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Commentary
Posted by: Jon Henke on Monday, March 27, 2006

I plan to discuss it in greater detail later, but for now I strongly encourage you to read Matt McIntosh's perceptive, Realist, and sometimes counter-intuitive, 3-part series on the Iran problem...
  • Part 1: The so-far mostly bad US Policy towards Iran.


  • Part II: The strategic landscape.


  • Part III: What should our Iran policy be?

I tend to agree with Matt's assumptions and conclusions here, and I think foreign policy hawks would do well to read and consider his articles. Increasingly, in our foreign policy toolbox, it looks like military intervention may be a tool that produces ultimately sub-optimal results. There are other tools that could be more effective and less costly.

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The New Editor finds Molly Ivins making a very odd little argument...
Bloggers are not news-gatherers, but opinion-mongers. I have long argued that no one should be allowed to write opinion without spending years as a reporter...
There's probably some merit to the idea that newspapers should not employ as pundits people who were not once reporters. But Ivins was talking about bloggers and blogging.

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Taylor Buley, blogger at Fresh Politics and libertarian college writer, has written a book...
The Fresh Politics Reader: Making Current Events And Public Affairs Relevant to Young Americans
It seems to me that young people ought to be a natural demographic for libertarians, and not just the "legalize it" kids. Who, after all, is more anti-authoritarian than young adults who've just gained their independence from parents, high school and the strictures of youth?

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ONE MORE: Jane Galt makes good economic arguments that proponents of single-payer health care who claim it will significantly reduce our health care costs are...wrong.

But then, so are the proponents of HSAs.
 
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Comments
I just skimmed his "proposals" I love them... rather than stand up to Iran, we’ll let them have nuclear weapons. And then if Tel Aviv or New York disappear in an actinic flash of light, we’ll kill hundreds of thousands of Iranians in retaliation. That’s a good plan... Let’s create a situation where several hundred thousand folks, in two or more nations have to die, AND THEN ACT. This is a policy I can get behind. Let’s don’t be PROCATIVE, lets be be REACTIVE so that way we can have a nuclear live fire exercise.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
It seems to me that young people ought to be a natural demographic for libertarians, and not just the "legalize it" kids. Who, after all, is more anti-authoritarian than young adults who’ve just gained their independence from parents, high school and the strictures of youth?
As a libertarian college student myself, I understand what you’re saying... but you’re also talking about a group that is extraordinarily likely to be dependent on federal student aid, and unable for the time being to pay their own way in life. They’re actually especially unlikely to be really indepedent from their parents during their college years.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
I just skimmed his "proposals" I love them... rather than stand up to Iran, we’ll let them have nuclear weapons.
Perhaps you ought to read the first two parts before you decide his cost/benefit calculation is off.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
There’s probably some merit to the idea that newspapers should not employ as pundits people who were not once reporters.
I disagree. I don’t think the skills sets have much to do with each other beyond an ability to put words in a row.

The current crop of j-school grads in the newspapers are, in fact, almost the polar opposite of what you would like to see in opinion writers because they are so ignorant. In general, their degree doesn’t teach them any significant amount of history, economics, statistics, business, or technology. Without understanding those fields, how can anyone have the context from which to draw intelligent conclusions worthy of making up an opinion piece?
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
I disagree. I don’t think the skills sets have much to do with each other beyond an ability to put words in a row.
There’s some merit to that argument, too. I take no position, except to say that there are valid points on both sides.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
It seems to me that young people ought to be a natural demographic for libertarians, and not just the "legalize it" kids. Who, after all, is more anti-authoritarian than young adults who’ve just gained their independence from parents, high school and the strictures of youth?
This is a good one too... yes they are the most likely to vote Libertarian, of course they’re the most likely to vote Communist too! After all what do they know, all they’ve ever seen is school! When I was young I thought some goofy things too. And of course, they don’t vote... but if that’s who you think you want, I guess under the "Get’em Young Plan" a crew that doesn’t vote drive on.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Well Jon didn’t care to read Part’s I & II just thought I’d go for the "What to do section." Don’t care WHY he thinks it’s a good idea for Iran to maintain nuclear weapons or the "INEVITABILITY" of it or if the President of Iran "matters". I think that the gentleman is too sanguine about the Mullahs possesing nuclear weapons and simply too conservative in his thinking... Deterrence worked for nearly 50 years, it’ll work again. Sure if you’re willing to risk the deaths of several hundred thousand or several million people for DECADES rather than attempt to end the threat early on. It was impossible to disarm the USSR at an acceptable cost... I’m not so sure that the same follows for Iran.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Re: Journalism... I think a person ought not be allowed to get a BA in either Journalism OR Education, only a MINOR in it. One can not teach or write about something if one knows very little about it! I worry about "Social Studies" or MAth teachers who have many credit hours of HOW TO TEACH but only a few credit hours in the subject that they teach. The same with Journalists, better you have an English Degree, a History Degree, a PS Degree, any BA-almost- and then a few classes in how to do a story. Having all sorts of knowldedge about "Ethics" or whatever Journalism teaches you doesn’t really equip you to study and explain to an audience a topic.

