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We're all to blame.
January 27, 2005 9:35 PM   Subscribe

We're all to blame. In January 2002, Scott Ritter called Iraq a "phantom threat" and warned us of Ahmed Chalabi's "dubious motivations" for fomenting a war based on phony intel. Now Ritter is saying that we're all responsible for Iraq, because we, as a public, bought into the unproven argument that Iraq had WMDs. In that light, how should we view the Iranian situation? Is it fair for the US to use its power to insist upon arguably hypocritical terms for a fellow signatary to the Non Proliferation Treaty? Doesn't Iran have legitimate rights for nuclear development? Shouldn't we demand proof of a nuclear weapons program before we even consider starting a conflict our military believes would most certainly escalate? The Bush administration says that "there's NO DOUBT that Iran continues a nuclear program"... an obvious lie. There is no proof of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Period.
posted by insomnia_lj (100 comments total)

 
we, as a public, bought into the unproven argument that Iraq had WMDs

Did you really? I'm still bewildered by this. I thought it was clear as day to many, even at the time that the drumbeat was reaching a fever pitch and Colin Powell was playacting at the UN, that there was no good evidence that there were weapons. Were the majority of people in America really sucked in by the lies and propaganda?

I wonder.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:46 PM on January 27, 2005


Huh.

Well, iran just seems so much more capable then iraq in building these weapons. And it's also clear that while no one claims they have a bomb, they are enriching uranium.

Once you have the enriched uranium, the bomb part is easy.
posted by delmoi at 9:48 PM on January 27, 2005


I see no other reason why a country that has no need for nuclear energy (considering it's sizable oil reserves) is building nuclear reactors?

Was there any proof that India and Pakistan had built nuclear weapons before they both performed tests?
posted by PenDevil at 9:48 PM on January 27, 2005


"while no one claims they have a bomb, they are enriching uranium"

In a legal, monitored fashion, in compliance with the NPT. There is no proof of them enriching uranium for military purposes.

"I see no other reason why a country that has no need for nuclear energy is building nuclear reactors..."

It makes financial sense, in the same reason that French or U.S. nuclear power plants also make financial sense. They allow the Iranians to save their oil production for export at highly inflated prices... and those prices are going up every day.
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:55 PM on January 27, 2005


And there won't ALWAYS be oil there...

Maybe that's part of it. The US want's to sell energy back to the Iranians after they are sucked dry...

A little forethought in the energy dept. could do a lot of countries a lot of good...
posted by Balisong at 10:02 PM on January 27, 2005


I'm pretty sure that Iran's oil reserves are large enough to ensure cheap oil prices locally while still having a considerable amount to sell on the global market.

Also the US and France (especially France, they get 40% of their power from Nukes) have nuclear power for the exact opposite reason than Iran, that is they don't enough (or any) oil for even domestic consumption.
posted by PenDevil at 10:05 PM on January 27, 2005


StavrosTWC,

the question is too simple. No, many of us didn't think Saddam had anything what would hurt U.S. very much. We pretty much figured, having had a look at the receipts, that there'd be some amount of bad-in-the-wrong-hands sort of stuff, which would be retroactively trumpeted into a justification. Alas, not even that.

Plus, we had to acknowledge that he had been known to kill folks with toxins and whatnot.

As to whether it was worth an invasion or not, I think everyone agrees that hippys suck.
posted by hackly_fracture at 10:06 PM on January 27, 2005


There is no proof of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Period.

Insomnia, there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence of enrichment that, with IAEA treaty violations, suggests a non-fuel program. Here is a link to a non-partisan NGO which summarizes the violations and various technologies which Iran is pursuing.

These factual problems are, of course, separate from whether a state like Iran has a "right" to develop a nuclear arms program.

Particularly in response to what it, and other nations, sees as an agressive, warmongering empire (US).
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:07 PM on January 27, 2005


>There is no proof of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Period.

Well, if there is none then I'm sure it will be manufactured.

Reading AlexReynold's comment, there's enough doubt and uncertainty out there. I don't think any pro-War or right-thinking Bush voter will be discouraged by the *facts*.

Iran has been deeply embedded in the national psyche of many countries, for far longer than Saddam's Iraq. "Iran is bad, the mu-llahs are bad, and if they get the bomb they'll blow up Israel!!!" PHOTOS!!!
posted by gsb at 10:12 PM on January 27, 2005


I see no other reason why a country that has no need for nuclear energy (considering it's sizable oil reserves) is building nuclear reactors?

Maybe they've got their own internal reasons, such as making a tradeoff for one kind of environmental peril over another. The fact that you can't come up with a reason doesn't prove that they are building a bomb, but does (ironically) indicate you are ignoring or simply don't respect their sovereignty.

Was there any proof that India and Pakistan had built nuclear weapons before they both performed tests?

And if there was, would we have invaded either of them?
posted by bafflegab at 10:13 PM on January 27, 2005


"I see no other reason why a country that has no need for nuclear energy is building nuclear reactors..."
except maybe to discourage godless foreign powers from occupying them.
"As to whether it was worth an invasion or not, I think everyone agrees that hippys suck."
What? I just don't get your point. Huh? Hippys?
posted by arse_hat at 10:14 PM on January 27, 2005


So we're going after Iran right after we've finished completely mangling Iraq into a seething hotbed of terrorist activity, anti-Americanism and mad payments to contractors (cough, cough, Halliburton, cough, cough)?

I hear they're right next door to Iraq so they can probably just use the same soldiers and save some money on flights home.

arse_hat, would occupation by God-filled foreign powers be any better? Because that's about how I feel about my own country.
posted by fenriq at 10:18 PM on January 27, 2005


Nigeria is also looking to build a nuclear power plant, despite their status as an oil producing nation. So are the United Arab Emirates, a country that sits on oil reserves many, many times that of Iran per capita.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:19 PM on January 27, 2005


Why are we even talking about this? All the nuclear players have come to the table and have agreed to begin safeguarding against nuclear proliferation. An era of peace beckons

I find it hard to believe that here we are again -- "only worse". WTF? It's ALL propaganda! This is the war drummer clearing his throat before he digs in for the performance.

Any kind of terror poured upon any innocent, anywhere, is a crime. It is high time we began to stand against this global manipulation and no longer recognize this geopolitical, corporate boardroom infused theater which many of us may not live to see the farewell episode of anyhow.

posted by crasspastor at 10:20 PM on January 27, 2005


fenriq, i dislike all gods. To me it all comes down to wankers claiming their god is the biggest most awsomeist godly dude. :-)
posted by arse_hat at 10:24 PM on January 27, 2005


Ah, already things sound like the Iraq war run-up all over again, on this very thread! Why would they need nuclear power? Circumstantial evidence. The Mullahs are bad.

That's all the proof we need, right? I mean, those are exactly the kind of things said about Iraq, and we know that turned out correct.

Iran is more likely to be developing nukes than Iraq was, for sure. But, before we even consider going to war with them, this citizen demands actual proof, not vague assurances. And even then, we have the sticky issue of ill intent towards America, with the nukes in mind.

But in any event, this is all academic. Unless some other country wants to loan us their army, we don't have a military option. So we either hope they aren't developing nukes, or we try to stop them diplomatically, because we can't go to war with them. I suppose if one liked to play brinksmanship games with world stability, we could try targeted bombings, and hope and pray that Iran didn't call our bluff and decide to throw its hat in the Iraqi ring. Ah, but then we are back to needing proof -- because we would need to know what to bomb!
posted by teece at 10:28 PM on January 27, 2005


Actually, to clarify, the United Arab Emirates don't only have far more oil reserves than Iran per capita, they also have more oil than Iran in total, with the world's third largest oil reserves, just behind those of Iraq.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:28 PM on January 27, 2005


Yes but are they (UAE and Nigeria) planning on enriching Uranium? And have either of those countries ever threatened to use nuclear weapons if they had them? Do either of those countries have a growing paranoid fear of invasion and do either of them have their self declared "arch enemy" occupying a country next door?

