Thursday, January 12, 2006

We see the possibility of a crisis in the near future over the Iranian nuclear program.

It is a crisis which can, in fact be blamed squarely on the Bush administration. No, this isn't some finger pointing liberal 'hate Bush' rant, nor am I ignoring that it is the Iranians, not George Bush, who are pushing this ahead at this time, or the fact that Iran has for years worked towards eventually having nuclear weapons. This is, however, a rational examination of the facts behind this crisis.

There are at least five reasons why George Bush's foreign policy has caused Iran to be more dangerous.

1. George Bush gave his 'axis of evil' speech, in which he named three nations: Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Then he invaded Iraq, which has a long border with Iran, and one which the Iranians already faced an enormous invasion across, by Saddam's army, in 1979. Clearly, these developments presented the United States as a much greater threat to Iran than it had been at any time since the Iran-Iraq war. So, the Iranians did what any nation facing a threat from with a large and potentially hostile opponent would do. Made developing a deterrent a priority. They accelerated their nuclear program. Unlike Saddam Hussein, who was so stupid and predictable in terms of everything from his tightening up before deadlines to where he put his army, the Iranians don't present a static, stationary opponent. They are smarter, and take countermeasures. And they have in this case as well.

2. Unlike Iraq, where Saddam tried to cooperate when faced with force, in particular by letting Hans Blix and the rest of the UN inspectors in and then destroying some banned missiles that they found (which is more than anything we ever found, by the way) and got invaded anyway, the North Koreans have met every threat with more bluster and saber rattling. And the Bush administration has backed away from a confrontation with them, even recalling its spy flights over North Korea before the Iraq war started. Apparently, Bush's psychology is such that cooperation gets you invaded, while belicosity results in your being spared. That lesson seems to have been learned very well by an increasingly belligerent Iran.

3. George Bush inherited the most powerful, frightening military machine in the history of the planet Earth. Iran, like many other nations, was acutely aware of its capabilities, and the threat that we could invade and overrun Iran was an effective deterrent. But that military might, much like the budget surplus that the Bush administration also inherited, has been squandered in a pointless and fruitless war in Iraq. The mantle of U.S. military invincibility has been ripped away, as the world has seen our military, through no fault of their own, fighting again and again in the same places in a guerilla war that we did not anticipate or have a plan to win. No doubt, we could still launch thousands of airstrikes, bombs and cruise missiles against Iranian targets if we wanted to, but the Iranians apparently have made the calculated gamble that they could survive a bombing campaign, and we don't have the 'boots on the ground' necessary to invade or occupy Iran (which would be a much tougher nut to crack than Iraq, a nut which is already tough enough for us). Their behavior is in fact 'calling our bluff,' because they know darn well that George Bush by his miscalculations and mishandling of the U.S. military has given them a golden opportunity to assert themselves as a regional power.

4. Without firing a shot, the Iranians have learned a great deal about us during the past three years or so. They have watched how we fight a guerilla war in Iraq without investing any of their own blood to learn that. They have learned courtesy of their Iraqi double agent, Achmed Chalabi, who fed the Bush administration lies that helped lead to the invasion of Iraq, that we broke the Iranian military code. I am sure that by now they have a new one.

5. After 9/11, George Bush had the world on our side. And even today, the number of other foreign troops in Afghanistan is about the same as, and will soon be more than, the number of Americans. Because of how we rushed into Iraq and only sought to form a coalition of people who 'would do things our way,' that good will was swept aside. And the countries that went in with us, have suffered militarily, and politically both internationally and domestically for supporting George Bush. So Iran knows that if the U.S. attacks Iran, we might get some verbal support from other countries, but any military effort will be a 'go it alone' effort.

Now, I am not saying that we should ignore Iran. However, there are other ways of handling it. One of the first posts I put up on Deep Thought was On Nuclear Proliferation and Iran describing why our present strategy for dealing with these issues is outmoded, and some ideas about how we might better deal with the issue of nuclear proliferation.

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