“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Monday, January 16, 2006

the fool vs. the fool of fools -- the mother of all foolishness

In 2004, LI made some predictions (hedged by the disclaimer that they were merely extrapolations from present circumstance) about what would happen if George Bush were re – scratch that re, will you – were elected in 2004. In other words, if the 2004 election legitimized the Bush coup of 2000.

One of the predictions we made – it was made here, on September 19, 2004 – reads like this:

“One thing this [the election of Bush] will certainly mean, given the characteristic bloodthirstiness of this group, is a lot more Iraqi deaths. The Vietnam comparisons are always to the number of Americans killed – not to the number of Iraqis killed. But with the re-installation of an ultra-hawkish wing in D.C. (who will justly take the election as a legitimation of their methods) surely we will see an acceleration of Rumsfeld’s kind of warfare – the terror bombing of Fallujah, the pillage of Najaf, that kind of thing. The Bush people have been pushing a re-definition of the aim in Iraq as ‘working democracy” – which means that they will skew what election process they allow, in January, to put in an American puppet. Allawi is the candidate right now, and he does have one essential quality – he will rubber stamp any terror tactics the U.S. forces take against the Iraqi population. But it is hard to see how an election, no matter how corrupt, could be won by Allawi. Without opposition in Washington, however, there might be no pressure to hold elections at all. Postponing the elections next year would surely be on the Pump house wish list.

What are the constraining factors here? We think the major constraint is the Bush fear of having to resource its war. It has been obvious for some time, in Iraq, that the distance between what Bush says is the goal in Iraq and Iraqi reality could have only been bridged if Iraq were treated as a serious occupation. That would require about two to three times the manpower that is there right now. Instead, this war is being fought like a child playing with the puddles from its bottle of milk on the high chair – American soldiers go into an area, ”pacify” it, then withdraw. Then the insurgents return. Going to war with Iran and/or Syria is going to require a lot more military manpower. We think the fear of that will drive the Bush administration to make threats, and to maybe use its airpower, but not to invade. The worst case scenario would be: seeing that we need a proxy in the Middle East, Wolfowitz et al encourage an Israeli attack on Syria.”

We were, of course, on the money about the use of terror tactics, which came into play majorly after the election in the weeks of U.S. war crimes committed against Fallujah. On the other hand, we grossly underestimated the pump house gang’s own consumption of its kool-aid. They actually thought they would win the elections, via Allawi, after the destruction of a major Sunni city. But even then we were suspicious of the meme that the U.S. was going to attack Iran.

We still think that the U.S. will not attack Iran, and that if an attack comes, it will be a proxy attack via Israel – which, we will be assured, operated on its own, completely and utterly free from American intervention. Right.

However, the interesting thing at the moment is the way that the same forces that got us into Iraq are aligning in the same ways to get us into Iran. Niall Ferguson, who is a very good historian and a very poor pundit, pulls out one of his alternative history tricks and gives us the history of the “nuclear exchanges” between Israel and Iran in 2007 – all of which could have been prevented by a couple of good old surgical strikes in 2006. Riiigght. Sure. That there is no evidence that Iran is even working on nuclear weaponry at the moment is of course irrelevant to this scenario. Similarly, the NYT quotes a Newsweek interview with In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy, which will be quoted to mean that the Iranian nuclear weapons program is a few months from achieving its goal if

“… Iran was possibly pursuing a nuclear weapons program in secret.
"If they have the nuclear material and they have a parallel weaponization program along the way, they are really not very far - a few months - from a weapon," he said. "We still need to assure ourselves through access to documents, individuals and locations that we have seen all that we ought to see and there is nothing fishy, if you like, about the program."

Now, this is really a strange sentence. The claim is that there is a possibility of nuclear material and a possibility of weaponization. And then there is a statement of fact. Something is either wrong with El Baradei’s conditionals or wrong with the way Newsweek quoted him.

So what is ahead? The Washington Post has long been eager to visit Iran with U.S. bombers, and we expect the op ed page and the editorial section to be full of the usual meat driven, gloating cannibal ideology, by the same cannibals who have gorged largely on American and Iraqi blood in the last two years and find themselves craving more – serial war mongering being one of the D.C. clique’s more adorable traits. We especially like it when Krauthammer imitates Hector Lector. And then the hawk Dems will have to start marching, starting with the inexorable Hillary and her to be expected comments about giving serious consideration to a military response. But … we think (putting on our fortuneteller cap) that the D.C. clique won’t get that far, that hawk Dems will stretch their talons in vain, and that this will become an issue over which the EU, the UN, the U.S., Russia and China flutter for the next couple of years. Iran’s contracts with India and China are going to figure largely in keeping the negotiations peaceful, we think. Although who knows – the wild cared is whether the U.S. decides to use Israel.