(Disclaimer: I think a US strike in Iran is possibly the worst thing that could happen, but I still don't like the idea of Iran having nukes.)
posted by PenDevil at 10:40 PM on January 27, 2005


You heard the man.
You are going to go out there and BRING FREEDOM to the WHOLE WORLD.
Whether they want it or not.
posted by nightchrome at 10:52 PM on January 27, 2005


Seymour Hersh's latest piece in The New Yorker sums up how we'll go after Iran. If he's right (as he often is), it will be tactical strikes this time, instead of an all-out invasion. The Neocons think this will cause the Iranian people to rise up against the government and usher in peace and democracy, blah blah blah.
You may also notice Iran's convenient location, smack dab between Afghanistan and Iraq.
posted by sixdifferentways at 10:53 PM on January 27, 2005


have a growing paranoid fear of invasion

Yeah, Paranoids...
posted by Balisong at 10:53 PM on January 27, 2005


The Iranian people will rise up against the government, just like the Iraqi people welcomed the US with flowers and such.
posted by nightchrome at 10:54 PM on January 27, 2005


Seymour Hersh's latest piece in The New Yorker sums up how we'll go after Iran. If he's right (as he often is), it will be tactical strikes this time, instead of an all-out invasion. The Neocons think this will cause the Iranian people to rise up against the government and usher in peace and democracy, blah blah blah.
You may also notice Iran's convenient location, smack dab between Afghanistan and Iraq.


I saw him talking about that on TDS a couple days ago. I really didn't know what to think, honestly, except "oh my".
posted by The God Complex at 10:55 PM on January 27, 2005


"there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence of enrichment that, with IAEA treaty violations, suggests a non-fuel program."

True, there is some circumstantial evidence, but there's very little damning evidence to support the article's conclusion.

If you check up on Dr. Frank Barnaby, the author of the report, you'll find that he's gotten a bit sensational in his old age. (The guy is nearly 80 now and writes popular books on the nuclear threat.)

His assessment isn't as balanced as I would have hoped, and it doesn't accurately reflect either the tone or attitude of the IAEA, which is far less unified in opinion on Iran than you would suggest.

Barnaby, incidentally, is the same expert who said before the war in Iraq that Iraq had tested a nuclear device in 1989, and that Iraq was seeking nuclear material for its weapons program. Both statements have since been disproven.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:55 PM on January 27, 2005


"but I still don't like the idea of Iran having nukes.”
I don’t either but then, I also don’t like the idea of the US, France, UK and Russia having them, so I guess I just have to trust that they all will not blow my sorry ass up.
posted by arse_hat at 10:59 PM on January 27, 2005


Even if they are building nuclear weapons, it doesnt give us the right to go into their country and take them. This whole preemptive war thing is bullshit.

If we actually want to decrease the likelihood of being attacked by terrorists, wouldnt it be a bad idea to invade yet another Islamic theocracy? If our Christian president rolls his troops into Iran after already usurping Afghanistan and Iraq, it will begin to look a lot like a full-scale invasion of Arabic / Islamic territory. But maybe thats what hes been planning the whole time.
posted by sophist at 11:03 PM on January 27, 2005


"Yes but are they (UAE and Nigeria) planning on enriching Uranium?"

Quite possibly in the case of Nigeria. After all, they're a major producer of uranium themselves.

Many countries legitimately enrich uranium for peaceful nuclear fuel production. And really, when Iran produces mineable uranium, why *shouldn't* they enrich it?

"And have either of those countries ever threatened to use nuclear weapons if they had them?"

That is an inaccurate account of what was said. Iran's *former* president Rafsanjani said:

"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world."

In other words, he said that if an Islamic country or countries had nukes, then there would be a stalemate -- mutually assured destruction -- and that the cost of such a war would be even worse for the Israelis.
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:07 PM on January 27, 2005


That's not Mutually Assured Destruction. MAD is when both parties will be wiped out. Rafsjani is clearly saying that if there was a nuclear exchange Israel would be blown off the map but Iran (if that's what he meant by 'Muslim world' although he might be talking about all of Israel's neighbours as well) will only be 'damaged'. And he is not saying there will be a stalemate he is saying that the 'strategy colonialism' (which I think refers either to Israel's occupation of the West Bank/Gaza or even Israel's actual existence) will be at a stalemate, and therefore unsustainable.

Actually, now that I think of it is there any actual proof that Israel really has nuclear weapons (although I do believe personally they have them)? Sure they have the Dimona reactor but has anyone outside Israel (or Mordecai Vanunu) ever claimed to have seen one? Israel may have made veiled assertions that they have them but since when did we believe politicians at face value?
posted by PenDevil at 11:27 PM on January 27, 2005


You cannot be responsible for something over which you have no control. Therefore the first premise in your post is false, at least for some of us.
posted by rushmc at 11:32 PM on January 27, 2005


So the Bush Administration is not responsible, because they are merely following God's Plan as dictated to GWB.
You gonna argue with God?
posted by nightchrome at 11:34 PM on January 27, 2005


I don't have the details handy, but they locked an Israeli up for for many, many years for saying Israel had nukes. If it wasn't true, they'd have had no grounds to imprison him, no?

I suppose it could be an elaborate double-blind to fool everyone into thinking they DO have them when in fact they DON'T .... and locking up one guy for most of his life is sure a lot cheaper than an actual bomb program.

But I wouldn't want to bet on that, personally. They are highly intelligent and highly motivated. I'd be shocked if they DIDN'T have nukes after all these years.
posted by Malor at 11:35 PM on January 27, 2005


Do either of those countries have a growing paranoid fear of invasion

It's not paranoia when they are out to get you.
posted by pompomtom at 11:36 PM on January 27, 2005


"That's not Mutually Assured Destruction. MAD is when both parties will be wiped out. . . Actually, now that I think of it is there any actual proof that Israel really has nuclear weapons?"

Why yes. Yes there is. Their politicians have said it, and the US has the evidence of their nuclear tests on satellite.

Poor Israel. I guess that if Iran becomes a nuclear power, they'll feel compelled to build another hundred nukes to go with the hundred they already have, so they can kill every Muslim in the entire world. Hell... they can wipe out all humanity while they're at it!

"We considered a war in which a mere 100 megatons were exploded, less than one percent of the world arsenals, and only in low-yield airbursts over cities. This scenario, we found, would ignite thousands of fires, and the smoke from these fires alone would be enough to generate an epoch of cold and dark almost as severe as in the 5000 megaton case." - Carl Sagan, "The Nuclear Winter"

You do know that Israel has threatened countries with nuclear weapons before, right?!
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:54 PM on January 27, 2005


If Iran did have a nuclear bomb, the time to use it would be now, and the place to use it would be Iraq. Two birds, one stone.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:04 AM on January 28, 2005


Oops. Forgot my supporting nuclear weapons.

Here, have some pictures.

Mmm.. Pretty bomb core!
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:06 AM on January 28, 2005


"I guess that if Iran becomes a nuclear power, they'll feel compelled to build another hundred nukes to go with the hundred they already have"

Sorry. Israel has 400 nukes, not just 100. My bad.

If each of those are 20-kiloton like the ones of theirs that were mentioned during the '70s, that mens that Israel has 8000 kilotons total -- easily enough to bring on a fullscale nuclear winter.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:14 AM on January 28, 2005


Was there any proof that India and Pakistan had built nuclear weapons before they both performed tests?

And if there was, would we have invaded either of them?


Hopefully not. India can take care of itself, and they're getting increasingly suspicous of us, rightly so, as we continue to kiss Pervez's ass. I hope we're not blowing what could be a very rewarding Indo-American relationship over this.
posted by homunculus at 12:29 AM on January 28, 2005


Somewhat ironically, one of Iran's best defenses against a full-scale US invasion on the grounds that they have WMD's is how likely they are to actually have them (their other best defense is, of course, just how overstretched the US military currently is.) If they genuinely do have nukes, and the US invades, they could very well decide that they might as well use them - not a pleasant scenario.

Essentially, if the US invades on the grounds that they have nukes, then they probably don't. The same went for Iraq, at the time.
posted by kyrademon at 12:36 AM on January 28, 2005


You do know that Israel has threatened countries with nuclear weapons before, right?!
Of course they have, it's probably one of the few things that have kept them from being invaded since the 70's.

