Monday, August 15, 2005


12 Comments:

Blogger J. Marquis said...

Sadly, I think if we hadn't invaded Iraq the Iranians would probably be a lot easier to deal with. I'm sure our invasion of their neighbor swung a lot of power back to the America haters.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

This cartoon's a little too true. :-(

4:20 PM  
Blogger Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Since the fall of the Shah, Iran has basically vacillated between moderate and extreme levels of hatred of America and disdain for the civil liberties of their own people and the rest of the world. It seems that, after a period of relative moderate government (though moderate in this case is a highly relative term), their leaders have chosen to revert to extremism.

Marquis, the point is that I don't think "easy to deal with" is a term that has applied to Iran in a very long time. To use a 1940s analogy, inasfar as they related to each other, Iraq was Nazi Germany, and Iran was the Soviet Union; though the religious polarity was opposite for both of them. I know it's a truly awful analogy and ignores quite a bit of the internal dynamic inside each of the nations in question, but frankly, it's the best I could make on short notice. After the end of WWII, the Soviet Union became progressively more difficult to deal with, but with other nations, the opposite became true. The main difference is that the power of those nations who have warmed their relations with America is far greater in relation to the power of Iran than the European and African nations whose relationships with the United States flourished during the Cold War. In short, Libya and Afghanistan have a combined population and force projection that's higher when compared with that of Iran than did the many smaller nations that sided with us in the Cold War, or at least played both sides against the middle. This has set off a ripple effect whose fruit can be seen in Lebanon, the Ukraine, and beyond.

My argument in summation: There's almost no such thing as an unmixed blessing, but I think in this case, the good outweighs the bad to a degree that we'll only know as the next few years progress. It's already gotten a good start. It will be interesting, though hopefully not in the Chinese curse sense.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

This is now my favorite political comic. It's perfect. It summarizes what is basically our attitude towards war...we'll just sort of toss it out there and hope it does the trick. Hey, let's slap on the label "democracy" while we're at it! Neat!

For us, war is this fun little experiment, and we seem to be completely ignorant of the consequences. At minimum, we've killed 25,000 Iraqi civilians and our attitude is: you'r welcome.
Grr...

8:49 PM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

Mandelbrot,

President Khatami was quite cool, but when we attacked Iraq, we fueled the religious right in Iran and undermined his progressive movement there.

Traditionally the Iranians and the Iraqis have been enemies, and yet we managed to make the Iranians empathetic to the Iraqis. That takes real skill.

One thing you can say about Bush is that he has united the rest of the world. Against Bush--he united the rest of the world against the Unisted States. Making us safe from terrorists--yeah, right!

10:53 PM  
Blogger Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I'm genuinely curious about something, Sheryl: Is your argument that we should do nothing to avoid the ire of those who don't like us anyway? That actually sounds a bit French, and we all know how stable their history has been for the last couple of centuries.

Yes, Iran and Iraq have been enemies for quite a long time, but you're forgetting that the majority of both peoples are united by a faith, the Shi'a branch of Islam. If exploited properly by those of a mind to do so, which is what appears to have happened, it's not at all difficult to shift the public opinion in one's favor. The main source of the problems between Iran and Iraq was the enmity the theocratic Shi'ites of Iran had with the titularly-Sunni leaders of Iraq, and with the latter taken out of the equation, the rest was really quite easy.

Still, I maintain my stance that, while there have been some setbacks, there's also been quite a bit of positive progress that this has sparked elsewhere. I cite Lebanon, Libya, and the Ukraine.

4:39 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

I would agree there has been some progress made in Libya in particular; seeing Qaddafi back down was a welcome thing. I also think it's great that Syria isn't quite as involved in Lebanon now as it was. I think those nations have been scared off a bit by our invasion of Iraq... maybe kind of an "if we don't back down a bit, or at least appear less militant, we'll get kicked" thing. What was the title of that self-help bestseller a while back, "Winning Through Intimidation"? Not that I think that "speak loudly and carry a huge stick" is necessarily a good way to go about getting other countries to back down... I don't, really. But if we're mining the invasion of Iraq for positive things, Lebanon and Syria may well qualify as peripheral successes.

