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Saying it again: the impact of mixed signals
Posted by: McQ on Friday, May 18, 2007

I've cited Bernard Lewis previously. I've also cited Osama bin Laden's references to the US being a "paper tiger" and how that has been internalized by the terrorists as a positive which helps drive their recruiting and gives hope to their jihadist agenda.

As Lewis points out in this latest article, the jihadis saw the Soviet Union as their biggest threat because they were so ruthless. They matched atrocity with atrocity and did so without qualms or second thoughts. Lewis relates an incident, well known to most, which occurred in Lebanon. Terrorists attacked Soviet citizens and killed them. The Soviets retaliated viciously, and the terrorists never again bothered them (while continuing attacks on both Americans and Europeans in the area). The USSR reacted with action. The US and Europe reacted with hand-wringing and, as Lewis notes, "their usual pleading inquiries: "What have we done to offend you? What can we do to put it right?"

So obviously once the Soviet Union fell (something jihadis believe they caused) the next, and much easier target, as far as they were concerned, was the "pampered and degenerate" US.

Read the following from Lewis carefully, because it can't be overemphasized.
From the writings and the speeches of Osama bin Laden and his colleagues, it is clear that they expected this second task, dealing with America, would be comparatively simple and easy. This perception was certainly encouraged and so it seemed, confirmed by the American response to a whole series of attacks—on the World Trade Center in New York and on U.S. troops in Mogadishu in 1993, on the U.S. military office in Riyadh in 1995, on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000—all of which evoked only angry words, sometimes accompanied by the dispatch of expensive missiles to remote and uninhabited places.

Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two—to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.

More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences—both for Islam and for America—will be deep, wide and lasting.

There, in bold print, and underlined, is the effect the "debate", such that it is, is having on our sworn enemies. Note what I said - they're our sworn enemies. We didn't declare war on them, they declared war on us ... decades ago. And while people would love to toss this off by blaming our foreign policy (and thereby imply that all we have to do is rethink that and all will be well), this goes much deeper than that.

It is a religious war against the West which, when all is said and done, has the goal of imposing our enemy's version of their religion and law on the rest of the world. They recognize who holds the key to that victory (and it isn't Lithuania). While we gave them great pause in our initial reaction to 9/11, and actually set them back on their collective haunches, we seem to be returning to form, or at least the form they've expected all along. With our "debate" and obvious and growing lack of political will, they are actually anticipating a victory. We're doing precisely what they believed we'd do all along.

Our "debate", in summary, is reinvigorating their movement. As General Petraus said, the way you defeat an insurgent or terrorist movement is to remove all hope of victory. The "debate" and the threats of withdrawal have had exactly the opposite effect to the point that the al Qaeda number 2 man is lecturing the US about doing what the anti-war Democrats want to do (it is also something OBL has done previously).

It seems in the last 50 to 60 years that we've lost our political will to do the tough and dirty work necessary to maintain freedom. Imagine the impact on our economic growth if the builders of the transcontinental railroad, faced with the Rocky Mountains, had thrown up their hands and quit. Our perseverance and political will used to be our strength. But now, our enemies count on us to quit. And, it seems, we're more than willing to oblige them.

We've fought past wars in which we've lost the amount lost in Iraq in 4 years in less than a week. We've fought wars which, in relative terms, cost 100 or a 1000 times more than this one. Those are not valid excuses for quitting in Iraq. It all comes down to political will and whether or not we have what it takes, anymore, to finish a necessary if distasteful job.

Dwelling in the past and claiming mistakes were made also has no relevance now. It is water under the bridge. We're there, it's important, and we need to see it through. Most importantly, we need to make a solid and united commitment to seeing it through and quit sending mixed signals to our enemies which provide them the hope they need to continue their vicious war against our culture and freedoms.
 
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"It seems in the last 50 to 60 years that we’ve lost our political will to do the tough and dirty work necessary to maintain freedom."

I believe you’re correct. But I like what Tiger Hawk says the other day. Would you go that far?
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
The Soviets lost because they fought the wrong war. No doubt, the Islamofacists are delighted that the U.S. has followed suit.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
It’s all Bush fault
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
It is a religious war against the West
Absolutely. Calling it what it is does not mean that every Muslim is opposed to Western ways or desires war any more than we do. But, world over, the terrorists who fashion cars and planes and the bodies of their children into bombs and hurl them headlong into the congregations of innocents are Muslims who use Islam, Islam and Islam again to justify relentless murder.

Getting people to see and understand that is the biggest hurdle.

Also, Jason, I don’t have time to read the entire post at TigerHawk just now, but this, about WWII, I did read and it really got my attention:
The government — with the loyal support of the media — conditioned them quite consciously to accept that brutal tactics were necessary because our enemies were far more brutal. This is why even in countries that were neutral during the war, fascism is now thought to be orders of magnitude worse than Communism. (See, for example, this article about the historical ignorance of young Swedes.)
I’d never thought about that, specifically, as a reason for people’s relative ignorance of and indifference to Communist atrocity.

And how ignorant are today’s young Euro types? From the article about the Swedes:
A poll carried out by Demoskop on behalf of the Organization for Information on Communism (Föreningen för upplysning om kommunismen - UOK) found that 90 percent of Swedes between the ages of 15 and 20 had never heard of the Gulag.
Ninety percent have never heard a thing about it. Ninety-five percent know about Auschwitz though. Incredible. Thanks for those links.
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
Correct, all points.
I await the claims from the usual suspects that Lewis is a "Bushbot".

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Your argument makes sense only if a) it is possible to actually change the political and social situation in Iraq with military force; b) the conflict in Iraq isn’t weakening us in real terms far more than an appearance of weakness might; and c) if the only alternative is to simply leave rather than develop a different kind of approach to the region. Moreover, Lewis has tended to over emphasize the appeal of radical Islam to moderates and normal folk in the Mideast. While the radicals may be inspired if we leave, moderates are more likely to be persuaded to join radicals if we stay and the headlines are full of images of western violence.

Beyond that, of course, you’re dealing with an impossibility. The debate will not go away. Politics in America is what it is, no matter what you or anyone else thinks it should be. Vast numbers of people really think this military action is either immoral or contrary to our national interest, and they will continue speaking out on it because they disagree with the perspective you and Lewis put forth. In other words, your argument is only persausive if one shares your view about the nature of the situation. And in any event it’s irrelevant because a heated public debate, and opposition to the military action are a reality of American political life which will not go away. Guaranteed. You gotta deal with the world that is, not the one you think should be.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Your argument makes sense only if a) it is possible to actually change the political and social situation in Iraq with military force...
Scott, are you saying that the political and social situation in Afghanistan was not changed with military force?
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://qando.net
And how about Kurdistan?
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://qando.net
However, Scott, I would like to hear a lot more about this:
...c) if the only alternative is to simply leave rather than develop a different kind of approach to the region.
I would like to know what different approach you think will work. A link to a comment you’ve already written on that would be fine.

