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January 15, 2006

Iran

As Atrios, Kevin, and others are arguing, Iran may well be the next Iraq, at least in a political sense. Given the flagging fortunes of the Republican majority, an unhinged, unleashed islamic Republic wielding nuclear weapons is the perfect excuse to refocus the election on national security. Perfect because they're scary, sure, but perfect because they're real, too. Ahmadinejad's ascension and Iran's admitted, verified race for nuclear weapons are both independently observable events that are rightfully heightening focus and fears on the country. Unlike Iraq, where Bush conjured an urgent, rapidly-massing threat out of whole cloth, circumstances in Iran are changing for the worse and paying close attention to their evolution makes perfect sense.

An invasion doesn't.

But, as Kevin says, Democrats are going to have to figure out a way to handle the issue, both because it'll prove politically salient and because, on its own terms, it's genuinely legitimate. And, granted, I don't know how to do that, but being proactive rather than reactive strikes me as a start. If Reid's offices aren't packed with exhausted national security aides drawing up a comprehensive plan to deal with Iran and the DNC's PR guys aren't booking prominent Democrats to blanket television and set the terms of the debate, we've got a problem. One way or the other, Iran is going to be an issue. And given that, Democrats need to step forward on it first so, in six months, they're not left playing catch-up to the hawks.

Update: Also, read Tim F.

January 15, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Okay. Here's a little outside of the box thinking. America should give Iran 3-5 atomic bombs. This will prevent America from invading Iran and thus protect American lives. It will make Iran more stable as they will feel more secure. It will improve relations between Iran and the U.S. It will save the Iranian people the cost of an expensive and dangerous nuclear weapons program. Iran will work hard to ensure no terrorists get their hands on any atomic bombs out of fear that if one is detonated they will get the blame for supplying it. Giving them several atomic bombs will allow them to test one and be sure they work.

This could be part of a non-agression pact in which Iran swears off wars of agression or aiding terrorist individuals or groups.

Posted by: Ronald Brak | Jan 15, 2006 11:37:56 AM

How likely is it that Iran would unilaterally launch a nuclear attack against the United States? Sure they could hurt us badly if they did; but our counterstrike would annihilate them.

How likely is it that Iran will strike Israel? A precision strike, probably beyond their capabilites, risks a devastating counterstrike from Israel. Completely annihilating Israel would strike many Muslims as well and would contaminate water supplies for bordering countries as well as holy sites in Jerusalem.

Sure these arguments may not phase a genuine eschatonic madman but they could sway the populations in the Middle East. Making them broadly known could help reign in some of the more inflammatory rhetoric.

Posted by: Emma Zahn | Jan 15, 2006 11:41:54 AM

The first two comments are exactly why liberals should never be in power. Give Iran nukes?! It would save American lives?!?

First off, when Iran gets a nuke, it is only a matter of time before Israel is nuked either directly by Iran or by Islamic Jihad. Iran's president has stated his goal is to wipe Israel off the map. But let's say, for the sake of idiocy, that Iran doesn't attack Israel, after Iran has the technology for awhile, they can figure out how to make a suitcase nuke and figure out how to smuggle it into the US.

In either situation, it is all out war. If a nuke goes off, either here or in the middle east, hundreds of thousands of Jews, Muslims and Americans will die.

This issue may help the Republicans stay in power. Howard Dean or John Kerry or one of them brilliant Democratic leaders will make a suggestion like the one above (give Iran nukes) and that will be it.

Please, urge your Democratic leaders to put forth their suggestions on the Iran issue.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jan 15, 2006 12:11:09 PM

This definitely came to the White House on a silver platter. I wonder what sort of deal they have worked out with Iran under the table?

(All right, I don't actually hold this conspiracy theory.)

Posted by: Allen K. | Jan 15, 2006 12:22:09 PM

Who says I'm liberal? Since when has balance of power politics counted as liberal? Don't go taking what I say and passing it off as liberal. It is Ronald Brak who wrote that comment thank you very much. My name is right there at the bottom after the words Posted by.

