Saturday, April 08, 2006

Iran and Bush's Batting Average

What are the odds that Bush will get it right when it comes to Iran? Short answer: not good. Steve Soto of The Left Coaster notes that Sy Hersh has an article in The New Yorker about Iran; here's an excerpt from Hersh's article that reminds me of the clumsy Bush underlings in the year before invading Iraq:
In Vienna, I was told of an exceedingly testy meeting earlier this year between Mohamed ElBaradei, the I.A.E.A.’s director-general, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, and Robert Joseph, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control. Joseph’s message was blunt, one diplomat recalled: “We cannot have a single centrifuge spinning in Iran. Iran is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and our allies, and we will not tolerate it. We want you to give us an understanding that you will not say anything publicly that will undermine us. ”

Joseph’s heavy-handedness was unnecessary, the diplomat said, since the I.A.E.A. already had been inclined to take a hard stand against Iran. “All of the inspectors are angry at being misled by the Iranians, and some think the Iranian leadership are nutcases—one hundred per cent totally certified nuts,” the diplomat said. He added that ElBaradei’s overriding concern is that the Iranian leaders “want confrontation, just like the neocons on the other side”—in Washington. “At the end of the day, it will work only if the United States agrees to talk to the Iranians.”
This is a sign that the Bush Administration is slow to learn anything. A great deal more domestic and international pressure needs to be brought on Bush and the Iranians to bring some resolution to a problem that has been an active issue for some time but that was somewhat on the back burner for several years and has been obscured by the many Bush and Republican fiascos. Bush may now be putting Iran on the front burner for reasons not entirely free of politics. Here's another excerpt from the same Sy Hersh article:
Other European officials expressed similar skepticism about the value of an American bombing campaign. “The Iranian economy is in bad shape, and Ahmadinejad is in bad shape politically,” the European intelligence official told me. “He will benefit politically from American bombing. You can do it, but the results will be worse.” An American attack, he said, would alienate ordinary Iranians, including those who might be sympathetic to the U.S. “Iran is no longer living in the Stone Age, and the young people there have access to U.S. movies and books, and they love it,” he said. “If there was a charm offensive with Iran, the mullahs would be in trouble in the long run.”

Another European official told me that he was aware that many in Washington wanted action. “It’s always the same guys,” he said, with a resigned shrug. “There is a belief that diplomacy is doomed to fail. The timetable is short.”

The assessment of the Europeans may be accurate but they need to find a way to get beyond six decades of the diplomatic Gallic shrug, "But what is one to do?" That's not an answer. With the temporary failure of America's foreign policy thinking, the Europeans need to step up.

A commenter in The Washington Monthly led me to an article by James Fallow in The Atlantic Monthly; here's an excerpt concerning a 2004 war game sponsored by the magazine:
...under the guidance of Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who had conducted many real-world war games for the Pentagon, including those that shaped U.S. strategy for the first Gulf War, we assembled a panel of experts to ask “What then?” about the ways in which the United States might threaten, pressure, or entice the Iranians not to build a bomb. Some had been for and some against the invasion of Iraq; all had served in the Pentagon, intelligence agencies, or other parts of the nation’s security apparatus, and many had dealt directly with Iran.

The experts disagreed on some details but were nearly unanimous on one crucial point: what might seem America’s ace in the hole—the ability to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations in a pre-emptive air strike—was a fantasy.
Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush like to think of themselves as creative thinkers who can think outside the box. They also believe they can 'create' reality. Their record of astute analysis of foreign policy in the last five years has not been much to brag about. In The Atlantic Monthly article, James Fallows goes on to write:
Every tool at Iran’s disposal is now more powerful, and every complication for the United States worse, than when our war-gamers determined that a pre-emptive strike could not succeed. Iran has used the passing time to disperse, diversify, conceal, and protect its nuclear centers. Instead of a dozen or so potential sites that would have to be destroyed, it now has at least twice that many. The Shiite dominance of Iraq’s new government and military has consolidated, and the ties between the Shiites of Iran and those of Iraq have grown more intense. Early this year, the Iraqi Shiite warlord Muqtada al-Sadr suggested that he would turn his Mahdi Army against Americans if they attacked Iran.
Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz (now gone), Cheney and a few others are not noted for their accurate assessments of threats to the United States; Iran is a potential threat and it needs to be seriously dealt with but exaggerating that threat as was done with Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States. Rumsfeld and company are right wing conservatives notorious for putting military options on the table first and skipping over genuine diplomatic steps. If Condi Rice is not totally dazzled by her wardrobe budget, she needs to think about realistic diplomatic solutions.


Blogger JasonSpalding said...

The fact is that either we choose to allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to develop the nuclear system that would allow for nuclear weapons or we don't. Bring on the apocalyptic rhetoric.:)

9:46 PM  

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