Saturday, September 02, 2006

Iran and the Art of Political Judo


If America Wanted to Talk, Iran Would ... - New York Times

JUST imagine. President Bush phones up Iran’s president, thanks him for his thoughtful letter, and asks to sit down and discuss social, political and economic challenges facing the two nation...what might happen if Washington suddenly decided, in a high-level public act, to follow Don Corleone’s advice to keep one’s friends close but one’s enemies closer?...Many political analysts, Western diplomats and reform-minded people here say a gesture from Washington to Tehran, or more precisely a gesture that demonstrates some degree of respect and openness to Iran, might well be seen here as far more threatening to the leadership than the threat of economic or political sanctions.

“Radicalism has always been supported and strengthened by the West,” said Emad Baghi, a former cleric from a highly respected family who heads a human-rights organization here even as he retains good contacts with the judiciary.

In Iran, the term hard-liner is part of the political lexicon, less a pejorative title than a label along the lines of liberal or conservative. In that vein, many Iranians refer to President Bush and his administration as hard-liners. And the conventional thinking here is that hard-liners help hard-liners, with their hard-line policies.


It does look like we're getting thrown every time--goaded by Iran and other hostile regimes into making a lunge and then tripped into a painful back twist that lands us flat on the mat.

It's hardly surprising. Nothing is more effective in getting the populace to rally around the flag, support an oppressive regime and put up with violations of civil rights than the threat of invasion by a foreign power. We should know that. Warrantless wire-taps and female dress codes are minor inconveniences compared to getting blown up or having your town bulldozed.

I'm not sufficiently sophisticated in these matters to understand exactly what the US would risk if Bush had sent a polite, carefully crafted response to Ahmdinejad's 18 page letter or invited him to a sit-down Corleone fashion apart from support by his "base" at home. However it's pretty clear that the minority who support his policies wouldn't stand for it. At the last go-round the W-team picked up on Kerry's unfortunate remark about the desirability of fighting a "smarter," more "sensitive" war and ran with it. Ahmadinejad may have impressed his base by representing himself as the voice of reason, challenging the US to discussion and debate, but Bush's base is convinced that anything other that brute force and ignorance is a sign of weakness. This is probably why W makes a point of representing himself not only as more brutal than he is but also as more ignorant.

What is most depressing is that his claims in support of the current policy are unfalsifiable and so there can be no denoument. We will "stay the course" because if by leveling Iraq, or (by proxy) Lebanon we haven't succeeded in installing toady pro-American regimes throughout the Middle East or eliminated the threat or terrorism, it just shows the haven't fought long enough or hard enough, wasted enough money or personnel, or delivered a good enough walloping. I'm no dove, but the prospect is one of an endless cold war that goes hot periodically when the US recovers enough military capacity to invade and flatten yet another Middle Eastern country that someone imagines is a base for terrorists. War without end, amen.

We will blast one country after another into the stone age, ruin the credibility of their educated, cosmopolitan elites, destroy their middle classes, empower demogogues who rally the idiot peasantry and set off tribal warfare to finish the job--starting with the US.

1 comment:

Sanpete said...

At the last go-round the W-team picked up on Kerry's unfortunate remark about the desirability of fighting a "smarter," more "sensitive" war and ran with it. Ahmadinejad may have impressed his base by representing himself as the voice of reason, challenging the US to discussion and debate, but Bush's base is convinced that anything other that brute force and ignorance is a sign of weakness. This is probably why W makes a point of representing himself not only as more brutal than he is but also as more ignorant.

Interesting theory. I think it was really the "sensitive" part that was picked up on. Ignorance per se is probably not seen as a sign of strength, but thinking too much is seen as a sign of weakness. No danger of Bush being seen as weak in that respect.

The unfalsifiability issue was also present with Vietnam, but most people eventually rejected such arguments, as they are doing regarding Iraq. Hopefully Bush will be too preoccupied with fighting the terrorists he has created in Iraq to invade other places. "We're creating terrorists in Iraq so we won't have to invade other countries to create them there!" Less than two and a half years left. Maybe he won't have time to do much more damage.