Montana Politics

Iran to US, Israel: I want you to do it.

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Anyone here who watched The Dark Knight, or saw the trailers, remembers the scene of a beaten, broken Joker, facing off against the protagonist, begging Batman to kill him. Iran’s ruling elite are that joker, and Israel and the US are the ones who have to ignore the provocation to attack. Why? There is no way to win if we attack; any attack we lose, whereas if we restrain ourselves, we stand a good chance of winning.

Iran is not a burgeoning powerhouse, regardless of what we may perceive in our paranoia. Their revolution is in its second generation, and it shows. The regime continues to exist through violence, as there is clearly a deep divide between the young people of Iran and their leaders – Ahmadinejad’s re-election was evidence of that. They are struggling from painful sanctions, their closest regional allies are facing a protracted civil conflict, and their unemployment rate rivals that of Portugal. Having a nuclear weapon will not solve these problems; indeed, moving to actually build a weapon will hurt their international standing even further, and since such a weapon will be practically unusable, it won’t help them out much on the strategic front, either.

And so, their only hope? A US or Israeli attack on their nuclear installations. All the sudden, Iran is famous not for supporting Assad but opposing Netanyahu; the violence they inflict on their own citizens will be eclipsed by the violence visited onto them by the outside world. Overnight their domestic and international political fortunes will be reversed. And since the US lacks both the will and ability to occupy Iran, the ruling regime can be almost assured that it will not only survive the onslaught, but emerge with a renewed strength, zeal, and legitimacy in the eyes of their own people and their neighbors, while quite the opposite would take place with the US and Israel.

But what if we wait ‘too long’, what will happen? Probably very little. After Pakistan got nuclear weapons, after North Korea got nuclear weapons…little changed in terms of balance. True, nukes would be a substantial deterrent to an American attack on Iran, but that isn’t advisable anyway. Iran couldn’t reasonably use these weapons without consigning themselves to oblivion. Their insistence that their program is peaceful will be exploded, their diplomatic position will be weakened, their economic woes multiplied, and their people no easier to placate (again, look at Pakistan). In the end, an Israeli or American attack on Iran will be far more useful to the ruling regime in Iran than a nuclear weapon. We need to see that they don’t get one.

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The Polish Wolf

37 Comments

  • "Why exactly is Iran regarded as such a colossal threat? The question is rarely discussed, but it is not hard to find a serious answer — though not, as usual, in the fevered pronouncements. The most authoritative answer is provided by the Pentagon and the intelligence services in their regular reports to Congress on global security. They report that Iran does not pose a military threat. Its military spending is very low even by the standards of the region, minuscule of course in comparison with the U.S.

    Iran has little capacity to deploy force. Its strategic doctrines are defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to set it. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons capability, they report, that would be part of its deterrence strategy. No serious analyst believes that the ruling clerics are eager to see their country and possessions vaporized, the immediate consequence of their coming even close to initiating a nuclear war. And it is hardly necessary to spell out the reasons why any Iranian leadership would be concerned with deterrence, under existing circumstances.

    The regime is doubtless a serious threat to much of its own population — and regrettably, is hardly unique on that score. But the primary threat to the U.S. and Israel is that Iran might deter their free exercise of violence. A further threat is that the Iranians clearly seek to extend their influence to neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, and beyond as well. Those “illegitimate” acts are called “destabilizing” (or worse). In contrast, forceful imposition of U.S. influence halfway around the world contributes to “stability” and order, in accord with traditional doctrine about who owns the world." (Chomsky, recent Asian Times article)

    I know it's bad taste to quote Chomsky, as he is a US critic and so is relegated to Asian Times rather than NY Times. But your pose here strikes me as classic projection, which happens frequently in our hubris-laden intellectual culture – to take our own activities and consign the underlying evil motives to the enemy.

    Are you even aware of the state of freedom in Iran prior to the revolution? Do you know about the Shah? Do you know how he came to power? Do you know why they revolted? As with most educated Americans (forget about most of the population, which cannot even locate Iran on the map) , it seems that history started there in 1979 instead of 1953.

    • Mark – the reasons listed above are exactly why I think Iran wants to be attacked. Like Chomsky points out, developing a weapon actually doesn't doesn't do them as much good strategically as the US might fear. If they develop a nuclear weapon, they are on the path to becoming North Korea – prickly and unassailable, but limited in influence. If they withstand an American or Israeli attack, however, they can achieve the sort of regional influence they seem to be searching for – similar to what Hezbollah achieved, but on a much, much larger scale. This is precisely why, for the US and Israel, the best position is still to wait out Iran.

