Saturday, January 14, 2006

Iran: Victor Davis Hanson on the case

The ever-perceptive Victor Davis Hanson's National Review column yesterday dealt with some issues discussed recently on this blog concerning Iran (hat tip: Soxblog).

He first sets up the seriousness of the Iranian situation, and then goes methodically down the list of possible responses.

Hanson sees four. The first is what he calls the "ostrich option," which he rejects without too much discussion. The second, worldwide diplomacy and strong sanctions, including support for an overthrow of the current government, is given a lengthy hearing. Hanson offers the following caveat: it is a long-term therapy and therefore suffers the obvious defect that Iran might become nuclear in the meantime (as discussed here yesterday in this comment and in others following).

The third option, unilateral action by Israel, Hanson analyzes and ultimately rejects for multiple strategic reasons. About the final possibility, Hanson writes:

The fourth scenario is as increasingly dreaded as it is apparently inevitable — a U.S. air strike. Most hope that it can be delayed...

He then goes on to analyze the possible consequences, including the PR fallout:

We remember the “quagmire” hysteria that followed week three in Afghanistan, and the sandstorm “pause” that prompted cries that we had lost Iraq. All that would be child’s play compared to an Iranian war, as retired generals and investigative reporters haggled every night on cable news over how many reactor sites were still left to go. So take for granted that we would be saturated by day four of the bombing with al Jazeera’s harangues, perhaps a downed and blindfolded pilot or two paraded on television, some gruesome footage of arms and legs in Tehran’s streets, and the usual Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer outtakes.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Hanson is a realist, not a Utopian. He is not bloodthirsty (although I'm sure his critics consider him so). But he realizes that situations such as that of Iran today present us with a situation in which the options sometimes are all bad, and we must choose the best of a bad business--or the least crazy choice among several competing crazinesses. His article ends with these words:

Finally, the public must be warned that dealing with a nuclear Iran is not a matter of a good versus a bad choice, but between a very bad one now and something far, far worse to come.

In my opinion, that was also true of the war in Iraq--and no doubt, to some degree or other, of all wars.


At 2:49 PM, January 14, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please forgive me for going off-topic at the beginning of such an important thread, but the pertinent thread -- the one about how we've become such narcissists that we take "Bush lied" to mean only that we were led to believe an untruth, not that he deliberately told us an untruth.
In the matter of James Frey, Doubleday, his publisher, offers the following sleazy defense of its best-selling author: "The power of the overall reading experience is such that the book remains a deeply inspiring and redemptive story for millions of readers." So here we have a perfect inversion of the point about "Bush lied." In other words, if Frey's lies have a redemptive effect on readers, then they're true.
If you made me believe something wrong, you're a liar. If you made me believe something right, you're a redeemer. It's as if there's nothing left but demagoguery.What an Orwellian state of affairs.

At 7:06 PM, January 14, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Iran knows all these options Hanson has listed. WHich is why none of them will work. The Iranians have already planned their defense and their policy in light of these attacks. It is all in the book as they say, where anyone may study them.

Considering Hanson's focus on Greek culture and philosophy, I would call him more of a philosopher than a realist.

At 8:08 PM, January 14, 2006, Blogger still realizing said...

The US should take out the Iranian nuclear facilities but use planes and bombs with Palestinian markings. That way the US can deny everything.

The Israelis can't do it as their air force doesn't have the extensive facility of smart bombs required, nor the big, long range bombers to do it.

Question: Where does Iran get its food and water?

At 11:13 PM, January 14, 2006, Blogger newc said...

The Democrats only care about healthcare, gay marrige, and abortion.

Why worry about a man with a messiah complex armed with nukes and teeming against Israel? Why worry? Like alfred e numan "why worry".

Thanks Neo-neocon for being awesome and TRUE. I even know what album cover you got your photo from ;)

Im a fan!

At 1:18 AM, January 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US should take out the Iranian nuclear facilities but use planes and bombs with Palestinian markings.
There's no Palestinian Air Force, and if there were it would not have better planes than Israel, so the ruse wouldn't play too well.

At 2:15 AM, January 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am truly worried about this situation. Does it seem like history repeating itself? A madman who thinks he is the next messiah and ruler of the world... who wants to destroy the Jews. And was completely open about it, yet no one took him seriously.

Only this time it's worse because this madman has (or will have) nukes.

But truly what can be done? I see no way to stop his manic drive and I don't see (from all that I've read) that he plans to get these nukes and just hold on to them.

There's this sinking pit in my stomach.