I also know (and so do the Israeli's) that any use of nuclear weapons would be a 'Samson option' which while severly hurting it's attackers, would most probably result in it's own destruction and that of it's 6 million inhabitants.

homunculus: And funnily enough Israel and India have never had better relations .
posted by PenDevil at 12:41 AM on January 28, 2005


kyrademon- sad t osay that is the best logi I've heard all day. For that Matter we won't deakl with North Korea or Pakistan either. We all knew Bush had no international accumen but how could we know that he didn't have the capacity to learn from his mistakes either?

when Osama said that he hoped that America would be a shadow of its former self who knew how right he would be. At this point we couldn't fight our way out of a wet paper bag. No other nation in the world would follow our lead again. God forbid trying to open another theater in the Middle East.

If we had spent 100 billion dolars to overthrow Saddam without going to war in a covert way it could have been done with out the massive amount of destruction or loss of life.

I so F**king hate war.
posted by wonway at 12:45 AM on January 28, 2005


PenDevil: India actually detonated a nuclear bomb in 1974. Suspicions were strong for Pakistan.

Also... little of the crude oil pumped out of Middle East is actually refined there. It's probably more economical long term to use nuclear power than to sell off increasingly valuable crude. Most gulf nations are far more aware than we are that the oil is going to run out soon... nations like Bahrain save large sums of cash waiting for such a day,

Kinda reminds me of Rumsfeld horrible logic on why N. Korea not needing nuclear power. Why didn't they need it? Because the country hasn't been electrified for shit, as witnessed by a nighttime sat photo above his desk showing how dark the country was at night. So they don't need power plants because they don't have enough power to turn lights on at night... riiiiiight. And this man was in charge of stabilizing Iraq?
posted by trinarian at 1:02 AM on January 28, 2005


This has probably been in the works since the Reagan Era. Elected officials like Bush and Congress are essentially manipulated into rationalizing reasons for conquest. Iraq and Afghanistan are just part of a preplanned attack strategy to get into Iran. I infer from de facto events that 911 was part of the plan.

So many wacky things, like the invasion of afghanistan to capture the foriegn national Bin Laden for the act of 19 incinerated saudis [but never actually doing so], invented weapons of mass destruction, and a host of other ridiculous pretenses suddenly start fitting a pattern.
posted by Osmanthus at 1:51 AM on January 28, 2005


Iran needs nuclear weapons for the same reason Iraq did, and every other sovereign country does . The Bush Doctrine states that a nation perceived to be a threat to the US may be preemptively attacked before they attack us.

The one way to stop the US that doesn't involve the complete destruction of your economy is to build nuclear weapons. If you have nukes, you can look the US in the eye and say "The first division that lands on our soil dies. Seattle dies with them. Your call. Yes, you can nuke us into the stone age. We may get four, five cities, tops. Still, your call."

That's why Iran and North Korea have been working so hard on this. They remember the roll-call of the Axis of Evil. They know what happened to Iraq. They have no illusions as to what Bush wants to do. They're not stupid. They can't fight the US conventionally.

They're building nuclear weapons, as fast as they possibly can. It's a simple race -- can they get a functional device tested before the attack.

That's the fallout (pun damn well intended) of the Bush Doctrine. "If you don't have nukes, you're not really sovereign, are you? We can invade at any time, if we wish, and you'll end up like Saddam."

As to Israel vs. the Muslim World. Any such exchange would certainly result in the destruction of Mecca and Medinah, and, in turn, of the fifth pillar of Islam, namely, the Hajj. Nevermind the millions that would die in the few, but very densely populated, cities of the Middle East.

Meanwhile, it's our supposed ally, Pakistan, that's the single biggest factor in nuclear proliferation right now.

Finally, China. China has been making *big* deals with Iran for oil. China needs oil, badly. Anything that disrupts this will piss of the country that makes most of what we consume here. I could easily see the response to a US strike on Iraq being China holding a fire-sale on US Bonds.

That, my friends, may well leave you longing for the quick end a theoretical Iranian nuclear weapon might give you.
posted by eriko at 4:28 AM on January 28, 2005


The thing I find most disturbing is that the public manipulations have gotten so weak. It is not so much that they lie but that they lie so poorly.

I can remember when leaders had enough respect for the people that they tried to be clever in subverting their democratic will.
posted by srboisvert at 4:29 AM on January 28, 2005


I have to admit that the thing I felt most sickened about, pre-war, was the fact that Bush could be right. He'd march in there, blow up some civilians, and discover trillions of tons of Sarin gas. Everyone would forget the half-assed "attempts" to negotiate, and our dubious evidence, and hail Iraq II as a Good Thing.

I don't know if I envy the alternate universes where that happened.
posted by Plutor at 4:46 AM on January 28, 2005


It makes you wonder: " What if the 911 attack had been prevented...what would the neocons be up to? "
posted by lobstah at 4:58 AM on January 28, 2005


And they will continue to lie because they know America is full of people like delmoi, pen-devil et al who feel a happy tingle in their loins every time they hear the word WAR. Nuke 'em, I say, nuke 'em!
posted by acrobat at 5:03 AM on January 28, 2005


I still think this saber-rattling is a bluff, intended to keep the Iranians out of Iraq.
Iran, unlike Iraq, is probably going to turn back to the west eventually.
Bush et al are probably thinking because no reformers in Iran are going to be involved with their bomb program, to attack it, while alienating all parties, would still destabilize the mullahs' regime more than it would alienate the reformers.
I would guess Bush, etc. are thinking the mullahs think in the long run they can't rule without a nuke; therefore fear of losing the nuke program will make them pull back in Iraq.
So, while the invasion is probably a bluff, the strikes are not.
posted by atchafalaya at 5:34 AM on January 28, 2005


"There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, it's probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. It fool me. We can't get fooled again."

Never trust a liar, especially an idiotic religious fanatic liar.
posted by fleener at 5:56 AM on January 28, 2005


The Neocons have proven themselves incapable of thinking strategically (in a successful sense).

- The U.S. military is straining: morale, retention and recruitment are low. The "Home Front" is strangely wide-open for any potential invasion.
- Public opinion is only slightly in their favor and only for non-"Neo" reasons such as gay marriage and entrenched traditions of rural jingoism
- It's increasingly clear how dependant on the world the foundations of the U.S. economy are and how it is not leaning in favor of the U.S. and getting worse
- The two existing fronts of the WoT have not been "won", meanwhile we are threatening to expand to a new front.

My guess is that we will perform strikes against Iran. Some will be successful but most will be tragic, in costs of human suffering (Iranian). Violence in the Middle East will escalate and the strange Israeli-Palestinian "peace" will disintegrate into the worse violence ever with the majority of casualties on the Palestinian side, again. World opinion of the U.S. will sink low - possible even so low that the U.S. officially and publicly is recognized as a threat to the smaller global powers.

But then, maybe I'm just a pessimist.
posted by melt away at 5:59 AM on January 28, 2005


They [the Israelis] are highly intelligent and highly motivated.

As opposed to all those other nations full of unintelligent, unmotivated people?

The world is full of intelligent, motivated people all trying to look out for themselves. Fortunately for some and unfortunately for others, the US giant picks sides, jumps into the fight, and blows the heads off intelligent, motivated people until the thing is decided its way.
posted by pracowity at 6:02 AM on January 28, 2005


atchafalaya: I still think this saber-rattling is a bluff, intended to keep the Iranians out of Iraq.

I thought that at first, but now I'm not sure. If this administration believes in the neocon tenets it purports to believe in, they went in to the Iraq war knowing that it was only the beginning of the decisive conflict. Once they started in Iraq, they knew they would have no time to sit back and lick their wounds before going after Iran and North Korea.

I tend to believe that the core neocon leaders are still sticking to their initial plans for world domination (aka the spread of freedom), and are still working on an accelerated time scale (because their doctrine tells them that they have no other choice).
posted by syzygy at 6:31 AM on January 28, 2005


If you have nukes, you can look the US in the eye and say "The first division that lands on our soil dies. Seattle dies with them. Your call. Yes, you can nuke us into the stone age. We may get four, five cities, tops. Still, your call."