      The regime's ability to spread its influence is also declining – if these sanctions continue, they will be overspent by the Sunni Gulf States at every turn. A greater and greater portion of their budget is going to have to be spent either on buying off their unhappy citizens or repressing them if their economy fails to improve. The conflict in Syria is making Iran's one major alliance in the region more of a liability than an asset, and with Syria paralyzed, Lebanon and Hezbollah are also of little use to the Iranian regime.

      Finally, as to my knowledge regarding the history of Iran, yes, I'm well aware. I actually helped host a lecture by Stephen Kinzer, the author of All the Shah's Men, while he was touring the country speaking on the Folly of Attacking Iran. I'm well aware of the history (a history, again, only possible in the context of a bi-polar system), and I've been a proponent of normalizing relations with Iran since Khatami was president. You can argue whether the president has control over the actions of his or her military or state department, but a president has control over what they say, and no one made George Bush talk about an axis of evil. Bush was a perfect foil for Ahmadenijad (I've spoken with more than one Iranian expert who held that opinion); without Bush to prop up their popularity, hardliners in Iran increasingly need something new to rally their people. All we have to do is not give it to them.

      • This is most interesting: You supposedly represent the "left" side of our spectrum! You look exactly like the right side! You fabricate meaningless differences between Bush and Obama, as if either had influence, and take pride that your guy now sits atop the roost and is changing things. But there is no change! Now you tell me that you have gravitas, helped Kinzer prepare a lecture – that is how you are validating your argument here. It's an appeal to authority. Your own. I challenge it.

        I could easily be a cheerleader for the empire too. You've got the easy task. You are part of the intelligentsia, that faction of empire whose job it is to justify the actions of the powerful. What power you have, and I don't know who you are or what you do, is derivative. I presume to know that if you become critical of the empire, that your position is jeopardized? It's a far harder task to challenge power than to live happily in its shadow. There's no "influence" in that.

        I don't know. It's just one of those facets of imperial hubris that I find off-putting – the way that intellectuals glom on to power. It's always been that way – when the enemy does it, they are "fellow travelers."

        • "gravitas"

          My gravitas revolves entirely around whatever positive effect I have in the lives of my students. I would love to be professionally involved in foreign policy, as I have and continue to study it. But ultimately the reason I want to be involved is the potential for improving people's lives, and so far I've observed a the effect I have on my students is more than satisfying enough for me; I mention my brief involvement with Mr. Kinzer merely to emphasize that I have studied the history and know what I'm talking about.

          "What power you have, and I don't know who you are or what you do, is derivative."

          It is – it is derived from the mutual respect between me and my students, and the objective evidence I am required to provide of their progress. My criticism or support of US foreign policy has absolutely no material effect on my life. Indeed, in my education, in interactions with my co-workers, even my students, being more critical of the American Empire would put me more in line with the people around me.

          "It's a far harder task to challenge power than to live happily in its shadow. "

          No, Mark, it's not. You have the easiest time of all – you can dismiss evidence as being imperial propaganda, when your theories don't make any sense, you can claim that in 50 years they will, when things are clearly not as bad as they were four years ago, you can predict tens of millions of deaths just around the corner, and your sycophants let you off the hook, or pretend that support for local rebels is indistinguishable from a full scale invasion. You can accuse two people of being the same person and laugh it off as a joke. You can worship sovereignty, which in practice is just the right of governments over and above their people, and still claim to be somehow anti-establishment, and people buy it! You can criticize the intelligentsia when your lack of foreign affairs education shows, but still quote Chomsky, a famous and highly successful intellectual. But the biggest advantage to claiming the anti-American mantle is that no one ever asks you to provide a true alternative, no one really pursues what that alternative would lead to. And when they do? You just fall back on your same talk. You are continually on the attack, and when you do have to defend your own position, what you're defending is an imaginary world where you refuse to allow evidence, historical statistical, or logical, to enter into the debate. When all else fails, and you have no argument, you simply stop debating the topic at hand and go back to your old talking points (note the topic we are discussing today). And then you can go pretending to be the intellectually honest one. It's a good gig, I'll admit that. But detached as it is from reality, I'm afraid I can't adopt it in good conscience.