At 6:13 AM, January 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the volume of discussion here lately, re: dealing with Iran, and what that might mean, strategically, tactically, and most importantly, ethically, I must reccommend this paper by LTC Peter R. Faber, United States Air Force Academy:

(h/t prof. bainbridge)

At 10:42 PM, January 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anytime you have a "rogue" (well, assuming I got the right spelling - you know what I mean) nation those are pretty much you only choices everytime - just the actors change.

You can ignore, sanction, or attack. Ignoring never works, sanctions/discussions only work if the govt in question gives a flip for it's people (and is why this is used in cases like the US and Sweden - neither of us want our own populace killed so talks will eventually work and is why it fails in places like Iran where his people death is irrelevant - It's like threatening to never feed me broccoli again unless I do something - so? I hate brocolli), and attack will always work in the short term (long term depends on how after the attack is handled and how the people feel).

The same thing is true if you have two (or more) entities commited to genocide of each other. You can ignore, pick a side, or conquer and rule both sides. Ignoring supports who ever ends up strongest. Picking a side means you are killing many on the other (even if you chosoe to protect one side and sanction the other - your just doing it indirectly, though to many they can easily not notice that), and becoming thier dictators just delays the inevitable and will have both sides hate you and kill you until you do one of the other options.

To pretend there are any other options and persue them only kills more and causes more suffering until it degenerates into one of those causes.

This also generally extends out into conflicts in general, you just need to use more general terms than "sanction" (talk it out) or "attack" (use force - physical or verbal). You can also tack on "surrender" which usually isn't much of an option so I didn't really discuss it.

At 1:25 AM, January 16, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

I find it enlightening how one commentator noticed that Israel didn't have enough smart bomb infrastructure to take out Iranian facilities. Yet he believed the US could successfully create a ruse using Pakistani planes.

Enlightening in the sense, that regardless of how many people want a solution, the only people with the information critical to real solutions is the President. Empowered to do just such things.

To Megan, I always believe there is a way. If there is a will.

All problems have solutions, but not every solution solves the problem you want.

History will tell whether our trust in Condi Rice and George W. Bush were justified.

At 8:34 AM, January 16, 2006, Blogger Steve J. said...

Why do anything now or in the near future? At the worst, Iran will have a nuclear weapon in 2009.

At 11:52 AM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US developed a nuclear weapon in about three years of concerted effort with no outside help. The Iranians have been working on this for 15 years and have had Soviet and Chinese assistance. I am not sanguine that they do not already have the bomb. The only real reason I can see that we don't think they have one is they haven't used it yet. What if they've already got it and are just waiting until they have a number of them and a missile delivery system before they employ them?

At 6:43 PM, January 17, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

The one thing Iran is doing, is buying time. For what, no one knows except the Iranians.

At 3:09 AM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Red A said...

Why are you guys worrying?
In 2009, Hillary will be president and the Iranians will of course stop making these weapons since they won't need them to defend themselves from Bush.

Not to mention, the Europeans will finally get some help from us and the talks will succeed.

In fact, Iran will become a protestant country then too.

At 9:08 PM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Active Observer said...

Perhaps the best solution is to bomb Iran's reactors now and suffer the consequences. I have a feeling the consequences would be fairly severe.

Let me present an alternate viewpoint. Would Iran actually use an atomic bomb on Israel if they had one? If they did, it would be suicide - the U.S. would be entirely justified (and capable) of using nuclear weapons to wipe Iran off the map. Despite the tradition of suicide bombers among militant Islamic fundamentalists, it's hard for me to imagine the entire country committing suicide.

Sadly, a lesson of the ill-fated and ill-concieved invasion of Iraq was that if you are on America's short list of enemies, you should get yourself a nuclear bomb quick. If you have one, we're not going to risk invading your country. It worked for North Korea, and it may work for Iran.

Let's take a longer view. Nuclear weapons are unimaginably terrifying, but unfortunately they may not be the last word in weapons. Bioterrorism, particularly engineered organisms, may prove to be cheaper, more effective and easier to make than nuclear wepons. There may be other nano-weapons in our future. The future is going to be a dangerous place, even more dangerous than it is now. In the future, we may not be able to simply bomb a country's weapon-making facilities out of existence.

Perhaps we need another solution instead of trying to grind our enemies into dust, which isn't working very well in my opinion. Step one would be to ween ourselves off a shrinking resource that's mostly located in the Middle East.

At 3:01 AM, March 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work, you are providing a great resource! Regards,
Wild Pony


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