Perhaps if I should have used the phrase "devil's advocate" instead of "out of the box thinking" in my original comment, but I still think it is important for people to consider that the drawbacks of trying to prevent Iran from getting the bomb could be worse than the drawbacks of their having it. Unstable Pakistan has the bomb and I don't see how that's better than more stable Iran having it. And yes, I am aware that Iran has done things like send masses of children out against Iraqi machine gun emplacments, so the idea of Iran with atomic bombs doesn't thrill me, but it may be something we'll just have to live with. Hopefully we'll live with it.

Posted by: Ronald Brak | Jan 15, 2006 12:35:42 PM

"Sure they could hurt us badly if they did; but our counterstrike would annihilate them."

This has not been analyzed decently at all, at least in the left blogosphere;as far as I know, I (at Clemon's place) am the only one to look at it beyond "parking lot" chest-thumping. If Iran were to set off a nuke(of any size) in Chicago, and then say they have two more hidden in American cities, and three on missiles ready to fire at Israel and SA oil facilities, are you really certain that the American President's most rational response is to instantly give up Denver and Dallas? Would it make you feel better?

We have gone thru this before, when we had many nukes and the USSR had few. We decided in the fifties that it didn't take very many to completely deter. No, I really think Iran can nuke an American city and then we would negotiate.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jan 15, 2006 12:36:23 PM

Captain Toke,

What have you been toking? In what way does my post advocate giving Iran nukes? I simply point out some of the downsides of Iran wanting and/or having them. They are a lose/lose proposition -- even for us.

Posted by: Emma Zahn | Jan 15, 2006 12:37:05 PM

Bob McManus,

Did you actually read my post?

My point was that let the people in the Muslim world know what the risks are to having and/or using them.

Where in my post do I advocate negotiating with Iran after a nuclear strike by them on the US? I said a counterstrike would annihilate them. I assume there would be a counterstrike.

Please read and think about what you've read before responding. My suggestion is to use the arguments I proposed to dissuade Iran's population from developing a nuclear military capability -- something that wild-eyed fear on our part is not accomplishing.

Posted by: Emma Zahn | Jan 15, 2006 12:48:25 PM

I've heard a dozen experts say that if Iran gave nukes to terrorists and the terrorists used them, it would be easy to prove. So this baloney argument about giving weapons to terrorists fits right into the ordinary deterrence model that has always worked and always will work.

Anyway, Iran is completely surrounded by American bases and warships, and is also surrounded by other nuclear neighbors.

When Iran does gets nukes, the consequences will be that Israel loses part of its first strike threat and America suffers one more setback to its unreachable goal of dominating every oil exporting country. It's not going to happen; and we're just making the entire world hate us by trying.

Posted by: Gary Sugar | Jan 15, 2006 1:15:43 PM

"I assume there would be a counterstrike."

Well, that is kinda the important question, isn't it? I don't think that threat is credible, and so don't believe we can scare the Iranians with phony bravado anymore then we could scare the Soviets in the 50s and 60s.

The Soviets armed, trained, and supported the North Vietnamese for a decade while 50k Americans died and we did not directly attack the USSR in any significant way. Because we couldn't. There will be real advantages, gains, prestige, security, and actual power for the Iranians aftr they get nukes and not much downside. You aren't gonna sweettalk them out of it.

"You assume." Jeez. The Iranians know what a couple hundred megatons on Iran will do (think fallout on India), and know America isn't crazy to do it.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jan 15, 2006 1:19:20 PM

I'm torn on this. On the one hand, I absolutely agree that the Bush administration has compromised their credibility. On the other hand, I think having Democrats preemptively frame the forthcoming Iran debate in terms of the previous Iraq debate is very, very dangerous. Whatever anybody believes about the Iraq situation, we can all pretty well agree that the Iran problem is, as you put it, "genuinely legitimate".

Unfortunately, it's also genuinely complex. An invasion seems like a rather bad option, but then so does every other option. At this point, as far as I can tell, an invasion is the worst of a series of options. Maybe the calculus will change, and maybe it won't, but I think it's vitally important that our domestic debate not hamstring our Iran policy by conducting it as a mulligan on the Iraq war.

Unfortunately, as I wrote in this post, what we have ahead of us is a serious debate in an incredibly polarized environment about an extremely complex issue with absolutely no good choices and almost no real leverage.