          • Yes, it is easy to occupy the anti-American side of the debate where virtually every salary depends on patriotism. I forgot how easy it is. And yes, I'm taking the easy side by admiring a man and his work who is not even published in mainstream media here in the land of the free.

            All of your words above are weak defense. I have landed a few punches. You said exactly nothing of substance. You basically wrapped yourself in your students. Are they critical thinkers? Do you assign Chomsky? I'd suggest duties of intellectuals. It is not to suck up to power. Quite the contrary.

            Case closed. Not impressed at all.

            These words are from an iPhone. Editing is difficult. I' fix it later.

            • "Yes, it is easy to occupy the anti-American side of the debate where virtually every salary depends on patriotism. "

              Really? Is that how Noam Chomsky earns his salary at an American Institution? His position has pretty much shut him out of the mainstream, right? That's why he's one of the top ten most cited sources of all time?

              I did nothing to wrap myself in my students but say that they are currently the sole effect I am having on the world. I have no effect on foreign policy – for that matter, I have next to no effect on educational policy in the school where I work. I think we've been through this before – I can't assign material.

              "Case closed"

              What was the case, exactly? It certainly had nothing to do with the post, which you have not yet addressed. That it is easier to be a cheerleader for empire than a critic? That depends on your arena, I suppose. In the academic arena it is exceedingly difficult to find competent defenders of unipolarity or hegemony, though I believe this is a relatively recent development. I'm quite sure it's near impossible to be a critic of the empire on a State Department salary, I'll give you that. But what's that prove? My situation is clearly quite different; I support the unipolar system (as long as it is feasible, a few more decades perhaps), I believe in the ability of American intervention to bring about positive results, that those results are affected by elections, and that sovereignty is responsible for more deaths and suffering than any other concept in the post-Cold War era (this last belief would also disqualify me from most work with the UN or other foreign policy spheres). I believe this not because I have to for my job, or because they are easy points to argue rhetorically, but because I have foudn more evidence to support them than to oppose them.

              • Chomsky is tenured. That system allows for freedom of thought, and is the only reason he is still employed. iI didn't work for Ward Churchill, so chill with me. Chomsky is highly regarded outside of the empire, but hardly exists inside except among the curious and liberated, and he had a lot to do with my own liberation. I stumbled upon him during a period of searching and found him to say things, express ideas, that are not said or expressed anywhere else.

                the "unipolar" system that you support is hardly a system. It is a power structure, and to make it work the empire has had to kill a whole lot of people, topple governemns and threaten anyone who resists with death and violence. That you sit there and read benign intent or justified ends via ugly means only means to me that you are not well-schooled … You just don't know things,

                • "Chomsky is highly regarded outside of the empire"

                  I think you should go to college in the 21st century, Mark. A lot of your perceptions of intellectualism may have been accurate when your own political beliefs were being formed, but right now Chomsky is well regarded in the United States as a political theorist. On the other hand, in much Europe (I believe this is the same throughout the world, but I'm not sure) Chomsky is admired as a linguist (though a somewhat outdated one), and only secondarily as a political thinker.

                  "the "unipolar" system that you support is hardly a system. It is a power structure, and to make it work the empire has had to kill a whole lot of people, topple governemns and threaten anyone who resists with death and violence."

                  Read your history, Mark. Every geo-political system has included those elements. The bi-polar system of the cold war was more violent; the multi-polar system that preceded the first world war was worse on an almost unbelievable scale. The strange interwar system, where the natural hegemon refused to take part, set up probably the most violent decade in human history (1935-1945), both within and between states. Therefore, the continued existence of violence is hardly a damning point for the current international system – indeed, the relatively low level of violence is one the best selling points. The lowest level of violence in history, highest human development in history, and the first documented existence of a global middle class make a compelling trifecta.

                  Can the system that exists be improved? Yes. Money spent diplomatically gives more bang for the buck than money spent militarily. The system can be maintained will less violence – since 2008, that has been demonstrated. Putting consideration for the furtherance of Democracy above immediate economic concerns could lead to better results – it is absurd to have such a close relationship with Saudi Arabia and such a poor one with Venezuela, for example. However, the multi-polar, sovereignty-focused alternative put forward by China and Russia will almost certainly be worse, if history is any guide.

                • You've simply taken history and woven into a tapestry of your own design, bringing in some impressive language, I might add. One big difference between you and and Kaley – you write well.

