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« Watchdogs | Main | Your liberal media »

Aug 09, 2006

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David Wharton

Stanley Kurtz says it's not just Israel:

"...the entire Western world now stands in a position roughly analogous to that of Israel: locked in an essentially permanent struggle with a foe it is impossible either to placate, or to entirely destroy — a foe who demands our own destruction, and whose problems are so deep they would not be solved even by victory."

Ed Cone

Such pessimism is a self-fulfilling, and self-defeating outlook.

David Wharton

Maybe.

But what can Israel do -- short of ceasing to exist -- that would ever placate Hezbollah?

What can the United States do -- short of mass conversion to Shiite Islam -- that would placate Iran? (But that would not placate the Wahhabis like Osama ...)

What the hell are we gonna do when Iran gets the Bomb?

Ed, if you can find some way to make me an optimist about any of this, I'll happily buy you and your whole family dinner at Ruth's Chris, and do a Mexican Hat Dance for the whole crowd.

Ed Cone

The flaw in the logic lies in the whole-cloth view of the Islamic world.

Iranians don't all want violent jihad, many seek a more westernized way of life -- the current regime is in fact a reaction to such sentiments.

Hezbollah is not the singular voice of Lebanon, it is an organization that thrived in that diverse country under Syrian rule and while other problems festered in the region.

So the broad brush, they all hate us view is patently incorrect. The problems of the region are deep and knotty, they will take time to resolve, but impossible the situation is not.

David Wharton

"The problems of the region are deep and knotty, they will take time to resolve, but impossible the situation is not."

I'll pass over the opportunity to rib you for sounding like Rumsfeld talking about Iraq ...

My pessimism is not a whit abated by what you say.

Of course I know that Iran is not monolithic. But the militantly anti-American, pro-Shiite theocratic forces look like they're going hold on to power for quite a while yet, and it also looks like they're gong to get a nuclear device quite soon. Ahmadinejad has made it clear he wants Israel to go away. "Death to America" rallies still seem to be a popular form of entertainment there. So saying that "many want a more Westernized way of life" does nothing to calm my jangled nerves.

On the Hezbollah question, you just did a little dodge and weave instead of answering. I take it that you agree that there is nothing Israel can do to placate Hezbollah?

Ed Cone

I don't mean to bob and weave, I mean to challenge the entire simplistic axis-of-evil worldview you posit.

The job is not to placate Hezbollah, the job (after current military tasks are done) is to work with more congenial folks to isolate it, and also to address some of the real issues upon which it capitalizes. Eventually, it or successor organizations will be absorbed into the political structure of Lebanon.

I didn't say things would be easy with Iran, but certainly there are ways short of mass conversion that we can attempt to deal with them.

Again, the difficult is not impossible.

Impossible is an excuse, not a policy assessment.

Samuel Spagnola

Ed, it sounds like your position on dealing with the Iranian moderates and belief that the region can be westernized is the same line of thinking of the neocons that convinced Bush to go to war in Iraq. It seems there are two choices- one is that you let history take its course there even if it means more Islamic fundamentalism, in which case the doctrine of preemptive war is more excusable. After all, if our position is to allow these countries to do as they will, the trade off will be that we reserve the right to stop them when their will involves terrorizing the U.S. I believe this is a defensible isolationist policy.

The second is to continue to try and insert our own western values in the middle east (which gives rise to more terror) in the hopes that eventually Islamic terror will subside. This is the essence of the Bush rationale for going to war in Iraq other than the WMD issue. This is an interventionist policy that has not appeared to pan out as of yet.

This is a different animal than rapproachment with China and the USSR. In those cases, you didn't have people willing to blow themselves up in the name of Communism. There was also not a religious aspect to those regimes. Using capitalism to combat the enemy made more sense than it does in the middle east. As someone once said, democracy isn't for everyone. We pushed democracy in Gaza, and democracy elected Hamas. If democracy is the voice of the people, the people over there still appear to be quite anti-western despite the claims of moderates.

I agree that Iran is not a hopeless case. It was a modern country before Khomeni, but the window is getting more narrow as the more open society (relatively speaking) of the Shah fades into memory. It will be up to them- not us to decide the future of that country.

Ed Cone

One problem with isolationism is that we aren't isolated: we are deeply involved in the region for economic reasons, and will be for the foreseeable future, and we are implicated as well in its history.

So engagement of some sort seems a given.

People live in human time, not historical time, and so days and months and years of fighting and uncertainty are hellish.