I think what happened in Ukraine was great... I like to believe that if the American people could get as stirred up as many Ukrainians did about election results, we might not have neoconservatives in the White House today... but of course that's just an opinion based on something like speculation... and wishful thinking! Anyway, I like to think that what happened in Ukraine was the result of the reaction of the people as much as, or maybe more than, the result of international pressure being applied. If the people hadn't spoken first, en masse, I doubt there would have been as much, if any, international pressure for a second election.

While those aforementioned relatively-positive things have occurred, I wonder what will happen if Iraq gets carved up into several smaller countries or if some Islamic superstate gets created in that region out of hatred toward the U.S. Religion has been known to do some pretty odd things to people, especially when they indulge in it in large numbers.

I would agree with the assertion that Iran has been a troublemaker in that part of the world. I think what J.Marquis may have meant by "easier to deal with" is that by the U.S. invading Iraq, Iran was given an opportunity to make lots MORE trouble than they might have otherwise. I'd guess that the chaos in Iraq has simply been too big an opportunity for Iran to pass up. Thus, I'm guessing Iran will probably create more trouble (than usual) by helping feed the insurgency in Iraq, making it last as long as possible. If Iran senses some kind of advantage over the U.S., I think they will press it. In this case the advantage would be an ability to make more direct trouble for the U.S. than they could have before the invasion. And sensing that they might have some kind of advantage there, maybe they're getting more aggressive in their overall stance... being buttheads about oil, adamantly developing nukes... I have to wonder if Iran feels emboldened these days... (is "emboldend" even a word? Hehehe... if it isn't, let me know. I don't want to give the POTUS a run for his money!)

Speaking of the POTUS and his administration, I have to believe there must be a better way of achieving world peace than empire-building. I don't believe that putting the philosophies expressed by the PNAC into action is an avenue toward world peace. I think that the PNAC/neoconservative types may feel like they're in some kind of race, that is, the U.S. is the only real superpower in the world right now, so while we are the only one... we had better take advantage and spread our influence, assuming control over as much of the world as we can in order to prevent another superpower from emerging. And, as some of these folks like to expound on the U.S. being a "Christian nation" (many of our founding fathers were deists...!) it does set us up nicely as "crusaders" in the eyes of many of those around the world who practice the Islamic faith. The more religion we allow into our government here at home, the more I think our general foreign policy will take on a "crusade" look.

With that kind of crusade going on, it becomes easy to forget about our ongoing crusade against communism. So what do we do about China? I think that question could be just as important to the U.S. right now as "What do we do about the Islamic fundamentalists?"

I don't advocate seeing us become an isolationist nation, but I do have to ask the question: why, when we have so many fires and so much trouble here at home, are we out and about in the world, trying to put out fires and in some cases, creating trouble? I hope there is more of an answer to that question than "Because we can."

Knowing as little as we American citizens probably do about what's actually going on in the world, most of our opinions on this issue are likely to amount to little more than speculation based on the relatively scant info we receive, and are probably based on our own previously-held opinions... but it's still good for us to discuss Iran. I think there are a lot of different, crazy angles to the Iraq and Iran issues, so by discussing it we can all be crazy together.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

"Is your argument that we should do nothing to avoid the ire of those who don't like us anyway? That actually sounds a bit French, and we all know how stable their history has been for the last couple of centuries."

It sounds more like the swiss than the french actually.Has it occurred to you that there are different ways to handle "those who don't like us" than agitating them?

2:52 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

I guess what I was trying to say was that before we invaded Iraq the reformers and the young people were more or less on our side. Once we started blowing up the neighborhood the radical clerics could point at our military and conjure up the same atmosphere of anger and paranoia they enjoyed 20-25 years ago. I'm sure that took a lot of credibility away from the reformers.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

First, Snave, "emboldened" is a word that I've heard and used on several occasions. Okay, so maybe not so much "used", as the question is how often does the average person need to use that word in their daily life? I would hope it isn't very much.

Second, vis a vis what may have happened had Americans been as excited about the election as the Ukrainians were when the time came to choose a leader, you're ignoring something about the American spirit. We're a nation of castoffs, and as such, we have, somewhat deservedly, a bit of a reputation for being crazy. I would say that in any other nation, Tommy Lee would not get his own show, but that would be ignoring the fact that Survivor and Big Brother were originally European imports. Or, to finally use fewer words, that's far less certain than some may wish it were.