                  The bi-polar system was not more violent, that is, the US was far more restrained outside its sphere, and confined its violence to those areas where it did not risk Soviet intervention. 1989, for one country alone, unleashed the US to starve half a million kids,, destroy its civilian infrastructure, invade, kill 1.2 million, cause 2 million to flee, justify open use of torture and run beastly secret prisons.

                  That's but one country, and none of it would have happened had the Russian bear not retreated, releasing the Kraken.

                  1935-45 was the final chapter of internecine European warfare, but did not stop the infliction of violence on the rest of the planet by those countries, with the bulk of the duties merely shifted to the US. With the "loss""of China in 1948, the US and France attacked Vietnam, and when France withdrew, the US attacked, killed 3-4 million people, used chemicals warfare, attacked neighboring countries, supervised an Indonesian massacre … there was no force capable of stopping us, so it went on for twenty years.

                  Your notion that "unipolar" is safer is false. An unrestrained US is a bloody scourge, a nightmare for the planet. Unrestrained China? I do not know – their population is less infected with psychopaths than ours (a result colonial seeding – the US was given Europe's outcasts and religious nuts, so that we are crazier and more dangerous than other populations – 4% rate of sociopathy as I read it. The only other place similarly seeded was Australia.) But I cannot speak to that. Perhaps JRR Tolkien has it right – the ring destroys whoever wears it.

                  You make things up. That's all. A global middle class … This is the nonsense I deal with in this intellectual culture – be it our crazy right or our more reasonable "left", you are all the same animal! You all support the same policies, you split hairs over perceived differences. It's nuts.

                  I am done here, but am going to write more about our exchange on my blog after I've had my coffee and calmed down some. I'll link others to this exchange. I suspect your only supporter wll be Rod, as he is of a similar imperialistic makeup.

                  BTW, I saw Chomsky in Boulder last year, and he's near the end. He's a widower, walks and talks much slower. The body of work is there, and there is nothing to prove. He has been remarkably consistent, 1960's to now, a fully formed body of scholarly work without internal contradiction. He is the most remarkable Intellect I have ever encountered, combined with a modest nature and democratic impulses.. I regard your words about him above as empty prattle – use of such a broad brush as to be laughable.

                • "That's but one country, and none of it would have happened had the Russian bear not retreated, releasing the Kraken. "

                  "With the "loss""of China in 1948, the US and France attacked Vietnam, and when France withdrew, the US attacked, killed 3-4 million people, used chemicals warfare, attacked neighboring countries, supervised an Indonesian massacre, there was no force capable of stopping us".

                  First of all, your numbers, Mark. I'm not going to wade into the numbers with you – suffice to say that any number you pull out is based on a loose reading of statistics, and assumes that Saddam was powerless to provide for his people while the sanctions endured. This is of course nonsense, rivaled by the nonsense about Vietnam (the greatest number of civilian Vietnamese deaths occurred after the US left).

                  But my main point is that without a two-power world, Vietnam would not have been an issue – North could have overrun South, and the US wouldn't have cared. Suharto wouldn't have been supported because he'd have had no excuse. Korea wouldn't have needed to be carpet bombed, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, South Africa, Angola – not to mention Soviet purges, millions dead in the invasion of Afghanistan, the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, the Red Terror in Ethiopia, re-education in Vietnam, the Shining Path – all directly or indirectly linked to the bi-polar system. There are serious atrocities occurring still, but they are not even close to the extent that they once were. This is a fact, not a construction, a word you like to mis-use

                  "http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html"

                  Indeed, to argue that what happened in Iraq was the result of the Soviet Union withdrawing is itself laughable (I literally laughed when I realized this): While the Soviet bear was still supposedly casting its benevolent shadow over Iraq, a million people were being killed in the Iran-Iraq war. But hey, the US was restrained, so everything was better then, even if more people were dying.

                  A global middle class exists, Mark. Again, Chomsky didn't write about it, so you don't believe it exists? Two billion people in the world have a current daily expenditure of $10-100, PPP, thus making them middle class. That's a third of the world. Never in history has a large portion of the world been in the middle class. That you deny it shows your ignorance – you're parroting one man. That he is a brilliant one is small consolation – as soon as you get out of your depth, basically, when you stop talking about the same things you always talk about – you talk nonsense.