This wouldn't be the case with Iran, just like it's not the case with India or Pakistan. Both have nuclear weapons, but neither has a delivery system that can go far enough to hit us. Besides, the case for Iran is similar to that of North Korea. If P'yongyang were to decide to lob one at Los Angeles, they'd never find out whether they succeeded, as P'yongyang would cease to exist at some point while the missile was still over the Pacific. Depending on where the rest of our subs are (and if we were thinking of invading Iran, you know they'd put one in the Persian Gulf, Tehran would be in a similar situation: if they had the means to destroy Seattle, and actually tried to use it, Seattle would exist for several minutes longer than Tehran.

on preview: I forgot to add how stupid it is to say that the entire public is responsible for the actions of some of its members. It wasn't valid in kindergarten when the teacher punished the entire class because someone put gum on her chair, and it certainly isn't valid now.
posted by oaf at 6:43 AM on January 28, 2005


One of the real tragedies of the Iraq situation is that it will hamper and corrupt debates about WMD proliferation (nuclear, of course, being the most important) forever. Criminally faulty intelligence and profound geopolitical, cultural ignorance along with typical Bush incompetence has created a disaster.

However, do not be fooled, there are regimes out there that have or our developing nuclear weapons that should be denied them absolutely, one way or another. Iran is one of the most frightening examples – apologists, left-leaning conspiracists and well meaning but (rightly) highly suspicious people favour inaction off the back of a variety of false prospectuses:

1. There is no evidence they are. Bollocks – there is much more reliable intelligence involved and a growing, global consensus that Iran indeed has a far, far more advanced nuclear weapons programme than could ever have existed in Iraq for the last 20 years. Iran has very good strategic reasons for having a nuclear deterrent. That does not mean it should be allowed one.

2. The West and its partner/allies have nuclear weapons, what right do we have to deny others, they want them to stay sovereign, etc. This is foolishness. Geopolitics are not and cannot be based on the concepts of fairness that underpin personal relationships. The UK, USA, France, China etc. having nuclear weapons is in no way equivalent to Iran (or arguably Pakistan) having them. Why? These are stable nations, connected to the global economy and operate on the basis of self-interest and therefore are highly unlikely to use such weapons – meglomanical fascists and theocratic fantasists do not. Sovereignty? It’s the concept that prevented stopping genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda – totally outdated in its current form as we are all interdependent.

3. Etc. Etc.

4. BTW, you can’t put the nuclear genie back in the bottle so CND types need to get used to it. Its just a question of managing the risk – more states having weapons increases it. Truly Neanderthal, theocratic regimes having them exponentially does.

I agree that there is no real military option – the programme is spread out and would be difficult to target. The political situation in the Middle East does not need any more inflammation. Bush and his team are seriously stupid and would get it wrong anyway.

So both US sabre rattling and half-arsed EU finger wagging are wrong. This is a serious issue and the recent NYT leader got it right:


"There is no question that Iran has been covertly developing the capacity to build nuclear weapons, and that diplomacy has so far failed to end these efforts. But precipitate American military action would almost certainly do far more harm than good. No major American ally, including Britain, favors such an approach. American planes and missiles alone cannot knock out all of Iran's many secret nuclear sites.
An invasion of a country almost three times as populous as Iraq is well beyond the means of America's depleted ground forces. And an American military attack is probably the one thing still able to unite Iran's restive but nationalist population behind the unpopular clerical dictatorship.
The most effective leverage available to Washington is international economic sanctions. If American diplomacy can line up traditional European allies, there is a fair chance that the Iranian nuclear program can still be stopped."
posted by The Salaryman at 6:44 AM on January 28, 2005


Salaryman, good points.

I envision myself, two months from now, feeling absolutely sick when we come up with new evidence linking Iran to....something as-yet unspecified. Probably the tsunami. Friends and family will be horrified, and I'll react cynically, and they'll poo-poo me.

It doesn't feel good to be helpless.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 6:52 AM on January 28, 2005


If Iran is an actual threat, there's a good chance there won't be public support for a war there, since Bush cried wolf with such spectacular results on Iraq. I guess that's why you're not supposed to lie to your constituency.
posted by Hildago at 7:17 AM on January 28, 2005


Misera humanidad. La culpa es tuya (Miserable humanity. The fault is thine!) writes a wolf in Desastre 74 Esto es lo peor (That is the worst of it). The source for this sentence is the poem Gli animali parlanti - The talking animals- by Giambattista Casti, Goyas contemporary.
posted by Shane at 7:25 AM on January 28, 2005


The most effective leverage available to Washington is international economic sanctions.

Always the stick, never the carrot. How about trying to get some Iranians to like the US for a change?

According to the CIA (which probably has a few offices in Iran), 40 percent of Iranians (so about 27 million of 69 million) are living below the poverty line. Instead of using bullets on them, bite the bullet and sink some constructive money into the country. Invest in their economy (maybe private money but backed by US government guarantees) so that people with low incomes (not just the oil folk) feel the effect.

If the US spent 100 billion dollars there and lost it all, it would still be cheaper than going to war, and the result would be happier Iranians with less reason to fight the US or anyone else, and not, as would be the case with war, 69 million people who all have reason to be against the US.
posted by pracowity at 7:32 AM on January 28, 2005


And they will continue to lie because they know America is full of people like delmoi, pen-devil et al who feel a happy tingle in their loins every time they hear the word WAR. Nuke 'em, I say, nuke 'em!

WTF?
posted by delmoi at 7:34 AM on January 28, 2005


I'm with pracowity, I think. The Salaryman, how well did economic sanctions work in Iraq? Don't you recall that the regime was fine and the mass of citizens were hurt?

According to the Institute for International Economics, the U.N. has used economic sanctions 14 times (twelve times since 1990). How'd it go? Ask the citizens of Rwanda, Cambodia, Angola, Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Sierra Leone.

Sanctions just don't work.
posted by Cassford at 7:56 AM on January 28, 2005


How about trying to get some Iranians to like the US for a change?

Considering that the US Gov't has been fucking with Iran since at least the days of Kermit Roosevelt, I wonder if that's even possible. But as far as the rest of it goes, the only way we (and Iraq) are ever going to recover from this Iraq adventure, is to embark upon some type of Marshall Plan for the mideast (Iran included). Economic development is the only thing that's got a chance at solving some of these problems. War never solved a thing.

Any kind of terror poured upon any innocent, anywhere, is a crime.

Amen, crasspastor, amen.
posted by psmealey at 8:28 AM on January 28, 2005


I think that Salaryman's points are mostly good ones. The idea of a nuclear-armed Iran scares me much more than the threat of a similar Iraq did. Mostly because Iran is much much closer to having a bomb, it seems, but also because they are exporters of militant Islamic war. I am no kind of apologist for Israels decisions and actions, but Hezbollah are not the nicest folks, and they are clients of Iran. Iran is ruled by a very religious theocracy that has thwarted all of the local attempts at reform.

When people write about nuke acquisition by Iran as a legitimate defensive play on their part, I think that that tells only a small and comforting part of a larger story. I have faith that Israel, for instance, will not use their bombs offensively in the current world, but I have no such faith about Iran.
posted by OmieWise at 8:29 AM on January 28, 2005


Salaryman said:
"the recent NYT leader got it right: "There is no question that Iran has been covertly developing the capacity to build nuclear weapons"

Oh please. Why say something you both can't prove?

"There is no evidence they are. Bollocks"

I said proof, not evidence. Proof. Something generally based upon a overwhelming proponderance of trustworthy evidence. Are you obtuse?

"there is . . . a growing, global consensus that Iran indeed has a . . . advanced nuclear weapons programme"

Where is this growing global consensus? Can you show it to me? Why isn't the IAEA a part of it? Why does the head of the IAEA say:

"Have we seen any proof of a weapons programme? Have we seen undeclared [uranium] enrichment? There is none of that."

You, sir, are saying things you cannot prove. You are misleading people and misleading yourself, without providing even a single link or shred of evidence to support your assertions... and that's the problem with the neocons and the Bush administration in a nutshell. They talk a good game, but what they say has no bearing on reality.

If statements such as yours lead to a war, it's entirely possible that some of the soldiers I know are going to die because of it. So, before anything like that happens, let's just make one thing clear.

You're a lying SOB. Fuck off.