I’ve read a goodly number of your comments here, plus what many others have written that think we ought to pull out, and I’ve yet to see any description of what such a different approach might look like. From Pelosi, Reid, Murtha, et.al., I just hear "we’ve got to end our involvement in Iraq" with no coherent discussion of what happens afterwards or how we approach the region differently (beyond giving in to the radicals and bowing out).

So, please, tell us what this alternate approach is, and try to give some reason why it might be better than what we’re trying now.

I’ll tell you this, though. If it involves expecting the radicals to behave as opponents that meet Western standards of civility, honesty, and rationality, then you’re basing it on a false premise.

 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://qando.net
The Soviet response through their local agents was swift, and directed against the family of the leader of the kidnappers.

What exactly was done by the Russians here? Killing the family members of the leader?
 
Written By: David
URL: http://
McQ,

I (of course) agree with most all of what you’ve said. One thought though. I don’t believe Americans have lost the will to fight. What I do believe is that they don’t have — and never have had — the will to fight protracted stalemates. Which is what the war in Iraq has been for the past two or three years. I do believe that if the surge yields progress, we will see movements in public opinion. And I do believe, quite frankly, that if the surge had occurred a year ago, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today. But the only excuse for the surge not occurring a year ago is one of two things: political concerns or incompetance. Neither possibility is particularly reassuring.
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
It is interesting that when the Iranian radical students were planning the embassy takeover, they actually considered the Soviet Embassy as well. In fact, Ahmadinejad who was a student leader at the time voted to take over the Soviet embassy.

Erb, if you truly believe your own comments, then in 2003, when pro-war sentiment was high, you would have given up persuading people that the war was wrong, because "you have to deal with reality, man"


 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
I’ll tell you this, though. If it involves expecting the radicals to behave as opponents that meet Western standards of civility, honesty, and rationality, then you’re basing it on a false premise.
Don’t worry, I have no illusions about the radicals. I do know that the real battle is for the hearts and minds of the youth of the region, a huge youth population nearing their teens with the potential to be either radicalized against the West, or to embrace opportunities of markets and freedom. I also think that the Iranian government has a mix of radicals and pragmatists, and ultimately the pragmatists will have the upper hand unless tensions remain high (which is one reason Ahmadinejad likes to use wild rhetoric).

I don’t have a very good program I write my blog on, so I can’t link directly to the entries where I talk about it, but if you go to my blog and find the entries for the dates below (you can click by month and scroll down to the date) it gives some of my thoughts on this. None of these really address specifics, so I’ll think about that and try to post a succinct (if I can!) statement of the kind of alternative I’d envision.

However, I’m not wedded to any approach, and I’m not sure what will work. I’ve just become convinced this won’t work (May 10th blog entry on liberal interventionism explains why I think as a general policy this approach is flawed) and thus its imperative we try something different. I also wish that those supporting the military intervention would think about alternatives as well, recognizing that it may well be true that this current policy isn’t going to work. Get more minds thinking about alternatives as well as supporting or opposing the current efforts.

Blog entries on alternatives:
April 11 - The Middle East and us
March 26 - if I had been President on 9-11
December 4, 2006 - Saving Iraq

 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I’ve read a goodly number of your comments here, plus what many others have written that think we ought to pull out, and I’ve yet to see any description of what such a different approach might look like. From Pelosi, Reid, Murtha, et.al., I just hear "we’ve got to end our involvement in Iraq" with no coherent discussion of what happens afterwards or how we approach the region differently (beyond giving in to the radicals and bowing out).
We withdraw from Iraq. The full wrath of the Shia militias is brought to bear on the Sunni extremists, particularly Al Qaeda in Iraq. AQ ceases to become a factor in Mesopotamia. A Shia theocracy emerges (which was always going to be the eventual outcome anyway).

Reid, Pelosi, Murtha, et. al. will not discuss this in public, of course, simply because discussing the brutality that will be unleashed once we leave is not a pleasant topic. But it’s an open secret. If we leave, the Sunni extremists stand no chance.

The right wing will not discuss this either, for obvious reasons. The only card that Bush and the other backers of the war in Iraq can play right now is the AQ card. We have to stay in Iraq because of AQ. If the public came to understand that the Shia militias would quickly dispatch AQ if we left, the public would probably and overwhelmingly favor an immediate withdrawal.

The Shia theocrats and the Iranian backers have no use for AQ. And there is no doubt that they would not permit them to run wild in Iraq. Nor do the Kurds, for that matter. And even some of the Baathists and Sunni Sheikhs are starting to turn on AQ.

The alternative is to stay in Iraq indefintely, while we await a political resolution that is never going to happen on our watch.

If we pull out, AQ is done. And all their current propaganda and bluster about their "victory" if we pull out will quickly look very silly indeed. The only thing keeping the Shia militias from crushing AQ in Iraq is our continued presence there.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
radicalized against the West, or to embrace opportunities of markets and freedom.
And well Scott, you’ve hit on a big part of the problem. The part you’re not dealing with is that there IS no market or freedom and frankly the have’s in those countries are going to keep it that way, as a classic example the Saudi’s focuse their own internal haters to go external via government subsidy.

Once we ’leave’ they’re just going to travel farther to kill us, and they won’t be shooting & bombing people with APC’s, tanks and automatic weapons. They’ll be blowing up Betsy, Bobbie and Johnny on their way to work or perhaps sitting down to have a nice slice of pizza.

Despite your protestations to the contrary, I think you’re caught in the liberal narrative that we can all play nicely in the sand-box if we’re just nice to one another.

The fact of the matter is, our ’allies’ and our enemies who rule their domains in the Islamic world don’t NEED a societal change. They like it JUST fine the way it is in most cases and the best way to keep on keepin on is to convince their people that it’s the WEST that conspires to keep them down, and that if it weren’t for evil America there’d be no ’jooooooooos’ to conspire from Israel and the US to keep the poor Arabs, Persians, Muslims poor and ’it would be a golden caliphate if only it weren’t for the crusaders’.

There’s enough money in the gulf states to put them all in decent housing, give them all opportunities, but it’s much nicer to have a big-ass palace than it is to live in a small one and to have to put up with women telling the men what to do and getting all uppity like Western ’b*tches’ are.

