« Global Inequality | Main | More Iran »

December 06, 2006

What Happens When Iran Stops Being Polite, And Starts Getting Real?

David Ignatius writes:

[Iranian National Security advisor] Larijani isn't proposing a grand bargain but a ruthlessly pragmatic one shaped by Tehran's view of current realities: Iran is up, America is down, and any post-Iraq settlement should reflect those facts. That's the steep price of Tehran's help.

That isn't just Tehran's view of currently realities, it's the current reality. America is weak, and proven more so every day. Iran has enormous pull within Iraq and knows, no matter how long we occupy the country, that they'll be their after we leave. Indeed, it's a disheartening truth that there are only two outcomes for Iraq: One that vastly strengthens Iran, or one that throws the whole region into chaos. Frankly, I'd opt for the former.

Meanwhile, folks should remember that Iran approached the Bush administration a few months after we invaded Iraq asking for a Grand Bargain and new alliance. The Bush administration rebuffed their entreaties, believing there no reason to negotiate when American held all the cards. Now we get to do it from a position of weakness.

December 6, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

America is weak, and proven more so every day.

Let's not overcorrect. America's weaker. We'll continue to be the dominant power in the world, and we'll continue to be the dominant foreign power in the Middle East. We lost this round--it happens.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Dec 6, 2006 10:59:59 AM

Tim, that's a dangerous line of thinking. How many rounds can you lose before you're down for the count? I don't see any indications that America is going to change its present course of disaster and decline. Pony power and clapping louder is no way to keep an empire afloat.

Posted by: scarshapedstar | Dec 6, 2006 11:59:42 AM

The Bush administration was just applying Middle East logic:

When I am weak, I cannot negotiate with you. When I am strong, I do not have to negotiate with you.

Posted by: Joe Scordato | Dec 6, 2006 12:04:25 PM

Pony power and clapping louder is no way to keep an empire afloat.

Very odd remark. As I read him, Tim was just pointing out something fairly obvious, not trying to keep an empire afloat. What danger is there in recognizing that the US continues to be a powerful country? Any country that can overthrow a government by force at ten thousand miles distance remains one to be reckoned with. Our position in Iraq is weak in comparison to our goals there, but we were overreaching.

Posted by: Sanpete | Dec 6, 2006 12:33:30 PM

...remember that Iran approached the Bush administration a few months after we invaded Iraq asking for a Grand Bargain and new alliance. The Bush administration rebuffed their entreaties, believing there no reason to negotiate when American held all the cards. Now we get to do it from a position of weakness

I comment on the more recent post above (More Iran) that Bush won't negotiate from either weakness or strength, but will preemptively act against Iran as soon as it is clear that the UNSC won't enact tough sanctions.

Bush/Cheney's madness is sufficient for another military action - this time against Iran, disregarding what the impact will be on Iraq, our military forces in the Iraq and the region, and the fragile nations of the region.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Dec 6, 2006 1:12:10 PM

Bush/Cheney's madness is sufficient for another military action - this time against Iran, disregarding what the impact will be on Iraq, our military forces in the Iraq and the region, and the fragile nations of the region.

I see no reason to believe this. The tendency to believe this kind of thing is directly proprtional to how much one hates Bush and Cheney, it seems. But the evidence isn't there.

Posted by: Sanpete | Dec 6, 2006 1:46:25 PM

What danger is there in recognizing that the US continues to be a powerful country? Any country that can overthrow a government by force at ten thousand miles distance remains one to be reckoned with.

Like I said, hell of a way to keep an empire afloat. Who are the terrorists again?

Posted by: scarshapedstar | Dec 6, 2006 1:49:19 PM

Star, you seem to be sliding from opposition to policy to denial of reality. Even if you oppose US policy, the US still remains powerful in comparison to other nations, even in Iraq.

Getting back to Ezra's point, US power to create a stable Iraq is very limited now, as is, in my view, the power of other nations to do so, but to the extent Iran might be able to help, that possibility should be pursued, even if it strengthens Iran's hand in the region.

Posted by: Sanpete | Dec 6, 2006 2:15:42 PM

Star, you seem to be sliding from opposition to policy to denial of reality. Even if you oppose US policy, the US still remains powerful in comparison to other nations, even in Iraq.

scarshapedstar is taking a long view at this, talking about where the USA is currently headed, and what will become of it if the present course is sustained. There really wasn't anything there about the relative power of the USA, in the Middle East or anywhere else.

