Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Messrs. Kristol and Hanson

A fellow blogger, Evil Asad reiterates that he is not worried about this escalating conflict. And Shahram also offers his astute observations.

I asked Asad to be as concerned as humanly possible. Threats of war should never be discounted. And any armed conflict is obviously a grave matter. Especially since there are no swift and easy wars! Fifteen years after that first Gulf “turkey shoot,” 150,000 veterans continue to suffer from various ailments in the States if the American Legion’s database is to be believed. And the casualties in Iraq mount daily.

It has irked me from the very beginning how the ones most disproportionately affected by this seemingly endless war are those of the military community in the States. I don’t see signs of the sort of activity in the larger society commensurate with the severity of those ostensibly horrendous “existential threats” plaguing civilization.

And the Iranian society too continues to reel from the aftereffects of the last war. Veterans die wretchedly after years of suffering everyday. There are still between 45-000 to 80,000 survivors of Saddam’s chemical warfare left suffering. Despite my persistent attempts, I haven’t been able to verify the exact numbers. But over 100,000 were reportedly gassed by the very same WMD everyone dreads now.

If nothing else, the sense of insecurity alone that the disabled vets and their families experience— even taking into account the-by-now defused anger directed in so many different directions—still makes this bloc a formidable force highly resistant to change as this latter by definition implies further uncertainly.

That said, I thought we should start our closer scrutiny of various positions with two articles for today. William Kristol is, as always, pithy and matter of fact in his And Now Iran :

The Iranian government is testing us, and its nuclear program could well be getting close to the point of no return…

A Cuban missile crisis with Khrushchev's Soviet Union was bad enough. Are we willing to risk it with Ahmadinejad's Iran?

What about nuclear proliferation throughout the region?

What about the hopes for a liberal, less-extremist-and-terror-friendly Middle East?

Our adversaries cannot be allowed to believe that, because some of the intelligence on Iraq was bad, or because the insurgency in Iraq has been difficult, we will be at all intimidated from taking the necessary steps against the current regime in Tehran.

And his recommendations:

To be clear: We support diplomatic, political, and economic efforts to halt the nuclear program of the Iranian regime. We support multilateral efforts through the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations, and the assembling of coalitions of the willing, if necessary, to support sanctions and other forms of pressure. We support serious efforts to help democrats and dissidents in Iran, in the hope that regime change can be achieved without military action from the outside. We support strengthening our covert and intelligence capabilities. And we support holding open the possibility of, and beginning to prepare for, various forms of military action.

My favorite Mr. Hanson, in top form of course, had already made his position crystal clear with his well crafted The Multilateral Moment? Our bad and worse choices about Iran.

Mr. Hanson thinks that Iran is a serious threat:

Its theocracy poses a danger to civilization even greater than a nuclear North Korea for a variety of peculiar circumstances. Iran is free of a patron like China that might in theory exert moderate influence or even insist on occasional restraint.

Iran is a cash cow for Russia (and China) and apparently a source of opportunistic delight in its tweaking of the West.

Tehran’s oil revenues allow it access to weapons markets, and overt blackmail, …

And Iran’s nuclear facilities are located at the heart of the world’s petroleum reserves, where even the semblance of instability can drive up global oil prices, costing the importing world billions in revenues.

Islamic radicalism… has declared war on Western society and tens of thousands of jihdadists, whether Shiia or Sunnis, count on Iran for money, sanctuary, and support.

With nukes and an earned reputation for madness, it can dictate to the surrounding Arab world the proper policy of petroleum exportation;

It can shakedown Europeans whose capitals are in easy missile range;

It can take out Israel with a nuke or two; or it can bully the nascent democracies of the Middle East while targeting tens of thousands of US soldiers based from Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf.

Iran can threaten to do all this under the aegis of a crazed Islamist regime more eager for the paradise of the next world than for the material present so dear to the affluent and decadent West.

The clincher below:

Any country that burns off some of its natural gas at the wellhead while claiming that it needs nuclear power for domestic energy is simply lying. Terrorism, vast petroleum reserves, nuclear weapons, and boasts of wiping neighboring nations off the map are a bad combination.

Mr. Hanson’s conclusion:

There are two parameters we should accept — namely, that Iran should not be allowed to arm its existing missiles with nukes and that Israel should not have to do the dirty work of taking out Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

And his counsel:

Challenges call for something far more sustained and comprehensive — perhaps a week or two of bombing at every imaginable facility, many of them hidden in suburbs or populated areas. Commando raids might need to augment air sorties, especially for mountain redoubts deep in solid rock.

To that end:

The Europeans and the Americans right now must accelerate their efforts and bring the crisis to a climax at the Security Council

The public relations war is critical.

Economically, we should factor in the real possibility that Iranian oil might be off the global market, and prepare… for colossal gasoline price hikes.

[Longer term] develop an energy policy that collapses the global oil price

Forge a bipartisan front to confront Iran and make the most of their multilateral moment

Finally, the public must be warned that dealing with a nuclear Iran is not a matter of a good versus a bad choice, but between a very bad one now and something far, far worse to come.

The one moment Mr. Hanson got a wry smile from me was in his following move:

…we could step up… and provide far more money to dissident groups inside Iran to rid the country of the Khomeinists… Some sort of peaceful regime change is the solution preferred by most — and, of course, can be pursued in a manner contemporaneous with, not exclusionary to, other strategies.

It is a long-term therapy and therefore suffers the obvious defect that Iran might become nuclear in the meantime. Then the regime’s resulting braggadocio might well deflate the dissident opposition, as the mullahs boast that they alone have restored Iranian national prestige with an Achaemenid bomb.

So I simply wondered aloud how I would choose to characterize those formidable American warheads: the Founding Fathers bomb? A Lincoln, or Sherman bomb? Perhaps even simply those Exceptional Bombs?

No matter though.

If you have been reading for a while, you’ve probably gathered that I hold Mr. Hanson in high esteem despite many fundamental differences. He is one of only few honest men left in that lot. The why becomes clearer once we get to Gerecht.

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