And you can see a variation on the same philosophy locally, religion is just the vehicle for the powerful to stay powerful - Think Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton.

It’s not our ’fault’ they don’t like us and blame us for things any more than it was the fault of the Jews that Germany was a chaotic disaster after WW I.

And MK - close, but once the Shia’s have dealt with the Sunni extremists, they’ll deal with the Sunni moderates too. You’re leaving that part out, for reasons just as obvious as those you cite for the Dems and the Reps.
And no one’s really worried about AQ, it’s Iran that we need to counterbalance.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
the jihadis saw the Soviet Union as their biggest threat because they were so ruthless

So the logical answer, I take it, is of course for the U.S. to be as ruthless as possible, to make sure that ’the jihadis’ see us as the biggest possible threat. The fact that I’m able to use the words of this article to undermine its basic point is a testament to its shallowness and reliance on tenuous sophistry.

Lewis relates an incident, well known to most, which occurred in Lebanon. Terrorists attacked Soviet citizens and killed them. The Soviets retaliated viciously, and the terrorists never again bothered them.

How does "Chechnya" square with "and the terrorists never bothered them again"?. How does Afghanistan square with that? The answer, of course, is that this is vacuous fantasy.

Or, to quote Matt Yglesias and spare me some work: The other thing, though, is Russia has been deploying brutal measures against subjugated Muslim populations for at least two hundred years. The Czars fought Muslim guerillas in the Caucasus, the Soviets fought Muslim guerillas in the Caucasus, and Vladimir Putin has done the same thing. Relations between Russians and the Muslims who live to the south of the Russians is a big, long, giant example of Lewis-favored conservative policy prescriptions not working — the fighting just keeps going on and on and on and on.

We’re not readier to quit now because we’re weaker: we’re readier to quit because we’re collectively smarter, not to mention less driven by hate and desperation. With the exception of Bernard Lewis, who appears for us to be calling for us to emulate the Soviet Union’s approach to fighting terror. Because the Soviet Union is clearly an example of both a successful society, and one which we’d like to emulate, right?

Maybe someone will get the hint with this clue:

It seems in the last 50 to 60 years that we’ve lost our political will to do the tough and dirty work necessary to maintain freedom.

And yet, freedom has been gradually advancing across the globe as a whole in rough correlation to the alledged "loss of our political will to do the tough and dirty work". Hmmm. How could this be? Is dirty work, in fact, often counterproductive?


Most importantly, we need to make a solid and united commitment to seeing it through and quit sending mixed signals to our enemies which provide them the hope they need

This is fantasy. When George Bush’s approval ratings were in the 70’s and the public message was gaga over the Iraq War, those were the conditions under which the insurgency got going in the first place. They’re not relying on the ’hope’ of our ’mixed signals’ in order to survive. It’s their turf. They’ll fight us there for simply being unwilling to emigrate off it.

You can write as many ultimatums to the nation as a whole as you want, but the nation isn’t listening. There is no solid and united commitment coming. If you’re smart, you’ll get over it and adapt.

So, please, tell us what this alternate approach is, and try to give some reason why it might be better than what we’re trying now.

The alternate approach is putting democratization pressure on the regimes that are ’friendly’ with us and therefore to a certain degree dependent on us, instead of starting distracting meat grinders with states hostile to us and relatively independent of us. The alternative approach is inserting assets as necessary in order to punish groups determined to attack American soil, and them removing them, while containing and leaving to rot groups that are smart enough to avoid attacking American soil. The alternate approach involves never attempting to defend an unpopular or dysfunctional third-world government by force of arms.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
And no one’s really worried about AQ, it’s Iran that we need to counterbalance

One of these groups has recently attacked Americans on American soil and is an amorphous global terrorist group dedicated to doing it again. The other is a garden-variety anti-American third world country. Your priorities are bass-ackwards, and the politicians that are similarly reversing them are doing so because Iran is a big, fat, easy target, while AQ is a frustrating and elusive one. The exact same mistake that put us in Iraq. Don’t repeat it.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
we’ve lost our political will to do the tough and dirty work .

ahh, the failure of will fallacy. recently referred to as the Green Lantern theory of International Relations. and this from a purported libertarian.

If you don’t trust your government enough to establish universal health care coverage in this country, how can you possibly trust your government to remake societies that are literally thousands of years older than our own?

Prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain, we had credibility with the pro-democracy forces in Central and Eastern Europe because we were in opposition to their totalitarian governments. In the Middle East, we are aligned with the totalitarian governments. Rice’s speeches about a commitment to liberty and democracy must ring particularly hollow to the (four) secular pro-democracy activitists in Saudi Arabia and Eygpt, given our massive military support to the governments.

We are on the horns of a very pointy dilemma. We can tie our military and economic aid to Middle East governments to real progress on liberty and democracy issues. But the only effective political opposition in those countries is theocratic. So if we succeed in our efforts in bringing democracy to those countries, we will likely put in power a government that despises the US. Alternatively, we stay on the existing path and keep the oil flowing, recognizing that we are preventing the rise of pro-Western democratic forces.

This wiki on the Algerian Civil War is, I think, a fair representation of one possible future for other Middle Eastern countries.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
Question for Erb and others. (Serious)

Are you arguing for a complete pull out, or something different where we leave trainers, and keep funding the government forces?

I always confuses me, because I think a lot of non-serious anti-war types will want a clean break - and I don’t think you guys are non-serious.

MK Ultra

The Shia theocrats and the Iranian backers have no use for AQ. And there is no doubt that they would not permit them to run wild in Iraq. Nor do the Kurds, for that matter. And even some of the Baathists and Sunni Sheikhs are starting to turn on AQ.

—-Hmmmm, so let’s not spend an extra year or two to see what happens.

The alternative is to stay in Iraq indefintely, while we await a political resolution that is never going to happen on our watch.

—Why not?

If we pull out, AQ is done. And all their current propaganda and bluster about their "victory" if we pull out will quickly look very silly indeed. The only thing keeping the Shia militias from crushing AQ in Iraq is our continued presence there.

—If this is true why is AQ killing so many Shias? Are they wrong? How will the Shia militia crush AQ any more than the predominantly Shia armed forces of Iraq?
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Your priorities are bass-ackwards, and the politicians that are similarly reversing them are doing so because Iran is a big, fat, easy target, while AQ is a frustrating and elusive one. The exact same mistake that put us in Iraq. Don’t repeat it.
Ah yes Glazy, sponsored no doubt by Islamic cookie bakes or perhaps sales of slightly used Persian carpets. Yes, yes, keep telling yourself they’re not bankrolled by, trained by, encouraged by, oh, I don’t know, how about, Iran for starters.