But in historical terms, the post-colonial era is just sorting itself out, and it was just yesterday that we were arming Saddam to slaughter Iranians, and the day before yesterday that we deposed Mossedegh in favor of our boy the Shah.

And it almost was literally yesterday that Syria left Lebanon.

So I don't think these lapidary views of the region and its character are helpful.

meblogin

In WWII not all the Germans were bad either.... should we have waited for the good well intending Germans to take care of their internal problems?

When given the opportunity Iran "will" use a nuclear device. I believe that to be a much less difficult argument than "the difficult is not impossible" For that matter...I believe that the odds are better than 50/50 that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah would use nuclear if they had the chance.

They all don't hate you Ed....just the ones that would kill you for no reason at all. (those are the ones in power??)

I hope and pray you are right...just don't think you are.

Ed Cone

I'm not saying there aren't serious problems, Meb, or that we should not be actively working on solutions. But this reductive all-or-nothing reasoning is one of the things that makes discussing the region difficult.

meblogin

Sometimes all or nothing is the best longterm solution..sometimes...

I simply can not imagine any country using atomic force twice in two weeks and later developing a lasting friendship. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
My point is that I can't imagine any country using that level of force twice in two weeks....and finding peace, friendship and mutual strength with the same victim of such force.

Though I hate the idea of overthrowing the region....is it the best alternative?
The "what ifs" are real and "if" we are to experience a nuclear/biological device being used against the US...then I support the overthrow of the entire region today. What do you and others believe will take place if a nuclear/biological is used against either us or our close allies? Will we still be talking about what should be done? Will your reasoning become all or nothing?

Samuel Spagnola

I think it is more a matter of sorting out the post-cold war world to a greater extent than colonialism. Our support of Iraq was to prevent the threat of a Soviet move into the region. The policy of dual containment was to keep both sides fighting so that neither became dominant. The fear was that an Iraqi victory would result in a Soviet invasion of Iran and further south. The U.S. helped arm both countries- the Iranian arms for hostages deal was done to counter the armaments the Soviets provided to Iraq. While publicly, the US supported Iraq, secretly we were assisting Iran- all to fend off the Soviet threat.

The deposing of Mossadegh was also a response to a fear of communism taking hold in Iran, with the British playing a central role.

The balance of power between the USSR and the US kept much of this region in check for a long time. The rise of Islamic terrorism and widespread hatred of the US in the middle east came after the collapse of the USSR and the money and favors dried up from both sides.

It is difficult at this time to ascertain Russian motives, but it is likely that if the Russian bear was to reawaken and take a strong side against Islamic terrorism in the middle east (as opposed to only Chechnya) we would face a much different and favorable situation. But there is a vacuum now that has been filled by the Islamoterrorists and their sponsoring states. As our interests in preventing Soviet expansion in the middle east ended with the cold war, so to should our presence in the middle east.

Ed Cone

Regions -- people -- don't like being held in check. Our mindset on dealing with the region has to change.

Meb, when you talk about "overthrowing the whole region," what the hell do you mean? Let's cut out the euphemisms and vague statements -- what is it that you think we can, and maybe should, do?

meblogin

I thought I was clear and am not sure what you are asking.

Perhaps take a minute and answer each of my questions.

Ed Cone

In general, if someone asks "what the hell do you mean?", then they did not find your words to be clear.

What, specifically, do you mean by "overthrowing the whole region?"

meblogin


Ed,
..a couple of posts above I wrote...

I believe that the odds are better than 50/50 that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah would use nuclear if they had the chance.

We can start with the above as already mentioned and expand as needed.

Ok...so that answers your question.

Ed Cone

No, I still don't know what you mean, Meb.

When you say "overthrowing the whole region," what do you mean?

Who overthrows whom? What replaces whatever is overthrown?

Please, just come out and say it.

meblogin

Ed,

...I did.

meblogin

but hey...no need to even try to answer any of my questions...

Ed Cone

I'm sorry, Meb, but where and when?

Please, just humor me -- point to the specifics, or spell them out here.

Who should overthrow whom?

What countries should invade what countries?

Here, let me make this easier:

Are you saying the United States should unilterally and preemptively attack Iran and Syria?

meblogin

Ed,

Can you find where I said anything like that? I watch and read as you apply these silly techniques with others and I continue to believe it is beneath you. But, I will try to make it clearer by repeating and bringing together my earlier posts with my questions and my opinions already expressed within.