My area is national security affairs and the MSM does an AWFUL job on Defense issues, and that’s not just "they’e all commie pinkos out to get the military.", reporters seem amazingly IGNORANT of the miltary, its weapons, its tactics, its doctrines, they are babes in the woods and then they are trying to explain to an equally ignorant audience what is "happening." It’s the blind leading the blind.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Well Jon didn’t care to read Part’s I & II just thought I’d go for the "What to do section." Don’t care WHY he thinks it’s a good idea for Iran to maintain nuclear weapons or the "INEVITABILITY" of it or if the President of Iran "matters".
You don’t care what the facts are, you just know you’re frightened. Let’s base a foreign policy on that!

Look, reasonable people can and do disagree on the question of Iran, but "let’s attack anybody that presents a potential problem" is not a serious foreign policy.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
It’s the blind leading the blind.
I’d agree with this. Journalism, like education, seems to contain a lot of people well-qualified to relate facts, but under-qualified to understand them and put them in proper context.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Well Jon skimmed I & II and I don’t really agree with the philosophy. It’s akin to, "kids’ll do drugs have sex or whatever, so why try to stop them?" I’m not sure that the Mullahs WON’T use nuclear weapons or that the President WON’T matter... plus the end result, "Just threaten a bunch of Iranians with Nuclear Devastation to Keep’em In-line" just didn’t seem the hot idea of the week.

I’m not "Frightened" of Iran no yes I am... Just like I’d be frightened of Hitler with Nuclear weapons just like I was frightened of the USSR with nuclear weapons. Bad folks with destructive weaponry is a reason to be FRIGHTENED Jon. In this case we may be able to make sure the bad people DON’T get nuclear weapons.

Now bad people may be all "Simplisme" but it does adequately sum up the Mullahs. I’d really rather not have to kill or threaten to kill a bunch of folks in Teheran or Qoms because some Mullah decided that today would be a good day to eliminate the Zionist Presence to the East, establish Persian Hegemony in the Gulf, and to stave off popular unrest in the streets. And that seems just as likely as the sanguine assumptions of your selected author.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
No, Joe, it does not seem as likely. Sheesh. If you want to argue that the Iranian regime is less deterrable than the Soviets then frankly you’ve got an uphill battle — their brains function just fine, their behaviour reflects that fact, an trash talk does not constitute adequate evidence to the contrary.

I have scanned your comments and I must confess that I am unable to actualy find a serious criticism of any of my points. Just a lot of whining that you doesn’t like the idea of detente. It’s depressing to me that after all these years people don’t comprehend the logic of nuclear deterrence, let alone someone who claims that his area is "national security affairs". You make the threat credibly precisely so that you don’t have to carry it out. Duh. There’s a reason why we’ve never seen nuclear war break out despite more nations on the planet having nukes than ever before.

If I were some kind of dolt, I could stick my fingers in my ears and go la la la la la, pretending that there’s no predictable pattern to this ample set fo evidence. Or if I were of a more analytical turn of mind, I could go "oh hey, look, making people scared sh!tless of the consequences of nuclear war prevents it from actually happening! Wow!" Nahhhh, couldn’t be, right?