(Thanks. I needed that.)
m.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:30 AM on January 28, 2005


Interestingly, relationships between the U.S. and Iran were starting to warm up in 1998, but Bush put an end to "soccer diplomacy".
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:32 AM on January 28, 2005


You're a lying SOB. Fuck off.

Ah, what a clever riposte! Nothing beats such a high level of discourse.

The Salaryman is spot-on in his analysis. Nuclear proliferation is a serious global concern. The fact that it was used as one of the justifications of a dubious war does not make it less so. Certainly, the Bush administration might use evidence of a military nuclear program in Iran as justification for invasion. However, this doesn't license denial of the possible problem simply because you want to avoid that. Iran may or may not be developing nukes (I don't know for sure, nor does anyone else here), but nuclear proliferation is a real problem with terrible ramifications and no easy answers. It doesn't solve anything to plug your ears and deny the problem simply because you're afraid of how the information might be used.

It's quite pathetic that folks have been reduced to debating about whether or not Iran has nukes. Either they do or they don't, and we might not know the truth. And reason you're debating is because you assume that nukes=invasion. In fact, what you should be debating is whether or not this last part is the right strategy. Grow the balls to stand up and confront the real question, based on the real worst-case scenario: suppose Iran has nukes. What should we do? But I guess that question is too hard for you, since it has no easy solution.

No doubt you will dismiss this post as the ranting of a "neocon" (just as you did The Salaryman's, even though he decries Bush and the Iraq war in his post). In your paranoid delusions, that's no doubt true. Keep the tinfoil hat glued tightly to your head, though!
posted by casu marzu at 9:14 AM on January 28, 2005


Lying means knowing the truth and not telling it. That is not what I am doing and name calling won’t help. In fact, when you think about it, you can't prove much of anything. It is hard for me to prove that I exist, in a real sense. I am a cynical man who distrusts and despises most aspects of US foreign policy.

However, I trust the likes of the NYT, Economist, FT, BBC, etc etc over unaccountable, conspiratorial 'alternative' sources. I have several close relatives in uniform as well, thank you very much you self-rightous star child. I was merely expressing an informed opinion (something Iranians can't do, but that is another point). Nor will my little words on a web site spark a war, you self-linking space cadet. And if you read what I said, I do not want a war at all.

I suppose I could have sat here and peppered my post with links to old, out of context articles and fringe media. But I can’t be bothered as I am at work.

I have nothing to do with Bush, neocons or any of these, personally, professionally or ideologically. The shrillness of your response suggests activism rather than informed, considered analysis. Once again, grow up. Stick that in your kafia and smoke it.
posted by The Salaryman at 9:17 AM on January 28, 2005


(I think casu's response was wittier and better than mine. I guess I got a little too heated up at being called a 'lying SOB' who was going to start a war. Throwing around odious 'Neocon' labels at people does not change the fact that proliferation is a very, very serious global issue. Just because Dubya and friends use it as a fig leaf for their fantasies does not make it less so.)
posted by The Salaryman at 9:28 AM on January 28, 2005


re: Getting the Iranians to like U.S., really like U.S.

The problem here is that it's hard to be nice to someone and expect good effects when the person you're being nice to knows you're niceness is just part of an agenda. So even if we finance roads and schools and hospitals and the like, the Iranian people will wonder what we want from them. At best, we're Don Corleone, being nice in return for future favors. At worst, we're the Great Satan encroaching into their towns and homes.

I'd rather that we could just make nice and hand out carrots over sticks, but I'm not sure how we can go about this given our two countries histories and current ruling parties.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:28 AM on January 28, 2005


Nuclear proliferation is a serious global concern.

Then why-oh-why did the Bush administration out the CIA's mid-east regional director for nuclear non-proliferation?


Obviously it's something they take very seriously.
posted by Freen at 10:15 AM on January 28, 2005


ok, salaryman, you've made some good points, but i'd like to see you address a position held by some people upthread: that if iran -- and other countries -- get nukes, it won't be to attack the u.s., it'll be to prevent the u.s. from invading them.

i think iran and most other countries know that if they attacked the u.s. with a nuke, or if a nuke used by a terrorist group could be traced to them, the few wingnuts who are presently calling for the middle east to be turned into a glass parking lot will be joined by hundreds of millions of people not only in america but around the world.

also, what do you make of the report that north korea may have purchased a nuclear weapon from pakistan or a former soviet republic?

so nk is making all this noise and threatening the world, but we have to treat the matter with diplomacy. iraq has weapons of mass-destruction related program activity sketchbook ideas, and we have to rush in and blow the country to hell? another country sitting on top of oil might be trying to develop nukes, and it's a grave threat to the world?

i'm not comfortable with the idea of anybody having nukes, but i can't blame countries for seeking them given the huge difference in how we treat those with nukes vs. those without.
posted by lord_wolf at 10:19 AM on January 28, 2005


insomnia-

Oy, you're giving me a headache. I loved your quote from the Guardian article, and I loved how you left out El Baradai's next sentence, which was, roughly, that everything is not peaceful.

Three paragraphs down comes this:

Iran promised to suspend its uranium enrichment programme in exchange for a wide range of "carrots" - including non-military nuclear and other technology and a guarantee that it could keep a peaceful atomic programme -but it has not yet done so.

Hossein Mousavian, the country's chief delegate at this week's IAEA meeting, yesterday adopted a defiant stance when he said Iran would begin enriching uranium very soon.


I get that you are afraid of a war, as am I, and I get that you're pissed at Bush etc, as am I, but I'm not sure why this means that Iran has to be blameless. As Casu says, we need to have a different kind of debate. And, for what it's worth, attitudes like yours are what is currently wrong with the left. The real question for the left is how can we constructively deal with a nuclear-armed Iran, or better yet, how can we constructively dissuade them from getting a bomb. Just as the question is how can we deal with al Qaeda, not how often can we claim that the people who blew up the World Trade Center were figments of the neo-con/Bush racist imagination.

On preview-Lordwolf, striking the US is not the only offensive use for a nuke, nor is actually blowing one up the only way to be offensive with one. For example, annexing the Shia parts of Iraq and then saying that they will not leave would be a good Iranian use of a nuke. Destroying an independent Kurdistan would be a use. Attacking Israel would be a use. Actually detonating one in the US, or even giving one to a terrorist cell, are kind of remote possibilities.
posted by OmieWise at 10:27 AM on January 28, 2005


You know having Iran between Afghanistan and Iraq is probably the worst possible long term place for them with the occupation in one and the strong presence in the other. Being surrounded by enemies does not make a region particularly stable. So, either a) we invade/air strike and run a big risk or b) we truly and tightly contain Iran for years to come, which next time they have a charismatic fiery leader could result in more war.... *sigh* can we bring Bush up on war crimes yet?
posted by edgeways at 10:28 AM on January 28, 2005


Insomnia_lj's indecorousness seems to have diverted us away from the point I made (he said huffily).

UN-sponsored economic sanctions don't work. Unilateral US sanctions don't work. Not only are sanctions unsuccessful in changing the target regime's behavior, but they end up hurting innocent civilians whose only crime is having been born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So, short of invading Iran, what is the solution?

Robocop, you reject handing out carrots as if the suggestion were to to fly over and dump money out of C-5 Galaxy aircraft. You are right that Iranians are no more easily fooled by handouts than any other humans. So we hand out the carrots with strings explicitly attached.

Foreign aid is unpopular as a solution because, frankly, we've done a crappy job with it. At the same time that sanctions effect the poor and do nothing to the regimes in power, most of our foreign aid has been been government to government and essentially disappars into the pockets of the powerful.
posted by Cassford at 10:40 AM on January 28, 2005


The Salaryman is spot-on in his analysis.

especially #3. brilliant. and with no supporting links or facts. double brilliant!

want a job with the CIA? i think they're looking for a few good men.

yes, we're all (most of us) at least partially to blame for the energy policies which are the real reason behind these pre-emptive invasions, but no, we're not all responsible for the invasion of Iraq.

we wrote letters, called our congresspeople, marched in the streets, tried to convince our neighbors to join us ... what more should we have done? i know that all our actions were ridiculously inconsequential, but would blowing shit up have worked any better? i'm at a loss why i'm to blame for the invasion of Iraq. what should we have done? what should we do now? seriously.

oh, and we should let Iran have its little nuclear bomb. big deal. i'm all for stopping nuclear proliferation, but i'm also for deterrence and equality. if the U.S. (or Pakistan) can have one, why can't they? anything else is more bullshit American exceptionalism.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:49 AM on January 28, 2005


"The Salaryman is spot-on in his analysis."
Assuming that you mean that being uninformed and spreading information you neither prove or back up is "spot-on"...