Seems I’m not the only one willing to go on repeating mistakes.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
The Soviet response through their local agents was swift, and directed against the family of the leader of the kidnappers.
They cut off the kidnapper’s balls, then killed them.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://faroutfishfiles.blogspot.com/
That’s (gasp!) Torture!!!!

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all
Upon precisely what evidence does Mr. Lewis base this assertion?

Also how am I to take seriously a man who puts the thesis that the Soviets’ brutality caused them to have no trouble with Muslims, and then pretends that Afghanistan supports such an idea? And one who includes such ahistorical claptrap as this:
"An organization known as the Taliban (literally, "the students") began to organize resistance and even guerilla warfare against the Soviet occupiers and their puppets."
A man who’s has the audacity to feign surprise that Soviet clients like Syria failed to condemn the Soviet Union? Here’s a little clue for Mr. Lewis, as the proportion of MIGs in a country’s airforce rises, that country’s likelihood of opposing Soviet policy falls.

With a little actual historical context (like the MIG-27’s Syria took delivery of in 1978, or the $9.2 billion in arms transfers from the Soviet Union to Syria between 1979 and 1983) Mr. Lewis examples demostrate precisely the opposite of his thesis, that is "what goodies can we give you" was exactly the Soviet policy that secured Muslim cooperation.

 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
no one’s really worried about AQ, it’s Iran that we need to counterbalance.
...wasn’t that what Iraq was for?

As for the original topic: no, people who disagree on policy aren’t going to gag themselves out of some awkward belief that we need to be a hive mind to survive. If we can’t both allow debate & defend the country, then there’s nothing left worth defending.
 
Written By: b-psycho
URL: http://www.psychopolitik.com
A quick alternate plan, recognizing that there may be no real solution. Sometimes there is no solution that we can find if people really want to fight — in such a case staying can make it worse. Indeed, I think if we left in 2003 Iraq would be in a much better situation than now, and every year we’ve stayed it’s seen deterioration and this last week has been especially ugly. Given how things have gotten worse for so long, and the political unpopularity of the military action in the US, it’s hard to see how we could have the commitment to allow things to turn around — the surge doesn’t seem to be doing much, and the insurgents are adapting.

But while leaving now is better than leaving a year from now if all we’re doing is leaving, that would be bad for Iraq. So perhaps there is an alternative.

So my plan:
1. Announce the US intent to withdrawal all forces at the end of a political process that will guarantee security to the Iraqi people. Announce that this process will involve the UN, regional powers, and reflect a fundamental shift in American policy. We will renounce all desire for permanent bases, influence over the Iraqi government, and efforts to control the security situation. We will maintain control of our forces while they are there, and hope we can have them out as soon as possible, depending on the process.
2. Hold four party diplomatic talks with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq to develop a sense of what kind of security operation would be effective. Take into account the cultural differences, the splits between Sunni and Shi’ia, and the countries which could offer troops. Develop ground rules for how forces from different countries can operate.
3. Use influence on Saudi Arabia and Iran to help bring the Sunnis and Shi’ites to a deal on oil. Threaten support of an independent Kurdistan if they don’t (the Shi’ites in Iraq won’t mind, but those in Iran will). Once that deal is made, have part of the stipulation be a team of UN accountants to oversea the specifics and fight against corruption.
4. Bring in Russia and China as players. They resent America’s efforts now to dominate the region and China fears an attempt to control oil. Make it so they see it in their interest to participate to create stability (Russia knows Mideast violence can spread, China has economic concerns — it may take less than one might think to get them on board).
5. Work hard for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, mixing pressure on Israel with an unquestioned commitment by the US to defend Israel if its existence is at all threatened.
6. Work with the UN to develop a timetable for replacing American forces with regional or UN forces, guarantees and warnings (if X happens the US may stay longer, or if Iran doesn’t honor guarantee Y, etc.)

In other words, work within the strategic realities and balances of the power in the region to create stability and have those involved interested in stability and economic development. This will remove the appeal of the radicals to the youth (again youth population is growing wildly) and as noted above, Al Qaeda won’t last long if the Shi’ites and Sunnis in Iraq turn on them.

I’ll stop here. This is my initial suggestion for talking about alternatives. I am very willing to change my ideas since this is an extremely difficult problem and I am not able to see anything that looks like a clear and definite solution. Bottom line: make Iraq a regional and international project more than an American project. I think we’ve become too reviled to be effective.

The issue that this brings up is Iran and its nuclear program. There I think we need to realize that we can: a) create incentives for Iran if they sense they are being treated with respect and not pressured (again, they have many pragmatists in their government, including in the Guardian Council); and b) reinforce the power of deterrence. They aren’t going to give up their power and their state in a suicidal nuclear attack on Israel. Accept they are a regional power, and work to help create a regional balance of power. If we can accomplish that, Iraq could be rescued from the abyss.

Then the real hard work begins.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Scott, I followed you 6 point plan as far as #2. But from #3 on, you lost me.

"Use influence on Saudi Arabia and Iran" Pray tell me what influence we have with Iran? And what do you think could convice them that a "Sunnis and Shi’ites to a deal on oil" would be in their best interest. And don’t even start with the Kurdistan threat to Iran - that won’t hold water becasue we would not do that for one very simple reason - Turkey!

"Bring in Russia and China as players." As if we haven’t been trying to bring these two cowboys to the dinner table for all of these years. And what kind of "economic concerns" beyond Iranian oil is China going to respond to? Trade sanctions?

"Work hard for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian issue." Now that is a real teaser - NOT! As if we have been sitting on our hands for the past 60 frigging years on this issue? Pray tell me how you are going to solve the Israel-Palestinian issue when the entire Muslim world only sees one resolution - the death of Israel and all the jews.

"Work with the UN . . " Right, the same organization that wants Zimbabwe or some other such economic powerhouse to lead the worlds economic forum. That is a non-starter for so many reasons that there is not enough comment space on this blog to even put an outline here.

And as you pull it all together "In other words, work within the strategic realities and balances of the power in the region to create stability and have those involved interested in stability and economic development." Since Carter screwed the pooch with the Shah, there has been no strategic balance in the region. In the years that followed we have seen the Iranian hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq war, Desert Storm Iraq War I, 12 years of Iraqi defiance of innumerable UN Resolutions (remember those), Iraq War II (still ongoing), and now Iranian defiance of Nuclear Non-Proliferation. Do you see a possible conflict with your statement and the realities of history?