Speaking of the USA as a powerful country in the Middle East, I would be interested to know what criteria is used to determine that we are in fact "powerful." Our military is unable to secure even the city of Baghdad, let alone the country of Iraq, and everyone knows this. We have no more troops to send, and our materiel situation is becoming dire - we simply don't have all the equipment we need to keep our forces combat-ready.

Our vaunted economic might is of little use to us, since we don't trade with Iran and it is patently obvious that the USA is fully dependent upon relatively cheap oil for its economy to work. Since China is the fastest growing market for petroleum, I would imagine that the members of OPEC would not be too concerned if we decided to stop taking their oil.

There is the fact that the United States is viewed as a powerful country. This is no small thing, but reputations don't win wars.

Our only objective strength is our nuclear arsenal. I'm not comforted by the idea that our ability to bend Iran to our will is dependent upon them thinking that George Bush is crazy enough to unleash a nuclear holocaust upon the world.

I see no reason to believe this. The tendency to believe this kind of thing is directly proprtional to how much one hates Bush and Cheney, it seems. But the evidence isn't there.

That's incredibly weak. The "tendency to believe this kind of thing is directly proportional to how much" attention one paid during the buildup to the Iraq War, which was an unprovoked attack against a sovereign nation, the justification for which was a tissue of lies.

The only rational way to approach this is to look at past behavior. Past behavior suggests that Bush is willing to launch wars of aggression despite warnings from every agency and department our government has that such action is unjustified and ill-advised.

Or do you have some evidence that suggests Bush has changed his behavior, changed his outlook, changed anything at all substantially enough to stop him from doing what he has done before?

Posted by: Stephen | Dec 6, 2006 4:58:22 PM

I see no reason to believe this. The tendency to believe this kind of thing is directly proprtional to how much one hates Bush and Cheney, it seems. But the evidence isn't there.

While the signs are that Cheney's star is on the wane, a central thread running through his resume is, skilled bureaucratic infighter. It's well known that one of the most important mechanisms for ramping up the Mesopotamian disaster was the de facto parallel government that Cheney constructed in the "defense" bureaucracy. What's more, given the expansion in U.S. clandestine forces of all kinds, the potential for fabricating "incidents" is at least as high as it's ever been, and I haven't heard any members of the nominal opposition come within a mile of questioning this development. I think it would be rather useful to know, for instance, what SEAL's are doing around the Iranian border, and exactly what kind of aid we're giving to anti-Tehran proxies.

No, there's lots of evidence out there. You just aren't interested in looking at it.

Posted by: sglover | Dec 6, 2006 4:59:16 PM

Maybe what happens is the US redeploys to the Kurdish region (thus taking its thumb off of the Sunni/Shia struggle), and conducts prememtive strikes on Iran and Hezbollah. Regional Mayhem ensues. The oil should start flowing again in a couple of decades....

Posted by: Don | Dec 6, 2006 5:07:11 PM

scarshapedstar is taking a long view at this, talking about where the USA is currently headed, and what will become of it if the present course is sustained.

Star claims that Tim's line of thought is dangerous and implies that it's delusional, when all Tim said is that our (presumed) loss in Iraq won't leave us weak, but only weaker, that we'll still be strong. Star's further claim that we will continue to decline may or may not be true, but it doesn't make what Tim pointed out dangerous. Rather it's factual.

There really wasn't anything there about the relative power of the USA, in the Middle East or anywhere else.

All power in the relevant sense is relative. Tim did in fact put his remark in the context of the Middle East and the world.

I would be interested to know what criteria is used to determine that we are in fact "powerful."

As I already said, any country that can overthrow by force a government ten thousand miles away is powerful. How many countries can do that? I could add other forms of power in which we exceed others, but that's enough to make my point. I obviously don't entirely agree with your analysis of American strength.

The only rational way to approach this is to look at past behavior.

Exactly. Where's the build-up you're talking about? The saber-rattling was deafening before the invasion of Iraq. The build-up was obvious. The invasion was announced in advance, Congress was asked to vote on the use of force. And Bush's advisors, except Powell, were very much in favor of invasion. And we weren't stuck in a very vulnerable position next door. Where's your evidence?

