Siren Song of Iran
Citizen Zed - 9/3/10
Flashpoint Iran. The next great catastrophe – or is it just the sordid cherry on top of a confection we've baked for ourselves? Groupthink usually gets its name by a majority only after things careen into disaster. Foresight gets even harder when we're caught up reacting in the wake of other calamities. Iran could well be the next.
“Iran, is going to have a nuclear weapon and it's going to throw it around like mad. And Israel will certainly be the first target. And the world's going to go to war over this. ... As sure as I'm sitting here, I know it's coming. ...if you remember how much this sounds like the workup to WWII, when everybody was letting things go by, letting things happen, and nobody was doing anything to stop what was clearly a track toward war”
So says Lawrence Eagleburger on the Fox Cavuto show, a face du jour for the cause. But what we're really letting happen, letting slide, is precisely the bassackward nature of the alarmist drive to intervention. For the real threat is not Iran. It's us.
It's not just lazy journalism failing to question Eagleburger's received wisdom. Deeper down, regardless of surface disagreements about how to deal with Iran, most of us are drinking the same kool-aid. Ingredient numero uno: “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons”.
Even the Obama Administration has a sugar high on that one. But this is simply absurd in a number of ways. For Iran will have a nuclear weapon if it wants and the price of trying to deny that fact with military means will be horrific. The premise that they “cannot be allowed” is merely a viral case of delusional flatulence. Galilean and Copernican heliocentrism once could “not be allowed”... and history didn't appear to care.
Iran sees two neighboring nations to its East and West occupied by foreign forces. The U.S. has not only intentionally subverted democracy in Iran, inserting the Shah in the early 50's, but also assisted Iraq against Iran in a war of aggression by the former (also involving chemical weapons by Iraq). And now, flanking Iran left and right, the U.S. threatens military measures – along with the persistent “loose cannon/bad cop” threat of Israeli military action.
This history, and the continued gesturing toward military action, are enough to make any Iranian conclude that nuclear weapons are necessary as a deterrent. In fact, evidence strongly suggests that even those Iranians opposed to the current regime share this opinion. It reflects a proud nationalism, an estimation that Persia should join those in the region already with nuclear weapons (Israel/India/Pakistan). And so, to make this issue the forefront of our pointed approach to Iran does nothing to leverage boiling discontent in Iran. If anything, it gives the Ahmadinejad regime a means to unite opinion..
Of course, part and parcel of the “cannot be allowed” line is the dubious notion that Iran would use nuclear weapons against Israel. Such an act would destroy not only the Palestinians, the treatment of whom is the basis of Iranian opposition, but also Iran itself – as Israel at the very least would certainly retaliate. Likewise it makes little sense to believe Iran would be so stupid as to allow obvious proxy resistance movements access to such weapons. The blowback potential would be supremely high. And the potential for export to terrorists is already arguably much higher with Pakistan than with Shia Iran.
Despite bad translations, possibly motivated by a habit of conflating Zionism with the state of Israel, Iran appears quite obviously to maintain a distinction there. It's no different abstractly than a distinction between Apartheid and the nation of South Africa. And we know which one was wiped off the map. But regardless of how any of us feel about maintaining that difference while attacking Zionism, it is certainly irresponsible to advocate war on Iran out of a contorted denial of any possible debate. And since Zionism cannot really be attacked by nuclear weapons, military preemption would appear absurd.
We cannot afford a war with Iran. We cannot hope to deal with a hostile elements in a population more than double that of Iraq. Iran would attack shipping through the Straight of Hormuz, and likely engage in ground operations within Iraq and Afghanistan – proliferating threat vectors which would seriously stress our already taxed military assets. Even if we tried to surgically inhibit Iran, their escalation would force our hand – inviting us into a quagmire in which their chances of ultimate victory would be augmented significantly. Al Qaeda would undoubtedly be delighted at the prospects created by such a diversion. Best bet is that everybody would lose ...except Sunni extremists.
Then there is the disturbing and distinct possibility Iran already has a tactical nuke or two obtained through the black market in the wake of our having “won the cold war”. In this case, do we really want to throw super carrier battle groups into the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman? Sinking an aircraft carrier isn't exactly necessary when an EMP pulse might be functionally equivalent. It's another matter entirely whether Iran might feel justified in using such things in their defense.
We don't have to like the clumsy and repressive Ahmadinejad. We don't have to countenance his obtuse games about the reality of the Holocaust to admit Iran will very likely obtain nuclear weapons – and that there's little we can do to reasonably prevent this. We just need to be rational and resist delusion, for the real danger of ugly war and more fiscal catastrophe comes with this tacit drumbeat to aggressive war from the likes of Eagleburger. If anything accelerates Iran's desire for nuclear weapons, it's this constant threat – all amidst no history of Iranian aggression – which in the Iranian mind drives a pretty obvious conclusion.
For our part, if we want to convince Iran not to develop nuclear weapons, a serious change of course is in order. Though it may well be too late, the best start comes with ditching the “cannot be allowed” line. Thus divested of delusional thinking on that score, we might find a new approach guided by limiting ourselves rather than pompously prescribing limits to others with an imperial countenance - one likely to share the same fate as Ozymandias.