"This will remove the appeal of the radicals to the youth." The day the Muslim world treats peoples around the world with respect and dignity will you be able to remove the radical appeal. And muslim pigs will be flying circles around Mecca before that happens.

"Al Qaeda won’t last long if the Shi’ites and Sunnis in Iraq turn on them." That is a pretty big if there.

And lastly, "They aren’t going to give up their power and their state in a suicidal nuclear attack on Israel." Don’t sell the Iranians short on this subject, Allahmydinnerjacket has all but stated that he would be willing to do that very thing!

I thought about how to end this comment and started to toss in an ugly remark about "cherry picking" but I won’t. You were asked to put up your ideas and to your credit, you did. It’s more than I could have done because I don’t see an approach that will work without the military presence.

One - It’s a carrot and stick kind of thing. You do not remove the stick, you offer carrots and when reception is positive then you react. You take the stick away and you show your hand - if at that point you are rebuked, you have already shot your wad. You can’t undo it.

And Two - Look at a map. Iran is the problem to be. To the East, Afghanistan - US presence. To the West, Iraq - US presence. To be honest, the closest thing we have come to a stategic balance in the last 25 years is right now with the Iraq war raging. You don’t give up a position of strength - not unilaterally in the Muslim world - that is perceived as weakness, pure and simple.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Pray tell me what influence we have with Iran? And what do you think could convice them that a "Sunnis and Shi’ites to a deal on oil" would be in their best interest. And don’t even start with the Kurdistan threat to Iran - that won’t hold water becasue we would not do that for one very simple reason - Turkey!
Think of Iran like the Soviet Union in 1970. They are a regional power, but their efforts to be a normal player on the world stage are blocked by a western alliance which considers their values anathema to all we hold dear, and believe they want to spread these values world wide with the West committed to stopping them. But the Soviets wanted to be treated with respect, and also feared China. Iran fears Sunni states in the region, recognizes that Russia and China are also regional powers, and seeks a stable position with an ability to defend their interests.

We have a lot to offer economically, as a counter balance to the influence of other players and even militarily. It’s a carrot and stick thing, with linkage and taking detente era trianglation to a new level (quintalation?)

The UN is what the great powers make it. This would be a Security Council effort, so things the General Assembly does with Zimbabwe are irrelevant — most complaints about the UN deal with General Assembly actions which aren’t where the action would be if the nations of the Security Council got serious about working together on this issue.

Radicals do NOT have mass appeal in the Mideast amongst youth. They are a minority, though a growing one (due in part to corruption and hopelessness internally, and in part the existence of an easily demonizable external force, the US in Iraq). But radical Islam is tiny, probably less than 2% of the population is willing to mobilize, and even in this period of emotionalism tacit support really probably only comes from 10% (I can’t remember where I was reading this, I’ll try to look it up).

The Sunnis and the Shi’ites hate al qaeda, especially the Shi’ites (Iran almost went to war against the Taliban). They will not tolerate al qaeda in Iraq once the US is gone. They will certainly go to war with al qaeda and al qaeda won’t be able to have stable bases like in Afghanistan did have and maybe will.

Ahmadinejad specifically said Iran would NOT attack Israel, and the Guardian Council’s foreign policy has been pragmatic, and Ahmadinejad’s statements have weakened his role (the President isn’t where the power is). Mao made statements just as bad about capitalism and the US, but ultimately the US opened to him, and look where China is today.

The US is not in a position of strength now — we are no longer feared, we have given a guidebook on how to bog us down, and everyone knows our military is overstretched and our public divided. We have not been in this week of a position since the late seventies. Iraq weakens us, and delights our enemies. We can’t go on the way we are. Remember, I’m not calling for sudden withdrawal, but a planned cooperative transfer of security to other forces which will be seen as legitimate by the Iraqi people and which can work on compromises of major sectarian problems.

The Saudis and other Arabs are starting to see the Palestinian issue as a nuisance and are more willing to consider a solution now than ever — especially due to fear of Hezbollah and Hamas influence. There is, ironically, more hope that something can be done there, with outside influence to prevent a Palestinian civil war. The Saudis and the Iranians also fear a Sunni-Shi’ite regional war, and have reason to see Iraq become stabilized, but not on US terms, and not on the terms of just one side or another.

It’s complicated. There is no easy plan to victory in this kind of diplomatic effort. But four years of "war" in Iraq has brought our country extreme losses in life, prestige, international respect, strength, and money. Again, we are in a very weak position, while Russia, China and even Iran are ascendent. Iraq bleeds us and weakens us while those not involve make deals and use anti-Americanism in their interests. If we don’t change course soon we’ll find we’ll have lost a lot of relevance on the world stage in a way most didn’t even think possible. One reason to want to get the US out of Iraq is to avoid a precipitious decline in real American power vis-a-vis numerous other actors. Fear of how radicals might see the US is abstract and much more easily fixed — especially since radicals are a small minority.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Sorry, Scott, but you have only been watching the face and words of Ahmadinejad when he speaks to the west. On his own turf, he espouses an entirely different set of priorities:

On 3 August 2006, Ahmadinejad called for the destruction of Israel as the only solution to the middle east crisis.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/03/AR2006080300629.html

Even Kofi Annon criticized Ahmadinejad when he quoted the late Ayatollah Khomeini calling for Israel to be "wiped out from the map."

http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/10/27/ahmadinejad.reaction/index.html

And Ahmadinejad’s comments are nothing new from an Iranian leader. The destruction of Israel has been a pillar of the Islamic Revolution from the days of Khomeini.

The following are excerpts from a Michael Rubin editorial published by the Middle East Forum in January 2006 (citation: http://www.meforum.org/article/892)

While Kofi Annan honored Mohammad Khatami for his "dialogue of civilizations" idea, the reformist president’s instructions to the Iranian people were less high-minded. "We should mobilize the whole Islamic World for a sharp confrontation with the Zionist regime," he told Iranian television on October 24, 2000. "If we abide by the Qur’an, all of us should mobilize to kill."

Khatami’s comments were hardly the exception. Expediency Council chairman and former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is often described by Western officials as a pragmatist. On December 14, 2001, he took the podium at Tehran University to deliver the Friday sermon, the official weekly policy statement of the Iranian government. In what should have been a wake-up call, Rafsanjani declared, "If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. . . . It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." U.S. and European analysts rationalized Rafsanjani’s remarks, suggesting that he referred to self-defense only. Tellingly, though, many Iranian parliamentarians understood the Expediency Council chairman to mean what he said: threatening the offensive use of a nuclear weapon. Two years later, authorities displayed a Shihab-3 missile during a military parade draped with a banner reading, "Israel must be uprooted and erased from history."

