dozen or so countries in the region have a nuclear capability things get very, very unstable. Multipolar deterrence is inherently chaotic.) I certainly can't see all of the likely nuclear powers being indefintely deterred from striking Israel.

Or perhaps the Israelis, who have reason to mean it when they say "never again", decide they need to preempt the Iranian nuclear program. What does that war look like?

If any of this comes to pass (and how unlikely does it really seem?) history will look back at us now and wonder why we didn't deal with this when it would have "been easy".

Which, of course is foolish. It won't be easy, not easy at all. But it can be done now at much less cost (in treasure and in blood - on both sides) than it will cost in the future. And if we could somehow demonstrate sufficient resolve, it might not cost any lives.
1.31.2007 12:36am
A. Zarkov (mail):
“I think we are making similar mistakes with the Iranians (as we did when the CIA toppled its democratically elected prime minister in the 1950s).”

That’s a very dogmatic statement. First we have a dispute as to whether the 1953 Iran coup was really a coup, or a counter coup. In 1953 the Prime Minister Mossadegh tried to convince the Shah (in power since 1941) to leave the country and the Shah refused. The Shah then (acting under his constitutional authority) dismissed the PM. But Mossadegh refused to leave office, and the Shah left Iran instead. That’s the first coup. With the help of the CIA and the Iranian military the Shah returned and had Mossadegh arrested—the counter coup. There was no change in the constitution or the democratic form of government. From this viewpoint it’s not correct to say that the CIA staged a coup to install a dictatorship to replace a democracy. Of course the Shah did ultimately become an autocrat in 1975 when he replaced Iran’s multiparty system with his Rastakhiz party, but that’s 22 years later.
1.31.2007 1:12am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Diplomacy with Iran is likely to fail because France, Germany, Russia and China will subvert any meaningful program of sanctions. It’s not clear what the US or anyone can do to stop Iran’s nuclear program. By putting it’s nuclear facilities in deep bunkers, they are virtually invulnerable to air attack short of using an effective earth-penetrator nuclear weapon, which we don’t have. A land invasion would be extremely costly and really politically out of the question in today’s climate. Once Iran gets a system of centrifuges going they can produce highly enriched uranium fairly easily. With reactors they can get Pu. Everybody knows how to design a two-stage boosted primary nuclear weapon that’s small enough to put in a missile. With North Korea willing to sell them missiles they get a functioning nuclear weapons system. By placing missiles in Venezuela, Iran can threaten US cities. That’s one frightening future scenario. Whether it happens in 2 years or 10 is anyone’s guess. So the question becomes can we live with an Iran that’s a full-fledged nuclear power? We might have to. But what happens if the Iranians are really nuts, and do something aggressive, like attack Israel. Then what?
1.31.2007 1:38am
Justin (mail):
I knew we always should have invaded Russia. Think of the lives we could have saved on 24.

Same arguments were made about Russia then - they couldn't be negotiated with, they weren't sane, etc. Short of taking over the world, there's going to be little we can do going forward to keep technology out of the hands of others. A strategy better than "send other people out to die to try to stop it" has to be the solution, particularly when the argument for war is so muddled and deceptful.
1.31.2007 8:11am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Ah, I think my response to SG has already been ably made, but let me try something less able:

Iran and Iraq were part of the "Axis of Evil." Iraq was invaded by the U.S. on what certainly appeared specious grounds to the world at large. Iran could well fear that it would be the next target.

North Korea was obviously a more serious threat, due to its nuke program. But did we invade NK? No.

So forgive Iran if they think that having nukes is a sine qua non for their national security. Can you really tell them they're wrong?

I don't have a "diplomatic solution" to propose, b/c I don't really know what the Iranians want (as opposed to their bluster, much like our bluster). Why don't we know that? Because we're not talking to them.

I would think that we could work out security guarantees, though whether any ultimate solution is possible w/out a Palestinian settlement is a good question. I am not really sure how much Iran really gives a rat's tail about Palestine, as opposed to a bloody shirt to wave for popular consumption; it would be nice to find out.

