Thursday, December 02, 2004


Making Friends And Influencing People.

Readers, I make no bones about it: I'm a Michael Bolton fan. I love his music. For my money, it doesn't get any better than when he sings "When a Man Loves A Woman."

But that's not important right now.

What is important is, no matter what my political leanings are, I'm always interested in having honest, reasonable discussions with people who see things differently than I do. It's doing my part to give the Socratic method the ol' college try.

Through such discussions, I can test my positions, and see if they hold up to scrutiny. If they do, great; if they don't, I either refine them, or abandon them (admittedly rarely, because I'm always right :-).

Anyways, via Sobek's site I visited this blog, Digressions From The Omniverse, run by blogger Average Joe. We traded a few posts, and Joe was very gracious in the discussion, so I'd like to honor that graciousness by continuing the discussion out in the open.

Joe's post in question focused on the treatment of prisoners at Gitmo, primarily critical of the Bush Administration's policies and their implementation.

While I can share my opinion on Gitmo another time, I would like to comment on the subject of the Tom Tomorrow comic Average Joe links to approvingly.

I find this Modern World strip a lot like most: too cute by half. Oh, just because Iran is doing something we accused Iraq of doing, we're just going to go through the motions again, and see the same things happen as before?

Well, sure. If that's what's required.

Implicit in the comic strip is the criticism that the United States, led by the Bush Administration, will once again overreact to a chimerical threat. However, I'd say that no one can reasonably argue that Iran *isn't* pursuing nuclear weapons. Heck, even the French and Germans believe this.

Then again, those two nations also believed Iraq was building nuclear weapons, so perhaps we're all wrong this time, too? If so, what do the Iranians have to hide?

In the comments section to his post, Average Joe was asked by another poster whether he'd have much to say about all this when Iran actually detonated a nuclear weapon. Joe responded with, what I can only assume was sarcasm, "Yes, because they are so close to it, aren't they? And they are much more likely to than, say, North Korea? Yes, Iran should be our focus now for sure."

I apologize for taking a long road to get to my point, but here it is: America failed with North Korea. Whomever you want to blame, Clinton or Bush, the simple fact is, we failed. We wanted to prevent North Korea from having nuclear weapons, and by now everyone assumes that they have them.

Quite a few on the Left used this fact as a bludgeon against our policy in Iraq, and are now using it again to, pardon the pun, preemptively strike against doing something similar with Iran.

They argue with barely-concealed glee, "See! You attacked Iraq for having WMD, and they didn't have it. Meanwhile, North Korea has WMD, and you've done nothing! You've attacked the wrong country. Aren't you stupid!"

I am very tired of this argument, for a number of reasons.

At the most basic level, this argument implies that these critics, while opposed to military action against Iraq because the WMD we thought was there proved not to be, would of course support military action against North Korea because they have WMD. Somehow, I doubt that more than a handful of critics support such a stance.

Furthermore, I think we can all agree that once a nation has nuclear weapons, the geopolitics of dealing with that nation are fundamentally different than if that nation did not have nuclear weapons. American relations between hostile non-nuclear states and hostile nuclear states require different, shall we say, nuances.

For one, the nation that has nuclear weapons now has the ultimate bargaining chip: back off, or we'll do something crazy. Whether or not we find such a stance credible, it still represents a deterrent to our action in the hands of a regime hostile to the interests of the United States.

One would think that, like a disease, a strategy of prevention is easier than a cure, ex post facto. At the very least, you establish early on that there are real political and economic-- and even military-- costs for acquiring nuclear weapons. At best, you might even change their mind, or effect a sanctions regime that prevents nuclear development.

However, to use the Tom Tomorrow logic, by failing to properly deal with North Korea before, we are now condemned-- even obligated-- to fail with regard to Iran.

Do I think our hands-off policy with Iran will work? Do I think that Britain, France and Germany can succeed in negotiating an end to Iran's nuclear ambitions? I don't know. I hope they do. The potential consequences of failure are enormous.

Just to paint one potential example-- a nuclear-armed Iran can influence events in Iraq with relative impunity. Today, if Iran chooses to directly intervene in Iraqi affairs, they face American military action. However, a nuclear Iran will likely be able to deter any movement against them. Who is willing to risk a nuclear confrontation over, say, Iranian support for suicide bombers in Baghdad? Or, Iranian intervention towards an "independent" Shiite state in Southern Iraq?