I too get somewhat angry every time some politician or public figure mentions their faith. It's none of my damned business what someone else believes in, unless I actually ask him or her. By extension, I don't want someone talking about their "god" when I'm committing a deadly sin (my personal favorite is "gluttony".)

China is a very complicated issue, unlike one of the other two titularly communist nations in the world. Our Cuban policy for as long as I've been alive has been to isolate them and wait for the old bastard to die. China also is a complicating factor in North Korea. Though the relationship may have been strained for years, especially since Kim Jong-Il took power, they're forced to publicly support North Korea in principle to guard their own power. That and their roughly 4-1 population advantage severely limits what we can do. My first move, though, if I were in office (try not to scream in terror at the prospect) is open a formal U.S. embassy in Taipei and work to grant full recognition of Taiwan as a separate nation. That would have the dual benefits of putting Beijing on notice and resolving our nation's official schizophrenic stance on China.

The problem is that, much like the Soviet Union near their collapse, it was only a matter of time before Saddam's regime folded, so the question became one of taking out a vicious bastard while trying to mitigate the effects of the uncontrolled collapse of a major player in that region. That, and seeing Saddam getting checked out by U.S. military doctors was one of the happiest moments of my life.

As far as Iraq and Iran, I'm not sure that situation is entirely capable of being understood outside of their region.

Sheryl, I think we have a fundamental difference in view of the situation in Iraq. You see it as a question of agitating people who would give us trouble. I see it as a question of taking out a clear, present, and proven danger while he was weak enough to do so. There is certainly merit to your stance, and ultimately, I think it's a question of how we assess the threat Saddam posed.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Ah, favorite sins! A fun read on that topic is "Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America" by Dan Savage. In it, Savage tries to commit all seven of the deadly sins within a certain time period, and then he challenges himself by trying to commit all seven in one day. I found it highly entertaining, anyway... and my personal favorite sin is probably sloth.

I would agree that the degree to which one might support the invasion of Iraq might be in some way proportional to the degree to which an individual perceived Saddam as a threat at the time... and to what or whom he was a threat. I would say he was obviously a threat to the people of his own country. He had demonstrated before that he was capable of being a threat to the smaller, neighboring country of Kuwait. As far as Saddam being a direct threat to the U.S., I find that to be a highly dubious assertion.

Taiwan versus mainland China... arrgh, what a conundrum. Might mainland China look at formal recognition of Taiwan by the U.S. as something akin to an act of war? Yet I don't feel like we should abandon the people of Taiwan, and we have used some fairly strong words over the years to back up the idea that we wouldn't abandon them if the mainlanders got aggressive. Maybe that in itself is enough to put Beijing on notice. I think the U.S. throwing in with Taiwan all the way on the China issue could simply aggravate the leaders of the People's Republic. I think a bigger part of the China issue is our current economic situation and how much influence China (the PRC) is gaining in that department. I guess I'm not sure why our country continues to help the PRC build itself up economically (i.e. help them along toward "superpower" status) at the same time our administration seems to want to adopt PNAC-style empire-building strategies in light of our being the only superpower. Oh well, I suppose that gets down to thirst for the almighty dollar

8:40 PM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

"I see it as a question of taking out a clear, present, and proven danger while he was weak enough to do so."

If they really had thought that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, then it would have been insane to attack him because he would have had no disincentive not to use them. It's the same reason we haven't actually gone after Korea and have been kissing Pakisatan's ass --because they really do have the weapons of mass destruction in those countries.

No, the reason we felt we could go into Iraq was because after all those years of sanctions and weapons inspections, Bush figured that the prize was no longer being protected. Namely, the second largest reserve of oil in the entire planet.

It's called stealing. And you can try to beautify it up all you want, but the threat was fabricated by greedy oil men in White House.

Do you really think it is an accident that such a large percentage of the Bush administration are out of the oil business?

Do you think its an accident that the Republicans held important votes while the Democrats on the judiciary held their own inquiry into the Downing Street Memos, where they discussed the the reports on the fabricated reports of uranium sales from Niger.

There was no threat from Iraq. If Iraq had been a threat, we would not have invaded. It would have been too risky to Israel, and Israel defines Washington policy.

6:17 AM  

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