No, there's lots of evidence out there.

Same question you, sglover. Where's the evidence I should be looking at? The stuff you mention doesn't impress.

Posted by: Sanpete | Dec 6, 2006 6:20:00 PM

Tim did in fact put his remark in the context of the Middle East and the world.

I was trying to reference starshapedscar's comment there. I wasn't clear, sorry.

As I already said, any country that can overthrow by force a government ten thousand miles away is powerful. How many countries can do that?

Right now, the United States can't do it, which is the point. What we were able to do in Afghanistan and Iraq 3 years ago isn't relevant. We aren't able to keep the Taliban from taking over the majority of Afghanistan - again - and there is more of Iraq outside of our control than under it. The relevant point is our strength now. And right now the USA is weaker militarily and diplomatically than it was before this mess, and starts from a position of economic weakness within this portion of the world.

Prove that the USA could, without nukes, accomplish anything in Iran even close to what we did in Iraq, and then you'll have a case for the United States' strength.

Exactly. Where's the build-up you're talking about? The saber-rattling was deafening before the invasion of Iraq. The build-up was obvious. The invasion was announced in advance, Congress was asked to vote on the use of force. And Bush's advisors, except Powell, were very much in favor of invasion.

I didn't mention Bush's advisors, the few on his cabinet and Cheney. I talked about analysts, intelligence officers, generals and the like. Many voices expressing doubt, reservation, opposition.

As for Congress' vote and all that, you're trying to argue against me by citing things that haven't happened yet. Since this is a discussion about the likelihood of Bush following the direction he has followed consistently since 9/11, what hasn't happened yet isn't pertinent.

Possible military action against Iran is the issue here. Whether Bush calls for Hans Blix to enter the country so Bush can prematurely pull him out, or if Bush calls Colin Powell back for a repeat UN performance just doesn't matter. Whatever happens with Iran, it will not mimic Iraq completely. You're trying to set the terms of this debate so that it must or we're all wrong.

Posted by: Stephen | Dec 6, 2006 8:17:00 PM

Keep in mind that star's comment was about Tim's, which is the context in which I responded. I think what Tim said was plainly true and that star's response was plainly false, to the extent it found fault with what Tim said.

Right now, the United States can't do it, which is the point. What we were able to do in Afghanistan and Iraq 3 years ago isn't relevant.

Can and did, which is of course relevant: it's power, it has very much affected the region, and we could do it again now if we wanted to drop everything else again. You're talking about something more than that, something more difficult, which the US might or might be able to accomplish with sufficient cause and wiser leadership. As I said earlier, we overreached in Iraq. But that doesn't mean we aren't more powerful in the region than other foreign powers, as Tim said. He also said we're weaker there now than before. I agree.

Prove that the USA could, without nukes, accomplish anything in Iran even close to what we did in Iraq, and then you'll have a case for the United States' strength.

Why would I want to prove what I haven't said or implied and don't entirely believe? Could some other power do this? It's all relative.

I didn't mention Bush's advisors, the few on his cabinet and Cheney.

I wasn't contradicting what you said about doubting generals and such. You referred me to what happened before as the key to predicting what will happen next. There's an obvious disconnect with the past here, since Bush's closest advisors aren't pushing for blasting Iran the way they were for invading Iraq. Gates has already implied that it would be nuts, and he will be the one most directly involved.

what hasn't happened yet isn't pertinent.

What is pertinent in reviewing how the present relates to the past here is that almost nothing very analogous to the key events that preceded the invasion of Iraq, that set Iraq apart from other countries Bush has badmouthed, has happened in regard to Iran, and several necessary events would be very, very unlikely, including approval from Congress and, particularly, ignoring the damage to our situation and troops in Iraq, contrary to what Jim said. As I said, I see no reason to believe Bush would do this, or even could if he wanted to; the evidence isn't there. (Jim's comment on this even stronger in the other Iran thread, by the way. I just happened to respond here.)

Posted by: Sanpete | Dec 6, 2006 10:05:19 PM

welcome to wow gold Cheap and Low cheap wow gold 24/7, Low Price, Fast Delivery! buy cheapest buy wow goldfrom a US based company you can trust!world of warcraft goldweb site.

Posted by: sdf | Dec 19, 2006 4:40:57 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.