Sure, we can destroy Iran a thousand times over if they ever used a nuclear weapon. But a nuclear Iran can blackmail American policy just by simply having nuclear weapons, without using them, or giving them to a third party.

Just like North Korea today is blackmailing American policy in Asia.

We can't afford to let Iran get nuclear weapons. If our behavior in the run-up to action in Iran look similar to our behavior with Iraq, it may be for the simple reason that in neither case would we permit the emergence of a nuclear-armed state openly hostile to American interests, for very similar reasons.

We've solved one problem, we need to find a way-- peacefully if at all possible, but prepared to use force if that is what is unfortunately but inevitably necessary-- to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem.

UPDATE: I cleaned up this post a tiny bit to clear up some typos, and some ambiguity in my statements. I'm a very poor writer when I'm hopped on meth; I appreciate your patience.

Damn. I don't know if I should have written that just now.

North Korea doesn't even need nukes to be a threat, given that it could easily devastate Seoul with conventional artillery and missiles, potentially killing tens of thousands of people and ruining one of the most important economies in Asia.
Most certainly.

Then again, North Korea can destroy us all by employing the evil services of Alec Baldwin and other Hollywood actors.

It's true; I think I saw it in a movie.
Hi Dave,

Thanks for the visits to my blog, I really appreciate it.

So, to the post! Actually, I think the bigger point is that we have pursued diplomatic options ad naseum with North Korea while Iraq we decided to just bitch-slap with a metal folding chair against the urgings of our teammates and the ref to reconsider. Did I really just throw a wrestling analogy in there? Anyway, it seems we have a policy of no tolerance with any country maybe possibly having weapons of mass destruction...unless maybe you have a really big older brother (China) or you give us money and let us outsource our jobs to you cheap. In the words of Dennis Miller, however, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Terrific site, by the way. I certainly seeing it becoming a daily stop and I have perma-linked to it. And I'm not just saying that to suck up in the hopes you'll share your meth. Did I say that out loud?
It's certainly true we kind of slapped Iraq around a lot over the years, but I'd make a few points:
-- There was a *lot* of diplomacy with Iraq. Like, ten years worth. UN, America, you name it. The argument that diplomats would have solved the problem if only the get just one more resolution out of the Security Council, when they had a dozen they wouldn't bother enforcing. . . Well, I just don't see that as very credible.
-- Of course, the big difference with Iraq was that, unlike in Iran, we fought a war with them, so we had a history of kicking them around. It didn't really require a psychological leap to go from 1991 cease fire to daily no-fly-zone bombing to Desert Fox to the Iraq War. It's like we never really stopped.

As for North Korea, sure, we were at war with them too, but that fight at least ended, and you're absolutely right-- the presence of China (and later the Soviet Union) as patron to the North kinda puts a damper on intervention.

So, did we do Iraq first because it was the biggest threat, or because it was the easiest target, i.e., low-hanging fruit? I'm sure most people in the Admin would acknowledge the importance of the latter. The "First Day In SuperMax" theory of international relations.

Kicks someone's ass on the first day, or else become their bitch.

It's probably as simple as that.
Oh, and Joe? Thanks for visiting, I really appreciate it!
No problem, Dave. Like I said, very entertaining site. In fact, I'd say your site borders on coke-shooting-out-the-nose funny, and you can quote me on that. ;-)

So, actually I don't really argue that the U.N. pretty much used up its efforts against Iraq and all that. I guess I'm more pushing the point that the currents administration stance on countries harboring weapons of mass destruction and/or terrorists doesn't remain consistant. I have no problem with reviewing each situation on its own merits. That is thoughtful and how it should be. But don't preach blind intolerance and then behave completely differently. Why, then you might be accused of being a flip-flopper...

I actually don't think we'll invade Iran. I know that will greatly dissapoint Salmon Rushdie. Sheesh, can never please them...
I put my comments on my blog, so as to avoid the character limits.

And if I were Dave, I would definitely take Joe up on quoting the "Coke shooting out the nose funny" line.
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