LI’s position about Iran has taken a battering in the last couple of years. It was obvious that Clinton’s biggest foreign policy fuckup was not establishing détente with Iran when he had the chance. With the election – and it was an election, and it was even one in which the person with the most votes won, unlike, uh, the elections in some countries – of the fool of fools, Ahmadinejad , we can’t imagine that Iran and the U.S. will take the small steps to secure a Middle East peace, much less strengthen the party of sanity in Iran.


Patrick J. Mullins said...

This is probably very thoughtful, I'd say. I only say 'probably' because I appreciate this particular kind of thing a great deal, not being able to come up with it myself; and yet it seems balanced, or trying hard to be, given that predictions are always somewhat off. Definitely worth keeping one's eye out for specific developments in the areas you point out.

Paul craddick said...

"there is no evidence that Iran is even working on nuclear weaponry at the moment"

A real howler; or rather, a 'pronunciamiento ex cathedra' - only an act of faith can sustain it.

Roger, if there truly is "no evidence," then the IAEA, the US, and various European powers are guilty of harassment, pure and simple. Of course, then, there should be no referral to Mt. Olympus, I mean, the UNSC - are you willing to sustain that entailment?

On the contrary, one might point to: the blatant non-disclosure of Natanz and Arak, until the NCRI passed along the information. The endless games of delay, obfuscation and partial disclosure, clearly indicating a pattern of deception (e.g., the delays over Parchin; the razing of Lavizan). Ties to the Kahn network? Serious questions about p-2 centrifuge development work? High-grade uranium traces? Concurrent development of solid fuel missiles? Half-mile deep, concrete-reinforced tunnels at Ifashan? ElBaradei's public statements seem to indicate only the tip of the iceberg.

The greatest "evidence" is the character of the regime itself, and its brazenly apocalyptic public face. To describe Ahmadinejad as a "fool of fools" is to operate within exactly the wrong categories. He's worse than "insane" - he's fanatically enthused. Read his ramble to the UN General Assembly, which concludes with an allusion to the Mah'di. Ferguson, Keegan, and others are right - Ahmadinejad's ascension represents a frightening coalescence of events.

roger said...

Paul -- hey, first, the whole phrase is "no evidence that Iran is even working on nuclear weaponry at the moment" -- and notwithstanding your collection of factors that would lead us to think that Iran is planning on using its enriched uranium for nuclear weaponry, I haven't seen anything that disputes my statement. That Iran is operating suspciously and has elected a president who is rhetorically aggressive are two very good reasons for the U.S. and the E.U. to be concerned. On the other hand, just as conservatives pointed out that Khatami was constrained by the mullahs, who really ran Iran -- a self fullfilling remark, as the U.S. refused to use the openings provided by the man to amplify his shaky power -- so, too, there is every reason to think that Ahmadinejad is finding his power limited, too. If his Mahdi obsession were really implemented as state policy, surely we would see an upsurge in, say, Hezbollah activity. We don't. We don't see Iran getting more openly aggressive in Iraq -- although perhaps that is because their guy's run the place -- and we see the continuation of business relations with China and India, just as before Ahmadinejad's election. We also see his powers officially pruned both by the Parliament, which has refused to approve his pick for oil minister, and by Ayatollah Khamenei, who -- we used to be told -- has the real power in Iran. And Khamenei was quoted by der Spiegal as saying that Ahmadinejad was "elected to solve the country's social problems, not to go to war with Israel."

Now here's a question for you, in Ferguson's counter-factual manner. Let's say Iran said, if we are given guarantees that the U.S. will not in any way try to overthrow the Iranian government, we will give up the nuclear research. Would you say, yeah, let's do it? Or do you want the U.S. to, ultimately, overthrow the Iranian regime?

Vermin Direct, LLC said...

I can understand some degree of nervousness about Iran having nukes. The last thing we want is a bunch of deranged freaks who think they're talking to God running around with incredibly dangerous weapons.

Paul craddick said...


As far as I can see, there's no difference between the quotation with which I began my post and the "whole phrase" which you reproduce.

Your hasty dismissal of my evidence won't do. To call the overall picture "suspicious" is to ignore the plain sense of words - in regards to what does it arouse suspicion? Why are we to be "concerned"? In fact, the grounds for suspicion and concern comprise the "evidence" of nuclear weaponization.

Of course, there are different kinds of evidence, having differing probative value; evidence can be compelling without vouchsafing absolute certainty.

You didn't address my question, which laid out the implication of denying that the appearances suggest weaponization: according to your view, why is there even a question of referral to the UNSC? Poor Iran is just being bullied, then, right?