                  Which I suppose is why you can't accept that things change – because you know only about one set of circumstances. You can't accept record low levels of violence because it doesn't fit with your five talking points. You can't accept the existence of a global middle class that did not exist thirty years ago because it doesn't fit with your five talking points. It only seems like I am doing mental gymnastics, Mark, because my field of view, my sources of evidence and support, are so much broader than yours.

          • When my theories don't make sense, I claim that in fifty years they will? Now you're making shit up! You're grab bagging. That's ridiculous! You're backwards! It's bizarro world. That, and you've now gone sanctimonious on me. Now it's all about the kids. I hope the kids are all right.

            Do you have the kids read the critics of empire? The cheerleaders are easy to come by, have nice titles and put out volumes of literature, predictable and boring. I studied such matters, I took the classes and did the dance, but in the reams of materials was an essay, which was not assigned, called The Responsibility of Intellectuals, by Chomsky. Assign it to the kids, sometime why dontcha. Have them report back.They will tell you that among those responsibilities, cheerleading is not listed.

            I read your remarks several times, and became vaguely aware that you are defensive and angry, understandable, but also noticing that there is no content. It's all sanctimony. Your only serious point is that when we are faced with such awesome power, it's hard to imagine, much less work for, alternatives. There aren't many of us. The vast majority of the population is distracted and dumbed down, and the intellectual class performs the same role as those guys with brooms after the parade goes by. That's you, PW. Your job appears to me to bring the kids in line, prevent critical thinking. Were it otherwise, you'd be assigning the work of CRITICS, which is the base of the word critical, and don't tell me you do because we both know you don't. That's why you didn't read the Asian Times piece – you did not want to travel that road.(Now you're going to tell me you read it. I hope you,will.)

            Then there's the line about the people around you being more critical in their appraisal of the empire that you, that you are somehow in minority status because of your cheerleader status. Please stop now. It's getting embarrassing. It's as if I share your bizarro world.

            And please explain to me once again how your Obamaworld differs from Bushworld. It really taxes my intellect so see those differences, which is why I need you to explain it to me. That is your job after all – to package it, make it make sense.

            • "I claim that in fifty years they will? "

              I remember two examples of this strategy – first, when confronted with evidence that human rights and human development in Karzai's Afghanistan far outpaced that of the Taliban. You responded that in fifty years we'll see that Karzai is just as bad as the Taliban. Then, last week, you repeated your argument that America intervened in Libya because Gaddafi had tried to replace the petrodollar. I pointed out that according to your own evidence, Libya was on our 'hit list' well before that proposal, but that we had sold military equipment to them since after the invasion of Iraq until right before the current unrest. Again, I'm told to wait fifty years.

              Sorry I gave the impression that I'm a teacher, Mark I'm a tutor – I don't have curricular control, I can't assign anything. But trust me, most of my particular population of students isn't lacking in their criticism of the US empire. It's very difficult to introduce a lot of critical thinking in solving systems of equations, which is literally half of what I do right now. Those rare occasions I do get to explicate history or geography, I'm pretty limited to what the teachers assign, and the teachers far and away simply assign the worksheets that come with their textbooks. But my job is really neither here nor there – I find it to be far more important than any work I've ever done regarding foreign policy.

              And I'm not disagreeing with Chomsky, at least what you quoted – Iran is no threat to us, with or without nuclear weapons, but the ruling regime has always gained its support from opposition to the US, and so in all likelihood would like to see that opposition sharpened as long as it doesn't overthrow their regime

              "
              And please explain to me once again how your Obamaworld differs from Bushworld"

              Should I put it in a chart?

              President: American casualties suffered in wars initiated, US/civilian: Money spent on wars initiated:

              Bush 6382/200,000+ 1.3 Trillion
              Obama 0/7,000? 1,000,000,000

              Yes, both violated the sovereignty foreign governments, but since sovereignty is an invented concept, that likeness is at best a secondary consideration. Now, no one can doubt these differences; the best you can do is to call into question whether this remarkable string of bad luck and poor choices started in 2000 and ended in 2008 by mere coincidence. The burden of proof is truly on your shoulders.

              • I conceded the point on Libya, not a major point, but a perceptive on on your part in noticing that while Libya was on a hit list in 2001 (according to Wesley Clark, by the way), it did not get taken down until 2011. It's complicated, not meaning that I see things you don't, but rather that I don't understand it all – not even close. I am on the outisde looking in, and the War Department does not easily give up its secrets. I don't begin to beleive the bullshit reasons for the invasion, but do know that opportunism has a lot to do with it. I doubt that two years ago there was any notion in the War Department that we'd be taking down the Syrian government in 2012, but we are. The Arab Spring was not on the radar at that time, and they are reacting with extreme intelligence. They are fostering it in Syria, they endured it in Tunisia, leveraged it to their advantage in Libya, and have vigorously resisted it in Egypt. In Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, they have put it down with extreme violence, unreported here.