Look: nuclear nonproliferation doesn’t work for all the reasons that gun control doesn’t work, only on a larger scale. It’s a chimera that’s not worth chasing, and the kind of policy necessary to enforce it would represent a pyrrhic victory if it were actually carried out. I’ve argued extensively for my preferred plan of action. What’s yours, hotshot?
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://catallarchy.net/blog/
Well Matt, thank you for your erudite posting...
I have scanned your comments and I must confess that I am unable to actualy find a serious criticism of any of my points.
No you simply didn’t like my rsponse, which is to be PROACTIVE not reactive. I responded by saying that if possible it is better to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons, because you’re deterence theory runs the risk of several hundred thousand to several million folks dying, in nuclear attacks.
Just a lot of whining that you doesn’t like the idea of detente.
Detente or deterrence... Freudian slip? Detente is trying to lessen tensions, but it did not work well with the USSR. It was, in fact, Cold War II that ended the USSR not Kissinger’s Lilliputian threads of detente that ended the USSR. Deterence is the fall back position for the US. Prevention is the best case.
It’s depressing to me that after all these years people don’t comprehend the logic of nuclear deterrence, let alone someone who claims that his area is "national security affairs".
I understand it’s logic, good Sirrah. I simply don’t agree that it is the BEST solution.
You make the threat credibly precisely so that you don’t have to carry it out. Duh. There’s a reason why we’ve never seen nuclear war break out despite more nations on the planet having nukes than ever before.
Unless of course you can prevent Iran from possessing the weapons in the first place! Your position requires us to expend resources for several DECADES and to threaten Iranians with a nasty death and opens Israelis or New Yorkers to an equally unpleasant death, all in the name of "living with the problem." Sorry I don’t think we ought to allow this problem to exist.
If I were some kind of dolt, I could stick my fingers in my ears and go la la la la la, pretending that there’s no predictable pattern to this ample set fo evidence. Or if I were of a more analytical turn of mind, I could go "oh hey, look, making people scared sh!tless of the consequences of nuclear war prevents it from actually happening! Wow!" Nahhhh, couldn’t be, right?
Are you a dolt or just someone so convinced of his/her ineffable intelligence and rightness that you can’t comprehend an alternative or that you deny someone the RIGHT to disagree? That’s a personal issue only you can answer.
Look: nuclear nonproliferation doesn’t work for all the reasons that gun control doesn’t work, only on a larger scale. It’s a chimera that’s not worth chasing, and the kind of policy necessary to enforce it would represent a pyrrhic victory if it were actually carried out.
Really nuclear proliferation is the SAME as gun control? Bad analogy. Fire arms are INFINITELY easier to produce than nuclear weapons. Sorry almost anyone can set up shop and produce guns. Not so nuclear weapons. That’s why, Matt there are so few nations with them in the world. It takes a lot of time, money and talent to produce them.

I’ve argued extensively for my preferred plan of action. What’s yours, hotshot?
UN and EU then cruise missiles, B-2’s....
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
And Matt you make assumptions of "rationality" not warranted in regards to Iran. A nation may risk nuclear war when the costs of doing nothing are less than the costs of attacking. The Mullah-ocracy might very well determine the costs of apostasy are greater than the risks of nuclear combat. Certainly Iran will receive a large benefit by the possession of their weapons, it will make them a regional super-power. A revolutionary super-power, that has historically attempted to dominate the region and has recently attempted to overthrow almost all of it’s neighbor’s regimes.

In short, the government in Teheran may not be scared of nuclear weapons as much as they are scared of being out of power or as they may be blinded by the allure of regional dominance and sectarian advantage.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
You are perfectly free to disagree with me, and I am perfectly free to argue that your objections don’t hold up to scrutiny. That’s how this free speech thing works.
No you simply didn’t like my rsponse, which is to be PROACTIVE not reactive.
This is lame rhetoric. "Proactive" here seems to be used as a synonym for "aggressive military action", so any policy that doesn’t favour that is by definition "reactive." But that’s horsesh!t. I am all in favour of taking the initiative; my idea of what that entails just doesn’t match up with yours.
I responded by saying that if possible it is better to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons, because you’re deterence theory runs the risk of several hundred thousand to several million folks dying, in nuclear attacks.
As opposed to your bright idea, which carries with it the virtually certain cost of 1) thousands of Iranians dying, 2) thousands of Iraqis dying in the blowback, 3) strengthening the hand of hardliners within Iran, and 4) probably not actually stopping the nuclear program, just setting it back. (That last is not my opinion; people smarter than you have wargamed this and come to that conclusion.)

You’re using this ridiculous tactic of looking only at the possible costs of my approach without factoring in the certain costs of your own. And you wonder why I’m not taking you seriously?