I'm not optimistic.

Posted by: Jon Henke | Jan 15, 2006 1:31:40 PM

"Well, that is kinda the important question, isn't it? I don't think that threat is credible, and so don't believe we can scare the Iranians with phony bravado anymore then we could scare the Soviets in the 50s and 60s."

So when did anyone actually hit us with a nuclear weapon? I've been around for 50+ years but must have missed that news. Talk about down the memory hole.

Truth is, after WWII, we didn't use ours; they didn't use theirs. If they had, we would have responded. Same goes with Iran. It's important that everyone believe that -- it's an excellent time-tested deterrent.

It's also important that everyone understands that a nuclear exchange in the Middle East will poison all the wells -- water and oil.

Posted by: Emma Zahn | Jan 15, 2006 1:32:39 PM

Nukes aren't the only diversion in the toybox. Besides smart bombs are interesting superbombs that simulate a small nuke without radiation. The question is becoming more one of restraining the testing of newer and more horrendous diversions. That's the arrogance the Iranians have stated needs restraining. It must be disloyal to agree, of course.

Posted by: opit | Jan 15, 2006 1:53:53 PM

"It's important that everyone believe that -- it's an excellent time-tested deterrent."

I think that is called:"begging the question".

a)Iranian nuke in Chicago = America loses Chicago
b)American retaliation on Iran = "the end of the world as we know it"

Iran has publicly stated that they think they can lose a few cities and still survive as nation. The deterrence of the 50s and 60s was a response to a very specific situation with very specific circumstances, that may not apply to every situation. If the Soviet Union had been France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy would have been very interested in our strategies. Heck, I am not sure we would be willing and able to sacrifice South Korea to our macho fantasies if NK landed a nuke on Seattle.

Prove that kind of willingness and I will believe in the deterrent.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jan 15, 2006 2:08:19 PM

I've heard a dozen experts say that if Iran gave nukes to terrorists and the terrorists used them, it would be easy to prove. So this baloney argument about giving weapons to terrorists fits right into the ordinary deterrence model that has always worked and always will work.

All of this discussion assumes that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons would make rational political decisions. I don't think anyone believes this crap or the nut-job that made a serious suggestion of giving the Iranians nukes. These are the far left fringe that gives the Democratic party a bad rap.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Jan 15, 2006 2:18:19 PM

Don't mind me, just closing the italics tag.

Posted by: Ezra | Jan 15, 2006 2:30:51 PM

Bob,

Obviously we aren't on the same page here. I don't understand if you think retaliation for an Iranian nuclear strike against Chicago would be the "end of the world as we know it" or if you think that is what I think.

That makes it hard to respond but I will repeat my main point: Give the general populations of the Middle East a clear sense of what the risks are in developing and possibly using a nuclear weapon.

Posted by: Emma Zahn | Jan 15, 2006 3:26:14 PM

Bob,

Obviously we aren't on the same page here. I don't understand if you think retaliation for an Iranian nuclear strike against Chicago would be the "end of the world as we know it" or if you think that is what I think.

That makes it hard to respond but I will repeat my main point: Give the general populations of the Middle East a clear sense of what the risks are in developing and using a nuclear weapon. And we should do the same with the people here. What are the best, worst and most likely outcomes of attacking or not attacking Iran? Syria? North Korea?

Posted by: Emma Zahn | Jan 15, 2006 3:32:07 PM

There are only three countries who are currently speaking of nuclear weapons. The are the United States who recently formulated plans under which the right is reserved to use first strike nuclear weapons under certain conditions. The other two nations who are threatening their use are China and North Korea who issued their police of using them against us if we attacked them.

Is it a small wonder why Iran also wants a nuclear capabilities, especially since there are plans drawn up for the US to us tactical nuclear weapons to stop their nuclear progress. Does it get any more ironic than that?

Apparently this thread has been infiltrated by some charetered members of the thought police. We heard it all about Iraq - if they ever got their hands on WMD they would hand them off to some nefarious group who would surely use them on us. Sound familiar?

I don't think giving them nukes is the answer, but on the other hand singling them out and denying them international rights while we are threatening and labeling them as evil is not the answer either. If Iraq proved anything at all it is that attacking them is not the answer either.