And this type of attitude is reflected by Iran’s surrogate, Hizbullah. From the same article:

There is ample precedent that the Islamic Republic acts on its ideology, motivated as much by anti-Semitism as by denial of Israel’s right to exist. Iranian diplomats and intelligence agents coordinated the devastating 1994 attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2002, two years after Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah told Lebanon’s Daily Star, "If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." The Islamic Republic remains Hizbullah’s greatest supplier of arms and money.

I will take exception to your statement "Ahmadinejad specifically said Iran would NOT attack Israel, and the Guardian Council’s foreign policy has been pragmatic". While I agree with you the power is not with the Presidency in Iran, Ahmadinejad or his predecessors would not be making these kind of statements without the concurrence and blessing of the mullahs, where the true power resides. And if it is this kind of pragmatism in the region that you continue to place your trust, I will continue to take exception. Respectfully.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Billy:

So, please, tell us what this alternate approach is, and try to give some reason why it might be better than what we’re trying now.

Response:

The alternate approach is putting democratization pressure on the regimes that are ’friendly’ with us and therefore to a certain degree dependent on us, instead of starting distracting meat grinders with states hostile to us and relatively independent of us. The alternative approach is inserting assets as necessary in order to punish groups determined to attack American soil, and them removing them, while containing and leaving to rot groups that are smart enough to avoid attacking American soil. The alternate approach involves never attempting to defend an unpopular or dysfunctional third-world government by force of arms.

So, now that the bluff is called, where are you?

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Ahmadinejad did say Israel should be wiped off the map. But he also said it would not be done by force or by an attack from Iran. Whether or not you believe him, his claim is nothing new — maps in Saudi Arabia HAVE wiped Israel off, they don’t put Israel on their maps. This was nothing really new, and given the realities of power in Iran (Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful person — not even close) and deterrence, the idea that Iran with a few uncertain nukes would attack Israel knowing it would be the destruction of Iran and the Islamic Republic simply isn’t credible. At worst they’d try to use their position to gain more prestige and outcomes beneficial to their interests.

Again, the rhetoric you cite is similar to rhetoric like Mao’s in China before Nixon’s visit, or Soviet rhetoric at various times. Rhetoric isn’t to be taken too seriously, you negotiate, look for actions rather than words, exercise linkage (link agreements and compromises to behavior) and triangulate (or again, Kissinger’s trianglation China-USSR-US, this would be Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, China, Russia, Syria, etc.) Not easy, not guaranteed to succeed, but clearly the last four years have been a strategic disaster.

Seriously — Afghanistan is getting worse, Iraqi violence has caused a leading British think tank to declare Iraq is on the verge of collapse, and reports are that the insurgency has adapted to surge tactics. Iran can be contained; we have no reason to fear it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
And I am being serious. First, provide a link or source for your statement "But he also said it would not be done by force or by an attack from Iran." I have googled for such a quote for the last hour and I have not come up with anything.

Second - I have a sister in law whose Grandfather is a holocaust survivor. I met and spoke with him only one time and asked him about his exeperiences. He would not go into any detail, they were too painful for him but he did leave me with one piece of advice, "When someone tells you they are going to kill you, believe them!" Ahmadinejad’s tough talk is not the only point here. Iran, as I have shown, has had a history of such talk. I believe them.

To put Iran on a par with 1970 Soviet Union is, sorry but at best, laughable. Iran does not have the enmity of the rest of the world and neither did the Soviet Union back in the day. If you were to look at the politics of Europe in those days, you would see massive Communist Party gains in Italy, Spain, and France. Even England’s Labor Party was flirting with a virtual Socialist regime until the advent of the Tories and Thatcher in the late 70s early 80s.

Mao’s tough talk prior to Nixon’s visit has been well discussed in other forums back in the day and it is a standard diplomatic ploy used by all countries in order to facilitate their agendas.

The difference was China was on the outs with the rest of the world. They were a pariah of their own choosing. They had closed their borders and expelled all foreigners during the Cultural Revolution of the 60s. They did not have anything the world wanted. Oil? No. Strategic materials? No. Strategic geographic position? No. The only thing a relationship with China would get you was further enmity from the Soviet Union. And yes Kissinger’s attempt to triangulate China-US-USSR was an attempt to degrade the Soviets standing in the world and it worked - to a certain extent.

And I do look for actions rather than words. Iran has been providing arms and munitions to the insurgency in Iraq. That is an action that speaks as loud as Ahmadinejad’s words. So I should consider them a serious future partner for peace and security in the region? I don’t think so.

And as for Iran’s ralationship with Israel we need only to look as far as Hizbullah, Iran’s surrogate in Lebanon. That is why I brought Nasrallah’s comment into the discussion. You cannot seperate Hizbullah’s actions from Iran. For without Iran, there would be no Hizbullah.

You may have the luxury to state that "Iran can be contained; we have no reason to fear it." But then you do not live in Tel Aviv, do you? (Note: see previous comment regarding Rafsanjani’s quote.)
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
And I am being serious. First, provide a link or source for your statement "But he also said it would not be done by force or by an attack from Iran." I have googled for such a quote for the last hour and I have not come up with anything.
Here is a link to a discussion of Ahmadinejad’s quote. I know I read about elsewhere too — and I have never, ever seen an actual threat of force against Israel.

So the "if someone says he’s going to kill you, believe him" bit doesn’t apply to Iran, and in fact given the wild rhetoric by Soviet, Chinese and other Communists that later didn’t come to pass due to deterrence and diplomacy, it would be foolish to base foreign policy on such a slogan in any event.

And the anti-Communism of the sixties mirrors the rhetoric against Iran now. So Iran allegedly is providing arms to the insurgents — sorry, but I find it hard to believe they’d arm Sunnis (though I can believe they’d arm Shi’ite militias). But America’s in there with military force, so certainly they feel it in their self-interest to try to counter American power in the region. It would only be smart for them to protect those interests, and if providing aid to Shi’ite militias and working to subvert the American military mission there is an effective way to do it, then of course they’ll do that — any nation in such a situation would.

But, of course with a carrot and stick approach (not just the stick — we’re in too weak of a position to allow just a stick to work) we can make it in their interests to alter their policy. Once they see that we are not going to use Iraq to work against Iranian interests, their interest will shift to stabilizing Iraq and avoiding a regional Sunni-Shi’ite war.