Re: deterrence/detente, I would have thought it obvious from my 3rd post that I favour a bit of both. The two are not mutially exclusive.
Sorry almost anyone can set up shop and produce guns. Not so nuclear weapons. That’s why, Matt there are so few nations with them in the world. It takes a lot of time, money and talent to produce them.
Look: with the sole exception of Saddam Hussein (thanks to the Israelis), every country which has ever been determined to obtain nuclear weapons has obtained them. And going forward that’s going to get easier and easier — the cost of obtaining a useable nuclear weapon has dropped dramatically due to network effects (i.e. China gives tech to Pakistan, Pakistan gives tech to NoKo, NoKo gives tech to Iran, and so on). If you think it’s possible to put that genie back in the bottle, I have some seafront property in Arizona to sell you.
And Matt you make assumptions of "rationality" not warranted in regards to Iran.


An assertion I’ve seen made again and again, never actually justified with anything other than trash talk.
The Mullah-ocracy might very well determine the costs of apostasy are greater than the risks of nuclear combat.


What the hell are you talking about? Seriously. I do not understand this argument. Where does the apostasy come from? The idea that these corrupt old men have a mentality comparable to, say, a suicide bomber, doesn’t pass the laugh test.
Certainly Iran will receive a large benefit by the possession of their weapons, it will make them a regional super-power.
THAT IS EXACTLY MY POINT. That is what they want it for, and why on earth would they attain that influence and prestige only to commit mass suicide?
A revolutionary super-power, that has historically attempted to dominate the region and has recently attempted to overthrow almost all of it’s neighbor’s regimes.
As opposed to the US, which has in fact actually done those things. Careful where you point that finger, it’s loaded.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://catallarchy.net/blog/
As opposed to the US, which has in fact actually done those things. Careful where you point that finger, it’s loaded.


Ah Matt so the US is threat or at least a threat to the international system...I don’t remember anyone saying we need to remove Iran from the map. Only the Mullah’s.
What the hell are you talking about? Seriously. I do not understand this argument. Where does the apostasy come from? The idea that these corrupt old men have a mentality comparable to, say, a suicide bomber, doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Matt you may be irreligious but the rulers of Iran are not... they are Persian Shi’i... ideology matters and this is a chance to put themselves and their sect on top. Religion matters to the rulers, even if not to you.
Look: with the sole exception of Saddam Hussein (thanks to the Israelis), every country which has ever been determined to obtain nuclear weapons has obtained them. And going forward that’s going to get easier and easier — the cost of obtaining a useable nuclear weapon has dropped dramatically due to network effects (i.e. China gives tech to Pakistan, Pakistan gives tech to NoKo, NoKo gives tech to Iran, and so on). If you think it’s possible to put that genie back in the bottle, I have some seafront property in Arizona to sell you.
Every country? Matt Argentian, Brazil and SOuth Korea didn’t develop them... you may not remember or chose to remember.
As opposed to your bright idea, which carries with it the virtually certain cost of 1) thousands of Iranians dying, 2) thousands of Iraqis dying in the blowback, 3) strengthening the hand of hardliners within Iran, and 4) probably not actually stopping the nuclear program, just setting it back. (That last is not my opinion; people smarter than you have wargamed this and come to that conclusion.)
How’s my bright idea going to kill thousands of Iranians? Or is this under the idea that Iran will launch a war or that the US will indiscrimnately bomb?
This is lame rhetoric. "Proactive" here seems to be used as a synonym for "aggressive military action", so any policy that doesn’t favour that is by definition "reactive." But that’s horsesh!t. I am all in favour of taking the initiative; my idea of what that entails just doesn’t match up with yours.
No Matt Proactive means not simply REACTING to the advances of our enemies... I take it anything beyond a diplomatic demarche would be too aggressive, UNLESS someone is on the receiving end of a nuclear weapon from Iran?


I don’t deny your speech I just deny it’s validity, Matt.

 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Look: with the sole exception of Saddam Hussein (thanks to the Israelis), every country which has ever been determined to obtain nuclear weapons has obtained them.
Well there have been those who changed their minds for some odd reason: Lybia?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Unless of course you can prevent Iran from possessing the weapons in the first place!
At what cost? I’m asking here. Since you seem to believe that the cost of preventing Iran from possessing nuclear weapons will be worth it, please lay out what you believe that cost will be.

What will we have to do, and what will be the consequences?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Personally, I don’t think preventing Iran from *producing* nuke material would be all that difficult for the US. Preventing them from acquiring the materials by other means is considerably more difficult.

Attacking the production process would not require troops on the ground, save perhaps a special forces team here or there. Most of this can be done by a concentrated campaign of air forces and guided missiles. And you don’t need to destroy every facility to significantly disrupt the production process and set them back several years. That could buy us some precious time.