"Nuclear proliferation is a serious global concern."

I said it *wasn't?* Hardly.

"this doesn't license denial of the possible problem simply because you want to avoid that"

Whose denying a possible problem? All I am saying is that there is no proof, and plenty of room for doubt. Trust, but verify, as they say. You seem to be implying that preemptive war is the solution for those we don't trust. (i.e. All gun owners should be shot... especially if they disagree with us.)

"Iran may or may not be developing nukes. . . but . . . it doesn't solve anything to plug your ears and deny..."

Can you explain how seeking non-combat solutions equals "plugging your ears and denying"?

"you assume that nukes=invasion"

Maybe it's because both the Israelis and President Bush himself said they wouldn't allow a nuclear Iran... and Bush has essentially threatened to let the Israelis fly over what is Iraqi soveriegn airspace to attack Iran. I'm saying that there is a serious risk that just the mere threat of nukes will cause a major military conflict to break out with Iran. That's a more real and immediate risk to U.S. citizens than if Iran had a nuclear weapon, incidentally.

.what you should be debating is whether or not this last part is the right strategy"

Says you. Sorry. I refuse to frame the debate in that manner until there is reasonable proof of Iran having nuclear weapons. It's unhealthy for our country and for the lives of the soldiers I know in Iraq.

If Iran has nukes, then we can discuss the matter based on reason, but to act on fear and paranoia is foolish, rash, and ultimately will lead to the downfall of our country. Perhaps the argument that should be raised is this: What makes an Iran with one nuke five years from now more dangerous than a North Korea with three nukes right now?

"No doubt you will dismiss this post..."

Nope. Just you. You're providing all heat and no illumination in this argument. You're denying a very real threat of U.S. or Israeli actions leading to an escalation with Iran that we cannot control.

"Lying means knowing the truth and not telling it."

The truth is that you cannot prove that Iran has a nuclear weapons program... but you said the following:
""There is no question that Iran has been covertly developing the capacity to build nuclear weapons"

You lied, sir. You did so without backing up your argument in any way whatsoever. If I'm being harsh with you, it's because you making facetious statements without backing up a single one of them. That, to me, is an insult to my intelligence and to the intelligence of people who read this site.

"I trust the likes of the NYT, Economist, FT, BBC, etc etc over unaccountable, conspiratorial 'alternative' sources."

Like the IAEA, the former head of the UN nuclear inspections program, Newsweek, and the BBC? Hey... you trust the BBC, right?! You should perhaps remember that when Scott Ritter and Hans Blix were telling you the truth, the New York Times and even the vaunted BBC were parroting GWB. Perhaps you should concentrate on what informed people tell you, rather than media outlets that parrot Bush and Blair. My links reflected exactly that.

"I was merely expressing an informed opinion"

Can you tell me why your opinion is particularly informed? If it is informed, then why do you disagree with the IAEA? Do you know something they don't?

"I have nothing to do with Bush, neocons or any of these, personally, professionally or ideologically."

But you do draw your conclusions based primarily on what they have to say, rather than on what weapons inspectors or the IAEA have to say.

You seem to think I said you were a neo-con, but if you read again, you will see that's not true. Rather, you suffer from the same mass delusion as the neo-cons because you believe in something they espouse that has no basis in fact.

I don't deny that you may not like Bush or Blair, but trust me, they most certaily appreciate folks like you.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:53 AM on January 28, 2005


MeTa
posted by dhoyt at 10:57 AM on January 28, 2005


Oy, Insomnia, get some sleep already.
posted by OmieWise at 11:01 AM on January 28, 2005


You seem to be implying that preemptive war is the solution for those we don't trust....

You're denying a very real threat of U.S. or Israeli actions leading to an escalation with Iran that we cannot control.


I said these things? Prove it. And note that I said proof, not evidence. Proof. Something generally based upon a overwhelming proponderance of trustworthy evidence. Otherwise you're putting words in my mouth.

You know what? My first response to you was wrong. You're a lying SOB. Fuck off.
posted by casu marzu at 11:09 AM on January 28, 2005


The Bush Administration is posturing about WMD in Iran. That reminds me of something.....

Can you believe a single word they say?
posted by Freen at 11:15 AM on January 28, 2005


You're right, Cassford, I did have visions of planes flying over Iranian villages dumping money on them. I'm totally not being sarcastic here, I even paused to correct myself (I imagined the planes dumping US dollars, then looked it up and decided that Iranian Rials were a better choice) before changing the carrot of money to the carrots of food, public works, and education.

With a government that seems hostile to US/Western ideas and involvement, I'm not sure how else one could go about helping Joe Average Iranian beyond just dumping things they need on them, especially considering the recent sketchiness of Oil for Food-style UN programs and Haliburton-style corporate efforts. Even if there's no graft, there's always a chance that the Iranian government would just take everything that interested it and leave nothing for the people.

It's depressing to think that the stick is so much easier to hand out than the carrot. However, I know I'm not well schooled in any form of international politics, so I may be missing a pretty obvious solution that doesn't involve guns and bombs.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:22 AM on January 28, 2005


What if we just don't bother Iran? From what I'm reading, Iran isn't like North Korea. I could imagine the Kimjongillia's namesake using nukes. But Iran seems to be attempting to actually develop an actual society. The theocracy is strict and conservative, but sane. There are real, if restricted, elections held there, and the election of people like Khomeini proves that. I think that if they have nuclear weapons they'll use them as a deterrent and nothing else. Iran isn't a kooky dictatorship. Iraq and North Korea were/are, and it showed/shows in their erratic, extreme behavior. Invading Iran would be like invading Cuba (admittedly a dictatorship, but a largely benevolent one). Cuba's not gonna hurt anybody but Cubans who make an active effort to piss off Castro.

I also think that if you leave prosperous, stable societies alone for awhile, they tend to get a grip on their own problems and demand a better government. Some f examples in eastern Europe, Latin America, etc. Iran, given time, could grow into a strong, peaceful, self-sufficient country, and I doubt the clerics are going to risk the legitimizing their revolution for bomb-slinging contest with the US or Israel. I could be wrong.

War, and everything surrounding it, just sucks. Live and let live, motherfuckers. So says I, at least.
posted by saysthis at 11:40 AM on January 28, 2005


I commiserate, robocop. Look at Jordan. We've dumped cash on that monarchy for 50+ years and the average person on the street still carries deep anger toward the US. The March 2004 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, found that only 5 percent of Jordanians have a favorable view of the US. It must be even worse now -- the Abu Ghraib prison photos didn't surface until months after that survey. Zogny found that Egyptians, our second largest aid recipients, have an even worse view of the US.

I'd love to see a poll that asks "What does the US have to do to improve your feelings toward it?" Clearly flooding their government with arms and money doesn't seem to do the trick. Is there a way around the elites to the people in need? NGOs aren't getting it done and even when they are, they do not have a "sponsored by the USA" stamp on everything.
posted by Cassford at 11:44 AM on January 28, 2005


I really should go away at this point. Insomnia must have lost a lot of sleep indeed to end up so angry, paranoid and more lost in space than Leonard Nimoy in the depths of a valium binge. Lord Wolf, respectfully, I did state that Iran has very good strategic rationales for going nuclear – strengthening their position vis a vis powers that the feel to be hostile is an important one - however that does not mean that they should be allowed to. I should have articulated more clearly that whomever Iran or anyone else intends to potentially attack with such weapons, it would be a very bad thing indeed. As it is for nuclear weapons to spread even further. North Korea is a very special case – even if they were not potentially already an undeclared nuclear power, their strength in conventional weapons and other forms of WMD alone, combined that South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are already (probably) within range, renders them invulnerable to coercion by force. I don’t have all the answers and haven’t the energy or HTML skills (Safari doesnt seem to add that handy link button!) to reference and cover every possible position.