Diplomacy might not work. Sure. But it should be *tried*. Anyone who doesn't value war and killing for their own sakes, should be able to figure that one out.

--Michael B: if you make "arguments" worthy only of ridicule, what do you expect, actually?
1.31.2007 9:33am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Um, no. "Diplomacy" is an option that's been proposed, &that is not excluded by Oren's comment.

Diplomacy has two parts, speech and acts. Oren excluded acts, so we're left with speech.

What will Iran do differently based soley on what we say?

> But we daren't talk to the Iranians ... they might turn out to be smarter than Condi Rice.

NoK bamboozled Clinton+Carter, so that's not out the question.

But, I'll play along. What could the smartest person accomplish soley by talking to the Iranians?
1.31.2007 12:38pm
Michael B (mail):
Anderson, it went over your head.
1.31.2007 1:05pm
SG:
So Anderson, you're espousing a plan that you're unable to articulate how it will work and you have no workable fallback if it fails. How do that differ from George Bush's Iraq policy?

If you'd stop your moral preening long enought to read what I wrote, you'd notice that my position is not fundamentally different from Christopher Cooke's. I'll repeat myself: "a policy of being willing to use force against Iran if Iran [doesn't] verifiably halt its nuclear program [makes it] conceivable that Iran's nuclear program could be halted without needing to use force."

My argument is that being willing to go to war to elimnate the threat will make it possible to eliminate the threat without going to war. And if it doesn't succeed and war becomes necessary, then by definition Iran is not deterrable so it's far preferrable to have the war before Iran has a nuclear capability.

It's practically a tautology, so I can understand why you would rather argue against some strawman of your own creation (I never said we shouldn't try diplomatic means, I never said the Iranians are insane, I never said the Iranian nuclear program isn't currently in their perceived best interests).

If you're unwilling to discuss what I've actually written, I can't help but conclude that you're fundamentally not serious.

Justin:

I'll see your 1948 Stalin and raise you a 1938 Hitler.

While the Cold War worked out, it's certainly unclear if it was the optimal decision even in hindsight. Tally up the Cold War casualties. In addition to the ~100,000 Americans killed in the Korean &Vietnam wars, don't forget to include a couple million North Koreans, a million Vietnamese, 3 Million Cambodians. And would Mao have taken and held power? You might have to add another 60 million to that total.

Of course, that's hindsight. When you have to make the decisions without that benefit, you have to look at what might happened. Certainly if either party had zagged instead of zigged during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we'd all agree that the Soviet Union should have been confronted earlier. Actually, we probably wouldn't be able to agree because most of us wouldn't be here and there certainly wouldn't be an internet to chat over.

The standard way of decision making in the presence of uncertainty is minimax optimization. Choose the path that minimizes the maximum worst case. I don't see how allowing Iran nuclear weaponry does that. This doesn't mean we should go in with guns blazing, but it does mean that it might come to that. It's not an optimal outcome, but it removes the worst case.

Or I guess we could all just hope...
1.31.2007 1:06pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'what happens if the Iranians and the Shiites in Iraq get really pissed off at our bombing campaign in Iran, rebel against us and cut off our supply lines going from Kuwait through southern Iraq (and shut down the straits of Hormuz to boot), what do we do then?'

I dunno. Watch them starve?

Oil is hard to eat.

Zarkov, without reference to any other part of the argument, it is not necessary to use bunker busters to stop anybody's uranium program. Bomb the power stations. They're all above ground.

My view is that Iran has been at war with the US since 1979 and it's about time we played their game. If it were up to me, I'd stand on what used to be American principles and declare our recognition of Great Kurdistan, arm the Kurds and watch what happens.

Perhaps Anderson could use that as a bargaining chip, but I expect he would find Americanism of that sort too assertive.
1.31.2007 5:59pm
Michael B (mail):
2.1.2007 3:45pm