Thursday, February 08, 2007

Houses Built on Sand

The beat goes on: Imperial supervision continues to prepare the ground for the upcoming assault on Iran. Of course, there are voices raised in opposition. Here is Michael Nolan, writing at the Lew Rockwell site:
The next country in the neocon gunsights is, of course, Iran. That Iran is somehow a nuclear threat to the American people surpasses in bunk and risibility the whopper that Saddam Hussein had something to do with bringing down the Twin Towers. The latter lie (with others) was good enough to start the war in Iraq and it’s a virtual certainty that the former lie will serve to start the war in Iran despite the fact that experts, including those at our own CIA, put Iran several years away from the development of a nuclear weapon. And, as former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski reminded Congress recently, "[t]o argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy." That America needs to attack Iran is a conceit seen sensible by few – save neocons, the White House and opportunists like former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Notice the bad argument that Mr. Nolan uses here: we don't have to attack Iran, because they won't have nukes for years yet, and because they aren't a credible threat to the U.S. Both of these are true, I'm sure. But if they weren't true, would Mr. Nolan then be urging an attack on Iran? His statements imply that America is legitimately entitled to absolute security, and that America (the only country ever to use nuclear weapons in war) has the moral authority to say what people may possess what weapons. Neither of these is true, and it may be that Mr. Nolan does not think them true. But their inclusion, even by implication, weakens his argument. It's as if he tells a child not to dig into Mother's wallet, because it's wrong ... and besides, there's not much money in there anyway.

Then there's the Guardian, leftish and generally antiwar. Timothy Garton Ash writes:
On the available evidence, the Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to edge towards a technological position from which it could, should it choose, rapidly move towards 90% uranium enrichment and the production of nuclear weapons. The best analysis we have suggests that Ayatollah Khameini, the supreme leader of the revolutionary regime, has not made a decision to go for nuclear weapons, and it would take a number of years to get there even if he had. But Iran has been doing a number of things that are not explicable simply by a desire to have the civilian nuclear energy to which it is entitled under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The real question is therefore how, without the use of force, you can stop Iran going down this path. This requires pressure as well as incentives. In 2003, when the Islamic Republic felt itself weak, with a low oil price squeezing its budget and (yes) the unsettling spectacle of a US occupation of Iraq next door, it was more ready to negotiate on the nuclear issue. Last year, when it felt itself strong, with a high oil price gorging its budget, President Ahmadinejad riding high on a populist wave, and Iran rather than the US increasingly calling the shots in the politics of Iraq, it turned down the best offer it had received since the last year of the Clinton administration.
True, Mr. Ash's piece argues against the warfare that the War Party -- both its red and blue caucuses -- clearly contemplate. But notice the Western managerialism that oozes from the whole thing, start to finish. There's no question of the U.S. or the U.K. tending to their own affairs, and leaving Middle Easterners to tend to theirs. No, he says, we should make Iran do what we want; but not through bombs and missiles -- oh, no! We can do the same job through bribery and intimidation. Well, what he says may be true ... or maybe not. But where's the principle? Where is the philosophically consistent foundation? Without it, we'll simply repeat our folly, over and over again. We're building houses on sand.


Anonymous said...

You are an airheaded idiot. You are so poorly educated you only think in terms of western imperialism and assume the rest of the world are non imperialist. Read your history books boy and find out about Islamic imperialism for starters. Maybe start with the near extermination of the assyrian christians.

Bartleby said...

Ah, that paragon of courage, Mr. Anonymous, shows up to offer some halfwit abuse. Come back with a name sometime, and we can talk. I don't feel like having a conversation with ... nothing.

Mort Chien said...

hello Jim,
Hope your surgery today goes well. Just a comment, question, or random thought. I've been reading your blog off and on for a number of months. I've been trying to puzzle through some of thei "principle" stuff and I am not getting anywhere.

No problem with "in principle" letting the rest of world go its own way. But where does one draw the line and use force? Not crazy about trusting the millenial nut case who runs Iran. Even less crazy about military engagement. Less still letting the Israelis and Persians go at it - but no way to prevent it if thats what they decide to do.

I guess the real question boils down to what kind of isolationism is best? Will it be better to watch the Japanese and SoKos and Taiwan build their nukes since we may not be regarded as a dependable ally rather than maintain some sort of credible military alliance with them?

Will it be better to let the Sunni and Shia escallate their tensions to nuclear orgasm or, in some as yet unknown way, to attempt to head that off.

Power cannot be made to disappear. Seems that the question should be what is the wisest use of that power. And just what source should be used to obtain that wisdom. Unfortunately that seems to be our lot at this point in history. Someone else will have their turn after us.

Rereading this suggests to me that I've merely rambled a bit. Oh well, do with it what you will - at least I signed my name (kinda).