                I don't know what 50 years will bring us, I don't know how you got that impression except for loose sentence construction on my part. With Libya I tried to impress on you that you do not know what is going on inside that country, as it is suppressed right now, no reporting allowed here in the land of the free. In Afghanistan I only know what most objective observers know – that it is lost, that retreat is in order, and that the switch to military drones to attack the population is something done as we fall back and pull out. Iraq was lost too. Empires in retreat are extremely dangerous.

                "…since sovereignty is an invented concept, that likeness is at best a secondary consideration."

                That is the most absurd rationalization I have ever witnessed. You have just set aside international law, Nuremberg, the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva, and reduced the world to Nixonian simplicity – we do what we do because we can, it's all about power. That you also impute moral righteousness when not challenged means you have internal contradictions you should deal with.

                The right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the right to property, habeas corpus, free speech and freedom of and from religion … all invented concepts, as is the right to sovereign borders. That is imperial hubris manifested in the extreme!

                All of this – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Bahrain … it flows. The War Department is not affected by domestic politics. Your notion that there is a change due to The One holding office is a mental construct of your own. The election of Obama was an event that took the natural resentment that had built up in the population during the Bush years and allowed it to be expressed without affecting foreign policy. Obama is a con man.

                • "That is the most absurd rationalization I have ever witnessed. You have just set aside international law, Nuremberg, the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva, and reduced the world to Nixonian simplicity"

                  Those things divide into two groups – those that are unimportant, and those that are important – but both hold their positions through their legal status.

                  The Declaration of Human Rights is important, but not in any legal sense. Legally, it's unenforceable, particularly because it is not given precedence over sovereignty. Are those rights still to be valued? Absolutely, but on their own merits, not because they are written down somewhere. The Geneva conventions function in largely the same way, except in cases of conflict between signatories. But, if one party in a conflict is not a signatory, there is no legal meaning to the conventions. Should they still be followed? Surely! But they should be followed because it's good policy, and it's the right thing to do.

                  The Nuremberg trials were legally absurd, in that they didn't involve the victors, even where the victors had in fact engaged in offensive war. Thus, they were an improvement on summary executions, but they are a weak rod to lean on if you're looking for an objective basis for foreign policy.

                  "
                  The right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the right to property, habeas corpus, free speech and freedom of and from religion … all invented concepts, as is the right to sovereign borders. That is imperial hubris manifested in the extreme!"

                  Yes and no. They are invented concepts, but they affect human beings for the better. Human beings with those rights are in a manifestly different situation that human beings without those rights. The same cannot be said of the right to sovereign borders. There is no indication that sovereignty protects people – far more people are killed by their own governments than by opposing governments. Therefore, sovereignty is an invented, unenforceable concept, like human rights, but unlike human rights it cannot be demonstrated to be a material positive. Why, then, do you bow down and worship it?

                  "The War Department is not affected by domestic politics."

                  You keep saying that, but you provide no evidence. Afghanistan and Iraq, massive invasions, tens of thousands of troops, hundreds of billions of dollars, tens of thousands of civilian dead – are in every sense an order of magnitude larger and more horrific than Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, and Bahrain. That is not flowing, Mark. An order of magnitude difference is not flowing, no matter how many times you try to claim that it is. Moreover, you'll be hard pressed to prove your mantra – virtually every reasonable foreign policy theorist agrees that lobbying by various groups in the United States, particular pro-Israel ones but others as well, has a large effect on foreign affairs.

                • "virtually every reasonable foreign policy theorist agrees that lobbying by various groups in the United States, particular pro-Israel ones but others as well, has a large effect on foreign affairs."

                  I am kind of laughing here, and the words that come to mind are "All the Helen's in the world agree" from Kids in the Hall. That is an appeal to authority.

                  Please stipulate with me that there is no natural law so that for all of us to get along, we have to invent concepts and then abide by them,  setting up agencies to enforce them. So we have government and law. Once done, we learn to live in that manner and enforce it by means of punishment.