The better commentators - such as Taheri - don't deny at all that there is a power struggle in Iran; they write about it in detail. What they would deny is the struggle's relevance to the matter at hand; it's a long-standing desire of the theocrats to nullify the "Zionist entity," and have the nukes on hand to do the job (in the context of which the Ayatollah's statement, peace be upon him, can be intepreted in myriad ways). Ahmadinejad and Co. up the ante with atavistic talk about vanquishing the big, Bad US too.

And even if there was more evidence of equivocal policy emanating from Iran than there is, it would be the height of folly simply to hope for the best and ignore the words and actions of the men nominally in charge. I don't find your modus tollens in regards to Hizbollah germane to getting a hold on Ahmadinejad's eschatological pronouncements.

The difficulty with the question you throw back at me is that it's in the marrow of the regime to want, to need, nukes - were they to abjure the desire sincerely and reliably, the regime would have metamorphosed. So your question is founded premises which are themselves questionable.

As to Vermin's riposte, I take it that he/she is jokin' around - there's no evident parity between Bush's religiosity, whatever its shortcomings, and the armageddon-awaiting variety of Ahmadinejad. And, as I understand it, prayer entails talking to god, not with.

roger said...

Paul, I am not sure what you are saying. I am saying that there is ample evidence that Iran is seeking the capability to produce nuclear weapons, but there is no evidence that they have a program to produce nuclear weapons. That seems clear enough. The reason there is a 'crisis" is not that Iran has violated the treaties it has signed -- if you can find anybody who says that officially -- such as a Bush administration official, I'd like to see the quote -- but because they are breaking the spirit of the arrangements they have had with the Europeans.

I asked my question of you because if the question is of capability, it can be infinitely deepened so that nothing the current Iranian government can do would satisfy the U.S. -- or you. I am pretty much with Shirin Ebadi and Muhammad Sahimi here, who are both opposed to Ahmadinejad.

If you were right in saying we have two choices, that of using military force or that of doing nothing, one would have to consider the case differently. But this is not at all the case. Negotiation and bitching seems to me to be satisfactory insofar as it will delay weaponization, and that delay, which can be for a very long time -- five to ten years -- provides a great window for exploiting the problems and internal divisions in Iran. It should be pointed out that the U.S., at one time, encouraged the Shah to pursue nuclear power. It is the height of hypocrisy, now, to pretend that it could only be pursued to create weapons.

And hey, when I write these posts, God is my co-pilot!

Paul craddick said...

The reason there is a 'crisis" is not that Iran has violated the treaties it has signed -- if you can find anybody who says that officially -- such as a Bush administration official, I'd like to see the quote -- but because they are breaking the spirit of the arrangements they have had with the Europeans.

Incorrect. Cp. this statement, promulgated by the IAEA on 9/24/2005:

"Recalling Iran’s failures in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations under its NPT Safeguards Agreement (INFCIRC 214) with respect to the reporting of nuclear material, its processing and its use, as well as the declaration of facilities where such material had been processed and stored, as reported by the Director General in his report GOV/2003/75 dated 10 November 2003 and confirmed in GOV/2005/67, dated 2 September 2005"

More of the same, as well as the rejection of the Europeans' "carrots" (which you cite) accounts for the crisis. If the IAEA personnel were worth their salt, they would have referred Iran to the UNSC in September; had they done so, the UNSC - if it was worth its salt - would've done something other than what it nearly always does.

Thus we do, in fact, have two extremely disagreeable choices: use force to interrupt or prevent the Iranian program, or not use force and allow the nuclear momentum to carry things on to their logical conclusion.

You've got the kind of "delay" which diplomacy provides exactly backwards: to the theocrats, "negotiations" provide the smokescreen to buy time - in order to consummate the program. Anyone who believes otherwise simply hasn't been paying attention.

roger said...

Paul, you are citing violations that go beyond the treaty that Iran signed -- these were violations of the agreements negotiated with the EU. As Ebadi and Sahimi point out:
"As a signatory of the NPT, Iran is entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear technology including uranium enrichment, the main source of concern in its nuclear program. So, demanding that Iran set aside its enrichment program forever is a nonstarter." Now, as the State department said, "Iran failed to fulfill its obligations under Iran’s NPT safeguards agreement according to reports issued in 2003 by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In November 2003, the IAEA Board of Governors deplored Iran’s breaches of its obligations and urged compliance." And since 2003, there has been an on again, off again tussle, which has not been helped, of course, by American threats directed at Iran -- especially as America is unlikely to be able to fulfill those threats. Calling Iran an axis of evil is another of Bush's pranks -- an excellent way to endanger American troops as they go through the motions to support his collapsing vanity project in Iraq.

