Rebirth of Reason

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Post 60

Thursday, December 9, 2004 - 2:21pmSanction this postReply
Let make my final point on this discussion ( I promise this is the last one!).

Chris says:
I would certainly advocate surgical strikes on installations that are a threat to the security of the U.S.;
This is exactly what I was advocating. AT no time was I advocating a massive air strike of a "Dresden" type. The key word is 'surgical' - in other words the only goal would be the destruction of the nuclear capability (or its long term delay). Some of the 'over the top' statements made in the name of my article have annoyed me.

Those that have taken my article to suggest a massive strike aimed at economic infrastructure destruction, or targeted assassination attempts, or regime change attempts, or an attack on Irans conventional military - have completely missed my point, which was as limited as the strikes I was suggesting.

In this respect I am in total agreement with Chris Sciabarra. (which is very scary ; ) )

Chris says:
I don't believe that Iran poses that kind of threat.  Certainly not a threat that can't be contained.
In this respect, I am not.

Post 61

Thursday, December 9, 2004 - 3:52pmSanction this postReply
Chris wants dates, (sorry for preempting, Jason.)

Since 2003 my emails have ended with:

"Bush in '04, Iran by '06."


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Post 62

Thursday, December 9, 2004 - 4:45pmSanction this postReply
This is starting to become surreal.  :)

First, concerning the Communists:  You're right, Michael.  America "delivered millions to the vast, unspeakable horrors of totalitarian rule."  At Yalta.  It was one of the Soviet spoils of victory from World War II.   America emboldened the Soviet Union in countless ways during that war (which is why I spoke earlier about the possibility of alternative strategies in the European theater of that war in the early 40s).

As for today:  There are short-run and long-run goals to consider in the current Mideast situation.  The short-run goals are, in my view, to destroy those who have attacked the U.S. (Al Qaeda) and to contain and deter any other potential threats.  The long-run goal is to encourage a cultural and political transformation among the currently nondemocratic societies there.

This puts me in agreement with George W. Bush, ironically, that it is in the long-run interests of the U.S. to encourage the development of democracy in the Arab-Islamic Middle East.  But there are ways that will encourage it and there are ways that will discourage it.  I don't think democracy can simply be imposed on societies that don't have the cultural foundations for it.

It is in Iran that those cultural foundations are actually formative and on the ascendance.  Yes, some Iranians chant "Death To America," but many in the younger generation (who make up the largest segment of the Iranian population) look to the West and have absorbed significant Western cultural values, and it is that segment of Iranian society that the U.S. should do everything in its power to encourage.  I don't believe the mullahs will be in power forever or that their theocratic hold on power will fester.  They themselves sense that their days are numbered, which is why they are doing everything in their power to deflect attention toward "external threats" to Iran.  That's why I don't believe the U.S. will achieve the long-run transformation of Iranian society into a friendlier democracy by targeting the Iranians at this time.  It will only embolden the mullahs and radicalize a potentially friendly population.

I disagree fundamentally that it is not possible to contain and deter the Iranians, just as I disagreed fundamentally last year that it was not possible to contain and deter the Hussein regime.  But, it appears, I'm in the minority.  (Thanks for the projected "dates", Jason and Jon. :) )

In the meanwhile, it should be pointed out that the Iranians do not have Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles to target American cities.  And as for any potential missiles that might reach "Old Europe":  The Europeans are working on their own agreements with the Iranians that would entail vigorous inspections.  If they feel sufficiently threatened, let them invade Iran.

I don't think "Islam" seeks only "submission and death"---because I don't believe Islam is a monolith.  There is enough conflict within Islam and within Arab societies to keep them checking each other for years to come.  In Iran, we are dealing with a Shi'ite theocracy that has not had an amiable relationship with militant Sunni extremist groups like Al Qaeda.  And it is Al Qaeda that struck the United States on September 11th.  And it is Al Qaeda that I believe should be pulverized and utterly destroyed. 

I am a New Yorker.  Have lived here my whole life.  I was in New York City on September 11th.  I lost people that I knew and cared about in that tragedy, and I certainly do not wish to see a "mushroom cloud" over Manhattan.  That's why I think the U.S. should be engaged in the pursuit of short- and long-term foreign policy goals to assure that such horrors never happen again.

Post 63

Thursday, December 9, 2004 - 6:33pmSanction this postReply

Let me point out a significant point of agreement with Chris. He says: I don't think democracy can simply be imposed on societies that don't have the cultural foundations for it. Im going to safely assume he means liberal democracy and not mob rule or a throw-away election like Germany in 1933.


Liberty isnt a simple idea that suddenly occurred out of the blue to some dead European philosopher. It evolved over centuries and I sometimes doubt whether Americans (and our English speaking cousins) understand it, despite the fact that the Anglo-American countries have had some of the best track records of maintaining a liberal society. Now, those that desire to transform their country in the direction of liberty tend to simulate Western examples without the benefit of a fully developed explicit system of political principles. Consequently, the results are limited.


The Bush administration's most knowledge advisors on Iraq, advised against democracy. Daniel Pipes suggested a benign dictator. Bernard Lewis suggested the restoration of the monarchy! In any case, now that we are nation-building in Iraq, I hope for the best and I expect the outcome will be a least a major step forward from the past. But it is a costly way of proceeding.


The cost is compounded by the fact that the administration actually praises the value system that needs to be replaced! It must be confusing for a liberal Iraqi to hear the President of the United States say he loves the religion practiced by the theocratic throw-backs to the dark ages. Sure, Bush says he knows the true Islam and it is not that horrible stuff practiced by .. well, Muslims? Let's just say it would be like Eisenhower telling Khrushchev that we love socialism and wish the USSR would only practice true socialism.


