Monday, June 20, 2005

Rumors On The Eastern Front

Whispering about a US desire to move from Iraq into Iran seems to be getting louder. These are still rumors, whispers, trial balloons, batshit fantasies, what-have-you. None of this is yet on the level of consciousness of the average US citizen, who is already polling as "fed-up" with the current overseas adventure and decidedly not ready to take this administration's word to invade some other mid-eastern country.

Billmon puts together many of the current threads in this post, where he also, usefully, notes that that this particular neo-con fantasy seems entirely unworkable. Despite the general international concern about a nuclear-armed Iran, despite the general international desire that Iran allow its huge youth bulge to live the way they want to, nobody will meet a US call to action with any patience whatsoever. The US military is already stretched too thin in Iraq. The rumor that the Iraq army is being trained solely to create a human-wave attack against Iran seems ridiculous. Why on earth would these soldiers in the pay of an occupier prefer to face death rather than fade away (or join an insurgency that promises to rid their land of the occupier's presence)? I'm sure there's a lot of bad blood between Iranians and Iraqis, but from this article of thethe War Nerd on the Iran-Iraq war, it seems entirely likely that the resentment is more alive on the Iranian side.

I don't have any fail-safe solutions to the problems that Iran seems to pose to the US. As far as I know, these problems include 1) the possibility that Iran might acquire a nuclear weapon, 2) Iran's overt funding of Hezbollah, as well as its pretty well-demonstrated covert funding of nastier jihadist groups, and maybe its covert funding of Iraqi insurgent groups, 3) its authoritarian control of a restive, cultured, extraordinary population, 4) its rich resources and strategic geographic position.

Most of these problems are exacerbated, as far as I can tell, by our national machismo: since we are quite officially holding a grudge about the 1970s hostage affair, the politician who tried to deal rationally with the Iranian regime would be subject to domestic evisceration. Oh, and then there's Israel.

I recall a Foreign Affairs article in the Spring, I think, of 2002 that tried to evaluate the rationality of various "rogue" state leaders. The focus of the article was already Saddam; readers of expensive foreign policy journals already knew where insider debate was tending. I wish I could locate this article online--and I've tried, but perhaps not as assiduiously as I could--because the author decided 1) on the balance, that Saddam was likely more rational than not, and 2) that it was fairly indisputable that the Iranian leadership was pragmatic, in its way.

The Iranian leadership is made up of religious fanatics, yes, but they aren't stupid or suicidal (altohugh they're quite willing to encourage young children to run suicide missions). They are quite able to perform the calculus of Axis of Evil+US Army In Iraq=Need For Serious Deterrence. It will take an extraordinary act of humble diplomacy on the US's part to avoid either an Iranian bomb or a US attack.

I'm resigning myself to the idea of an Iranian bomb. Welcome back, childhood nightmares of being bombed with nukes!


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