The second-order consequences are more difficult to predict. What would be the character of Iran’s response against Iraq, Afghanistan, and other neighbors? To what extent would those neighbors need our protection, and could we credibly provide it? Would our stance be simplified if we just took the nuke-destruction campaign to the next level and just smashed the government from the sky at the same time?

Predicting the effect of a Coalition attack regarding the potential revolutionary forces in Iran is another thing to keep in mind. Would we give them an open shot at regime change? Or would we only draw the hammer down on them and disempower whatever pragmatists exist in Tehran?

And if we attack in that manner, presumably when our back is to the wall and our other options are all worse, what does that do to our future options with Iran? That kind of attack comes with a price; you become committed to the state of affairs in Iran, and you may find yourself coming back later on when the situation may be even uglier.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
"Make them an offer they can’t refuse: in exchange for co-operation in ending violence in Iraq and helping the nation get up on its feet (something they have an interest in anyway, absent the futile US policy of regime change), the US ends all trade sanctions against Iran, yoinks them off the Axis of Evil list, drops the regime change line, and reopens diplomatic relations. Iran gets an economic boost and recognition as the key security pillar in the region – contingent on it actually behaving responsibly. And if they throw in the al Qaeda leaders they’ve got under “arrest", the US will unfreeze those several billion dollars worth of assets it’s had locked up since 1979."

Obviously this strategy was tried by the European negotiating team and failed. This even when the mullahs know that if it had succeeded the USA would not be far behind the Europeans. Conclusion: Iran craves nuclear weapons more than it does economic trade deals.

Also, what would be the US plans to verify Iranian compliance to "helping Iraq" or "cooperation to end violence in Iraq" ?

Keep in mind while Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shia groups are Iranian supported, they are also to some degree independent actors (or could claim to be...) I suspect we’d simply be in the Israeli position of negotiating with one party while another party can undermine the negotiation at will.



 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
On the issue of nuclear weapons, it might become a technical issue of claiming the right to retalliate against any nuclear attack worldwide that has their ’nuclear signature’ (if such a thing exists.)

Because I don’t see a war happening against Iran anytime soon.

If we decide to go to war, I suggest a punitive raid to only the sites in question, not regime change. This would also be a technical question of how much that would actually slow down the nuke programs, since they would not stop.

 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
. "I take no position, except to say that there are valid points on both sides."

I have been thinking about this article for awhile(God knows why) and I am genuinely curious as to what valid points are on Molly Ivins’ side. As far as I know, George Will, Thomas Sowell, Henry Kissinger, etc. have never been reporters, and thus are unqualified to write opinion pieces according to Molly Ivins. What rational reason makes them less qualified than Dan Rather, Sam Donaldson, or the blow-dried blonde (male or female) on your local television station?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I have been thinking about this article for awhile(God knows why) and I am genuinely curious as to what valid points are on Molly Ivins’ side.
I can see how a newspaper would have a genuine interest in — and see a procedural and possibly substantive value in — employing people already well-versed in the "rules of journalism". i.e., how to fact-check, cite, quote, etc. (spare me the snark about how journalists also screw up)

Frankly, I think Ivins is just trying to consolidate the monopoly of journalists, but I see some value in establishing a career-path staffed by people versed in the business.

Similarly, some stations try to make a morning show out of a stand-up commedian. ("Because they’re funny!") But many say that radio stations ought not hire non-radio people to do morning shows. Perhaps there’s some rent-seeking behaviour there, but there’s also a lot of important knowledge about the craft of radio that non-radio people don’t know and can’t really pick up on the fly.

I don’t find the argument entirely persuasive, but I see some merit to it in certain circumstances.

 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Applying the Ivins Standard, Thomas Paine wouldn’t be able to write an op-ed column today. Which would probably suit Ivins. I suspect her prejudice in favor of reporters stems from the probability that most of the reporters she knows share the same socialistic and semi-socialistic views, which would keep the pro-freedom opinion on the op-ed pages to the bare mininum she’d be comfortable with.
 
Written By: Bilwick
URL: http://
"the "rules of journalism". i.e., how to fact-check, cite, quote, etc."

When I went to high school, these things were taught in English and other classes. They were also used (and I assume still are) in college English, Economics, and other disciplines. They are hardly exclusive to journalism. What important journalism specific knowledge does an opinion writer need? Frankly, I would rather see/read people versed in the subject matter, not the business.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
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