Supporting Hezbollah (which emerged in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon) is also a smart move on a number of fronts given Iranian interests and the relative low cost of that strategy. It has not only created a greater threat to Israel, but has improved Iran’s strategic position vis-a-vis Sunni neighbors. But this has also alarmed Sunni Arabs who fear the same thing they feared when they and we supported Saddam against Iran — growing Iranian power. Again, what has to be done here is make it not in Iran’s interest to have such a strong Hezbollah, and instead in their interest to have Hezbollah shift towards becoming a political movement. It can be done. Not easy, but again, given the current situation, what we’re doing isn’t working.

Finally to this point:
You may have the luxury to state that "Iran can be contained; we have no reason to fear it." But then you do not live in Tel Aviv, do you? (Note: see previous comment regarding Rafsanjani’s quote.)
American foreign policy concerns America’s national interests, not Israel’s. If we decide we want to continue to guarantee Israeli security, we can make that message clear to the Iranians. I believe it is in our interest to maintain an alliance with Israel, but we can’t let Israeli interests dictate American policy.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
BTW, it appears that in trying to determine alternatives should the surge not work (which I consider almost certain, but I know some are far more optimistic) the key is Iran. Iran is too large and strong to have a regime change like Iraq, and they’ve been learning from the Iraqi experience and have strong ties to the Iraqi government. But the Iranian people are not happy with their government and the strict approach of the hardliners — it is unlikely that Ahmadinejad will win re-election in 2009, and the hardliners have done badly in recent polls. So they also have a domestic division that affects their policy. The more we think about what to do about Iraq, the more Iran seems to be key. (And now I have Bob Seger’s "Like A Rock" (like Iraq) and Flock of Seagulls "And I ran" going through my head...)
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Sorry, Scott - As I said before "you have only been watching the face and words of Ahmadinejad when he speaks to the west. On his own turf, he espouses an entirely different set of priorities"

And when you want to gain any credence in this discussion, you need to reference someone other than Juan Cole. And if such a quote as Cole states were out there, there would be supportable links to other sources. I can find none! (Maybe I am not asking the right things through Google - help me out, give me a link.)

And as far as the cold war rhetoric, you can see plent of that when the Soviets spoke of peace etc for years while fomenting conflict on numerous fronts. And I do not think you were old enough to state "the anti-Communism of the sixties mirrors the rhetoric against Iran now". BS! Not even close! But even then the Soviet Union had its apologists.

"So the "if someone says he’s going to kill you, believe him" bit doesn’t apply to Iran". I did not propose to "let Israeli interests dictate American policy." You brought Israel into the discussion with one of your 6 point peace plan.

Scott, here is the bottom line in this whole discussion. You are placing an inordiante amount of trust on the good will of Iran for any peace in the region. I believe that trust is misplaced and dangerous at the very least. Chamberlain once remarked "Hitler is man we can work with." He came to regret those remarks and, if he had lived, history has rubbed it in. I hope you will not have to regret your own comments because I will be here to remind you!
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
First, I put Juan Cole, a Michigan Professor with knowledge of Farsi and Shi’ite history, a lot of credit in digging into media from the region and reporting what’s happening. He is far more credible than most media sources when he discusses what’s happening in Iran and Iraq, as he knows experts in the region. Moreover, he is leading the fight AGAINST Iran for the jailing of a scholar. I don’t know of any scholar or expert in the region I trust more. Why do you find him suspect, his credentials are extremely impressive, and his reports from the region are never discredited.

In any event, Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric is irrelevant, and you never have pointed to a direct threat to Israel. The rhetoric from the Communist world was similar, rhetoric to domestic audiences is especially suspect, as it’s usually for domestic purposes. Ahmadinejad is unpopular anyway, even among conservatives in Iran, for his big mouth.

I am not placing any faith in Iranian good will. Negotiations rely on results, compromises, and verification. Maybe negotiations will go nowhere, but to assume it can’t work because of some speeches made and rhetoric given is irrational.

After all, what we’re doing now is weakening us immensely, benefiting Iran immensely (they’ve benefited more from our two Iraq wars than we have), and China and Russia are ascendent as we decline. We keep down this path at our own peril.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
This is an interesting article on comparing Reagan and Carter.

And this article quotes Bill Kristal and Robert Kagan as referring to the Carter-Reagan defense buildup. Truth.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Well, Scott, you put a lot of faith in Juan Cole. And you say "I don’t know of any scholar or expert in the region I trust more. Why do you find him suspect, his credentials are extremely impressive, and his reports from the region are never discredited."

Well, he and Christopher Hitchens have had a running battle for some time now regarding Iran. And from an article in Slate on 2 May 2006, Hitchens wrote:
However, words and details and nuances do matter in all this, so I was not surprised to see professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan denying that Ahmadinejad, or indeed Khomeini, had ever made this call for the removal of Israel from the map.
(Citation: http://www.slate.com/id/2140947/)

And you say "his reports from the region are never discredited." Well Hitchens would disagree with you on that score:
Cole continues to present himself as an expert on Shiism and on the Persian, Arabic, and Urdu tongues. Let us see how his claim vindicates itself in practice. Here is what he wrote on the "Gulf 2000" e-mail chat-list on April 22:

It bears repeating as long as the accusation is made. Ahmadinejad did not "threaten" to "wipe Israel off the map." I’m not sure there is even such an idiom in Persian. He quoted Khomeini to the effect that "the Occupation regime must end" (ehtelal bayad az bayn berad). And, no, it is not the same thing. It is about what sort of regime people live under, not whether they exist at all. Ariel Sharon, after all, made the Occupation regime in Gaza end.

There are two separate but related matters here. For a start, let us look at the now-famous speech that Ahmadinejad actually gave at the Interior Ministry on Oct. 26, 2005. (I am using the translation made by Nazila Fathi of the New York Times Tehran bureau, whose Persian is probably the equal of Professor Cole’s.) The relevant portions read:

Our dear Imam [Khomeini] said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine. … Our dear Imam targeted the heart of the world oppressor in his struggle, meaning the occupying regime. … For over fifty years the world oppressor tried to give legitimacy to the occupying regime, and it has taken measures in this direction to stabilize it.
That looks to me like a takedown of the highest order! Tell you what, Scott. I’ll keep looking for that "direct threat to Israel" and you keep looking for a citation from a credible source, one that has not been identified as an Iranian apologist.

 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Well, he and Christopher Hitchens have had a running battle for some time now regarding Iran.
Hitchens is unimpressive — and doesn’t have near the background Cole does. Cole knows the language and has inside contacts and is an expert. Hitchens is a pundit who often seems more a hack than a serious analyst. That’s no contest, Cole wins in a heartbeat.

