Sunday, December 17, 2006
It is important to see Iran clearly: to understand this important country. Right now the West is misunderstanding Iran in two different directions: on the one hand, the provincial President Ahmadinejad and his unworldly clerical backers lead us to forget that Iran is a large, sophisticated country, with ancient cultural, literary and, yes, political traditions, multiple social strata and factions and a worldy, sophisticated educated class. On the other hand, President Ahmadinejad also causes us to fear Iran as a looming, dangerous menace, perhaps even worthy of full-scale attack in the eyes of the belligerent Bushies, rather than the semi-impoverished country that imports 40 percent of its oil, that has no navy or air force, that it is. The solution is to stop dancing with Ahmadinejad and the rest of the fundamentalist Quixotes who precariously hold power for the time being, to disdain his Holocaust denial, for example, as the rank idiocy that it is, and to speak to cosmopolitan Iran directly. In the end this sophisticated people will work through their historically inevitable experiment with Islamic government and will evolve a modern government that is worthy of the proud history of the Persian plateau.
Friday, December 15, 2006
The empirical (not imperial!) question about Iraq is, what would happen if the US were to quickly withdraw its forces? Many people including the President assume that Iraq would then slide into disastrous chaos and sectarian conflict, but the answer to the question is not obvious. I don't know if it would be a good idea or not. However, by all accounts majorities of Iraqis tell pollsters that they think the US should withdraw. Without any transparency from the Pentagon about what exactly US forces are actually trying to do, most people get an image that US forces are trolling around waiting to be attacked. I'm sure that's not an accurate description of what they're doing, but it occurs to me that the Pentagon's much-vaunted control of information isn't quite working here the way it should. I for one can't see a clear war aim at this point. As for "surging" the troop level with a rapid injection of tens of thousands of additional troops, that might lock things down while they're there: then what? Here's a Kissingerian bit of unthinkable thought: would it be so bad to leave the Sunni (Saudi) and Shia (Irani) powers to fight it out with a proxie war? We would have to hold our noses while some awful ethnic cleansing went on. I'm not advocating that, but the President has got us all in a situation where we may not have any way to get out without even more blood on our hands.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Prime Minister Olmert is in hot water for letting slip that Israel has the bomb, something that everybody who pays attention has known for years. Now he wants to revert to the locution, "Israel will not introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East." But either Israel has already done so or it has not, by virtue of having or not having a bomb. The cause of non-proliferation is not served by doublespeak. This is not a slam at Israel in particular, just a comment about how not to handle the general problem of proliferation.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Press coverage of Barak Obama: Someone on the cable talk shows asked a guest today, "How can Hilary even think of running now that Obama is out there?" or words to that effect. Today is one year and eleven months to election day! The Clintons are no more worried about Obama than they are about Edwards, or Gore, or Richardson, or Dennis Kucinich. In fact the Obama boom is giving Hilary, the presumptive front-runner way out before Election Day, some needed cover. All respect to Obama, although he's maybe flaming out; the real mistake is being made by a gaga media without enough political news.