                  Nation states are not ideal, I agree, but borders are one of those concepts that we have agreed to enforce. Now that the empire has decided that we can wage aggressive war on any state as we please, you have, as an intellectual conscript, gone on a search for reasons. Congratulations on your success! 

                  They hanged at Nuremburg because they lost, I agree. But to set it aside now and say, in effect, that we will not hang because we are powerful …  therefore we can go ahead and do what they did … are you self-aware?

                  And again, in constructing differences between our many and varied wars, defining some as ill-carried out while others are more humane (so far as you know) and based on the winner of the most recent presidential election, is pure rationalization. 

                • "Once done, we learn to live in that manner and enforce it by means of punishment. "

                  Yes. Now, since it is impossible to punish major powers that violate sovereignty, it can't be considered a 'law'. It is applied to Iraq, but not the US, to Vietnam, but not Russia – it is utterly unbinding. Nuremberg was no precedent, because it was based not on international law, it was based on the will of the winners.

                  So, sovereignty doesn't have the authority provided by tradition or precedent. As I've noted repeatedly, it provides no provable material benefits to the people involved. So, again, sovereignty is no reason to make a decision.

                  "And again, in constructing differences between our many and varied wars,"

                  Sovereignty is a construction. Tens of thousands of lives are not a construction – there are real pain, real suffering, real destruction of potential. A trillion dollars is not a construction – it represents "in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.". I can promise you this – if Obama starts a war against Iran that is as disastrous and unprovoked as our war against Iraq, I will vote for Ron Paul in November. Until then, empiricism and the scientific method suggest a strong correlation between Republican administrations and terrible foreign policy, and I'll do what I can to keep from more of that from happening.

                • You can vote for Humpty Dumpty in November if you want. It makes as much difference. That's the whole point. Konrad Kellen, in his introduction to Ellul's work on propaganda, noted that the idea that better educated people were immune to state propaganda was false, and said that in fact intellectuals were the easiest targets in that they literally "self indoctrinate." I am seeing this process at work here. As an Obamabat, you are twisting the world to conform to your idea that he somehow brought change to the scene, that he's running kinder wars. It's gymnastics, and like Orwell's circus dog, all the more impressive in that you do it without a whip and a command.

                  You are shielding yourself, as I see it, in that you are not activel seeking out information that would refute your notions of Obama's gentle policies. You could do so if you had a mind to.

                  And it's a far cry from saying "shit happens" to "I support shit happening since I'm rather powerless to stop it." The fact that the US is immune to punishment for criminal activity does not justify your attitudes in any way, and supports my contention that you are no different from the supposed "neocons". The vast majority of people succumb to power, but a few, the intellectual class, the bought priesthood, actually cheer.

                  Whatever it is you think you believe, it offers no alternative to what we had before the supposed change of course in 2008. Your emperor, your Obama, is quite naked, and I am that child.

                • "And it's a far cry from saying "shit happens" to "I support shit happening since I'm rather powerless to stop it.""

                  I support less shit. Obama has demonstrated a great deal less of it. Therefore, I support him. Where he to engage in the same shit that defined the Bush administration, I wouldn't support him. That is a rational approach to support. I am not twisting the world. I am observing it as it is on the ground – people alive, not dead. Money being spent on recovery, not being blown up. Those are the fact on the ground, Mark. You just refuse to accept them.

                  You remind me of the scholastic philosophers (Ironic because I accused you of violating Occam's razor on a different blog) – even when two things are demonstrably different – in their case, bread and human flesh, in ours, people being killed by the hundreds of thousands versus that not happening – you insist that the SUBSTANCE is the same, in some deep, unobservable way. It's a convenient philosophy that survived for centuries because you can't prove it wrong empirically, because at it's core it claims precedence over the empirical. But as my philosophy of science professor said – I can't prove empiricism is more true that scholasticism, but I can use it to make an iPod. You worldview is internally coherent (and so you are doing better than most), but it denies the facts of the world, and thus is nonetheless worthless. But you're interesting to have around.

  • I think it's quite the opposite. Isreal has done everything to forgo loss of innocents.

    Three examples. One, the computer virus. Two, assassination of scientists. Three, the deployment of missile interceptors.

    From AP.

    JERUSALEM February 10, 2012 (AP)
    Israel says it has successfully tested an upgraded radar for the Arrow missile defense system, developed with the United States and designed to intercept projectiles that might be fired at the Jewish state from Iran.