In addition...if a country uses nuclear/biological against the USA or it's allies and perhaps some of our enemies then I would attack, attack, attack and lay waste to the current leadership of same. Would I permit Iran to gain nuclear weapons??..no...and I would attack if needed preemptively...maybe. ( I would need more information) I think I mentioned that I hate violence.

One more note--- "IF" the USA and/or allies attack then get the damn job done. I still wonder about small tactical nukes being used in the caves of Afghanistan.

Here are my earlier comments and questions though I believe repeating same is beneath you but your silliness causes....

meblogin said---
When given the opportunity Iran "will" use a nuclear device. I believe that to be a much less difficult argument than "the difficult is not impossible" For that matter...I believe that the odds are better than 50/50 that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah would use nuclear if they had the chance.

They all don't hate you Ed....just the ones that would kill you for no reason at all. (those are the ones in power??)

I hope and pray you are right...just don't think you are.

and then meblogin said---

I simply can not imagine any country using atomic force twice in two weeks and later developing a lasting friendship. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
My point is that I can't imagine any country using that level of force twice in two weeks....and finding peace, friendship and mutual strength with the same victim of such force.

Though I hate the idea of overthrowing the region....is it the best alternative?
The "what ifs" are real and "if" we are to experience a nuclear/biological device being used against the US...then I support the overthrow of the entire region today. What do you and others believe will take place if a nuclear/biological is used against either us or our close allies? Will we still be talking about what should be done? Will your reasoning become all or nothing?

and for those that did not read.....my questions to Ed and others------

What do you and others believe will take place if a nuclear/biological is used against either us or our close allies?

Will we still be talking about what should be done?

Will your reasoning become all or nothing?

and from the earlier post---

They all don't hate you Ed....just the ones that would kill you for no reason at all. (those are the ones in power??)

Finally...and trying one last time to answer your question ....if we are to go to war with Iran, Syria..etc.. then whatever country chooses to takes sides with our enemy becomes our enemy...hence the region or whole region subject that you struggled to understand or chose not to should now be answered.


Ed Cone

Meb, I'm not applying any silly techniques.

You said, "Though I hate the idea of overthrowing the region....is it the best alternative?"

I asked you, repeatedly, precisely what you meant by that.

You still have not answered.

It's not a technique, it's a question.

And it still stands.

David Boyd

So the broad brush, they all hate us view is patently incorrect.

This is, of course, true. The problem is that with nukes it ain't going to take all of them. It's going to take a few of them and they've got a bunch of a few of them.

meblogin

Ed,

You have reduced a serious topic to humor....

My answer to your question and your question was---

Meb, when you talk about "overthrowing the whole region," what the hell do you mean?

My answer- if we are to go to war with Iran, Syria..etc.. then whatever country chooses to takes sides with our enemy becomes our enemy...hence the region or whole region subject that you struggled to understand or chose not to should now be answered.

Ed,
Do you intend to answer my questions?
thanks

Ed Cone

Meb, I can see why you would be shy about filling in the details of your blood-soaked fantasy, but don't blame me for your lack of clarity.

Your questions: "What do you and others believe will take place if a nuclear/biological is used against either us or our close allies? Will we still be talking about what should be done? Will your reasoning become all or nothing?"

Obviously the use of such weapons would lead to horrific reprecussions. That's why we need to think hard now about ways to forestall such attacks, rather than making vague and impractical noises about regional wars without any details of what that might actually entail.

sean coon

not to get between the volley, but juan cole just wrote an amazing essay on the current mideast war and the future prospects of tackling iran called one ring to rule them. at taste:

[...] In the short term, Iran was protected by another ace in the hole. It had a client in the Levant, Lebanon's Hizbullah, and had given it a few silkworm rockets, which could theoretically hit Israeli nuclear and chemical facilities. Hizbullah increasingly organizes the Lebanese Shiites, and the Lebanese Shiites will in the next ten to twenty years emerge as a majority in Lebanon, giving Iran a commercial hub on the Mediterranean. [...]

this is all about oil, cash and *then* nukes.

Ed Cone

One thing it may be less about than supposed is the willingness of Muslim leaders to martyr themselves.

We know they will exploit young people who are eager to die, but do we know that they will risk immolation themselves, for their families and countries?

I'm not sure MAD is a dead doctrine.

meblogin

Ed,

blood soaked fantasy...lack of clarity...You must have loved the Clinton years.
I wasn't fair... I should have said ....Ed, Did you like how Clinton handled the attacks against our country? What would you liked to have seem him do? Do you believe if the USA had been more reactive that 911 may have been prevented? I do.