As for being informed, I just feel that I am informed enough to be able to discriminate between positions so that I will not and cannot dismiss a real problem just because it is abused as an excuse by others with whom I violently disagree on related issues.

Nor would I be intellectually dishonest enough to selectively quote from an article

And Number 3 was meant to be a joke, BTW, not a statement of omniscience
posted by The Salaryman at 12:04 PM on January 28, 2005


I'd bet a lot of money that Iran has a nuclear weapons program and that it's well advanced. And if they didn't before the Iraq invasion (though I'm sure they did), they'd be stupid not to have one now, given Iraq and the Bush administration's response to North Korea.

That this is the case seems, to me, to be the biggest indictment of the neocons' strategy I can imagine. Well, maybe not as much strategy, but execution. That is: the US is no position to take any serious military action against Iran and, further, air strikes and whatnot in the context of the Iraq occupation will pour fire on the already burning conflagration that is the Muslim world's hatred of the US. This would be like escalating the Vietnam conflict into Cambodia—a comparison that just occured to me but that is obvious and I'm sure we'll be hearing more about it in the future. Worse, it would be overtly expanding the conflict, a PR disaster.

Ritter is correct with regard to many Americans' credulity. But there were a lot of us who were informed enough to know that there was never any question of a active, advanced Iraq nuclear weapons program. I didn't really oppose the invasion at the time because a) Saddam was a long-standing pain in the ass and threat to the region's stability; b) I believed that the previous UN resolutions regarding the first Gulf War allowed continuing US military actions at its discretion; c) Bush was clearly hell-bent on invading Iraq anyway, willing to use a justification-of-the-week, finessing intelligence, and lying to the public to get his war—I couldn't see much reward in a wasted effort to stop him; d) the US military had impressed me in Afghanistan and I was willing to believe that they'd be able to manage a fast, efficient and convincing invasion (they did); and, finally and most sadly, e) I never imagined that the civilian Pentagon folks and the rest of the neocons could be so dogmatic to fail to plan an occupation (or, another way, "hope is not a plan", but it was their plan, and their only plan), that they could be so unable to recognize their mistake, that the Bush admin could be so unable to correct these mistakes, and that the American people would be so willing to tolerate these mistakes.

The people responsible, at all levels, for planning and executing the occupation should be fired and publicly ridiculed. But, more to the point, the neocons should be fired and ridiculed because they have deeply failed at the one task they were supposedly adept at: grand strategizing.

Iraq wasn't going to be a nuclear power. There was no chance of that. Inspections and sanctions and whatnot weren't perfect, but they kept everything Hussein did to a slow crawl. Iran, on the other hand, has long posed a problem and has been more likely to have an advanced weapons program. It's been clear for a while now that the hoped-for liberalization (or previous liberalizations) are cosmetic. Iran very well could be the biggest threat in the region.

The US is in a spectacularly poor position to do anything about it. Thanks to neocon incompetency.

Insomnia: your fighting a possible US action against Iran on the basis of them being innocent of nuclear ambitions or programs is, with all due respect, about as strategically smart as what we've seen from the neocons. By putting (or allowing) the debate (to be) in the context of nuclear weapons, you play into your opponents' hands. The general public will be frightened by any talk of Iran with nukes, regardless of what the evidence actually shows. They will walk away from your words more frightened rather than less. It's also a stupid strategy because you're probably wrong, and your credibility will be shot as it becomes apparent that you're wrong. It's also a stupid strategy because, as we saw with Iraq, the administration is perfectly capable of convincing the public that there's a nuke threat if they want to—and they want to.

The place to fight this battle is on the basis of whether the US should (or can) take any military action against Iran whatsoever, even if they have nukes. You might point out that North Korea has nukes and we're neither threatening to invade nor do Americans seem overly concerned about it (wrongly, I think). You might point out that it's hard to make nukes and given the situation in the region, it'd be in Iran's best interests to hang onto them and use them as deterrence instead of transferring them to terrorists. You might mention that it is not within the technolgical capability of any of the infant nuclear powers (such as they are, if they are) to build a "briefcase nuke".

You also might mention that the casuality rate for the US in Iraq is increasing, not decreasing. You might mention that we have not the capability to expand the war.

Americans don't want another war. I think the possibilty that they'd support one is close to zero. At this point, I don't think the Bush admin can scare them into support, either. But you'll have more success in averting this new neocon disaster by reminding the American people how little they want to have another war while they're still fighting this one than you will convincing them that Iran is all hugs-and-puppies.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:09 PM on January 28, 2005


Well said Ethereal Bligh.
posted by Freen at 12:22 PM on January 28, 2005


Don't worry; military action in Iran is highly improbable. That is to say it would be entirely unprecedented. .

In the 73 instances that the USA has deployed military action since WWII, not a single one of these interventions has been inflicted on a nation state that the USA perceives as being capable of fighting back.

So, despite its belligerence, the saving grace of US foreign policy might be that it is, essentially, spineless.
posted by verisimilitude at 12:24 PM on January 28, 2005


Cassford is right about the derailment, and I apologize for my part in it, and I tend to agree with saysthis in spirit, if not specifics. In many ways, the best thing for the situation in Iran was our disengagement with them for so many years. The limited parliamentary gains of the Iranian secularists in the late 90's would tend to support this view. I actually know a few Persians in their mid-twenties, and their outlook on life is much, much closer to the West than anything you could imagine if your last indelible impression of Iran is from the protests and hostage crisis of the late seventies (granted, this is a self-selected group of recent immigrants to the U.S.).

Slowly, change has been coming to Iran without substantial involvement on our part. The possibility of nuclear armament is nonetheless disturbing; and certainly U.S.-led warfare on both borders stunted progress, and probably even exacerbated the nuclear threat as a natural consequence. But I wonder if the best thing for Iran would be for us to establish and maintain cordial relations, ignore the temptation to offer too much aid (for reasons mentioned -- and because large sums of cash have destabilizing influences all their own), do what we can to re-stabilize the borders that we have so egregiously intruded upon, and hope that the natural stabilization of an area rich in natural resources begins to resume pace. If the mullahs start to dig in this may not be possible, but there's no clearly better alternative. A military solution is certain to be disastrous for everyone involved.

DISCLAIMER: I'm just a lying neocon tool of the fucking Bush administration anyway, so please disregard my comments, pretend that I said something else, and trash me.
posted by casu marzu at 12:26 PM on January 28, 2005


I think someone called for a ban on these, but I couldn't resist:

MetaFilter: More lost in space than Leonard Nimoy in the depths of a valium binge
posted by terrapin at 12:27 PM on January 28, 2005


Casu marzu: you well may be right about what might be best, and yours is certainly not a neocon view. :)

Thus it ever has been: to engage, and hope that being a part of the west and its (supposed) democratic institutions and traditions will relentlessly liberalize? Or to put pressure on the leadership and hope for revolutionary change from within? Or to merely contain? Or to engage in pure self-interest and care not a whit about whether the society is liberalized or not?

Each of these courses of action have reactions. Some are going to be counterproductive to their aims. The trick is figuring this all out. It's hard.

All things being equal, I think we could have left Iran alone, been standoffishly friendly with them, and things would have turned out fine as the older generation passed on. I'm not so hopeful for that possibility now.

If the neocon strategy had worked, that there'd been the children with the flowers and Iraq as a model democracy, that might have worked out really well in the long term, congruent with their grand plan. It might have pushed Iran (and others) in exactly the direction we want them to go.

On the other hand, the neocons didn't seem to recognize the cost of failure. Now, everything's harder than it was, not easier. Don't listen to the folks that say that "things are getting better" and the neocon dream of a liberal, democratic Iraq is around the corner.

This war was not about oil. Oil played a role, as it always does in that region. But, no, what this war was about more than anything were the grandiose ideas of irresponsible men, an uninformed President who wanted to make his mark on history and in the process be a "bigger" man than his father, a terrified and uninformed public, and venality and mendacity all around.

Notice that none of that has changed and all of it could be true with regard to Iran. The only difference is the growing casualty list for the US in Iraq. But that's a big difference.