If we had any common sense we would immediately open a DIRECT dialogue with Iran. If we are so concerned then why is it left up the the Europeans to arrive at some sort of impasse? If we have problems then why can't we sit down and have an honest discussion? With their large fuel reserves we certainly must have some common ground with them. Why don't we help them set up responsible nuclear energy with our oversight in exchange for fuel agreements? Right now they are dealing with China who you must consider will not allow their main future supplier to come under our military oversight. Not like the Russians did with Iraq, but the Russians didn't really need Iraq's oil like China needs Iran's.

If there is truly a vast youth movement in Iran as the neo-cons tell us the why aren't we befriending that nation? If they want to westernize it's best to bring them along slowly through a mutually trustful relationship. It worked with the USSR and it's slowly happening with China. Can Iran be any bigger a nut to crack if we were serious about it?

When war is the first policy, as it was with Iraq, it is always the easiest option. It is also the most unpredictable as we've come to find out the hard way. Round 2 will be much more devastating to our teasure and reputation. If your ready for $5 gas prices and want to look over your shoulder each time you go into public then our current course is the ticket.

Posted by: chum | Jan 15, 2006 3:33:06 PM

end italics

umm, why have all the spam security boxes disappeared around the blogosphere on the same weekend? I find y'all very confusing.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jan 15, 2006 3:41:06 PM

To get back on topic for a little while, although whenever I go this direction Ezra calls me nutzoid:

There will be war. The left and Democrats (I am both, in case you are new to this blog) simply have to abandon their desire to avoid war. They can't, and any attempt to do so will only lead to the loss of everything else. Like economic justice and choice. Duh.
And having lost everything, there will still be war. Matt Y said he would accept the Devil's own domestic policy to avoid war. That option is not available. Whether you think the origins of these wars are foreign bad guys or domestic bad guys only determines where the war will be staged. But war it must be.

The preferable options that may be available are Democratic structured and controlled wars overseas or civil war at home. But liberals will never have any power that isn't taken at gunpoint over the corpses of women and children. If you don't like it, and wish to withdraw to a mountaintop, ok fine. I respect that. But that won't stop the war.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jan 15, 2006 4:05:27 PM

Iran's admitted, verified race for nuclear weapons

Uh, what? Did I miss something?

This is a silly post. Iran is not a threat, unless the US is intent on making it feel threatened itself, in which case the doctrine of preemtive war comes into play, and Iran would be justified in striking first, or at least more so than the US was in attacking Iraq.

Why shouldn't Iran have nuclear weapons? If I had Israel and the US threatening my country, I'd want the only effective deterrent. What's the rationale for trying to keep them out of their hands via military strikes? Violation of the anti-prolif. treaty? Guess what - the US is in violation of that treaty too, and Israel isn't even a party to it (and won't even say whether or not it has nukes, even though everyone knows it does).

Posted by: Dadahead | Jan 15, 2006 4:14:19 PM

The Iranian quip about U.S. terrorism isn't just rhetoric. When you've scared the shit out of people they're not going to want to look weak or indecisive. Ask Saddam. What other nation thinks it can afford to run international policy around deomestic concerns ?

Posted by: opit | Jan 15, 2006 4:32:11 PM

"America should give Iran 3-5 atomic bombs. This will prevent America from invading Iran and thus protect American lives. It will make Iran more stable as they will feel more secure. It will improve relations between Iran and the U.S. It will save the Iranian people the cost of an expensive and dangerous nuclear weapons program.

I say we give al Qaeda nukes so they don't feel like they are less important than we are. We can't let them think they are beneath us.

I think a self esteem boost like that will really improve relations and we could really open a dialogue.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jan 15, 2006 4:44:28 PM

Dadahead, Israel has never "threatened" Iran with anything, especially not a nuclear attack. If Israel didn't even use nukes against Egypt when the state was in danger of total destruction in 1973, why the hell would it launch an unprovoked attack on a country a thousand miles away?

The worry is that Ahmadinejad has publicly stated his intention to annihilate Israel. What's the hard part here?

Posted by: Mastiff | Jan 15, 2006 7:48:03 PM

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