I believe I have a fundamental grasp of what happens (911) when the message is very cloudy.... I would guess that the leaders of the free world of today consider if the "horrific repercussions" all the time with some discussion of use.

But...instead of picking on mebloggin..and dodging...why don't you share some of your real opinions..but only if you want to...

meblogin

I read this at Gate's. I believe it is accurate and worth including in this topic. I think that those that attack the USA should be put down permanently and with speed.

Israel Sending a Message
Via CNN:

Israel Prime Minsiter Ehud Omert, in a taped address to an American Jewish Charity, said Israel was prepared to pay a "terrible price" to battle Hezbollah now rather than face a strengthened foe later.

This could be the start of the endgame in the middle east. Israel is not going to let Hezbollah and those who would destroy them get up to hit them again. And Israel seems to want the others who would cause them harm to know that if they come at them, they will be put down as well.

Samuel Spagnola

Iran is following the North Korean model by sabre rattling to get attention. MAD will not apply in this region because the US will never allow anyone in the middle east to have nuclear weapons sufficient to compare with the very real MAD threat posed by the Soviet Union when it existed. Even the Russians understand that their power exists only because they have a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. They don't want anyone else to have them either so they don't dilute what power they have left. Russia doesn't want any nukes in the middle east either because they are on the same continent and Russia has had its own problems with Islamic terrorism.

The Iranian leadership is not stupid. They know the US will eventually leave Iraq. They want to yell as loud as possible and inflict as many small wounds as possible so when we leave for whatever reason, they can claim victory and assert themselves as the dominant power in the region. In many ways, the gamble in Iraq was to be a deterrent to Iran. It isn't working out that way. But I do think that the three major powers in the world, the US, Russia and China will not allow Iran to have nukes and certainly not enough nukes to pose a threat to them. Putin is very shrewd, and is letting the US pay the cost of fighting Islamic terrorism in the middle east. Yes, he helped supply the Iranians with nuclear facilities, but that actually goes back to 1994 and is more about Russia wanting some influence and control than Russia promoting nukes in the middle east. There simply is no upside for the Russians to go against the west over the middle east. Putin knows that Russia must compete economically to survive, and an alliance with the Islamic terrorist nations will not help them. Further, the Russians have no stomach for Islamic fundamentalism and the Russian people would not stand for their government to support regimes that favor worldwide Islamic domination. Most Russians are Christians and Jews.

If it came down to it, and there was ever a case for the use of nuclear weapons, Iran would be the most likely theater because they are surrounded by similar governments. You don't have the threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or Japan, or a Soviet invasion of West Germany or a full scale nuclear war, or the North Koreans charging into South Korea. Iran could only respond by increased terrorism and propaganda in the news. They could use oil, but there are too many ways around that and Iran would soon go broke.

Of course, a scenario that would justify nuclear weapons is hard to imagine at this point absent some use of WMD by Iran or an Iranian supported group. Most of the military goals could be accomplished by the use of conventional cruise missles launched from the gulf anyway. I would not rule out the nuclear option, but I don't see where it would be necessary anytime soon in that theater.

Ed Cone

Meb, I really don't understand the breakdown in communication here, and I apologize if I have not been clear.

I'm asking you what it is you think the United States should do now in the Middle East.

meblogin

Ed,

I guess the key word is "now" in your question.

I believe the USA should continue doing what it is currently doing to monitor countries and groups in the Middle East whose leadership promotes harm to the USA.
If the threat is real then action ahead of the threat becoming reality is ok with me.

If you are asking what military action (ground force, air strike..etc.) I am not experienced or educated in these areas and rely on our leadership.


David Wharton

You characterized my comments as "simplistic" and "lapidary" (good word!) but you didn't show that they were untrue. I would say that your own prognostications about Iran and Lebanon are based more on wishes and hope than on a clear-eyed assessment of what's actually going on there.

And as of this morning, I'm even more pessimistic.

Ed Cone

Thanks, Meb.

DW: Lapidary is an excellent word, and also I think appropriate. We are dealing with dynamic situations, not static ones. That of course compounds the risk, because things can move in the wrong direction, but it also provides reason to believe that our situation is not "impossible", merely very difficult.

Bubba

"The flaw in the logic lies in the whole-cloth view of the Islamic world."

Do you think the "Islamic world" is going to take care of their problem?

(I'm assuming you are not assessing resposibilty elsewhere.)

Ed Cone

No, as I said, the US has to be involved in the region.