Social Security privitization and military action against Iran could be the rocky shore upon which this administration, finally, badly founders with public approval. And, amazingly, they don't seem to realize this.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:12 PM on January 28, 2005


In the 73 instances that the USA has deployed military action since WWII, not a single one of these interventions has been inflicted on a nation state that the USA perceives as being capable of fighting back.

I think this is an excellent point. The Iranian military is in relatively respectable shape, is it not? It's conceivable that Iran would respond to even a limited bombing campaign by declaring war and sending a million soldiers over the border. In fact, this might be their best response, strategically speaking, as the only other option would seem to be to wait to be bombed into starvation over the duration of a decade.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:13 PM on January 28, 2005


Lord Wolf, respectfully, I did state that Iran has very good strategic rationales for going nuclear

i apologize if you laid that out and i missed it. i'm not expecting you or anyone else here to have any answers: i'm just genuinely interested in picking peoople's brains for their thoughts about what i'm sure we can all agree is a fucked-up state of affairs all around.

I think the possibilty that they'd support one is close to zero

i strongly disagree. i think that quite a sizeable portion of the u.s. populace hears "islamic nation" and "nuclear" in the same sentence and thinks "bombs away! get 'er done!" then rushes out to buy even more yellow ribbon magnets and "kick their ass and take their gas" t-shirts. i don't think these are bad people, i just think far too many of them don't stop to think about how horrible war is; are caught up in the romance of having a noble fight to define their time on a earth a la ww 2; and are seduced by the sexiness of "smart weapons" and "more with less" bullshit that the pentagon/general electric/haliburton sells them.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:29 PM on January 28, 2005


Isn't Iran known to have a sizeable arsenal of Sunburn missles making any "tactical" strikes carried out by the US a dangerous. Especially since the US has to maintain a fleet presence in the area for it's continued war in Iraq?
posted by Mitheral at 2:28 PM on January 28, 2005


i think that quite a sizeable portion of the u.s. populace hears "islamic nation" and "nuclear" in the same sentence and thinks "bombs away! get 'er done!" then rushes out to buy even more yellow ribbon magnets and "kick their ass and take their gas" t-shirts.

You should look at the opinion polls about Iraq. They're bad. I get your point about "Islam" and "nuclear" in the same sentence, but support for the invasion was never that great and things have changed a lot. Then, it was nearer to 9/11. Then, we weren't already fighting a war. Then, we already had a long history of engagement against the foe. Then, we didn't have pissed-off troops and a rising casualty rate. Then, the intelligence apparatus used to justify the invasion was respected.

Mark my words: Bush won't get any traction in trying to sell a war with Iran. Even air strikes will make people jittery. I bet if you polled people on this right now, it'd be something like 80% or more against taking action against Iran at this point, and 65% or more with some skepticism about the whole idea in general. There were reasons that BushCo was able to sell the Iraq invasion to the public. Some of those same reasons still exist with regard to Iran, but they are weak in comparison and that arguments against are much stronger.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:09 PM on January 28, 2005


Americans don't want another war. I think the possibilty that they'd support one is close to zero.

You should look at the opinion polls about Iraq. They're bad.


EB, I love you buddy, and I mostly agree with what you've written here on MeFi over the past few years, but... support, no support, protests in the streets, whatever. Why on earth do you think that American popular support of further military action is even a concern, to anyone? This administration clearly will do what it thinks is "right" (IOW they will do whatever they want) regardless of what the press or the polls say. The war with Iran is in motion already, and ain't nothing going to stop it short of some kind of calamity (that might even hasten it).
posted by psmealey at 8:25 PM on January 28, 2005


Is it fair for the US to use its power to insist upon arguably hypocritical terms for a fellow signatary to the Non Proliferation Treaty?

Fair? No.

Shouldn't we demand proof of a nuclear weapons program before we even consider starting a conflict our military believes would most certainly escalate?

Yes. Ideally. But that's ultimately pointless for a bunch of reasons the least of which was the whole thing where we demanded proof from Iraq.

Doesn't Iran have legitimate rights for nuclear development?

Define legitimacy. All of our ancestors killed some folks and took their land and drew lines around it saying they'd kill anyone who tried to take "their" land. Some other of our ancestors came and took it and drew new lines. This situation seems not to have changed much except for the nuclear weapons which rendered land grabbing obsolete.
Do they have a right to protect the land (and oil) they took from other folks? Yes, until someone else comes and takes it from them - not fair either but one doesn't point out the fallacy of force to men holding assault rifles.

It seems the arguements here concern the fact that the administration is full of bullshit (whether your pro-Bush or not, let's face it, lot of B.S. flying it and your political position is more or less defined by who is responsible for it), that there are or aren't weapons in Iran, value judgements as to who we can trust with nukes, containment strategies, popular opinion, etc. etc.

Speaking of etc. I think The Salaryman made a nice point about the nuclear genie being out of the bottle.
The NPT treaty is a club for hypocrites, because either we all totally disarm or no one does.
Seeing how likely it is anyone is going to really disarm, our options in that direction become limited.

So we have to limit the amount of people who get nukes. The truly unfair part is those folks will be crushed out of existance - most likely absorbed by a group that does have nukes. And they'll be converted to whomever's ancestor's memes they carry (hopefully that doesn't include the cutting of the rose).

Right now though it's just making sure no one ends the world too early. Not a goal I'd apply to this administration, but they're certainly not the only power in America.

In the future I suspect something akin to the U.N. will develop where the nuke holding blocs team up and prevent anyone else from getting them as a matter of course.
Any - I'll use the term "country", but that would be nearly outmoded by then (considering for example multinational corporations, the wealth the posess, and the land rights they're developing now)- that gets a nuke would be threatened with invasion by a combined force of nuke holding countries. Any country that nukes any country in a bloc would be nuked by the others.

That would be a stable model anyway, but I'm just shooting from the hip there. It could be we just get a few continent wide supercountries.

Perhaps Frank Herbert was right.

I certainly hope Orwell wasn't.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:28 PM on January 28, 2005


Isn't Iran known to have a sizeable arsenal of Sunburn missiles...

Apparently. Here are two related pages.

Iran sending a couple of US aircraft carriers to the bottom of the Persian Gulf would certainly make things interesting.
posted by pracowity at 11:45 PM on January 28, 2005


Interesting thoughts, Smedlyman. Another good source for discussions about what it means to be in a world with nuclear weapons are the various writings of the scientists involved with the Manhattan Project (invention of the atomic bomb). Also, I believe, Bohr. They all agreed that it was imperative to produce a bomb before Nazi Germany did—what came after was a huge point of contention. Many noble ideas were put forth but, in the end, they were summarily dismissed by the military and political leaders in favor of a short-sighted realism. Research on a fusion bomb started in earnest (most of the key people in the a-bomb project were dubious about a fusion bomb, both technically and regarding the necessity for it) and Teller got his lab, may he rest in hell.

I don't have any original ideas on the problem. Nuclear disarmament by all nuclear powers is so unrealistic that it's not worth considering. Something like you envision is probably best: increasingly strong international institutions along with enforcement against proliferation. The neocon disdain for multilateralism is weakening these international intitutions and encouraging the Hobbesian world it assumes is inevitable. So sad.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:03 AM on January 29, 2005


psmealey: I see your point and Bush can't be reelected. But he needs Congress on board, as well as the Pentagon. I don't think either one is likely.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:04 AM on January 29, 2005


If Iran did have a nuclear bomb, the time to use it would be now, and the place to use it would be Iraq. Two birds, one stone.

That is one scary thought. A couple of well-placed nukes in Iraq would pretty much decimate the US military. From superpower to no-power in a few seconds.

I'd always postulated a two-decade decline in power for the US, as China and India and the Euro Union get their act together. Now it looks like it could happen overnight.

What a truly shitty time to be a US American.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:14 AM on January 29, 2005


If Iran did have a nuclear bomb, the time to use it would be now, and the place to use it would be Iraq. Two birds, one stone.

Scary for sure. How about if they have three and sneak the other two into Tel Aviv and either DC or NYC? Starting to seem way too much like those stories about the genie and how the granted wishes always backfire on the rubber, because this isn't a fiction trying to teach a moral.
posted by billsaysthis at 4:47 PM on January 29, 2005


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