And what you call a ’take down’ doesn’t even have substance and I read Cole’s responses to Hitchens and to me Cole clearly comes out ahead. But again, it does not directly threaten Israel. Anyway you can’t prove a negative, I don’t have to prove Israel wasn’t threatened, you have to prove it was. As noted, Saudi Arabia and most Arabs officially believe Israel shouldn’t exist and they’ve wiped it off their maps.

And you haven’t answered the most important point: that real world conditions matter and you can negotiate and verify along the way. You can’t just assume Iran can’t be dealt with. Also, our current policy benefits Iran, and the two Iraq wars have done more to help Iran than to help us. Iran is a regional power whether we like it or not. You gotta deal with reality.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Hitchens is not alone in his disdain of Juan Cole. Take a moment and google your hero and you will find Victor David Hanson and a score of others who find Cole is nothing but an apologist for Iran and the Muslim world. On more than one occasion he bald face lies in his attempt to put forward his agenda with a biased translation. I don’t care if he "knows the language and has inside contacts and is an expert". The hack here is Cole when he lets his bias affect simple translations.

And if you want to prove your own negative, I am still waiting for your link to a "quote" that Iran would not attack Israel. And for someone who thiks he knows something of the Muslim world, show me where any assurances given an infidel holds any water in the Muslim world! Trust me - I spent years in the Middle East (Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Israel) and pigs will fly free over Mecca when you find substantiation for that one!

And you can’t just assume Iran can be dealt with. Deal with some reality yourself! Go back and take a look at the 6 points you put forward. Fully half of them require an Iran that is engaged and dedicated to peace and security in the region and that is a supposition you just cannot substantiate!

I am not the one who denies Iran is not a regional power. Iran is a regional power. That is a given and not a point of contention. But I am the one who does not believe Iran can be trusted, regional power or not. And it is you who insists they can.

Now to take a step back for a second. I agree with you that two wars in the region, three counting Afghanistan, and getting bogged down internationally with Al Qaeda has not done us any good. I also agree with you we must find something other than a military solution in Iraq and the region. But where you and I part company is the dependence you place upon Iran along with my reluctance to unilaterally remove our powerful military presence in the area.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://

And you can’t just assume Iran can be dealt with. Deal with some reality yourself! Go back and take a look at the 6 points you put forward. Fully half of them require an Iran that is engaged and dedicated to peace and security in the region and that is a supposition you just cannot substantiate!
I gave you the link. Cole’s obviously very well informed, and has better credentials for the region than Victor David Hanson (who seems lost in a romantic vision of the past being played out in the present) or Hitchins. But I do recall the quote, so I’ll find it. I’m working on a research project now (due in two weeks — a chapter for an edited book, actually) and have limited google time. Still, since you haven’t shown that they threatened Israel directly, we have to give credence to the power of deterrence. Read Cole for awhile, ignore stuff that is focused on domestic politics and look at what he writes about the Mideast. Judge for yourself; I read numerous conservatives I disagree with (I find Bernard Lewis to have a flawed perspective, but I respect his knowledge and take his arguments seriously, for instance).

Also towards Iran, we cannot know what they will do until we try. If they don’t play ball, then we certainly should not appease them. States tend to follow national interest and recognize strategic realities. If they don’t, they end up far worse off than their opponents (and I’d argue that’s happening to us now — we overestimated our strength and strategic position). I have never insisted Iran can be trusted, only that we have to work with them and negotiate, and then verify as we go. I’m sure they don’t trust us either (they have reason not to trust us as well). Both have to have confidence building mechanisms and follow agreements moving forward to gain the trust of the other side.

If Iran doesn’t play ball, we can pressure them in various ways by working in the region. The balance of power may be old fashioned, but Realpolitik can still work in some parts of the world, and I think the Mideast is one. Regional war would devastate us, we have to look for an alternative. I’ve never seen a time where America’s status as the dominant world power has been in so much jeopardy.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
OK, Scott, I will concede the point. Ahmadinejad did not directly state Iran would attack Israel. The closest he came was to state Iran would attack Israel if attacked by the US. That response came when questioned about a possible attack by the US on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Have you ever read Mein Kampf? Hitler never stated he would kill all the jews. But he never left anyone in doubt as to his meaning. I take Ahmadinejad’s comments about wiping Israel off the map and similar comments in the same light, Juan Cole’s and your own protestations notwithstanding.

Second, there was a statement that Israel would not be attacked by Iran. But it did not come from Ahmadinejad. It came from the Iranian Foreign Ministry as a clarification to Ahmadinejad’s "wipe them off the map" comments. Ahmadinejad never stated that himself, Juan Cole’s protestations notwithstanding.

And for your information I have been a reader of Juan Cole for some time. Sorry, Scott. I don’t think I could have a much lower opinion of an academic. My own experience in the Middle East and his "version" of reality do not mix. I do not know if Cole has ever even been in the Middle East but I doubt it. And my own value of Hitchins and Hanson are much higher than Cole’s will ever be. In my estimation, Cole is in the same category as Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill. And he has even espoused some of the same abhorrent rhetoric as those two worthless examples of human beings.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Well, SShiell, we can not disagree more than we do about Juan Cole’s blog, which I consider essential reading if only for the information from local press and what doesn’t get covered by the media here (though when he gets on tirades against Bush or Cheney I find his blog to decrease considerably in value). Victor David Hanson is interesting, but I find myself disagreeing with him more often than not. Hitchens seems flakey to me. Noam Chomsky is driven by ideology and theory in a way that doesn’t describe Cole.

But as to Iran — how can we not at least try to negotiate and communicate, using all our strengths (how we can help potential adversaries, our military power, as overstretched as it is, can still do Iran harm, ’trianglation’ with regional powers) to make it in their interests to cooperate...to ’make them an offer they can’t refuse,’ as the Godfather would say? As long as we don’t turn that into appeasement should they not cooperate or should they renege on their word, it can’t hurt to try.

My own view: Iran’s hardliners were on the ropes by 2000, with moderates increasing in power and the Guardian Council giving in to moderate demands in order to hold power. The current rise of the "right" is short term; I think Iran will shift back towards pressure to loosen control from the clerics. We need to find a way to help in the process. Not by funding dissidents (reformers in Iran say that hurts their efforts) but by removing the emotional presence of the US, racheting down the rhetoric, and creating pragmatic alternatives.

If it doesn’t work, then at least we will have tried, and the world community will see that it was Iran, not the US, which caused failure. That will help us in whatever would come next.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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