    Defense official Yair Ramati says the test was conducted on Friday in conjunction with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

    He says the purpose of the test was to validate the system's improved radar.

    He said a Blue Sparrow 2 missile was fired west to east from "deep within the Mediterranean" but he would not say how far from Israel it was fired or what sort of threat it was designed to simulate.

    A defense ministry statement says the Blue Sparrow was "representative of potential ballistic missile threats facing Israel."

    • I hate to go all Godwin on you Ingy, but when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, they claimed it was self-defense. This is the same manner in which Israel "defends" itself – by attacking people and stealing land.

      • Perfect example Mark.

        When Israel invaded Palestine they killed 200,000 civilians in 760 different execution sites.

        Then they shipped a bunch off to prison camps to starve and evidentially gas them.

        • It helps to think of it as the USS Israel. they have become the region's aggressors. There has long been an offer on the table from the Arab states for peace – Israel merely stops expanding, abides by international law.

          Israel has inflicted far more casualties, by a factors of maybe a hundred, than any damage done to it. Stop thinking of them as victims. They are the best armed state in the area they have nukes, are crazy enough to use them. They are a menace.

          • When Israel attacked Syria's nuke plant they destroyed it without civilian causalities.

            When Hamas strike they specifically attack children, restaurants, hospitals, malls and schools.

            Whose the menace?

            • This is pointless. Now I need to go to Human Rights Watch or some other source to inform you of Israeli atrocities, and it would bounce off you like pebbles thrown at tanks by children.

  • So Israel's terrorist attack's against scientists inside Iran were done for the purpose of protecting innocent people? That is an interesting way to look at it.

  • What does that have to do with it? Were the scientists in Iran 'innocent people'? What about any bystanders that were killed? Whatever the Israelis did or didnt do to the Iranian scientists was not done for the purpose of protecting innocent people. It was done in an attempt to insure their regional dominance as the only nuclear power in the mideast, unless you count pakistan. But you dont believe the Iranians would be justified in assasinating Israeli (or American) nuclear scientists.. or any civilians who happen to work in an industry that may also provide a military benefit in an attempt to protect innocents who could be hurt in an Israeli or American attack on Iran. You would not be trying to have your cake and eat it too are you?

    • If Israel could have killed the bomb maker (read scientist) many lives would have been saved.

      What we're taking 'bout here is offensive weapons vs defensive weapons. Iran has publicly stated that Israel has no right to exist.

      Their intentions are clear.

      • The world is indifferent to suffering. That part is sad, but reality. We mammals eat other mammals. It's how we stay alive.

        Within the human realm I am most interested in the thing called conscience. You have one, Ingy, which is why you go to the trouble of projecting all of Israel's cruelty on others. I have thought now and then that you just don't know anything. But if that we're true you would express surprise or even learn something now and then. But you don't. You know, on some level, what's real. You are smarter than I ever gave you credit for. And living in denial. But that's all of us I suppose.

      • That's patently ridiculous. Us and Israeli intelligence both state Iranian use of nuclear weapons would be deterred just as every other nations use of them is deterred. Iranian possession of nuclear weapons would potentially deter and constrain us and Israeli action though that's the issue.

  • It's easy to "round up the usual suspects," but it could be that the Saudis are bumping off Iran's nuclear scientists. They have the motive and the capability and a closed society can pull it off more quietly. Plus, if the Iranians counterattack Israel, that's a win for the Saudis too.
    My worry is the the clerics in Iran — who fear the Arab Spring more than anything — will use the Bush example of launching a little war to boost their domestic standing.

    • Gabby –

      "will use the Bush example of launching a little war to boost their domestic standing. "

      I agree, except that I don't think they dare launch a war – they can wait for a war to come to them, they just need to keep pushing the right buttons.

    • What, exactly are you responding to here, lizard? I don't think anyone is suggesting that bombing Iran will save it. I do believe that it would save or shore up the current regime, but unlike those who defer forever to sovereignty, I don't believe that the respecting whatever government is currently in place is equal to respecting a country itself.

  • Regarding Iran if we want to truly come to an agreement that would prevent Iran from eventually obtaining nuclear weapons and avoid overt conflict guaranteeing somehow we will not seek 'regime change' anymore will probably have to be part of that.

  • I think you're right, Jack. Something similar to the deal we worked out with Cuba, for example. We should have normalized relations with Iran fifteen around September 12th, 2001. It's a little late now, but we need to start negotiating with them on the assumption that we won't take military action.

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