The "whole cloth" problem lies in the perception of the region, and even individual countries, as monolithic in culture and politics. It's just not so. For example, Iran is not populated by 70 million America-hating jihadists; the Arabs and Persians have huge historical emnity; the Wahhabis and the Shia don't play well together; Syria (like Iraq pre-2003) is a secular dictatorship not a Muslim one, etc, etc. Plus, many of these folks speak the universal language of $$$.

None of which is to minimize the problems we face, merely to better chart the landscape and perhaps identify handholds and points of influence.

Jim Caserta

I think he is a little nutty, but Bob Baer has one excellent point - we have little to no human intelligence assets in the "hottest" places in the midEast. One huge reason is our lack of embassies in those nations. The other is our stated goal of regime change, which after Iraq is viewed as an idle threat, beside regime change not always giving you the regime you want.

If you want to hurt someone, the best tactic is not to tell them first and let them raise their defenses. Take them in as a friend, learn their weaknesses, and take advantage when they least expect it...

sean coon

jim, you are *not* invited to my next barbecue! ;)

Bubba

"The "whole cloth" problem lies in the perception of the region, and even individual countries, as monolithic in culture and politics. It's just not so. For example, Iran is not populated by 70 million America-hating jihadists; the Arabs and Persians have huge historical emnity; the Wahhabis and the Shia don't play well together; Syria (like Iraq pre-2003) is a secular dictatorship not a Muslim one, etc, etc. Plus, many of these folks speak the universal language of $$$."

That description sounds like a policy statement by the current administration.

Bubba

One other point, Ed.

Do you remember how many times that non-monolithic group has attacked Israel as a group?

Certainly, some of them have made their seperate peace, but most assuredly many of the rest will NEVER make "peace" with Israel.

Ed Cone

I'm not following you, Bubba. The simple statement of facts about the differences within the region is just that, a statement of facts.

Cara Michele

I have an off-topic question from the link DW posted. Why does the NYT call GB2 "Mr. Bush" instead of "President Bush." Isn't that a breach of protocol? (No, I'm not offended. Just curious...)

And I'm with Sean, Jim. "If you want to hurt someone..." That was creepy! LOL. ;)

And re: DW: Sometimes pessimistic is realistic. :(

Ed Cone

The NPR ombudsman addresses the Mr/President question here. Many papers don't use "Mr" on second reference, just the president's last name.

I'm comfortable with the more informal style. We're Americans. I love the story of Jim Thorpe being told by by King Gustav V of Sweden that he was the greatest athlete in the world, with Thorpe replying, "Thanks, King."

Cara Michele

Interesting. Thanks for the link, Ed. ;) I guess I'm just used to all the interviews where the President is addressed as "Mr. President." But I gather that there are separate rules for writing about the president and addressing the president. If I ever meet a president, I'll probably just open with, "So...what should I call you?" ;)

Jim Caserta

I meant it like "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

It would help the US a little to have one or two spies in Iran and NK. We had very few in Iraq, and look at the intel we had there. It sounds stupid, but until we tone down our rhetoric a little, we will have severe difficulties getting spies into those countries.

Jim Caserta

Another situation my comment applies to is when there is an altercation, the guys doing the most talking tend to do the least fighting. It's the quiet guy who you can see is just stewing who is really going to start trouble.

Cara Michele

Jim, I was just kidding around with you. ;) And if we're talking Spy Rules 101, then yeah, I guess that's probably how they think and act.

meblogin

Ed,

answer my questions and give specific opinions please....

I like the BBQ idea...we should all attend and wonder who is just being nice and who is hungry.

Mr. President or Madam President is my choice...even with Clinton...sigh...though I hope to never call Hilly...Madam President. I wonder if the press uses Mr. "last name" when their choice is not President and Mr. President when they like the choice. I guess it is fair. If I like the person in the press I simply refer to them as Ed or something along those terms...if not liked then a few more adjectives can be added. (ok..if she wins...Madam Rerun?)

Ed Cone

Please repeat your questions, Meb, it's a long thread and I want to make sure I'm addressing the right ones. Thnx.

Bubba

Ed, my point is that what you describe as a non-monolithic group is virtually united in wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. This is probably true of even those nations who have made "peace" with Israel. They are politcally expedient enough to give silent assent to those who take direct action.

As we are well aware, Israel is a nearer surrogate for the USA in many ways. This is essential to understand when the subject is terrorism, regardless of the nation to which terror is directed.

It becomes an area problem because of the common factor of religion, regardless of whether the nations involved have "secular" governments or not. This means that properly applied, the monolithic approach is not totally without merit.

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