And, frankly, I think you have the time frame, if not backwards, at least locked in a mindset in which the theocrats are desperately working against time to develop a bomb on some kind of schedule. For that, of course, you would have to provide evidence that a group with the power to do that in Iran is doing it. I don't see that evidence at all. In fact, you are using theocrat not as a descriptive word, but as a polemical word around which we can cluster any bad motive we want to choose. I, on the other hand, think theocrats and democrats are both in compromised positions in which a number of alternatives are open to them, and that is what negotiations are all about. Thank heavens the EU and the UN aren't hardliners, towing the hawk view of the world, and inflating every conflict into an ultimate conflict.

Personally, if I were an Iranian, I'd be against the nuclear power project because it, too, is a vanity project -- one of those vast, development infrastructure projects that lenders so like to press upon third world countries. When Ebadi and Sahimi write that the issue of nuclear power involves national pride, you know it will eventually involve a national disaster, just like Egypt's Aswan dam.

But my opposition to nuclear power is not going to drive me to support American or American proxy action against Iran, and I doubt that, at this time, the administration has the political capital to do anything like spend another 200 billion dollars on a failing project that shoots gas prices through the roof. Such, such are the woes of being a hyper-power on a downer.

roger said...

ps -- Paul, on your site you commented that perhaps one of the unfortunate results of the Iraq invasion was that it weakened the U.S. vis a vis Iran.

Myself, I think Iraq has exhausted the toughness of Bush. In fact, otherwise, he is the weakest American president, according to the standard of conservative foreign policy, we have ever seen -- weaker even than Jimmy Carter.

The funny thing is that conservatives have awoken, a bit, to the fact that Bush is the biggest spending president of all time. But besides this, they seem not to notice that:
a. He's done nothing, absolutely nothing, to constrain Russia.
b. His Latin and Central American policy, if you compare it to the good old days of Ronnie or even of his daddy, is one of surrender and handwringing.
c. His policy towards China has been basically to hand China the keys to the American economy.
d. And his inability to diplomatically move Europe is a joke. Reagan was able to get Europe's most dedicated socialist, Mitterand, and Schmidt, another socialist, to endorse cruise missiles against their party and their population. Bush bats zero.

The press, however, still loves the myth that Bush is a tough guy. The odious Slate journalist, John Dickenson, takes down Fred Barnes new bio of Bush (takes down is pretty harsh -- he throws soft pillows at it) and includes this graf, typical of the D.C. press corps:

"During one discussion about troop levels, Barnes writes that Bush interjected "stop the hand wringing." We get it: He's bold. But we've known that for a while. It would make the case stronger if we knew what the troop-level debate was about and how the president's interjection changed the conversation or represented a larger point about his administration."

What a joke. Bold my ass. One of the reasons I don't think the U.S. will strike Iran is that Bush is completely exhausted by Iraq. He has no other focus. He was a putz when he got in, having learned about the world only as it effected the Bush clan, and he is still the same putz. From my liberal point of view, Bush is a disgrace and a menace, but it is interesting that you can take many different points of view, and from all of them, he is a disgrace and a menace.

Paul craddick said...

Paul, you are citing violations that go beyond the treaty that Iran signed -- these were violations of the agreements negotiated with the EU

Roger, I'm at a complete loss to see what you're driving at.

Here, once again, is the beginning of the IAEA report from 9/2005 which I cited above:

"Recalling Iran’s failures in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations under its NPT Safeguards Agreement (INFCIRC 214) ..."

Now, INFCIRC/214 entered into force in 1974. The ruminations from Ebadi and Sahimi are flatly irrelevant to this.

When Iran's longstanding malfeasance - when its failures under INFCIRC/214 - came to light in August 2002, a series of dipomatic maneuvers were launched, culminating intitally in an IAEA statement (6/2003) - which referenced, diplomatically, "issues that needed to be clarified and actions that needed to be taken." The latter were the manifest disparities between what was slowly coming to light about Iran's nuclear work vs. its longstanding obligations under INFCIRC/214.

On a parallel track with the IAEA work, the Europeans moved in to offer incentives, &c. - the usual diplomatic nostrums.

Neither being called to account on their NPT obligations, nor being offered a diplomatic way out, has brought the Iranians to heel. Hence, my assertion above was entirely correct; to wit,

'More of the same [viz., continuing Iranian abrogation of INFCIRC/214], as well as the rejection of the Europeans' "carrots" (which you cite) accounts for the crisis. If the IAEA personnel were worth their salt, they would have referred Iran to the UNSC in September; had they done so, the UNSC - if it was worth its salt - would've done something other than what it nearly always does'