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Post 64

Thursday, December 9, 2004 - 7:09pmSanction this postReply
Excellent points, Jason, and yes, I meant "liberal democracy," not mob-ocracy.

Post 65

Thursday, December 9, 2004 - 7:35pmSanction this postReply
There seems to be agreement on the idea that the only long term solution to Islamic terrorism is for the Arab world to undergo a cultural transformation.  Where I disagree with a lot of hawks is that policies such as regime change and other (but not all) forms of military confrontation against states that don't directly threaten us works against this end.  Now, I suppose it could be argued that "things need to get worse before they get better," and to this I would say history will ultimately tell...

Another point I'd like to make is that for the Arab masses, 'perception is reality' as has been stated by a prominent (former) CIA Middle East expert.  While our military does its best to avoid civilian casualties if at all possible, collateral damage is inevitable in war.  These thug regimes put critical installations near civilian areas for this very reason.  If the US takes out a major strategic military site of the enemy - and kills 80 civilians in the process - what footage and details do you suppose get blared on al Jazeera all day?  It's a scene of some old Arab lady crying over rubble, asking why Bush kills innocent people, and indicating that "God willing" her grandchildren will be martyrs now.  These images resonate immensely on the Arab street, and help complete the image of America as "Great Satan". 

Now I'd like to go on the record by saying that if a threat is truly iminent and there is absolutely no other alternative but lethal military force, such concerns are irrelevant.  But if Arab sentiment at large towards the West is one yardstick by which we measure progress in the fight against Islamic radicals - and I think it is - then I think it's important to consider the political ramifications of our actions.

Yet another good point raised earlier involves the situation of Iranians desperate for reform.  Note how Iran's regime is not a Western puppet in any way, and may in fact be the most theocratic entity in the region. Yet this country has the closest thing to an organized movement friendly to Western principles of anywhere in the region (Israel excluded, obviously).  As Chris pointed out, this is because the regime is having a hard time deflecting the blame away from its own shortcomings, although the Iraq war was a Godsend to them for this and other reasons.

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Post 66

Friday, December 10, 2004 - 2:22pmSanction this postReply
Chris,  it is not just "some Iranians" who chant "Death to America";  such chanting is demanded by those in power.  Their explicit goal is our destruction and the establishment of an Islamic International Civilization.  Please watch these three videos and then tell me you honestly believe 1) that these Iranian leaders are not a threat to America, and 2) that the people they are preaching to are likely to rebel anytime soon:






5 years ago Iran did not have access to uranium. Now, they do.

3 years ago they did not have the ability to enrich that uranium to weapons grade material.  Now they do. 

2  years ago they did not have a missile that could reach Israel. Then last year, they announced the development of the Shehab-3 missile that has the range to reach Israel.  Now, they do.

Recently they announced the development if the Shahab-5, which has the range to reach Europe.

Does anyone see a pattern here?  No, the Iranians do not have missiles that can reach America, YET.  But why should we assume that they will not seek to develop them? Is that the prudent assumption?  


This is what containment has achieved so far.


You favor containment because you believe that Iran is going to self-reform.  Is there a single example in middle east history of such self-reform?  Is there one example of a Muslim population rising up, overthrowing a dictator, and then establishing a western-friendly government?  I am not aware of a single one.  What makes you think it will occur in Iran? 


Granted, there are students dissatisfied with the mullahs.  I'm sure there are millions dissatisfied with the mullahs.  But there were millions dissatisfied with Hussein, who with a  percentage of the minority Sunni population managed to maintain a brutal rule over the rest of the population for decades.  Had we not invaded, do you really think the Iraqi people would have ever overthrown Hussein?


And why is it that an attack will "embolden" the mullahs?  In the first place, many of them will be killed.  In the second place, why do you operate from the premise that the use of American power encourages our enemies?  History refutes this premise.  Time and time again we have seen that it is appeasement that emboldens the enemy, not the use of force against him.


If appeasement were the best policy, and this is what Pete is claiming, then our invasion of Iraq should have left the Iranian mullahs more emboldened than ever.  By this logic, if we turn tail, abandon Iraq and leave the middle east, this will discourage the mullahs and encourage the students? 


By this logic, our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq should have "further radicalized" the Arab street, there should be many more terrorists and the attacks on America should have increased.  Have they?


By this logic, America's failure to respond to two decades of terrorist attacks should have gradually "de-radicalized" the terrorists and their attacks should have slowed.  Did they, or did they simply stage bigger and bigger and bigger attacks until 9/11 happened and we finally responded?


By this logic, Spain's withdrawal from Iraq after the Madrid bombings should have put it in good standing with the Islamic terrorists.  Did it, or did the Spanish just recently break-up an Islamist plot to kill their supreme court: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3981061.stm


By this logic, Turkey's refusal to help with the invasion of Iraq, should have put it in good standing with Islamic terrorists.  Did it, or did the Istanbul banks get bombed?


By this logic, Osama bin Laden should be "further radicalized" by the American response to 9/11, and he should be calling for our destruction with even greater vehemence.  Is he making such a call, or in his latest video, released right before the election, did he not essentially ask for a truce and promise not to harm any state that voted for Kerry?


The reality is, you have got it exactly backwards.






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Post 67

Sunday, April 10, 2005 - 10:18amSanction this postReply

You linked to this article and I read it.

You wrote:
... our most important goal has already been more than accomplished. The complete destruction of the military infrastructure of a nation that was in the hands of a man who desired to use it.
This fact is so obvious to me that I never put it in words before. But apparently it is necessary - vital - because so many don't see it.

Thank you. I will be quoting you.


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