Thursday, April 20, 2006

can't hear the diplomacy over the rattling of those sabers

I have decided to write this post to be more relevant to current events, namely the illusory crisis over Iran. Part of me feels that while yes, this is a deadly serious matter, it is so obviously on the horizon and not an eminent threat. Many have pointed out by now that Iran has only enriched uranium (in other words, processed large amounts of uranium to extract the more useful isotopes). Still Iran currently has a few hundred centifuges capable of being chained to extract uranium and potential to make the thousands more necessary to produce an arsenal, much less a single bomb. About a decade seems to be the average window in which a nuclear Iran is a credible threat.

But the Barney Fife 'nip-it-in-the-bud' inventionist school of thought demands IMMEDIATE ACTION, which would require the total destruction of at least 300 separate installations in a country. The complete eradication of hardened underground sites leading to the use of tactical nuclear weapons. But calls for pre-emptive action are presumptous and smokescreen from the more pressing security issue of the day. In fact I would argue that even the mullahs of Iran must be rational enough to understand how its options to retaliate have consequences limited their effect

I hope these are just wargaming exercises and not something you think Americans will stand by and take? Then again, we have the unitary executive theory, where the president during wartime is infalliable in all of his actions. Presumably the AUMF will be used to justify military action and claim that we are rhetorically at war and this is in effect, whereas in a legal sense only Congress can declare war and the AUMF isn't a blank check. And the 'spreading freedom and democracy' meme will not justify pre-emptive bombing.

Of course, much has been remarked about how the invasion of Iraq and its non-existent nuclear weapons program contrasts with NoKorea's more successful efforts. Saddam and Kim were both clowns in the rogues gallery of world figures, but Saddam proved to be the paper tiger, not even aware of all the sycophants around him. Kim, the decadent dynast, used the nation enslaved by his father to build something everyone will fear them for. The inchoate rage at all of these threats can drive some people into slavering desire to make the world a nuclear desert. Presumably, when arguing for the irradiation of the Muslim world there is no global weather events and these wouldn't effect people in Peoria.

Well then you have to think (if you are Rummy) you and what army? The one about to mutiny and waiting to toss you off the ship? The one trying to establish civic order in two of the nations surrounding the area your thinking to destroy? Ahh yes, the 'modern' and unconventional one in your mind which struggles to balance that objective atop their overflowing plate. Then again, the divinely inspired Decider would make this decision, as all decisions are made. Throw in a political director who wants to cement his faltering legacy as Republican kingmaker in time for this year's elections and an unbelievably villainous second-in-command who has no regard for just why Vice President is not a very specified or useful job in our system of government.

Still as I think the more people know about this plan and compare it to Iraq, the more impossible it becomes politically. This scenario has been credible since the Clinton years according to Richard Clarke, and the military options we are discussing now were created then. But they gave up when they could find no favorable conclusion to any Iran nuclear scenario. Of course, this could be both a way to boost the administration and a bluff.

The three major thrusts of an Iranian counterattack considered in the media are: disruption of the oil trade in the Persian Gulf; sponsorship of terrorist actions in the US; and terrorist actions in southern Iraq.

Controlling the Persian Gulf's oil would be economic war on all the Gulf nations, isolating Iran regionally and raising the price of oil for emerging consumer nations like China. Of course, you can still get some oil from Nigeria or Venezuela, but Kuwait and the UAE are would be stuck by a blockade of the Straits of Hormuz, provoking more international support for further action to contain the Iranian navy. And in the post 9-11 consciousness of the world community, a terrorist response would evaporate sympathy received as the victim of unilateral action. As for Hezbolah, its connection with Iran and its unwillingness to disarm causes friction inside Lebanon already, making the Lebanese quite unwilling to make their nation a proxy battleground for the Iranians, Like the Lebanese, most Iraqis don't want to be tools of Tehran and would disapprove of their countrymen who do.

This leaves me wondering just how different the Middle East will be in that decade, and whether we won't have more pressing things to worry about then, as now.

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